Film and TV

Nancy Boy: Denver FilmCenter's Keith Garcia gets A Nightmare On Elm Street tattoo

When we chatted with Keith Garcia, Denver FilmCenter's Programming Manager, prior to last week's showing of I Am Nancy, he told us a secret: Garcia promised that in honor of the film's star, Heather Langenkamp -- who came out to Denver for the screening to talk about her role as Nancy Thompson in the Nightmare On Elm Street series -- he was going to get a tattoo. Of her face. Garcia delivered on the promise, and we caught up with him to talk about the new ink on his arm in homage to Freddy's final girl.

Westword: Who did the tattoo?

Keith Garcia: Ian Robert McKown at Sinfulltration (in Lakewood.)

Did you pick McKown for any reason in particular?

He has done work for a friend of mine, and I've always been impressed with his work. Most importantly, his portraiture skills. Especially since I wanted to have a perfect likeness of her.

Why did you pick this particular image of Heather, er, Nancy?

When we started out, I was going to go for a more iconic tattoo. It was going to be the poster image from the very first film -- Which is (Nancy) with Freddy's glove kind of hanging over her. But Ian suggested, number one, that I do something that other people can't just get. Because anybody can get that poster put on them.

So he found a photo of Freddy and photo of Heather, and we just went back and forth about like, well, what if we did this, and this is happening, and this is happening. And it was actually very fast, considering I got there ready to have it tattooed on me.

How long did it take?

Three and a half hours. It is my third tattoo, but the first of that size.

What was Heather's reaction when she saw the tattoo?

She loved it. I revealed it during the Q&A, after the screening of her film. It was actually the first thing. I was like, 'before we get into this Q&A, I have something to show you.' She really liked it and even said, 'Oh my god, I want to cry!' I guess no one's really done that before. It's all been the typical Freddy stuff, or in the film (I Am Nancy) there is a woman that has a tattoo of first A Nightmare on Elm Street poster on her leg.

Incidentally, it doesn't really look like her in that poster. So actually going from the photograph of her, I think was just really -- she just loved it. It's the perfect focus of Heather over Freddy, and then the whole "Nancy Boy" thing under it just sort of caps it off, so...(Laughs).

Let's talk about the significance of this character, Nancy, to you in particular. Well, you know, I've been very steeped in horror, like, my whole life. Horror is one of the few genres that has a bunch of rules that basically constitute how people enjoy horror. And one of those in the typical slasher film was the 'final girl'. Nancy as a character, you can't even initially put her as the final girl, per se, because A Nightmare on Elm Street breaks the rules of the slasher film that was really going on at the time.

Because of so many aspects -- the whole being that Nancy was never a plain, bookish virgin that was caught in the middle of this thing, and then ends up reacting. In the film, she was proactive and was a big deal to me as a kid when I saw that film. My brother and I used to play Nightmare on Elm Street in the backyard, and I would make him be Freddy, and I would be Nancy. And that didn't seem weird to me (Laughs). That didn't feel one bit off.

Nancy's the hero of the movie, and that translated over the course of -- I mean that's a series that has technically eight films in it -- three of them where she is the heroine. Which is another 'breaks the rules' idea for horror films. Unless you count Halloween, and even then in that film, Laurie Strode is much more of a victim than she is a hero.

For me, over the scope of cinema, if there has ever been one -- of horror cinema -- if there has ever been one character that I ever related to and think is someone I'd like to carry around for the rest of my life, just as a reminder of, you know what, maybe don't succumb to your fears, but just make a plan and get over them -- It would be Nancy Thompson.

Did you get to spend some time with Heather when she was here?

Oh yeah, it was amazing having her out here. She was so gracious and fun and sweet. She stayed for three hours after the screening to sign autographs and talk to every person who came. Everyone got a great little Nancy moment after the screening. She was down for it all.

Its one of those things; Heather is totally aware of what place she has at these things. She's moved on from it, but her and her husband run a special effects and makeup company in Los Angeles, one of the best ones. She stays in cinema, but she knows where her place was in all of this, and I think enjoys knowing that people do appreciate it.

I mean, that was the thing about all the fans that came out. Those were fans of Nancy. I'm sure those people loved Nightmare on Elm Street, and probably Freddy too, but they stuck around for all that because that was Nancy.

So it was maybe a little vindication for Nancy.

Yeah, she doesn't have a Nancy doll, but she has her fans. And now someone has a tattoo (Laughs).

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Bree Davies is a multimedia journalist, artist advocate and community organizer born and raised in Denver. Rooted in the world of Do-It-Yourself arts and music, Davies co-founded Titwrench experimental music festival, is host of the local music and comedy show Sounds on 29th on CPT12 Colorado Public Television and is creator and host of the civic and social issue-focused podcast, Hello? Denver? Are You Still There? Her work is centered on a passionate advocacy for all ages, accessible, inclusive, non-commercial and autonomous DIY art spaces and music venues in Denver.
Contact: Bree Davies