A slice of rowdy movie history has passed away with the incomparable June Carr Ormond
, who died today after a long illness. A vivacious ex-vaudevillian in her mid-90s whose circle of acquaintances ran from Bob Hope to Bela Lugosi, June was the matriarch of Nashville's First Family of Exploitation
, the Ormonds—the folks responsible for such drive-in marvels as 1968's The Exotic Ones
and 1971's If Footmen Tire You, What Will Horses Do?
June's memories were a treasure trove. Her dad, Cliff Taylor, ran a famous Broadway nightspot called Coffee Cliff's where gangsters and giants of showbiz hung out in the Roaring Twenties. Her own career started around that time at age 14, and soon she was treading the boards with the likes of Milton Berle and Edgar Bergen.
With her husband Ron, she made a series of exploitation classics
throughout the 1950s and '60s, in the days when "independent film" meant driving a guy in a gorilla suit through rural Georgia to promote your latest picture. (The picture on that occasion was 1956's Untamed Mistress
.) After they relocated to Nashville with their son Tim, they made the psychotronic epics they're remembered for today—most famously The Exotic Ones
, a.k.a. The Monster and the Stripper
, featuring rockabilly bruiser Sleepy LaBeef as a fright-wigged caveman who rips off a man's arm and clubs him to death with it.
June's health had been frail for many years, but she made a wonderful last public appearance a few years ago at the Nashville Film Festival. Invited by NaFF artistic director Brian Gordon (a fan) to host a screening of The Exotic Ones
—where she does a union-suited fan dance that amounts to historic record—she looked pale and fragile. That changed once she got a microphone in her hand. At that point, she rose to the occasion like the trouper she was, keeping the crowd in stitches with her vaudeville timing and jaw-dropping anecdotes. When it was over, she and Tim walked off to a standing ovation. It was a lovely exit.
People in the local film community regarded June's infectious optimism, bubbly high spirits and charming eccentricities with great fondness. Her loss—and her link to the racy, rambunctious secret history of American movies—makes the city a duller place. But in heaven right about now, the joint is jumpin'.