Nuts and Bolts: Interview with Aurora Gorealis
In the tradition of such sinister seductresses as Vampira and Elvira, Aurora Gorealis is a Baltimore-based horror host who weaves dark magic from a combination of campy movies, sassy attitude, and the occasional pun of dubious quality.
Since 2017, Aurora (aka: Melissa LaMartina) has been playing the character during “Shocktail Hour” at the Golden West Café in Baltimore, combining live comedy and screenings of off-the-wall classics such as “Phantom of the Paradise” and “House on Haunted Hill” (complete with William Castle-style gimmicks).
In the October issue of the Horror Writers Association newsletter, available to members only, she shares some personal branding tips for writers, and relates how “Shocktail Hour” created a community of horror geeks who helped each other get through the pandemic as a part of our new series of interviews by Tom Joyce highlighting professional advice for HWA members, Nuts and Bolts.
Here’s a preview:
Can you tell us your background?
I’ve been a performer all my life; there’s a video somewhere of me at probably age 5 or so giving a tour of our home and ending it lounging on my bed and proclaiming myself the “Princess of the House.” I started my professional life as a Theatre and Literature/Language Arts teacher. This set me on a winding path through which I became a jack of all trades—writing, editing, producing, directing, designing, creative direction… In my creative and professional lives, which frequently overlap, I’m driven by creating experiences for people. I love straightforward theatre, sure, but I like to challenge myself with the question of how we can make something more immersive or more experiential. My proudest achievements as a director have really harnessed that: an adaptation of “A Bucket of Blood” that put the audience in the coffeehouse; the Baltimore premiere of a new take on Frankenstein for which I started the process by asking my set designer, “What if the set is, like, her (the titular doctor is a woman in this one) brain?” and roped one of my favorite local bands into creating a full score; a production of Medea set in the 1930s as an exploration of celebrity worship, with Medea and Jason as movie stars and incorporating film, a press conference, full dance numbers, and a torch song—all without changing the script.
How did “Shocktail Hour” get started?
It was really through Samantha [her friend, owner of the Golden West Café] being so open to introducing something so different to her establishment. There wasn’t—and still isn’t—anything like Shocktail Hour happening in Baltimore. Baltimore had a television horror host in the past (the Ghost Host, who was also Captain Chespeake) but for many years lacked some creep showing weird movies. I really wanted to fill that vacancy. I grew up scaring myself late at night, religiously watching “Tales from the Crypt” and “The Outer Limits” in the basement and then running up to my room as fast as I could. When I was a pre-teen, my best friend and I started regular visits to the video store to pick out movies with the most enticing (read: bloodiest, weirdest) titles or covers. We devoured stuff like “Ghoulies,” “Killer Klowns from Outer Space,” “The Ice Cream Man” … and I wanted to bring that feeling of discovery and fun to an audience. Even if a crowd has seen a movie before, there’s something about sharing it with a group and experiencing those moments together. There’s just a special energy in 50 people watching a turkey puppet blow a guy’s head off, you know?
Tom Joyce’s debut novel, “The Freak Foundation Operative’s Report,” was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. He is the author of a short story collection, “The Devil’s Kazoo Band Don’t Take Requests,” and his short stories have appeared in publications including “Space and Time Magazine” and “Needle: A Magazine of Noir.”