Sleepaway Camp is such a goldmine of curious moments that it was only a matter of time before it made a repeat appearance in these pages. There’s so much that’s overtly weird throughout that it’s easy to miss the general weirdness that permeates even normally mundane things.
Take the beach scene where camp owner Mel confronts Angela’s cousin Ricky for example. Mel talks up Ricky for a few moments before losing his shit and shaking him down. He accuses Ricky of killing the kids at the camp in order to ruin the business. This is broken up by head counselor and all around swell guy, Ronnie.
This is the sort of subtle weirdness I’m talking about. This whole scene plays out on the beach and it would be completely plausible for the head counselor to be just sort of around and happen upon this incident at the right moment. This is not good enough for director Robert Hiltzik though. He introduces that Ronnie is present during the initial conversation by placing him in the background. He’s not just anywhere in the background either, he’s dead center in the frame, lifting weights off in the distance.
On one hand, this is beyond absurd. Much like anything else in life, conversations are harder to pay attention to when there’s a jacked guy pumping iron in the background. His movements are so hypnotic that it’s easy to forget Mel and Ricky are even the focus of the scene. In fact, he looks so casual while doing it that my initial reaction was to question whether or not he was intentionally in the shot. Maybe actor Paul DeAngelo was just partaking in his daily exercise regiment while they were shooting off in the distance. I don’t think so though, he’s too perfectly placed.
As silly as it may be, it’s admittedly awesome. Ronnie is so cool that he’s always either saving the day or pumping iron. In this scene he does both. It makes me think that a few scenes in Sleepaway Camp could be improved if he was lifting weights at the same time. How about when he’s telling creepy chef Artie to get Angela some ice cream? Or even better, when he discovers Angela’s secret at the climax…
As cool as Ronnie is, actor Paul DeAngelo may have him beat. I’ve met him at two different conventions and the first time, I brought this scene up to him. I wasn’t sure if he’d think I was being a smartass and get annoyed or if he’d have a sense of humor about it. Well, he didn’t miss a beat and started to tell me about the type of training he does and what kind of vitamins he was taking. It’s like he went into the convention (his first) ready for that particular question. He then proceeded to talk about how bad taking drugs is and how I should never do anything like that. I don’t know if he thought I was grilling him for fitness advice, but our conversation definitely went in that direction.
Even if he mistook my affection for this scene as enthusiasm for bodybuilding, he was one of the friendliest and most outgoing guests I’ve met in years of convention going.
The second time I met him he even told me that he couldn’t find a copy of one of his other movies, Silent Madness, anywhere. I told him that there was a vendor selling it at the convention and he went with me to buy a copy. I’m not sure if the dealer thought that we were on the prowl for bootlegs but when Paul said that he was in the movie, the guy got nervous. Paul said he wanted to buy a copy because he couldn’t find one anywhere. The guy gave it to him for free. Always the gentleman, Paul told the guys to stop by the Sleepaway Camp table later and he’s get him some free autographs.
So thanks, Paul. This moment has been making me smile for more than 25 years and you were incredibly courteous and kind to me on two separate occasions.