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The Pom Pom Girls: Holly does Hollywood

by Mark Burger

If you took a look at my DVD column this week (see page 37), you’ll notice the entry for the 1976 teen comedy The Pom Pom Girls, which is being re-released as part of the “Starlite Drive-In Theatre” double-feature DVD collection released by BCI Eclipse.

The Pom Pom Girls was directed by Joseph Ruben (who went on to direct The Stepfather – a great movie, by the way – Sleeping With the Enemy and Money Train). The cast included one of the first leading roles for Robert Carradine, nearly a decade before he enrolled in Revenge of the Nerds. The film was shot on location on the campuses of Chaminade Middle School and Chaminade High School in southern California.

Which brings us to my pal, Matt Holly – actor, screenwriter, movie maven and, like me, a connoisseur of films both good and bad. He’s also a New York Yankees fan, which I don’t hold against him too much, and – getting back to the point of this column – he is a proud graduate of Chaminade High School, and a long-time fan of The Pom Pom Girls.

Years before he even attended the esteemed institution of higher learning that is Chaminade, there’d been an urban legend around town that a film had been shot on the two campuses and that the administration was so distressed by it that they never allowed a film to be shot there again, despite numerous requests over the years.

The urban legend was true. One of Holly’s teachers had been a student at Chaminade during the filming, and regaled his students with tales of the filming and tales of the school’s reaction.

“From what I understand, the filmmakers told the administration that this would be along the lines of a Frankie-and-Annette beach party movie,” Holly recalls with a laugh. Since the administration didn’t pay much attention to the production (which occurred during the summer months, when school was out), they weren’t aware exactly what sort of movie it was until they were invited to the premiere. That’s when they discovered it was an R-rated, raunchy teen comedy.

By the way, did I forget to mention that Chaminade was and is a Catholic school?

“‘Insulted’ would not be strong enough a word,” says Holly about the administration’s reaction to The Pom Pom Girls. “They were appalled. They were disgusted. They were mortified.”

Of course, he laughs, “no one ever really bothered to check just what kind of movie they were making!”

That would be the end of using the campus (or campuses) of Chaminade for any movie. “To my knowledge, nothing has been filmed there since,” Holly says.

“I think it’s a lot of fun,” he says of the film, declining to specifically cite the number of times he’s watched it (double-digits, for sure). “Of that kind of film made by the studio, Crown International – The Van, Van Nuys Blvd., The Beach Girls – I think it’s the best and I think it holds up the best. It’s cool to see James Gammon and Robert Carradine, of course, and director Joseph Ruben went on to do Dreamscape, which I’d seen in the theater not long before I saw Pom Pom Girls on VHS. It’s fun to see where they all kind of started.”

As an aspiring filmmaker himself, “I would love to remake The Pom Pom Girls,” Holly says. “I could not see doing it any other way; it has to be set then, in the 1970s. It is a movie of its time and place. I don’t think an updated version would translate.”

Now, mind you, Holly has not contacted anyone at Crown International Pictures (although maybe he should) about remaking the film. For now, it’s just a pipe dream. And, one way or the other, he’ll always have the original.

The Pom Pom Girls “is a nostalgic thing for me and my friends,” says Holly. “‘Here’s what Canoga Park used to look like.’ And since it was shot at my school, it holds a little sliver in my heart.”

As an actor, Holly has done his TV stints (including “The Young and the Restless” and “The Nick Cannon Show” – where he wound up locking lips with Cannon on-camera), and he can be glimpsed in the Emmy-winning TV movie James Dean. He was cut out of Crazy/Beautiful, and wishes he’d been cut out of an independent feature called The Rubys, which has yet to see any wide release. “I wish I could find all the copies of the film and smash them with a hammer,” he says.

Holly and his writing partner Jack Monroe penned the screenplay for the upcoming low-budget, killer-eel opus Razortooth, which ought to be slithering onto DVD later this year. (I have seen the film, but I’ll withhold comment until it is commercially released.) Both Holly and Monroe appear in the film as well, Holly in a sizable supporting role.

Holly lives in Chatsworth, Calif., not far from Chaminade Middle School, and still takes in the occasional high school football game. (While a student, Holly was a member of the football, baseball, track and wrestling teams. Now he just wrestles with his conscience.)

Incidentally, there were no actual pom-pom girls at Chaminade. “If there were, I’d have found them,” says Holly, who swears that he was not a pom pom boy, either.

And, yes, he admits with a laugh, he’ll still get wistful about his student days there and his memories of The Pom Pom Girls. Undoubtedly, his poor girlfriend, actress Melissa Noble, and their two dogs have had to endure endless viewings of the film.

For those who would like to e-mail Matt with your own memories of The Pom Pom Girls – and who doesn’t have a few? – or to inquire why he doesn’t spend his time in a more productive fashion, watching better movies, feel free to e-mail him at hollywood83@sbcglobal.net or check out the website of the production company he’s affiliated with: witsendfilms.com/

(You can even see exclusive footage from Razortooth, too – and don’t say I didn’t warn you!)

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