Interview by Kris Gilpin
Originally published in Wet Paint #31 (May/June/July 1991)
In 1969, the gorgeous and sexy young actress Tiffany Bolling starred in THE NEW PEOPLE, a post-apocalyptic TV show about a group of teens on an island, one of only two American series to ever have a 45-minute time slot. After gaining a fan following, she appeared in several films and commercials, and was then asked to pose for Playboy; they promised her 25 grand, then paid her only 10. After that she was instantly typecast as the brainless sex object, which resulted in her making BONNIE’S KIDS, THE CENTERFOLD GIRLS, and THE CANDY SNATCHERS, three B-movies which were the only work she was offered. She also became involved in the casual drug use which was a part of the Hollywood fast lane (then and now). After starring with William Shatner in KINGDOM OF THE SPIDERS, her life and career changed for the better; she hosted the original SPOTLIGHT celebrity interview show on L.A.’s late, lamented Z Channel, the neatest cable channel to ever hit the airwaves.
Raised in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, Tiffany Bolling is also an absolute sweetheart, one of the nicest people I’ve ever had the pleasure of speaking with. A lovely and intelligent woman (she’s acted in and directed many plays, and she sings and plays piano as well), she’s not at all bitter about her career or being shoved in the industry’s “sex kitten” label in the past, and she is very excited and looking forward to pursuing more acting avenues in the future. Many thanks to Tiffany for doing this interview, and for being so frank and friendly and totally devoid of any Hollywood bullshit during our time together.
KRIS GILPIN: The last thing I saw you in was LOVE SCENES, five years ago. What have you been doing since?
TIFFANY BOLLING: Well, I guested on some TV; I did HIGH MOUNTAIN RANGERS, with Robert Conrad, who directed it also, which was a lot of fun. And then I’m going to be guesting on this new show, it’s a new sitcom called WAKE, RATTLE AND ROLL, and I play Mrs. Beamer, the electronic, perfect ‘50s mom.
KG: Was it fun playing ‘electronic?’ How’d you do it?
BOLLING: Well, I haven’t done it yet, I’m going to do it, and it should be out sometime in the fall.
KG: I can’t think of a whole of comedy that you’ve done. Do you like doing comedy?
BOLLING: I absolutely adore it.
KG: Didn’t you do a horror film for your husband?
BOLLING: Yeah. Richard Casares is the senior vice president of Intercontinental Releasing Corporation, IRC, that did this film called OPEN HOUSE. I’ve spent twenty years working as a good thespian-type person and doing Shakespeare so I could hang from the rafters, y’know, with my eyes bugged out, looking somewhat gruesome. I don’t really consider that much of a claim to fame but I did it, mainly because my husband said, ‘We gotta reshoot some of these scenes, they’re awful, and we need to redo this movie, so will you be in this movie?’ And I said, ‘Well, can I say no?’
KG: So you played a dead body, basically?
BOLLING: Well, I played this real estate agent who comes to show the house to some wonderful people and there’s an insane man who’s escaped from somewhere who’s living in this house that’s up for sale, it’s empty. And of course he kills me and he hangs me up by the rafters, or something.
KG: You’ve done several sex scenes in the past. Is that something you have to psych yourself up for?
BOLLING: No, you just do it. Did you see WHEN HARRY MET SALLY? Remember that funny scene in the movie when she does this fabulous fake climax sitting [in the restaurant] – well, that’s kind of what you do.
KG: So it didn’t bug you too much?
BOLLING: Well, the nudity bugged me, like in LOVE SCENES, and I would never do a film like that again. I did it mainly because my very dear friend Bud Townsend directed it, and I’ve done a lot of commercials with him. He said he wanted me to do it, and I said okay, I would. But the bottom line to it was that there was a lot of nudity in it, and a lot of simulated sex scenes.
KG: Is that awful for you? Do you call for closed sets or anything?
BOLLING: Well, sure, I don’t want people coming in and getting a joyride off of me trying to get my work done, but I insist on closed sets, and some of the scenes in LOVE SCENES were very hard for me to do. At one point I even flipped out – I mean, I didn’t really flip out, I insisted that they change some of the dialogue and rework it so that, somehow, the character of Val, who I played, was somehow redeemed. She’d start out to do this particular incident and then she’d say, this is ridiculous, I don’t want to make it with this guy and this woman, I don’t want to do this, and it was literally in the movie, so just before the act she’d say, wait a minute, this is stupid, this is not who I am. So it worked out very well that way, and actually the picture was well-received. It was a hard-R picture.
KG: So if it wasn’t real cheap or sleazy, would you still consider doing nudity for a film, or are you just tired of it?
BOLLING: No, I don’t think there would be a way for me to do that, unless there was some way that it would never be considered sexual exploitation, or sensual. Because my belief system is totally changed, since 1987, or ‘84, or whenever that movie was done.
KG: Early on, you did a Playboy spread.
BOLLING: Oh, it was the worst experience of my life. First of all, I had no idea – I was just a punk kid, eighteen or nineteen – they said I was twenty-five. It was a terrible experience. I didn’t get paid a penny, they told me it would be great for my career, and I didn’t know the difference, this was a party for me. I mean, I got lucky. I got lucky with one picture with Sinatra, Frank Sinatra, and he helped me greatly, bless his heart, when I came out to be under contract to 20th Century Fox, from Florida, because of this dumb little role I’d had in one of his movies. And it typecast me as a sex symbol, and it really cut down the value of the roles that I really felt I was eligible for, and then I fell into the category of pretty blonde, sex kitten who has no brains or whatever, you know what I’m saying? It hurt me a lot, and then I got very angry about it and then I started doing B-movies because nobody was hiring me for anything that was worthy or decent, so I was doing these B-movies, y’know, I did three of them, THE CENTERFOLD GIRLS, and all these movies…
KG: How do you like the moniker ‘Queen of the B’s?’ I guess you’ve been called that.
BOLLING: Queen of the B’s, yes, that’s a big claim to fame.
KG: How does it make you feel?
BOLLING: How does it make me feel? Well, now it’s a joke, y’know? But it was very frustrating because I – I mean, I can’t say it wasn’t my fault, because I was the one that was responsible for this vehicle I’m in, you know what I mean? In the long run it’s me who makes the decisions, but I had a lot of push from a lot of sources that were just sort of exploiting me. And I didn’t know the difference. So I just went along with what everybody said to do, and there was no sense of morality and no sense of future career moves, it was just, do whatever’s happening now and so I hurt myself very badly, career-wise, and in the long run, financially.
KG: You were a kid just starting out, and along came THE NEW PEOPLE.
BOLLING: That’s exactly what it was, it was THE NEW PEOPLE. I was just on fire. Unfortunately, I wasn’t on fire for the Lord, I was on fire for having a lot of fun and not knowing what anything was about. I was seventeen years old and the lead in a series, all of a sudden I’m a big star, and I loved acting, I loved singing and music, and I was too young and too cocky, that was the problem. I was too young and I was very scared, so instead of going to someone and saying ‘Help,’ I got real cocky, like I was really hip, and I didn’t need any help, so this fended off a lot of potential good managers and people like that. So I just, like, spun out. You get involved with the drugs and the whole thing, and you spin out. [I] didn’t realize that it was show business and that it wasn’t going to last forever. I thought, this is a party, whoa!
KG: I didn’t know that. So you got involved with drugs for a while?
BOLLING: Yeah. I mean, not to the point where I ever thought I had a problem with it, but I think that my inability to work in quality films made me very angry so I would take it out on myself or “Well, let’s have a line or coke or let’s have a beer, or let’s have something.” So I went through that phase for a while. Yeah, sure, I think almost everybody does in the business.
KG: Were you a Christian back then?
BOLLING: No. I always had a yearning to philosophize theorally, you know. I think my grandmother gave me a lot of input when I was a little tiny kid, but consciously I didn’t understand it [until] I grew up. It was like when I was maybe two, you know what I mean?
KG: But you are now?
BOLLING: Oh, yeah.
KG: When did that happen?
BOLLING: Well, I would not be alive today had that not happened for me.
KG: That was after LOVE SCENES then?
BOLLING: No, actually it was before then, but I fell off the wagon, so to speak, because I was really broke, and they offered me 25 grand, so I said yes, I’ll do it, and I rationaled all these reasons why do this film. Well, it turns out well in the end, and their marriage works out, etc. But I felt bad about doing LOVE SCENES. I mean even though it was all simulated, and it was a union shoot, there was never any real sexual – it was work, and we just did simulation and that kind of stuff.
KG: What was it like working with Richard Benjamin on MARRIAGE OF A YOUNG STOCKBROKER?
BOLLING: Oh, he’s a sweetheart, he’s just a sweetheart. Once again, that like pigeonholed me, the pretty blonde with no bra on and the blonde tan body, and I invented that wet look – it was me that first had that wet t-shirt look, that wet see-through look; nobody had done it yet, so… He was great, it was absolutely great. He’s funny too, and his wife is great, Paula Prentiss. She’s the one, I remember we had a cast party, she and I were laughing, just belly-laughing in the ladies room. We spent most of the evening in the ladies room, sitting on the floor, just talking and joking.
KG: What about James Coco in THE WILD PARTY?
BOLLING: Interesting. James Coco was a prince, and I’ll always remember his sweetness and his kindness and his professionalism, and he’s a good actor. Raquel Welch – we did out best to work it out. I know she has situations that I didn’t understand at the time, and we didn’t get along too well. There was one scene in particular where I’m supposed to be somewhat tipsy in the movie, and I have this clear water that’s supposed to be vodka or some drink, and I come up to her and I say ‘Hi!’ or something, and so she said to me, please be careful about spilling anything on this dress, it’s a five thousand dollar dress, and I said, please, we don’t want to do that, y’know, I hope it doesn’t happen, but we’re supposed to do our scene, and if it did happen, hopefully she could use it and make it work for it, and I didn’t mean to do it, and it did happen and she stopped the scene and she said, ‘I told you not to do this! So you’d better just go rehearse it!’ and I said, ‘Well, now that we’ve rehearsed it, let’s go shoot it.’ She walked off the set and I didn’t know what to do. It was kind of a mess. But, you know, those things happen.
KG: You worked with William Shatner on KINGDOM OF THE SPIDERS.
BOLLING: Well, first of all, where we shot was a dream come true, in Sedonia, Arizona, it’s like four seasons come through every day, you get your snow at night and then it warms up to about 70° in the daytime and you can go lie by the pool. So, it was a wonderful place to be able to shoot a film and I felt so bad for those poor spiders, because they were all so innocent, bless their hearts. And Bill Shatner…he’s a horny guy, like most men. [Laughs]
KG: So he chased you around?
BOLLING: No. Well, just little [things], so that was fine. His wife, Marcie, was in the film, too, you know.
KG: So he kind of flirted with you?
BOLLING: Well, sure, but I thought that was great, because it helped us work together, because I’m supposed to be this very tongue-in-cheek “Ms.” type of person, and so he used that a lot.
KG: THE CANDY SNATCHERS was so sleazy, I loved it.
BOLLING: Oh, that was the worst film in the history of the world. It was so bad… Well, once again, being subjectively involved – that was a time during my career when I was doing cocaine, and I didn’t really know what I was doing, and I was very angry about the way that my career had gone in the industry, the way things had taken and what I’d been faced with, and the opportunities that I had and had not been given. And wanting to work as an actor, just saying, hey, I want to work; I don’t want to do this stuff, but I need to pay my rent. Of course, I didn’t know the Lord then either. [THE CANDY SNATCHERS] was based on a true story about this person who is buried alive and I don’t know why I did it, [but] I did it, and the hardest thing for me, as I look back on it, was, I had done a television series, as you know, THE NEW PEOPLE, and so I had a lot of young people who really respected me, and really revered me as something of a hero, and then I came out with this stupid CANDY SNATCHERS movie, and they premiered it in Florida, so all these young people came to see this movie, and I didn’t know what was going on, and it was a horrendous experience. So, what can I tell you?
KG: Was making the movie itself equally horrendous?
BOLLING: Well, sure, it was such a low budget thing and so really, in a way, not knowing God and not having anybody to say, hey man, you don’t need to get stoned to get through life. I’d snort up before I’d go to work because it was so…weird.
KG: Do you feel any better about THE CENTERFOLD GIRLS?
BOLLING: No. No, I don’t. I think THE CENTERFOLD GIRLS, from what I remember, had a lot to do with me being able to release how I really felt in my personal life on film. [There’s] one scene where she gets to kill this guy, and I accept consciously, at the end of the scene – I don’t know if you remember at the end of the movie, Topanga had just had a fire, and we went up there to shoot the last scene of the movie, where she actually gets the knife and stabs the stalker that’s trying to kill her because she’s a centerfold, y’know, and he’s going to kill her. And so I remember this one scene at the very end where I had the knife and just before I stab him to death, I just blurted out this – this bellow, this primal scream. It was just…golly, this life is shitty right now. Who am I? I’m 23 years old, and I don’t understand what it is… I remember that was like a primal scream for me. It was a horrendous time.
KG: When I watch these films, I could never tell that you were going through all this pain.
BOLLING: No, well, that’s right. You’re not supposed to. [Laughs] Listen, don’t freak out -- it’s okay. Maybe you shouldn’t print this stuff.
KG: It’ll be a great read. What about BONNIE’S KIDS?
BOLLING: BONNIE AND CLYDE had just recently come out, and so BONNIE’S KIDS got the title because these two young women, older sister/younger sister, younger sister played by Robin Mattson, I think, she played the younger sister, and yeah, it was kind of a western hick town supposedly, and was a story of them just trying to get out of a situation where they go the big city and make their life work, and find Uncle Harry, whose in the fashion business. And so my character thought she could become a model, and did all the stuff that you’ve got to do to become a model …
KG: Was that shoot any more pleasant for you?
BOLLING: No, they were all awful. They were all pretty awful, and it was not helpful in spiritual growth. Although you know, I think that God works in very amazing ways. I think I had to go through all that stuff so that someday I can be somewhat of an example of hope in people’s lives. That yes, there is a lighter side to life.
KG: William Shatner is supposed to direct KINGDOM OF THE SPIDERS II. Has he contacted you about being in that?
BOLLING: That’s a real frustrating thing right now. No, they haven’t. I’ve called the producer and said, what’s going on, I’ve heard about this, everybody’s telling me that they’re doing Part 2, and nobody’s called me about it. I feel I’m very intricate in the film. And nobody’s called me about it. So I don’t know what’s going on. Igo Kantor, the producer, said if the storyline works out that you’re going to be in the film, great, but if it doesn’t, there’s really not much we can do, and I went yeah, right, and he went ‘bye.’ So I don’t know what’s going to happen. It may turn around that I am in the film, and it may turn around that I’m not in the film, and if I’m not in the film, that’s life in the big city.
KG: So, even though you’re kind of upset about it, you’d do the film if they asked?
BOLLING: Depends on the content of the film. Depends on what my part would be and what the outcome of the film is and who I would play. You know, I can’t just work to work, because it totally almost killed me once. I have to be selective.
(Above: Shortly before she co-starred in KINGDOM OF THE SPIDERS, Bolling guest starred as the evil Spider Woman on Electra Woman and Dyna Girl)
KG: What happened to make you become Christian?
BOLLING: Well, I almost died! No, it was over a period of time. In fact, it happened on KINGDOM OF THE SPIDERS – the makeup lady, I forget her name now, but she was a sweetheart, she had talked to me about the Lord, and she said, ‘Yeah, the Vineyard – I go to a fellowship and they’re really hip and it’s not like church, y’know, it’s like these people are in show business, a lot of them, and it’s called the Vineyard Christian Fellowship. Why don’t you come? You’ll love the music.’ She knew I loved music so much. So I did, and I went. Whoa! And I started getting saved. It was over a slow period of time. It wasn’t like, instant, with violins. It was a slow process.
KG: You did a very strange, unique movie, which is not on your resume, called WICKED, WICKED.
BOLLING: Oh! I took that off because no one ever saw it.
KG: It was the world’s first and only totally split-screen mystery.
BOLLING: Yeah. They can’t do anything with it, they can’t put it on home video, because you can’t see it on TV, the screen is so small, so it just totally was a bust. [The producers] had seen WOODSTOCK and they thought, what a great idea, we can do an active and passive screen, and you can see what somebody’s thinking in a room and have the killer coming up to kill her, you know? Hey, it was money, and I just thought, well, okay, and I’d just done a silly show with Patrick Duffy called MAN FROM ATLANTIS, boy, I walked around in this wetsuit, supposed to be an extraterrestrial, and I’m walking around looking like a penguin in this wetsuit and I’m thinking, well, it can’t get much worse than this, then, yeah, let’s do this movie. So it really got to be a joke.
KG: Was it difficult? Was it like filming two movies at the same time?
BOLLING: Well, no, it wasn’t. I just had to be one character all the time. It wasn’t like a split character, I wasn’t a schizophrenic. First of all, it was done very poorly. It was done very cheap, they didn’t have a whole lot of hip ideas, it was pretty well straight across. But I loved singing in the movie. One of the opportunities I really love is being able to sing in film. I was able to sing in that movie, I played the role of a singer! And then I was also able to sing in THE WILD PARTY. I played the role of a singer in that. So I’m thankful that I was able to sing.
KG: So Sinatra’s a nice guy?
BOLLING: Sinatra, yeah, yeah. He’s a king. I mean I think he’s a great guy. I got involved with him, and ended up leaving the relationship… I fell in love with an out-of-work actor, so I left this possible potential huge career with this fabulous human being for this out-of-work actor. But you know, when you’re eighteen years old, you don’t know what’s going on. You just want to go for compulsivity, so to speak.
KG: So you got together during the filming of TONY ROME?
KG: I didn’t know that.
BOLLING: Not too many people do. I probably shouldn’t say it, but I think we’re all old enough now. But yeah, we were very involved. He bought me all kinds of beautiful things, and I kind of just didn’t treat him very nicely. It was very stupid.
KG: I loved the Z Channel.
BOLLING: I started that show called SPOTLIGHT. It was a talk show that I started with Daniel Polier, Jr. who is very bright and has never been successful. He’s a writer and his dad is in the business. He’s a young guy and he’s always been struggling, and he’s got a lot of ideas and stuff. Anyway, he came up with this idea and asked me to do it and I said sure let’s do it, let’s host a show, and there was no money involved, but we thought it was great, it was great fun, and I met some great people, I met Burgess Meredith, and I met Robert Wise, and I met some really fabulous people. It was a talk show. You know the show with Charles Champlin? Well, I started that original show, that was my show, and then I left that show, and then Charles Champlin started doing it.
KG: That must’ve been fun.
BOLLING: It was fun, it was great. It finally gave me the opportunity to be somewhat of an intelligent person, you know what I mean?
KG: Who do you remember as your favorite interviews, and why?
BOLLING: My favorite interview was with Jerry Paris. I don’t even remember what we talked about, I just remember that I laughed and laughed through the whole show. Jerry Paris, I think he produced HAPPY DAYS or something, didn’t he?
KG: Yeah, he’s dead now. He was an actor, and then he directed HAPPY DAYS and POLICE ACADEMY movies. You have a five-year-old daughter?
BOLLING: Yes, her name is Sean Christine Casares. She’s gorgeous, she’s got these crystal blue eyes and this thick dark brown hair, because her dad has blue eyes and black hair…well, salt and pepper [Laughs]. She can sing, she knows all the songs from THE LITTLE MERMAID and all that stuff.
KG: Does it bother you that she wants to become an actress?
BOLLING: Well, I don’t know that she really does. She’s only five, and even though she’s gifted, she’s very beautiful, and she has great moves, she moves well, she’s a dancer and a singer. She’s really got all the right stuff. And if she wants to do it, I’m going to be like the sword of fire, making sure she’s covered. I mean, I’m going to be like Brooke Shields’ mom. Everybody will hate me but my daughter will be protected.
KG: Any other projects coming up?
BOLLING: Well, I don’t know right now. Stuff comes up all the time. There’s a lot of stuff in the fire, but I can’t say because I haven’t gotten word yet. The only thing that I know for sure that I’m doing is that show WAKE, RATTLE AND ROLL, that new syndicated show.
KG: Where would Tiffany Bolling like to take her career from here?
BOLLING: I want to do quality film, film that has some kind of social thought, not just exploitation stuff. I think THE SUSAN RICHARDS STORY is fabulous -- it’s a great story. It’s a very dramatic, very intense film. And I think also, I’d like to write stories for young adults. I don’t know what that would lead to, maybe screenplays, I don’t know. But whatever it does, it’s got to be with God in my life first. God comes first, family second, career third. Because Richard is my third marriage and I was going nowhere, you know, and I finally got it straight, and all of a sudden my life is working again.