The Horror Honeys: R.I.P. Marilyn Burns (May 7, 1949 – August 5, 2014)

R.I.P. Marilyn Burns (May 7, 1949 – August 5, 2014)

A Horror Honey Tribute by Lisa

It was just last week that I wrote a piece about my favorite Final Girl. It was, of course, Ms. Marilyn Burns. Marilyn Burns, via Sally Hardesty, ran screaming into my heart when I was very young. She has always held a place in my horror heart and now that heart is broken.

Today the very sad news of her passing was shared. The fact that it was TMZ that broke the news feels like a knife in the back. They don't truly care about Marilyn Burns. Not like her horror family does. We have loved her since day one and she has never disappointed. Marilyn Burns was always more than happy to meet fans and endlessly talk to them about Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Can you imagine how many times she has told her stories from the set of that film? But every single time she told it as if it was the first time. Marilyn Burns is a shining example of a truly gracious and beautiful lady. There has never been a negative word uttered about her because she really was that lovely.

It's hard to talk about her passing without talking about how it has affected me because I am feeling a truly deep loss. When we lose someone, I believe it is much more wonderful to speak about them and tell stories of why they were so cherished than it is to focus on the loss. It is my deep hope that this comes across as a celebration of her character and spirit and not about me. This is all about Marilyn.
As a woman whom I have held in high regard for most of my life, it is difficult for me to grasp that she has moved on. It was only a few months ago when I was given the once in a lifetime opportunity to call her up on the telephone and conduct an interview. I was granted this wish by a Mr. Shawn Ewert. 

Marilyn met director Shawn Ewert at Texas Frightmare a few years back and they struck up a genuine friendship. While writing his first feature film, he had a part just for Marilyn and she was absolutely honoured for the opportunity. Can you imagine? You are directing your first feature film and Marilyn Burns is the one talking about how she can't believe how lucky she is to be working with such a talented director? That is the kind of beautiful person Marilyn was. She spoke so highly of everyone she had the pleasure to work with and she was grateful for every single moment she had in her career. Even when she was actually tied to that bed in Eaten Alive and left there for a little to long. Even when she was actually being poked by a broom in the cab of that truck. Even when she was literally tied to that chair, gagged and surrounded by foul, rotten food. Everything she did in Texas Chainsaw Massacre, she did it full on. She said that she always wanted "to give Tobe a 10 every time" and that is exactly what she did. The fear, confusion and emotional drain that you can see on her face and feel coming through that screen is 100% authentic. 

What should have been her first break-out role ended up being taken away  and given to a young woman named Susan Sarandon. Did Marilyn cause a scene or throw a tantrum? No. She graciously accepted being the stand in for Ms. Sarandon. Thank goodness for this classy attitude because it was on this set that she met Tobe Hooper and Kim Henkle and the rest is history. 

Even though she was now the breakout star, she simply didn't think she was good enough to land the role of Linda Cassabian in Helter Skelter. All of the actresses were very concerned about the prospect of having to shave their heads for a role in Helter Skleter and Marilyn wasn't immune, however, she knew that she couldn't just breeze into L.A. and start making demands because she didn't want to be a "little miss picky." Again, her class paid off and she got the one role that didn't require head shaving or wearing a skull cap. Just like with her previous film experiences, Marilyn gushed about everyone that she met and spoke very highly of the experience and how much she learned.

When asked about her experience filming Eaten Alive, she did something people don't seem to do anymore. She thought about her words and chose them carefully. Careful not to complain or say anything negative, she simply said that she had to remind some of the actors that they were, indeed, acting. 

Marilyn absolutely lit up when asked about going to horror conventions. She loved, loved, loved it and simply couldn't believe her luck that she got to experience them as she did. She exclaimed, "Can you believe it? People like something you did? You should be proud and grateful that they care. Thats just a give." Her brother always picked her up from the airport after conventions and he said that was his favorite time to pick her up because she was so happy. She never once took for granted what she meant to us, her fans. That's class.

Marilyn continually supported the entire Texas Chainsaw Massacre family and film legacy. When Kim Henkle returned to write Texas Chainsaw Massacre; The Next Generation, she did an uncredited cameo and thought it was a blast. When speaking of filming Texas Chainsaw Massacre 3D, you could feel her exuberance over the phone. She had the most wonderful time reuniting with everyone and returning to their roots. When Kim approached her about doing a cameo in his newest film, Butcher Boys, she didn't hesitate and she spoke of how wonderful everyone was and what a great time she had.

In addition to Marilyn, I had the unique opportunity to speak to many actors in Shawn Ewert's film Sacrament. Before having the opportunity to speak with her, I got to hear from the two leads in the film, Troy Ford and Avery Pfeiffer, about how absolutely wonderful she was to work with. Avery spoke of how fun she was and how she never tired of answering his many questions. They both spoke of how truly nice, gracious and open she was. When I told her this, she was gobsmacked that they had such wonderful things to say. Marilyn was a genuinely humble woman and it is so rare anymore to come across that. 

Speaking on the phone with a personal idol is one level of amazing, but to have her be so gregarious and make me feel we had been girlfriends for years is something else entirely. I will never, ever forget her calling me back. Never in my life will I forget how I felt when Marilyn Burns called me and said, 'Hi Lisa!" Meeting her in person put me over the moon. When Shawn introduced us at the Sacrament premiere, her face lit up and she said, "Oh, Lisa!" She then looked at Ed Guinn and told him that I was a wonderful interviewer. You could have pushed me over with a feather in that moment. This is the kind of woman Marilyn Burns was. She was always kind, gracious and classy. She had no reason to treat me, or anyone else that she touched, with so much love, but she did. This is the point behind sharing my experience with Marilyn. She touched my heart because she was a beautiful woman inside and out and I am so humbled and grateful to have had the opportunity to be graced with such light. Marilyn Burns was one in a million and my heart goes out to her family, friends and every single person who is feeling her loss.