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    Schlock pays for actor who draws crowd

    By BRADY DENNIS, Times Staff Writer
    © St. Petersburg Times
    published October 31, 2002

    TAMPA -- Sometimes it pays to be second class. Just ask Bruce Campbell.

    "Who?" you might ask. Campbell wouldn't mind. He has always been out for fun, not fame.

    The chainsaw-wielding B-movie star long ago sealed his cult legend status with cheesy horror flicks like Evil Dead and Army of Darkness.

    But to the 500 people who came to see him Wednesday night at the University of South Florida, it was better than seeing Tom Hanks or Denzel Washington on stage.

    Campbell was in town to promote his book, If Chins Could Kill: Confessions of a B Movie Actor. The night included a screening of Army of Darkness, a lecture from Campbell and a question-and-answer session with the audience.

    Dressed in black pants and a gray shirt -- a far cry from the disheveled appearance of Ash, the lame-brained hero he made famous -- Campbell alternately teased the audience and deprecated himself, often filling the auditorium with laughter.

    To someone who admitted she hadn't seen his work: "But you bought the book, so you're fine by me."

    To someone who asked how much money his cheesy movies had made him: "None of your g------ business!"

    On people who have mimicked his material: "You've succeeded when others copy you."

    People stood in line before the event to buy copy after copy of his book for $14 a pop. Some brought their own memorabilia, hoping for an autograph.

    "It's the facial expressions," said Andrea Adair, carrying her Evil Dead lunch box. "He's colorful. He's animated."

    Kim Beckner agreed.

    "It's the schlock, the tackiness," Beckner said. "(His movies) are supposed to be scary, but really they're more funny."

    For many of his flicks, Campbell teamed with high school buddy Sam Raimi, who has gone on to direct movies such as Spider-Man. They two first started making movies together in the 1970s with an 8mm camera.

    Campbell, a college dropout, admitted that the B-movie life has been good to him.

    "This book is dedicated to the players on the second string, the 'B' people, if you will," he writes in the book's opening, "and I cheerfully include myself in that lot."

    Before turning down the lights and turning on the projector Wednesday, Campbell thanked his audience for supporting films that don't aspire to win Oscars:

    "I'm glad you guys support films that don't tie in with that Taco Bell merchandising, summer blockbuster bulls---."

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