Book Report: Not Bad For a Human

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!

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11 years ago

Awesome review, Lance. You’ve confirmed my suspicions and made me want this book like, yesterday! But alas, I must wait until August when Mr. Henrikson will be at a local convention signing copies. Speaking of… the man is electric, ain’t he? I met him 2 years ago at a con and we spoke about Pumpkinhead for about 10 minutes even though he had a HUGE line gathered to meet and greet (and this was after waiting about 6 or 7 minutes for him to finish speaking to the guy in front of me). Definitely one of the highlights of my life getting to chat with him.

The man’s class all the way, and with a friendly demeanor that draws you to him, making you comfortable. Man, I cannot wait to get this book now!

Brother Bill
11 years ago

Remember that TBS show “Dinner and a Movie” ? (This would be in the late 90s…..) This is the show where a pair of hosts teach you how to cook a meal themed to whatever movie they are showing that week. Sometimes they’ll bring in a celebrity, and one episode it was Lance (damn, can’t remember what movie they were showing…) Lance apparently showed up expecting to be fed a meal and was getting annoyed at how long it was taking the hosts to prepare the food. He finally said something like “I’m starving.”, grabbed a carrot from the ingredients table, started eating it, and walked off in mid-show (all on camera… the hosts shook his hand and thanked him for coming out). It was hilarious. Does anyone else remember this? I’ll see if I can find a clip on YouTube…

11 years ago

I hear ya. I’ve never been too keen on the name Carol. Maybe a chat with Carol Burnett coulda helped me out in my youth.

And don’t forget about Lance Kerwin (who my facebook page has been obsessed with lately)! I’ll admit he’s not as cool as Lance Hendriksen, but he was considered very cool by a lot of 70s kids.

Will Errickson
10 years ago

Good old Lance just turned up in some older classics I watched recently that I’d forgotten he was in, DOG DAY AFTERNOON, NETWORK, and CLOSE ENCOUNTERS, as well as PRINCE OF THE CITY.

“I read many an actor bio, Dean, Brando, Cliff…”

I assume you mean Montgomery ClifT!

Terri Wilson
10 years ago

A great review of a terrific book! (I read it last week.) I especially like your personalization. Makes it that much more pleasurable to read. Also glad to know that the 80s (high school and college for me) were a living hell for at least one other person. Still love the music, though. 🙂

aunt john
10 years ago

@Unk: I blame our fact checker Helga Kettlebottom. She assured me you had a copy of the Cliff Clavin biography.