Live at Palm Springs Comic Con: The Man who Created Halloween with Legendary Producer Irwin Yablans and Shelly Saltman

December 29, 2016

This week on the show, we’re back at Palm Springs Comic Con for one of my favorite panels I’ve ever moderated, because I interviewed a living legend. Two living legends in fact. I was honored to moderate The Man who Created Halloween panel with Irwin Yablans, legendary producer of the film, and Shelly Saltman, who didn’t make Halloween but did help market the Birds and is a TV legend in his own right.

Here’s Irwin’s bio, straight from Wikipedia:

[Irwin] produced films which included Halloween (1978), Tourist Trap (1979), Roller Boogie (1979), Nocturna: Granddaughter of Dracula (1979), Halloween II (1981), Hell Night(1981), Blood Beach (1981), Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982), and Tank (1984). Since his resignation from Compass International, Yablans produced films with Charles Band such as Prison (1988).

When Yablans was younger he realized he wanted to work in the movie industry by looking in one of the drive-in movie theater trash and found pieces of cut out scenes.

Halloween began as an idea suggested by Yablans (entitled The Babysitter Murders), who envisioned a film about babysitters being menaced by a stalker. Carpenter took the idea and another suggestion from Yablans that it take place during Halloween and developed them into a story. Along with noted film producer and financier Moustapha Akkad, Yablans put forward $300,000 for the film's production, filming in Pasadena, California over the course of 20 days. Released in late October 1978, the film was an unprecedented success, making $70 million in its initial theatrical run, becoming the highest grossing independent film of all time until it was surpassed The Blair Witch Project, released twenty years later. Yablans and Akkad remained as executive producers after the film's sequel rights were sold to Dino De Laurentiis, the latter producing every entry in the series until his death in 2005. Yablans and Akkad, along with producer Joseph Wolf, founded the independent production and distribution studio Compass International Pictures (later Trancas International Films Ltd.)

And here is Shelly’s, also from Wikipedia:

Sheldon "Shelly" Arthur Saltman (born August 17, 1931 in Boston) is a promoter of major sports and entertainment events including the worldwide promotion of the Muhammad Ali / Joe Frazier heavyweight championship boxing matches, creating the Andy Williams San Diego Golf Classic, helping to arrange the independent NFL Players Association games during the 1982 NFL season Strike, and bringing cellular phone technology to the former Soviet Union. But in the eyes of the general public, he is perhaps best known as the man that Evel Knievel tried to beat to death with a baseball bat.

Shelly has created, written, and produced shows for television such as Pro-FanChallenge of the NFL Cheerleaders (an early "reality" show), and the movie Ring of Passion about the fights between American boxer Joe Louis and German champion Max Schmeling in the years leading up to World War II. Shelly is also the author of various books including EVEL KNIEVEL ON TOUR by Sheldon Saltman with Maury Green (1977 / Dell Publishing) and FEAR NO EVEL: An Insider's Look At Hollywood as told to Thomas Lyons by Shelly Saltman (January 2007 / We Publish Books).

If you are interested in listening just to Shelly, he stays pretty silent until the last 15 minutes of the episode. So if you want his opinion on why he’s terrified of ravens, what it was like going town to town promoting the Birds, or how he created Sports Goofy, then fast forward to the last 15, but I highly recommend starting at the beginning, because this is mostly about how Irwin created Halloween, filled with tons of awesome stories. Some you might know, like whose mask they used for Michael Myer’s character, and other you might not, like how they came to cast Jamie Lee Curtis in her breakthrough role.

It’s not often in your life you get to share the stage with a living legend, and I don’t take it for granted. It was amazing hearing Irwin talk not just about Halloween, but how he helped invent independent movies, how movies have changed over the years, why he can’t watch horror movies now, and his #1 secret for success.

Irwin and Shelly are far and away the two most successful individual people we’ve ever had on the show, and talking with them was a delight. I tried to soak up the information they gave like a sponge, and hope you will too. There is nothing like hearing how somebody sustained a career in a creative field. It gives you insights on how to build your own career and shows you a path in the darkness.

Irwin also has a book, The Man who Created Halloween, which is his biography. It’s full of amazing anecdotes about how he came up inside the business, what he had to do to succeed, and how he built a career for himself. I was riveted to every page and highly recommend you checking it out by clicking here. Your copy won’t be signed like mine, but it will be filled with the same awesome knowledge.

Shelly also has an amazing book called Fear No Evel: An Insiders Look at Hollywood, where he talks about promoting the legendary Ali/Frazier fights and playing tennis with Boris Yeltsin, along with the time Evel Knievel attacked him with a baseball bat. Check that one out by clicking here. It’s soon to be a major motion picture.

When there is knowledge to soak up, I’m there, and both Shelly and Irwin dropped knowledge throughout. I truly enjoyed this conversation and hope you do as well. Interesting tidbit, my first management company was Trancas International, who co-produced Halloween with Irwin. Small world. 

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