Mr. Blue Sky: A Tribute to Peter Iasillo Jr.
Hey there Mr. Blue
We're so pleased to be with you
Look around see what you do
Everybody smiles at you
“Mister Blue Sky” Electric Light Orchestra
Fate and connection are some funny mistresses. There’s a reason why ancient mythology spun gold around the two. Entire belief systems are irrevocably tied to the concepts and yet, you can be a stone-cold non-believer and still be possibly wowed by the threads of connection. Our species is, for better or worse, a human tapestry, and one of the most vibrant colors woven into it was a man named Peter Iasillo, Jr.
My introduction to Peter and his work came in the form of an old ex-rental VHS tape of Spookies, a 1986 horror film that is a flawed but really fascinating horror creation with stunning practical special effects and a man whose presence in the film solidified it becoming a fast favorite of mine. Despite having vivid memories of the gorgeous box art for Spookies, created by legendary Heavy Metal artist Richard Corben, from my childhood, it officially didn’t come into my life proper until the early 2000s, when I bought said ex-rental tape from a store that was completely liquidating their old VHS inventory. Looking back, it’s amazing to think we still had movie rental stores that late in the game.
I was born a die hard monster kid, so I naturally enjoyed the film as a whole, but the true star and standout was Peter. Playing the character of Rich, Peter sports a hand puppet named Mookie throughout most of his scenes. That’s not even the best part. No, Rich is wearing a t-shirt that sports a picture of him with Mookie. Even that, as amazing as it is, was not the best part, though boy do I love it so and feel like a merchandising opportunity was sorely missed. It was Peter’s performance and presence that brought me back again and again to the film. This lanky and exquisitely goofy character with the big ole grin, pocket full of beers, and the wiseass-with-love approach shined like the brightest cartoon sun.
His infamous death in the film, entailing being literally sucked dry by an alluring spider woman, is one that I have a love/hate relationship with. It’s superbly executed but it also means we get no more Rich in the film, which is a crime, though at least he is given one of the most memorable monster related deaths within the proceedings. It was Peter’s performance that fueled me foisting this film on loved ones and anyone who would listen: my husband, my best friend and his family, etc etc. When I love something that much, it brings out the old West traveling tent revival preacher in me. Except unlike the latter, I’m preaching the truth and the gospel one at that.
One day, a few years later from this important discovery, I somehow got connected to Peter on Facebook. I say “somehow” because how one gets connected to another social media is always a bit hazy for me. Like I’m trying to claw through yards of web-like gauze to get to the specific memory, a task I usually fail at. I do remember being incredibly jazzed about getting connected to Peter. This would soon grow exponentially because in addition to being such a fun and compelling presence in film and TV, he was also a helluva human being.
There are a handful of people I have known over the years that were what I call “light” beings. That rare soul that just constantly beams and glows with some kind of sheer divinity. For me, it was my Great Aunt Annie, this starshine of a woman named Brenda from my childhood, and Peter. It feels so bittersweet that all three are now gone from this earthly realm.
This man was so positive that he coined the phrase “Peter Power,” because it was a literal superpower of his. It didn’t matter what adversity he was going through, especially when he was battling cancer. He was someone who could invoke the phrase “attitude of gratitude” and it did not come across like a new agey cliche. The man had a golden heart, straight up and illuminated everything and one around him.
A few nights ago, we sat down and watched some of the supplements on Vinegar Syndrome’s Blu ray release of Spookies, two of which featured both Petey as a tour guide around the main shooting location and as one of the guests at an Alamo Drafthouse screening of the film. He passed away back in 2017, which feels both recent and a million miles away to me, so it was so nice to see him in these videos, cutting jokes, grinning, laughing maniacally, and nearly invoking the spirit of Harpo Marx himself.
He once sent us some cards that he had designed, including an old comic book-style one that doubles as a Christmas ornament. I have one of them framed at my desk at the dayjob, both as a tribute and also some sunny inspiration whenever the days are dimmer. Given that depression and anxiety are twin beasts I have had to deal with for most of my life, having the blessing of getting to be connected to Peter means a lot to me. Especially now, with all of us living under the shadow of a global pandemic, I try to invoke some of his magical juju and remain positive. It’s hard to not let this world and the quixotic nature of our own species get to you, especially when you do care. But Peter Iasillo Jr shined no matter what and maybe one of the best ways to honor not only him but anyone whose life, art, and/or love touched you, is to live with wholesale love and defiant happiness. We’re gonna have some bad days, that’s just having a pulse and not being a robot, but the best way to never let any of the villainy in this world get to you is to live your absolute best life. Joy and love are emotions that deserve better than some empty Hallmark platitudes. Wield them like the most positive weapons you can and be your own avenging angel.
Peter, we miss you so much and thank you for showing us all how it should be done.