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Ex-KDAY DJ Goes HollywoodRadio's Russ Parr Turns Movie Director in 'The Last Stand'
It’s a big night for nationally syndicated radio host Russ Parr. So big, this veteran, who’s a celebrity in his own right appearing on 45 radio stations around the country every day, seems a bit nervous. The former KDAY radio morning show deejay has returned to LA for the world premiere at Hollywood’s World Famous Mann’s Chinese Theatre of his first feature film, “The Last Stand,” which he wrote and directed. The movie “streeted” as they say in movie lingo on DVD Tuesday.
“I’m very ecstatic about it, “said Parr. “Warner Brothers Home Video has sunk a lot of money into this film. I would have loved for this to go theatrical, but the fact is theatres are shutting down all over this country and DVD is the future,” said Parr who pulled more than a few favors to seduce his famous friends into the film.
“Last Stand” stars comedians turned actors Anthony Anderson (Transformers, Hustle & Flow), Guy Torry (Life), Darrin Dewitt Henson (Stomp the Yard, Soul Food), Tami Roman (MTV’s Real World) and Todd Williams (ESPN’s Tilt). The film is a dramatic and intimate behind-the-scenes look at the trials and tribulations of four up and coming comics.
“This movie is based on events in my life, coming to LA and doing standup comedy and all the characters are people I knew,” said Parr who ventured into L.A. in the early 80s from Central California. In the film, Guy Torry comes to L.A. from Fresno to follow his dreams of making it big in comedy.
“I wrote this script 10 years ago after remembering how these would be comics pushed and fought each night to take the stage at LA’s Comedy Store and simply lived to make somebody laugh” and possibly become famous. It wasn’t always a pretty picture.
“I saw so many people backstage at the Comedy Store noses bleeding so much from abusing drugs, others drinking heavily,” said Parr. His drug of choice was alcohol during this time. “What the alcohol did was remove all the stress. If people didn’t laugh at you, it didn’t hurt as much.”
And then of course, there was the joke thief. “There was always someone stealing material. There’s somebody today who’s pretty famous in the business and he was the biggest thief of all,” said Parr. When I prompt him to name names, Parr backs down saying “nah, he can do me some damage, but he’ll take your best joke and use it word for word.”
“I remember when Richard Pryor set himself on fire,” Parr recalled. “I’m sitting at the Comedy Store and everyone’s doing Pryor on fire jokes. That shows you the mentality of a comic - anything for a laugh, anything to get some television time, anything to compromise who you are and your values to do comedy.”
A graduate of Cal State-Northridge, Parr said long before his KDAY morning show days, he lived in the YMCA in Glendale. “I was in school and that’s all I could afford.” His struggle to the top was just that - a real struggle. That’s why Parr was determined to show the gritty side of “trying to make it” as a comedian in Hollywood. The film is just that dramatic and very real.
“There are so many stories that are written that sugarcoat everything and don’t show the reality,” said Parr. “I know a lot of people who have gone home and tried to blow their brains out or lost their minds to drugs because it’s so competitive. I don’t care how long you’ve been in the business, have one bad night on stage and it crushes you.”
“There are a lot of comedians who are very unhappy people,” said Parr. “People don’t know what goes on behind the scenes all they see are happy and smiling faces. You don’t see the real insecure, backstabbing and vicious people that are a part of this business.”
It’s almost as if Parr has written this movie as a tribute to his buddies who didn’t make it. After all, he one of the lucky ones. After graduating from school, he landed a production job at ABC-TV and then ABC Radio as an audio engineer. Co-workers convinced him he shouldn’t be behind the scenes, but his talent was on the mic and in front of the cameras.
His very first performance on stage was opening up for Joan Rivers in Santa Monica. Parr says if he didn’t have all his friends in the audience no one would have laughed. Fate smiled on him as he landed a job working at the legendary 1580 KDAY, the first 24 hour hip hop station in the world.
In 1989, Parr left Hollywood where he landed in Dallas and became a huge hit. Years later, syndicators came calling and now his radio program, “Russ Parr Morning Show” is heard coast to coast in 45 cities across the country reaching more than 3.2 million listeners. In addition, his weekend show, “On the Air with Russ Parr,” can be heard on more than 40 different radio stations nationwide.
A man of many voices, Russ is known for doing amazingly authentic impersonations of Magic Johnson, Michael Jackson, Chuck D, Jesse Jackson, Barney and more on his morning show. His latest character, the slick-talking, debonair, “Sweet Peter Jeter,” has become a favorite among female and male listeners alike.
His catalog of comedy albums he recorded under the character name “Bobby Jimmy and the Critters” sold millions. In fact, one of Russ’ “Bobby Jimmy and the Critters” music videos was named Top Comedic Video by MTV in 1987. Russ has appeared in several television programs including “Martin”, “NBC’s Rockin’ America”, “Good Morning America”, “Jenny Jones”, “BET Tonight”, and a Showtime network comedy special, as well as national TV commercials for McDonald’s, Kodak, and Thrifty.
Despite his celebrity status, Parr had pushed his script around Hollywood for years, but there were no takers. “No one wanted to do a black drama,” he added. But about a year ago, a friend read the script, loved it and helped him find investors. Months later, he was in LA directing his first feature film.
“I was working 21 hours a day, running up to “Tha Beat” radio station at 2am to do my (syndicated) morning show back to the East Coast and then hit the movie set by 9am and work all day, watch the dailies late at night.” That crazy schedule went on for 24 days of shooting. “It was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life to see someone acting out my words.”
Would he do it again? “Of course,” said Parr who’s already working on his next movie project, “The Business” which begins shooting August 19th. “I’ve been directing all my life.”
Now that he’s a filmmaker and movie director, will he remain in radio? Russ Parr is quick to answer, “I’ll be here until they fire me.”