I have three brothers and their names are David, John and Tom. I have no idea why my parents suddenly decided to get all fancy and name me Lance but I do know that I got some serious crap for it growing up. Luckily fate softened the blow of my awkward teen years by making me skinny, mangling my teeth and throwing a frizzy red bozo wig on my head. Funny I should be so nostalgic for the eighties when my actual first tour through the decade was a living hell on Earth. Lance was not a cool name. Nobody cool was named Lance. That’s what I believed until the summer of 1986 when I saw ALIENS. I’ve mentioned before (HERE) that I felt a real connection with the character of Bishop and that connection only strengthened as I read the films closing credits as they rolled by.
Don’t poke fun at me but I used to entertain the idea of being an actor. That particular dream evaporated the moment I stood on stage in front of strangers at an audition and felt as if my finger was stuck in an electrical socket for the duration. During that time period I read many an actor bio, Dean, Brando, Clift and Frances Farmer to name a few. This was before the Internet and these books were my only access to a world beyond the stifling suburbia I felt trapped in. My parents and teachers seemed committed to keeping the adult world a shrouded secret but these books gave me private access to a place beyond my poster covered bedroom walls. Reading NOT BAD FOR A HUMAN the LANCE HENRIKSEN autobiography by HENRIKSEN and JOSEPH MADDREY brought back memories of these books that seemed to have more influence on me than anything I learned in school or at home. MADDREY steers the ship, but it’s LANCE’s own words that fuel the journey. This is a guy who has been everywhere and back and is never less than generous about giving directions.
Legend has it that once upon a time, before youth was worshipped over experience, one could seek guidance and advice from those who have traveled the world longer than they have. Plunging into this bio is rather like be granted audience with an elder statesman, one who has navigated the fascinating depths of B-film (too many to mention), the heights of sci-fi perfection (ALIENS) and the sometimes grueling chain gang of episodic television (MILLENIUM). This is not the autobiography of a careerist bent on popularity and fortune but an artist attempting to cram as much life experience in his satchel as humanly possible.
HENRICKSEN’s resume is so extensive and seemingly random that one might wonder “Is there anything he would say ‘No’ to?” and the answers is “Yes, boring himself.” He has a true artist’s wiring, if the end result of his work is ten duds for every applauded work that’s for somebody else to judge, he learns just as much from each endeavor. The way he approaches the art of pottery says much of his approach to acting and life in general. “Honestly, I’ve learned more from some of the pots that I’ve fucked up than from pots where I knew what the outcome would be. I’ve learned more from the bad ones in a lot of ways.” The reader gleans that it’s the process of working itself that seems to appeal to the actor and I think that is what makes this book such a pleasure to read. It’s nice to know there are other reasons for an actor to accept a role besides elevating their Q quotient.
HENRIKSEN may be well known for playing bad guys or creepy weirdoes but in films like ALIENS, NEAR DARK and PUMPKINHEAD, a stronger vibe always came across to me and that is of a grounded paternal caretaker. This book backs up my intuition on nearly every page. Bounced around orphanages and raised without any real structure, he has molded himself as if from clay into the solid figure that was absent in his youth. If that’s not a hero’s journey then I don’t know what is. Truly, he’s as down to earth as anyone who has starred in three Bigfoot movies could possibly be. There’s a reason the man fits into westerns just as smoothly as he does horror or sci-fi, he’s a throwback to a time when people rather than stick to the pavement made their own trails.
I’m not very good at meeting celebrities, they kind of make me nervous. I’m not one for butting into a conversation and jumping in somebody’s space either. Once at a horror convention though I found HENRIKSEN chatting with a group and possessed, I slid myself right into their circle, his approachability trumping my timidity. I told him my name was Lance and he said, “You’re parents saddled you with that name too?” Obviously he understood. I said, “Thanks for being the first person to make my name seem cool.” And he replied “Glad I could help.” Smiling, he shook my hand. That was a big full circle moment in my life and I was genuinely grateful to give thanks to someone who took a machete to the brush before me. I wish we could have talked longer but this book does the trick; it’s a privilege to ride alongside someone whose knowledge comes from keen observance rather than hand me down platitudes. HENRIKSEN obviously evaluates his life experiences on his own terms rather than external opinion and that’s exactly the lesson I needed to learn from a guy named Lance.
NOTE: You can order NOT BAD FOR A HUMAN right over HERE!