Rhonda Shear, host of USA Network's UP ALL NIGHT and actress in films like SPACEBALLS, GALAXINA, ASSAULT OF THE PARTY NERDS talks with TV Store Online.
From 1991 to 1997 comedian and actress Rhonda Shear hosted bad B movies on the USA Network via her show USA Up All Night. The caliber of bad films shown on the network during this era was astoundingly prolific, and hasn't been duplicated since anywhere. Today films like SWEET SUGAR, THE VALS, BASIC TRAINING, KNOCKOUTS, BARBARIAN QUEEN and INVASION OF THE SPACE PREACHERS all maintain a cult following with Generation X because of their airings on the USA Network. To sit down and watch the USA Network and Shear's show in the mid '90s really proved to be an B movie education to anyone interested in getting such and Rhonda Shear was your very sexy teacher.
Shear, a native of New Orleans, Louisiana moved out to California and cut her teeth in the stand up comedy scene of Los Angeles in the mid/late 1980's. After working in various cameo roles and guest appearances on television and in films, she was cast by the USA Network to replace their then unwanted movie hostess Caroline Schlitt in 1991. Shear was the essence of what the network was aspiring the late night and highly watched weekend show to become. Rhonda Shear provided the network with her own brand of goofy blond slapstick mixed with fun sexual innuendo, and as a television hostess viewers of Up All Night
with Rhonda Shear were treated to zany misadventures recessing the nightlife hot spots deep inside cities like Los Angeles and New York.
Rhonda Shear took her audience to dance clubs, monster truck rallies, restaurants, coffee shops, cigar bars, even to a female impersonator cabaret called La Cage Aux Follies
. And she did it wearing hardly any clothing. Surrealistically designed bras created from doll heads and skimpy dresses made with portions of see through plastic transcended Shear's comedy into the hormonal consciousness of many male American teenagers staying up late on any given Friday night. If you were a fifteen year old boy growing up on the edge of Generation X in the early '90s and you were watching Rhonda Shear's USA Up All Night
, not only did you become a B movie obsessive but you also learned everything you always wanted to know about female sex appeal but were afraid to ask.
Watching Rhonda Shear each week on USA Up All Night was a much better and more enriching experience than sneaking into your dad's sock drawer when your parents weren't home and looking through his Playboy Magazines. Rhonda Shear was sexy and you always wanted more of her. Shear was the true goddess of the late night television landscape of the 1990's.
Not only was Shear beautiful and figuratively Amazonian like, but she was also very funny and watching USA Up All Night
always felt like you were really just hanging out with the girl next door. She could make her audience laugh with her sexually charged goofy physicality and prop play but also with her intentionally cheese-ball Borscht Belt era like jokes.
Watching Shear at work really gave you the feeling that USA Up All Night
must have been a television show that was completely fun to make as well. Shear on Up All Night
was zany, mad, silly and kinky. Shear was the incarnate of the definitive male fantasy and it's easy for anyone to assume that Rhonda Shear, her humor, and the tantalizing of her audience was in no way subconscious but truly thought out and planned for maximum effect. To see Rhonda Shear on television on Up All Night
to some of the older generation must have only been imaginatively equaled by what it would have been like if Lucille Ball and Jayne Mansfield had gotten drunk and had sex with one another and through a divine miracle from God himself that discounted the laws of nature, gave grace and somehow birthed their captivating offspring and planted her on national television for the teenagers of the 1990's.
To look back over the history of television, there hasn't been another female movie host at any level to have had the reach, effect, and influence that Rhonda Shear has had on the generational audience that were watching her each Friday night. Anyone that came of age during this era remembers Shear, USA Up All Night
, those hideously fun and hilariously charming B movies, her sense of humor and her two incredible talents.
With the days of USA Up All Night behind her, Rhonda Shear has remained hard at work. She has continued to do stand up comedy. She has created a critically hailed traveling stage show, Rhonda Shear's Comedy Pajama Party Show, while still occasionally appearing on television. A few years ago, Shear packed up in Los Angeles and moved to Florida to start her own lingerie and underwear line as well as a boutique. Her lingerie line is a best seller across The United States and Shear is committed to spending massive amounts of time appearing and selling her brand on The Home Shopping Network. Currently Shear is promoting her lingerie line and has many great things planned for the future. We here miss USA Up All Night and Rhonda Shear's addicting blend of sex and slapstick. Recently we chatted with Rhonda via telephone from her home in Florida and here's how it went:
TV STORE ONLINE: What was your childhood like growing up in New Orleans?
SHEAR: Growing up in New Orleans set the pace for my entire life. New Orleans was sexy. You had all the strip clubs, the old time burlesque clubs, strippers walking the strip. You could stay up and out all night long and drink coffee and eat beignets. When I moved to Los Angeles, I was out one of the first nights after I arrived and we're out on the town and people are starting to shut down the bars at 1:30 a.m., and I was asking myself, what is going on here you can't stay out all night long like back home? But yeah, it set the pace, and it was cool growing up in New Orleans. The city has all that cool stuff like, to go cups (you could have beer on the public streets), voodoo, great food, graves above ground, and great music, the place is who I am. It's where my heart is.
TV STORE ONLINE: Did your parents ever tell you their reasoning behind them giving you your middle name, Honey?
SHEAR: Well, I think my mother thought I was going to be a stripper when I grew up. It's very southern actually. My mother was very sweet and very girly. I grew up doing beauty pageants. My mother was very much a pageant mom. So it's just a very southern thing.
TV STORE ONLINE: When was the last time you were in New Orleans? How do you feel about how everything was handled after the hurricane?
SHEAR: My family still lives there. My mother actually just passed away, and we were very close. So I try to go back often. I love it there. Katrina was just horrible. I wish it was better there now, but it's making a comeback. I try to go back often, just to support the city. I went to the Super Bowl a few years ago. You know I was at one time a New Orleans Saint's dancer. And I was Miss Louisiana, so it just makes sense.
TV STORE ONLINE: I read that during your college days you expressed an interest in studying law?
SHEAR: Well, it's a long story, so I won't go into it. Post college I actually went home and ran for public office. I lost, but I got accepted to law school. But underneath that I still had this urge to act, perform and do comedy. So I took off to Los Angeles and see where things would lead me. I stayed for 26 years.
TV STORE ONLINE: What was your first big break?
SHEAR: I was cast in a Bob Hope special, and I did an episode of Happy Days [1974-84].
TV STORE ONLINE: Bob Hope, really?
SHEAR: Yeah. I was cast from an open casting call for one of his shows. I went in to audition, and I got it. If you read on the internet, you'll see something to the effect that Bob Hope discovered me. While that's not really true, I will say that he helped me. He did hand pick me during that first audition. Once I did that first show, he used me in a few other things. So in the sense, he was good luck for me. I got to work with all my idols too. This shows you how old I am...laughing...I worked with George Burns and Johnny Carson. The only person that I didn't get to work with that I wanted to was my hero Lucille Ball.
TV STORE ONLINE: What was the catalyst for you starting a career in stand up comedy?
SHEAR: When I moved to Los Angeles I enrolled in Harvey Lembeck's improvisation class. So doing that was a lot of fun and inspiring. The people I was in the class with at the time were boosting my confidence, telling me that I should do stand up. So finally I got up enough courage to go out and do it. I met male comedians that told me that I was too pretty to do stand up. That used to make me so mad, cause I'm really competitive, so I just went out and did it. It was very empowering as a female to be up on stage. Also, back then female comedians made it a point to not look pretty while on stage, out of fear that they wouldn't get laughs. I didn't like that, so I just decided that I would be the first to go on stage not following that idea and try to get laughs.
TV STORE ONLINE: Can you remember your very first stand up gig?
SHEAR: It was at a Holiday Inn...laughing I was following five guys at an open talent night that were Michael Jackson impersonators. It was hosted by a guy named Skip E Lowe. I think he's still around Los Angeles. He's gotta be a hundred by now.
Then my first paying gig, was in Atlanta, Georgia. I opened up for Wayland Flowers and Madame. The puppet. Shortly after that, I opened up once in San Francisco for Robin Williams. It was a fluke, but it was really cool. In those days, you didn't get paid much so it was a struggle. Sometimes you'd get stuck staying in a hotel room. These were what we called "comedy condos." It's where a bunch of comedians would all share a single hotel room. So that meant that I always had to get my money because I wasn't going to be the only girl in a room with four male comedians.
TV STORE ONLINE: How difficult were the 80's for you career wise? You had a bunch of walk on roles in films and television but did the work come fast enough for you? Did you have to struggle very much when you first started out in the business?
SHEAR: Yeah, work came fast. I had a lot of doors open up because I had done a lot of television. I did shows like The A-Team, Three's Company and Cheers. But I was type cast somewhat, as being a character that came across as an overly sexy bimbo. Even during USA Up All Night.. I had the same problem. I was being type-cast for films I went out for during the show's run. Luckily though after Up All Night was over my hosting career really took off, and it became more about hosting than acting for me. I was really close to having my own daytime talk show on CBS but it didn't work out.
TV STORE ONLINE: You remember your first film role? It's listed as one of the Top 50 worst films of all time!
SHEAR: JD'S REVENGE  In New Orleans! See... I'm so proud. Even before USA Up All Night, I was doing bad films! Let me set the record straight here. Even though JD'S REVENGE is listed as my first film, it's not actually my first film role. It's listed first because I think I got my SAG card on it. I did a film prior to that and I dare you to find it. It's called QUADRUNE. It was shot in New Orleans. I had a non speaking but bigger than life role. A Quadrune is a 1/4th African American woman. It's historic and true. Frenchmen used to married Quadrunes and have babies with them because they were so beautiful. They'd take them as lifetime mistresses. It's the basis of Napoleonic law which still holds true in Louisiana.
TV STORE ONLINE: What about GALAXINA (1980)? Had you met or knew Dorothy Stratten prior to your walk on role as the "Mime-Bot?" Did you meet her through Playboy?
SHEAR: I did know her prior. She was very nice, but very quiet. We actually had the same agent at the time. I'll never forget the day she was killed. It freaked everyone out. It was devastating. It really destroyed Hugh Hefner. It was horrible. Dorothy was so beautiful, she had such unique looks.
TV STORE ONLINE: When you do something like Playboy... As a woman do you worry about people seeing it or what your parents will think?
Back then... Somewhat. Now, who cares right? But back then I asked my parents prior and they were cool with it. When I did the film BASIC TRAINING, which I had that topless scene in, I had my dad's blessing. My dad came to the film's premiere and I was freaking out let me just tell you...laughing
Doing Playboy I've always considered to be a good experience. But it took some getting used to it of course. Being in the magazine with or without clothes on certainly didn't hurt my career. In fact it really opened up a few doors for me hosting wise.
TV STORE ONLINE: What was it like auditioning for Mel Brooks for your role in SPACEBALLS(1985)?
SHEAR: I went in to audition looking to get the part of the waitress. Mel Brooks auditioned every one himself. At the time I didn't have blond hair and he was looking for a blond. So I told him that I would wear a wig and he said, "No, just show up and we'll figure it out. I like you and I want you in the movie but I'm not gonna cast you in the part of the waitress." So that was that. Up until the day of shooting all I knew was that I was going to be in the film but I didn't know what I was gonna be doing or saying. Of course... I just had that one line and Mel Brooks threw me that line while we were on set shooting!
TV STORE ONLINE: How did you get hired for USA Up All Night?
SHEAR: The network wasn't happy with their current host. They were re-structuring, and they wanted hot, over the top and sexy. So at the time I was doing stand up comedy, so I went in an auditioned. I actually took a hair-dryer in there with me and started blow drying my hair as I was auditioning and while all these other girls were waiting outside for their audition.
TV STORE ONLINE: Do you remember the very first movie you played on USA Up All Night in 1991?
SHEAR: No, but I'm sure you do...laughing
TV STORE ONLINE: Your movie BASIC TRAINING was followed by Linnea Quigley's THE GIRL I WANT .
SHEAR: Shut up, really?
TV STORE ONLINE: Did you actually watch any of the movies you guys were playing on Up All Night?
SHEAR: Yes actually I did. I watched as many as I had the time for. If I didn't have time to watch them, I would at least fast forward through them. I always felt bad for my mom because she would watch the show every week and she'd sit through all of those really bad movies.
TV STORE ONLINE: Do you think the show has held up over time?
Yeah. The show was really smart. It was ahead of it's time to an extent, because USA didn't care about it. It was a smart show. I've had parties and I've shown clips and people still laugh out loud. We made fun of the O.J. Simpson trial. We would parody USA Network execs. We had special guests on. We had all the "Scream Queens" on the show. We promoted them shamelessly. We'd show all their movies. Those girls were a very big part of my life. We had Lloyd Kaufman from Troma on there with Toxie. We hit on things going on at that time. And if you look back at those shows now you can see that what we were doing was a little forward. The comedy is still quite funny.
TV STORE ONLINE: One thing that I find interesting about the progression of the show is how upon starting the show the Rhonda character was overtly sexual, then as the seasons progressed that was toned down quite a bit. Why was that?
Well, USA Network decided that it wasn't cost efficient for them to produce the show in Los Angeles anymore. USA was and is a New York City based company. So basically they told me I had to move to New York City otherwise the show was gonna either go off the air or I would be replaced. So I did it. I moved to New York. I wanted to keep my job and I wanted to be on the air. So when I got to New York I got a new producer. And he changed the show. He wanted to make it more darker, and that's just not me, and wasn't that character. And besides, I think he just didn't like me anyhow. So that's were you start to see the sexuality tone down, and me doing stupid things like hanging out in a men's cigar bar or being dressed up as a giant ice cream cone on the streets of New York City. I really hated doing that stuff. I had to put up with him for a couple years, then after that, this sweet girl came in as producer, and she was very nice. We had a lot of fun, but the character still stayed the same as when I first came to New York.
TV STORE ONLINE: Once the show started to take off...Did you have any thoughts pop into your head about the character being too sexual... I mean... Did you ever say to yourself... "Are there guys at home pleasuring themselves to me? Yuck....".
Well, you're coming into someone's home late at night on Friday. And you know more than likely it's teenagers at home that are watching when their parents are asleep. Or it is a single guy coming home from work and he wants to relax. What's funny...We'd get fan letters from doctors, bartenders, and all kinds of people. We even knew that Stevie Nicks from Fleetwood Mac was a fan. Ultimately, we were well aware of the sex appeal. I was your "Bed Time Buddy" so it's understandable and we played into it. The thing is..The show is remembered. We did something right. After all, we're sitting here fifteen years after the show is gone from the air talking about it.
TV STORE ONLINE: I need you to help me on something? So looking for stuff online about you... I continue to run into a connection between Rhonda Shear and foot fetishism. Are you aware of this? Can you please tell me what the hell that's all about please?
SHEAR: Wait a minute? You're not a foot fetishist?
TV STORE ONLINE: No!..laughing
During USA Up All Night
it was really major. We weren't really paying attention then. During production we used to pan the camera across my body ending on my feet. Then all of a sudden we started getting letters from foot fetishists about it. They'd write in saying, "We love her shoes, or we love her ankles, her stockings
." And the more letters that came in the more we would play it up. They'd write in asking me to dangle my shoes off my feet and we would do this all on the air. The best part is... USA Network never had a clue! They had no idea we were doing it! It got crazy. We started pushing it further... One episode for Thanksgiving... I got up on a counter-top and started stomping food and the camera was zooming in on my feet.
After a while, I actually started to get approached by foot fetish magazines and they'd ask me to do a layout. I did a couple of them. It's the number one fetish in the world. It's sweet and harmless. It was crazy though. I'd get sent gifts every week, like toe rings and pairs of shoes. Guys would cut off their pubic hair and mail it to me...laughing
TV STORE ONLINE: One thing I've always wanted to know and I'm hoping you can shed some light on this subject in regards to the secret society of the Scream Queens you were involved in... I can remember back as a teenager reading magazines like Femme Fatales and Fangoria and seeing ads in the classified for video tapes advertising "Your Favorite Scream Queens" all nude. And they always listed yourself, Linnea Quigley, and Monique Gabrielle etc...
This whole thing was a something that went very bad. So Monique Gabrielle was married to this guy. He was a nice and charming guy... His dad was a porn producer. So he got involved with Monique and got on our Up All Night
set. We of course, were all good friends. It was myself, Monique, Linnea and Julie Strain. So he talked us all into doing a book called A Sex Symbol Dynasty
. Anyhow, so Monique and I did some photo shoots together, and I got topless during the shoot. But what we didn't know at the time was that this guy was shooting behind the scenes video of us nude or semi-nude and selling them via magazines and the web!
We tried to shut him down actually. But then we figured... What's out there is out there. There isn't anything that he filmed of me that's really outrageous really.... There is maybe a couple boobie shots of me in those videos. This guy was selling these videos illegally. He's since gone out of business but we know he's down in southern Florida somewhere. And to my knowledge he's no longer with Monique, even though the last one of us to see Monique was Linnea and that was a couple years ago. I am looking to get in touch with her. She is such a sweetheart.
TV STORE ONLINE: How did your comedy CD Your Bedtime Buddy come about?
SHEAR: I was just doing my stand-up and a producer approached me. And I did it and I got paid for it. It was fun. It's still selling out there, and I was just asked to do another recently. I'd like too but I just don't have time to update my act right now. I've got a bunch of new material that's a lot of fun. When I go on the road I now talk about being married and being a sexy step-mom, and it's fun to play that role. I like playing the cougar.
TV STORE ONLINE: How do you feel about getting older?
Well, I like it. I love my life. I've had a wonderful full life. I was Miss Louisiana. I was in Playboy. I did sexy stuff. I still think I look really good for my age. I have a youthful attitude. I love my husband, I love my dogs. I don't feel old. My mind is young. I like being seasoned...laughing
TV STORE ONLINE: On behalf of every Generation X male now in their 30's.... I have to ask the universal question. How does one become "Your Bedtime Buddy?"
: Well, there are really only two ways. One: You can be my bedtime buddy on Facebook
or Twitter anytime you want 24 hours a day. Two: If you want to be my real bedtime buddy you would have to be my junior high school sweetheart that I'm married to now and there's only one of him. So sorry guys, I'm taken.