I miss Betsy & I know you do too.
Sean Cunningham, director, was so smart to keep Betsy & me apart between scenes when we filmed Friday the 13th… he probably realized we would have become fast friends on set. That might’ve gotten in the way of our biting & smashing each other’s head in the sand.
When we reunited in 2004 at the Chiller Convention at a Hotel in New Jersey, we quickly became good friends as we spent time together and got to know each other at the Friday the 13th events that were starting to emerge.
There's no way for me to fully explain the tender relationship that developed between Betsy & me. We had so much in common after all these years. Friday the 13th had caused us both enormous pain especially in the beginning.
Siskel & Ebert gave her hell for playing the role of Mrs. Voorhees in a "horror" film that they deemed disgusting & below her status as an actress who had been a leading lady to James Dean, Henry Fonda and many others in her Hollywood days. They actually gave out Betsy's address so people could send her hate mail. Can you even imagine?
1980 was still primitive for women. The cops told me that it was my fault that I had a stalker.. I had brought it upon myself for having starred in Friday the 13th. My fault... not the stalker's. Go figure.
We; Betsy & I, just wanted to work in our chosen profession. That happened to be acting. We were bullied. We were threatened. We wouldn't have gone through this if we'd been men, right?
So you see Betsy & I had both survived the ugliness that this movie had brought upon us. It was nasty, prolonged and yet we both survived. We were bonded forever by this little movie that caused us so much hurt. We would share this new journey together.
But here's the kicker!
The Bonus.. the surprise that neither one of us ever expected. We were resurrected from the dead by our loving & devoted Friday the 13th fans. Three generations of fans! With the advent of social media we had become "current" and together we finally got to enjoy the success of Friday the 13th. We would find there was joy and love to behold from Friday's aftermath. Decades later.
We got to meet our loyal fans, who became our Happy Campers who would show up at conventions & all sorts of other incredible events to meet us. We were always so amazed & grateful. We got to engage with some of our Friday the 13th cast & crew whom we hadn't seen in over 25 years!
I am so blessed to have gotten to know the Betsy Palmer behind Mrs. Voorhees. She was an all-around stunner! So smart, beautiful & incredibly talented! I especially enjoyed Betsy at Q&A’s! Harry Manfredini ,our music maestro, and Betsy would go-at-it like an old married couple after awhile. It was hysterical! I would just sit back & let Mrs. Voorhees rock the room of fans with her quick wit & brutal honesty while Harry M. shot her one-liners. Then the 3 of of us would share a beautiful bottle of red wine & Ari Lehman, our First Jason, would drop by or Kane or Tom Savini or Amy Steel. We were like a Friday family for awhile. I looked forward to reuniting with my family at these conventions as well as meeting new fans & old friends.
I remember one beautiful day in early May 2009 , Betsy invited me over for dinner at her Brownstone off Central Park West while I was visiting New York City.
I now lived in Southern Oregon. I missed New York, where I was born & raised, went to school & lived until 1994. My husband and I had moved to Los Angeles for business. I tried to get back every so often for my Broadway & Met-fix.
Sidenote: By this time Betsy had convinced me to become a vegetarian. I remember her shouting at me while we were ordering dinner together after a long day at Scarefest in Lexington, Kentucky:
“Chicken!" as I attempted to order my meal..."You don’t want to eat chicken! Who wants to eat an animal that eats its own shit!”.. oh, yes, that was my Betsy.
So, back to Betsy's brownstone; for dinner she ordered in from a phenomenal Vegan restaurant near by. I missed New Yok even more. I still don't have Uber-Eats or Grub Hub here in my little town in Southern Oregon.
For some reason, I had lugged my Crystal Lake Memories Book all the way from Oregon to her cozy apartment that late afternoon . I’d received the fabulous book only recently myself from Peter Bracke & I probably wanted Betsy to sign it. I had missed the big Release Party in LA at Universal Studios in 2005 when everyone involved received their Copy.
We looked through the enormous bloody brilliant book. I watched her face, her amazement growing as she turned the pages. How did our little low-budget Friday the 13th indie flick become such an iconic horror movie? How ever did it spawn so many sequels securing the original Friday the 13th's status as a cult-classic fan favorite!
She looked at me & said.. ”This all began with us!”
It brought tears to both our eyes & this is when she said to me, “ I guess being remembered for being a devoted mother isn’t the worst thing in the World…” and I said “Betsy, you have three generations of fans around the Globe who adore you. You’ve impacted them forever! You were a pioneer in the industry. You're a living legend & they love you!
And Betsy smiled. "I love them too. I’m going to embrace that; she took in a deep breath & held the book to her chest. She let out a sigh and she did. I saw in that moment that Betsy let it happen and it gave me goosebumps as I watched her let out a huge sigh and smile with tears running down her cheeks. She had finally embraced her role as Mrs. Voorhees despite the agony it caused her when the film first came out in 1980. It was a full circle moment.
“May I borrow this” she asked of the book.
Betsy had never received her copy of CLM, either. It was close to Mother’s Day & she was going to visit her daughter in Connecticut.
"I want to show this to Melissa."
“It’s yours, Betsy. Enjoy.” And I know she did.
We had a special moment... a special relationship... that is frozen in time.
I miss you Betsy. We all do.