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“Michael and Me”

Author Sass (me) telling filmmaker Michael Moore about Everything I Know about Business and Marketing, I Learned from THE TOXIC AVENGER

For the past few years, I’ve been visiting Traverse City, Michigan every summer to escape the Florida heat and humidity, and to enjoy the beauty, lakes, wineries, and breweries of Northern Michigan (fitting in some biking, hiking, kayaking, and sailing in between the wineries and breweries!) This summer, by pure coincidence I planned my trip during the well-respected Traverse City Film Festival. With its main venue the beautifully restored State Theatre, and the sister cinema, the Bijou, on the shore of the Grand Traverse Bay, and additional charming venues scattered throughout the small town, it is a perfect locale for a summer film festival.

The Traverse City Film Festival was started in 2005 by award-winning documentary filmmaker Michael Moore with a clear and determined mission:

“The Traverse City Film Festival is committed to showing ‘Just Great Movies’ and helping to save one of America’s few indigenous art forms- the cinema. We are committed to showing great movies that both entertain and enlighten the audience. We need movies that seek to enrich the human spirit and the art of filmmaking, not the bottom line. Our goal is for people to leave the theater with the feeling that they just watched something special.”

– Michael Moore, President and Founder

Back in my Troma days, I recall seeing Michael Moore and saying hello to him a few times on the streets of NYC, in and around Times Square, where he may have been doing post-production on one of his films. When I realized I’d be in Traverse City during the festival this summer, I hoped perhaps, to have a chance to see him again and perhaps even give him a copy of my book. As it happened, the summer stars aligned for me to be able to do just that.

The beautiful State Theatre in Traverse City, Michigan

Always Be Marketing

Knowing the town would be flowing with film fans, including some who would likely recognize The Toxic Avenger, I packed a bunch of my tee shirts that have my book’s logo on the front and www.ToxicAvenger.marketing on the back and decided I’d wear that shirt every day the Festival was going on. I also got tickets for the opening night party and brought some copies of my book which I kept in my backpack at all times. I also attended some festival events including a great panel discussion on the “Future of Film” with Michael Moore, some of the festival filmmakers, and Ira Deutchman, film industry veteran, and Columbia University professor. I sat in the front row, in my promotional tee-shirt, and was sure to ask a question during the Q & A (and shamelessly plug my book in the process.) Always. Be. Marketing.

The “Future of Film” panel at the Traverse City Film Festival

During the opening night party, a fun street party within a closed-off section of Front Street, with the classic State Theatre marquee as the backdrop, I did have the chance to say hello to Michael Moore and give him a copy of my book (see photo above). We had a brief and friendly conversation about Troma, and he could not have been nicer.

As I wore my Toxic tee-shirt around town during the festival, every once in a while I’d get a knowing nod from someone or a comment or question about The Toxic Avenger. When a short conversation would ensue, I’d always hand out a business card for the book. It was a lot of fun, and I was pleasantly surprised to even see a little spike in book sales during the festival days. In my book, there’s a chapter called “Alway Salute the Schwag” which talks a bit about the power of tee shirts and schwag. I put that power to work during my vacation in Traverse City! Remember, always be marketing!

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An Exposé (and touch of Sass) from Tromaville – video

Today is my 60th birthday. When I started working at Troma I was 28 years old. It was a long f’ing time ago. Yet, my time in Tromaville had a lasting impact on me and inspired my book, Everything I Know about Business and Marketing, I Learned from THE TOXIC AVENGER.

Friends and family surprised me with a party the other night, and one of the highlights was the showing of the video above. Lloyd and the Troma Team dive deep into the seedier side and reveal some unknown truths about me… and they dug up my cameo appearances from KABUKIMAN and TOXIC AVENGER II. Enjoy!

And if you’re feeling generous and want to help me celebrate my advanced age, the best gift you can give me is to leave a review on Amazon if you have read and enjoyed my book, and if you haven’t read it, you can always buy a copy!

Thanks to Lloyd and Troma for helping me celebrate with the awesome (and truly Tromatic) video!

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My Altered States Uncovered on the “Altered Geek” Podcast

I had the chance to talk in depth with Steve “Megatron” Phillips, host of the Altered Geek podcast. I really enjoy doing podcast interviews, as each one is a bit different based on the host and questions asked and the mood of the moment when we’re recording. This was a good talk and I think we cover a lot of ground around my tenure at Troma, and the book itself (which Steve clearly had read in advance). We discuss how, while the book is a treasure trove of behind-the-scenes tales to delight the Troma fan, the anecdotes and lessons within also appeal to readers who have never heard of Troma or The Toxic Avenger (yes, such folks exist!). Steve compliments the “short” chapters and I give credit to Steven Pressfield‘s Nobody Wants to Read Your Sh*t, which served as an inspiration to the style of writing I chose for my book.

In addition, we talk about how I got involved with .CLUB Domains and the domain name industry, and the many opportunities that now exist to create relevant and memorable domains using a meaningful extension (as I do by using www.ToxicAvenger.marketing as a shortcut to the book on Amazon.com). We also touch on the documentary series on entrepreneurship I am currently working at Startups.club.

There’s also a good discussion on culture and purpose in business, and… well, instead of my yapping on here, you can click here or on the embed below to listen to the show. Enjoy!

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Talking Toxie & More on the #BeardSpeaks Podcast (video/adult language)

Chuck Reeves (aka #BeastHost) is a pretty interesting dude. After serving 10 years in the US Navy (thank you for your service, Chuck!) he’s been an outspoken character as a rapper, radio DJ, MC of hundreds of live events, and now as host of the #BeardSpeaks YouTube show and podcast. Chuck is very familiar with Troma and The Toxic Avenger, and he actually read and enjoyed my book before we spoke, so this was a lively and entertaining conversation. Chuck is also a passionate marketer himself and we also dive into a bit about my role at .CLUB Domains and the importance of domain names to independent creators (about 32:33 into the interview).

You can watch the full interview on YouTube below, or you can listen to the audio version embedded below the video. Enjoy, and if you do, give a shout out to Chuck the BeastHost and #BeardSpeaks!

Watch now above. Listen now below!
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Three Words I Learned from The Toxic Avenger

It's a new year, and everyone is considering their resolutions and goals for 2019. A lot of folks I know (myself now included), opt to choose three words as their inspiration for the new year, rather than more traditional resolutions. These are three words you can point to for inspiration and guidance during the year. You can see my "three words for 2019" on my blog, SASSHOLES! In the spirit of "three words" I thought I would write about three words I learned from my monster mentor, Toxie. So, with that in mind, here are:

Three Words I Learned from The Toxic Avenger

BEAUTY.
The word "beauty" may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you take a gander at the hideously deformed creature of superhuman size and strength. He's got more than a few wrinkles (especially for his age) and that droopy eye thing, is, well, a bit of an eye-sore to look at. But Toxie's beauty is not skin deep, but rather, deep within. What he may lack in more traditional good looks, he more than compensates for with his glowing (sometimes, literally glowing) inner beauty. You can't judge a book by its cover, and you can't judge a monster by how horrifying he may appear on the surface. When I see Toxie, I see nothing but beauty. Do you see it too?

FAMILY.
Despite having to mop things up for most of his childhood, Toxie matured into a loving and caring family man-er, family monster. No matter how busy he is beating the crap out of criminals and ridding Tromaville of its true ugliness - the corrupt and evil corporations and the crooks who run them - Toxie always makes time for his Mom. He's a loving and caring son-er, monster, who will do anything and everything to help his Mom and make her proud. And he treats his girlfriend pretty well too, though she may not always see it, being blind and all...

COMPASSION.
There's no other way to say it. Toxie cares. He cares about his friends and family. He cares about his hometown of Tromaville. He cares about poor, defenseless kittens caught in trees. He cares about the elderly and disabled folks being taken advantage of by corrupt politicians. He cares about cute kids wearing footsie pajamas (and not just because they are the children of the director). Toxie cares. He is by far the most compassionate person-er, monster, I have ever had the pleasure of knowing.

So there you have it. Three words I learned from The Toxic Avenger:

Beauty. Family. Compassion.

What words are you thinking about in the new year?


Did you enjoy this post? Please share it, or even better, buy the book!

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Legendary Indy Studio Troma Joins Hollywood Studio Legendary for Toxic Avenger Reboot

Still Toxic After All These Years!

My monster mentor The Toxic Avenger (aka Toxie) is in the news again as word spreads through the media touting a brand new Hollywood remake. Yes, the legendary independent studio Troma is teaming up with the Hollywood studio Legendary to bring Toxie back to the silver screen!

This is not the first time Hollywood has threatened to embrace Tromaville and welcome Lloyd Kaufman and Michael Herz (and their hideously deformed creature of superhuman size and strength) to cross over to the dark side and “go mainstream.” Back toward the end of my stint in Tromaville, riding on the grossly green backs of The Toxic Crusaders cartoon series (of which I was a co-creator), we had a deal with New Line Cinema to produce a big budget theatrical “Toxie” flick. But alas that flick flickered away and never came to be. Sad.

In more recent years, there have been rumors of a Toxic Avenger remake to star Arnold Schwarzenegger as Toxie. It looks like Arnold won’t be back, but at least now The Toxic Avenger will!

As someone who lived intimately with Toxie for more than seven years, through two sequels and a cartoon series spinoff, I can personally vouch for the lovability and durability of The First Superhero from New Jersey. Like Troma itself, this new take on The Toxic Avenger is destined to be Legendary!

I couldn’t be more happy for Lloyd, Michael, and the Troma Team. After all, “Everything I Know about Business and Marketing, I Learned from THE TOXIC AVENGER!”

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R.I.P. John Altamura… Tromaville Weeps for a Toxie

This week it was announced that actor John Altamura passed away of a heart attack at the young age of 52. While the Toxic Avenger was played by Mitch Cohen in the original The Toxic Avenger film, it was John who I first knew as Toxie, working closely with him on The Toxic Avenger II and III (which we shot at once and then edited into the two sequels).

As I write about in my book, in the end, Toxie was portrayed by both John and Ron Fazio in the final cuts of the films, but there is no question that John made a significant contribution to both films and that his version of Toxie will always be warmly and fondly remembered and admired. John’s portrayal of the Toxic Avenger brought both a strength and humility to the character that helped to make the lovable monster a hero for the ages…

Like John’s memory, the Toxic Avenger will live on, and everyone who ever dons the mutated mask and portrays Toxie in the future will surely be influenced and inspired in some way by the work John did before them.

My condolences to John’s family, friends and fans.

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Author Jeff Sass on The Chris Voss Show (video)

In yet another podcast appearance and another video podcast, it was a pleasure to talk Toxie with Chris Voss of The Chris Voss Show. Turns out Chris is a fan of The Toxic Avenger so our talk was very Tromatic. Enjoy!


 

 

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Pop Goes the Culture show with Jeff Sass and Special Guest Troma founder Lloyd Kaufman

As part of the ongoing promotion of my book, I’ve been making a lot of appearances on various podcasts, which is always fun for me. Each show and the host(s) has its own unique point of view and approach, and that makes every interview take a different path and talk about the book (and other things) with a fresh perspective. Most of the interviews I’ve done have been audio only, but lately, I’ve done a few video interviews as well. This one, the YouTube show POP GOES THE CULTURE – TV, was especially fun for two reasons. One, the host and producer, David Levin, is an old friend who was actually there and a part of some of the experiences I write about in Everything I Know about Business and Marketing, I Learned from THE TOXIC AVENGER.

David and I worked together at Satori Entertainment, and in particular, we worked very closely together on the talk show, CELEBRITY, with hostess Alison Steele. I talk a little about Satori in Chapter 1 of the book, and more about CELEBRITY and Alison in “Chapter 23: Everyone is Expendable (Especially if you Wear a Mask).” After I joined Troma, I worked with David again on a number of Troma trailers, and on the Troma Informercial, THE TROMA SYSTEM, for Comedy Central (more on that in “Chapter 34: The Director’s Chair and the Tromamercial”) and there are trailers and clips from the Tromamercial in this show. The second reason this was particularly fun is that Troma co-founder, Lloyd Kaufman, called in and joined us for the first half. Although there were a few “technical difficulties” with Lloyd and his phone, the witty banter between us makes it a fun discussion. Well, it was fun for me, but you can decide for yourself. Watch me, Lloyd and David on this special “Ask Them Yourself” version of POP GOES THE CULTURE – TV.

 

 

 

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Marketing Lessons From The Toxic Avenger – This Week’s Six Pixels Of Separation Podcast

Mitch Joel is not just a highly regarded author and marketing thought leader, nor is he just a long-established blogger and podcaster. He’s also not just a co-founder and president of a successful global digital agency, nor is he just a former rock and roll journalist. Mitch Joel, above all these things, is a mensch, in the truest sense of the word. For those of you perhaps not as familiar with the Yiddish term, a “mensch” is a person of integrity and honor – an all around great guy. That’s Mitch Joel, and I am fortunate to have had the pleasure of breaking bread (not bad) with him on more than one occasion. I am even more fortunate to be the guest on Episode #593 of his long-running and popular marketing podcast, Six Pixels of Separation.

It was great to talk with Mitch about my book, marketing, and even share some mutual love for the Mel Brooks comedy classic, Blazing Saddles… It is a fun, and hopefully informative and entertaining conversation. Click here or on the embed below to listen, and if you’re not already a follower of Mitch, please consider subscribing to the Six Pixels of Separation podcast.

If you enjoy listening to my conversation with Mitch, please consider reading my book!