The New York Grimpendium: Tromaville

My new book, The New York Grimpendium, was just released and, like its predecessor The New England Grimpendium, covers my experiences traveling to hundreds of death-related locations and artifacts in the region. Below is one of a series of photo essays from sites in the book that I’ll be posting over the next few weeks. If you live in or like New York, the book is for you. If you’re a bit morbid, the book is also for you, even if you’ve never been to the Empire State. After all, death is a punch line we all get.

October 14, 2012 —For me, visiting Tromaville, the headquarters of independent movie studio Troma Entertainment, was like hanging out in a VHS box. Every horror movie fan, as part of his or her education, must take an elective on Troma movies, which are infamous for unquantifiable amounts of gore, indecency, nudity, and crassness that really should render the movie unclassifiable but which somehow lands it in the genre of horror comedy. Since I matriculated at a time when you watched movies on those black plastic boxes full of spooled magnetic tape, I will always associate the 40-year-old Troma brand with that medium, especially since their movies usually went straight to it.

But better than just wandering their Long Island City basement of merchandise, film reels, and movie props, I got to talk one-on-one with the man himself: Lloyd Kaufman, co-founder, writer, director, and general face of Troma—or second face, if you count the Toxic Avenger. He was a lot of fun to talk to, and I’ve included some of his quotes from our conversation throughout the below pictures:

JWO: So this section of the book includes everything from authors to directors to actors and actresses…

LK: I’m all of those, including actress…

JWO: With you, you’re only one of maybe two living icons to be in the section.

Michael Hertz [LK's business partner]: That could change really fast.

LK: Yeah, just waiting to die. A sad clown just waiting to die. I’ll soon be throwing off these mortal clown coils. A life wasted. A good chapter head for you: A life wasted.

LK [on moving Tromaville form Hell's Kitchen to Long Island City]: The other neighborhood got really fancy. When we moved in there, we renovated our building, which was a slum when we bought it, and Hell’s Kitchen was really, really dangerous in the 70s. And we were the nicest building on the block, and by the time we left, every other building was really nice and we were the slum.

LK: One day we were reading one of the trade magazines, I think it was Variety, one of those rags, and it said that horror films were commercially dead. That was the headline. So we said, okay, if the experts are suggesting that horror films are what not to do, we’ll do it.
This Troma staffer was excited to
show us his butt...

But then he ate some of this stuff...

And turned into a Native American
zombie chicken.

LK: The conglomerates will not permit us to exist. But the problem is that so far we keep going somehow. It’s really thanks to the fans...the fans distribute our movie, the bootleggers distribute our movie. We make money because our stuff is bootlegged. All that stuff keeps us out there.

LK: Most of our stuff gets swiped because the people that work on our movies are fans and they take all the special effects stuff. If you go on ebay, you’ll see lots of stuff being sold. Yeah, we have very little left…the special effects stuff has all been, pretty much, I think pilfered. But that’s better because in New York there’s no room for storage. It’s really expensive, so if it’s out there on ebay, it’s, again, publicity. It’s advertising. I don’t mind.

LK [Making fun of how I pronounced the word "horror"]: You said something about whores. I’ve had lots of experience with [whores]. I’ve traveled the world. Definitely an expert in that department.

That glorious desk...

LK [about one of his daughters]: She wants to be like her father and have a business that makes no money, that has no respect from anybody, and is totally, totally economically blacklisted.

My wife and Lloyd share a moment
while I stand awkwardly by.

Read all about my visit to Tromaville and discussion with Lloyd Kaufm in The New York Grimpendium, which is on sale now: