The Long, Strange, Hollywood Path of the Sloths' Tom McLoughlin

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The Sloths will make their Denver debut on Tuesday, March 10th at the hi-dive. Early purveyors of California garage rock in the mid-1960s when its members were teenagers, The Sloths in their earliest incarnation released a two-sided 45 of "Makin' Love" and "You Mean Everything to Me" in 1965 and broke up a year later with its members going on to other bands or basically quitting music. In 2011 that single sold on eBay for $6,500, a by-product of the recent resurgence in the popularity of the genre. Following that, the band started back up and played its first shows as the Sloths in 45 years, with Tom McLoughlin of the May Wines as the frontman. With over a hundred shows under its belt, it's safe to assume the band can continue to be a going concern into the foreseeable future. But it has been a long road and McLoughlin has lead a very interesting life along the way.

After leaving playing in rock bands in the early '70s, McLoughlin found himself leaving music because of the dark turn the scene was taking — friends and heroes were dying off far too regularly.

Seeing the benefit of another method of visual performance, he talked to the legendary Marcel Marceau who was in Los Angeles at that time and took his final regular job at a warehouse for six months and went to Paris to study with Marceau. Cultivating his gift for physical comedy, McLoughlin returned to L.A. and became a one-man visual performer for the following decade and founded the L.A. Mime Company. Spotted by Dick Van Dyke, he was invited onto Van Dyke's show Van Dyke and Company, where he was nominated for a writing Emmy.

From there, McLoughlin ended up in various films that required physical comedy, like John Frankenheimer's Prophecy as a mutated bear and as the Jabborwocky in Alice In Wonderland. Performing on the streets to make ends meet, McLoughlin also impressed someone with a friend who worked with Woody Allen, and McLoughlin got a gig choreographing and performing as one of the robots in Allen's 1973 film, Sleeper. But McLoughlin felt limited as a performer and felt like he wanted more to follow the path of Charlie Chaplin who had been a physical comedian in his early films and went on to write, direct and perform his own creative work. He found he didn't have an interest in being a performer anymore and committed himself to becoming a writer/director and made his first horror movie, 1982's One Dark Night.

McLoughlin made a variety of movies over his career, including Sometimes They Come Back and Date With An Angel. He met and became friends with legendary and influential director Frank Capra and he now teaches film at Chapman University in Orange, California. Long term, though, McLoughlin as a filmmaker has been more known for having written and directed Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives.

McLoughlin had been doing mainly comedies at the time because it spoke to his love of making people laugh. But in the late 70s and early 80s comedy was mainly on television and to make a break in film you had to make a horror picture. But McLoughlin felt that the popular slasher films of the day weren't to his taste but opportunity intervened.

"I had a deal with Paramount that fell through on a horror comedy but then I was offered a Friday the 13th and I was like, 'No, uh-uh, that's not what I want to do,' recalls McLoughlin. "My agent said, 'Look, this is going to open in eighteen hundred theaters. You can write it. So you can write whatever.' I asked if I could make it a comedy and he said, 'Ask the producer.'"

After assuring producer Frank Mancuso that he had no intention of making fun of Jason but would have some fun with the movie and make it tongue-in-cheek because it was, after all, the sixth part of a horror movie series.

"I still wanted it to be scary but I wanted people to like the characters," concludes McLoughlin. We had a ball and everyone in the cast and I are still friends. In the last two years I can't tell you how strange it is that I suddenly have four thousand Facebook friends from that movie. This was something I was going to take off my resume because it would hurt me for other jobs. It was a job, I tried to show a sense of humor to and it just goes to show you that you never know what actually works years later."

The Sloths, 8:30 p.m. doors, 9:30 p.m. show, Tuesday, March 10, Hi-Dive, 720-733-0230, $8, 21+

If you'd like to contact me, Tom Murphy, on Twitter, my handle is @simianthinker.

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