Tawdry Tales and Confessions from Horror's Boy Next Door Book Review

Written by Robert Gold

Published by Dark Ink Publishing

Written by William Butler
2021, 395 pages, Non-Fiction
Released May 1st, 2021


It’s 2007 and William Butler is directing his latest horror film, Furnace, inside the abandoned Tennessee State Penitentiary. He has a solid script and is surrounded by a dedicated crew and talented actors. Some of the marquee names in the cast include Michael Paré (Village of the Damned), Ja Rule (The Fast and the Furious) and Danny Trejo (Machete Kills); but the biggest star of the film is also Butler’s biggest challenge – actor Tom Sizemore (Dark Haul). Butler resisted hiring him, as at this point in his floundering career Sizemore had developed a reputation of being a complete disaster to work with. The producers insisted he be attached to the project in order to help sell the film overseas. Butler reluctantly agreed and instantly regretted that decision, for when Sizemore arrived, he proved to be an absolute nightmare, making every day he appeared on set a living hell for Butler and everyone around him. Their confrontations started immediately and from there things quickly spiraled further out of control.

This is just a peek at one of author William Butler’s highly entertaining stories that appear in his new memoir, Tawdry Tales and Confessions from Horror’s Boy Next Door. Not one to gossip or talk out of turn, Butler shows zero reluctance when calling out bad behavior of both himself and others throughout his lengthy career. He sings the praises of longtime friends, including artist John Vulich and actors Leslie Jordan (Jason Goes to Hell) and Viggo Mortensen (A History of Violence), but doesn’t shy away from sharing his negative run-ins with the likes of Prince and Madonna. There are also humorous anecdotes featuring Klaus Kinski (Crawlspace) and Yvonne De Carlo (Munster, Go Home!), among others. Butler reflects on his many successes as an actor and is just as forthright in detailing his crushing mistakes that led to rock-bottom lows.

When he was just a boy growing up in Fresno, William “Billy” Butler dreamed of a life in the entertainment industry. He was a shy, overweight kid with low self-esteem and very few friends. When they were still teenagers, his best friend John Vulich (Dolls) moved to Los Angeles to become a make-up artist. John was already booking work on horror movies with their idol Tom Savini (Day of the Dead) and encouraged Billy to follow his lead. Billy made the plunge, but ended up living in his car for a month until his buddy returned to town and gave him a place to crash. John introduced his friend to established f/x artist John Carl Buechler (Troll), who put him to work in his shop. Billy assisted with make-up effects on several pictures for Charles Band’s Empire Pictures, including Prison and From Beyond.

Butler’s true calling was to be an actor and Band gave him his break with roles in several pictures, including Ghoulies II and Cellar Dweller. He worked steadily for the next few years as a frequent victim in horror films, pulling off a hat trick being killed by three of horror’s most popular icons: Jason Voorhees in Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood, Leatherface in Texas Chainsaw Massacre III and Freddy Krueger in an episode of Freddy’s Nightmares. He also scored a coveted spot in the Night of the Living Dead remake written by George Romero and directed by Tom Savini. He goes on to share amusing stories about the antics he and his co-stars got into and the levels of excess they practiced during their off hours.

As he began to age out of the youthful “boy next door” roles, he took up screenwriting and co-wrote the ill-fated sequels Return of the Living Dead 4: Necropolis and Return of the Living Dead 5: Rave to the Grave, which were drastically re-written resulting in something awful that still credited him as writer. He found more success with Madhouse, a film he co-wrote that marked his directorial debut. In earlier chapters he tells horror stories of producers undermining and second-guessing directors during production, but by all accounts his first experience behind the camera was relatively painless… until the film was taken away from him during post-production.

Butler’s anecdotes are frequently humorous, especially his recounting of his out-of-control party days, including one about drunkenly driving and crashing a hotel golf cart while pursued by security. The drug-fueled misadventures with his roommate Leslie Jordan are hilarious and there are several entertaining tales from his time working for Charles Band in Rome as both an actor and make-up assistant. One of the craziest chapters is the previously mentioned train-wreck known as Tom Sizemore on Furnace. These adventures are balanced with more personal stories that are serious and occasionally heartbreaking, from his sexuality to his ongoing weight battles, to the loss of a close friend. His love/hate relationship with the industry has taken him to many highs and lows, but he always seems to bounce back. Butler is quite the storyteller and has seen a lot over the last thirty-plus years in the industry. Tawdry Tales and Confessions from Horror’s Boy Next Door is a satisfying memoir that doesn’t shy away from telling a great story and proves to be a fast read. I can easily recommend adding this title to any genre fan’s library.


Overall: 4.5 Star Rating Cover
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Robert Gold
Staff Reviewer
Robert's favorite genres include horror (foreign and domestic), Asian cinema and pornography (foreign and domestic). His ability to seek out and enjoy shot on video (SOV) horror movies is unmatched. His love of films with a budget under $100,000 is unapologetic.
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