Remember 1984’s “GhostSmashers” aka “GhostStoppers”? Of course you do. With a star-studded cast featuring John Belushi (Peter Venkman), Dan Aykroyd (Ray Stantz), Jeff Goldblum (Egon Spengler), Eddie Murphy (Winston Zeddemore), John Candy (Louis), Sandra Bernhard (Janine) and Paul Reubens (Ivo Shandar/Gozer), the future-set supernatural comedy in which roving teams of ghost catchers protect humanity from the supernatural, directed by Ivan Reitman, cost a whopping $300 million to make, featured hundreds of monsters, including a giant marshmallow man, and spawned not one but two sequels; the second of which got smoothly underway recently with the full, gracious participation of all of the original cast.
Ok, all of that happened in a parallel universe, where casting decisions went the other way, Dan Aykroyd’s original script got the green light, where perhaps dogs and cats live together in mass hysteria...but we got “Ghostbusters” instead. We wouldn't trade.
On the anniversary of its release on June 8, 1984, we’ve set ourselves the unenviable task of trying to dig out some of the more obscure factoids related to the hugely successful film. Unenviable, because its long, long status as one of the most beloved comedies of all time, compounded with the maturing of some of its original audience into blog-writing, trivia documenting, speculation-crazy fans means that there’s very little of the canon left unmined. I mean, is it even possible that there are five things any fan (loosely defined as “a person with a heartbeat”) doesn’t know about this movie? But we’re nothing if not foolhardy round these parts, and so we stoically strap on our proton packs and deliver a few world-weary quips to our teammates, before facing down our own personal Gozer and risking total protonic reversal. Here, then, are five things you may not know about "Ghostbusters."
1. "This is Casey Kasem. Now, on with the countdown."
The cast is peppered with notable bit parts and cameos, and even the extras are worth sifting through.
Ludicrously prolific and priapic porn star Ron Jeremy appears as an extra in a scene outside Ghostbusters HQ. Jeremy would go on to star in the film’s inevitable porn parody, 2011’s disappointingly titled "This Ain’t Ghostbusters XXX.” While we feel he would have been a lock for porno Peter Venkman in his prime, here instead his role in the X-rated flick is that of “library ghost,” making him the porn version of Ruth Oliver, who plays the indelible ghost in Ivan Reitman's film. Oliver herself boasted only two acting credits to her name, and actually carved out a more famous career as a Hollywood astrologer, while her daughter Susan Oliver went on to be a successful TV actress on the likes of "Days Of Our Lives." And TV was where Annie Potts (Janine) also found the majority of her success -- she starred in the long-running show “Designing Women” for its entire run, while William Atherton (Walter Peck) and Reginald VelJohnson (policeman in the jail) would reunite in extremely similar roles (Atherton a “dickless” sleazeball, VelJohnson a cherubic cop) in the first two 'Die Hard' movies (not to mention playing Carl Winslow on hit sitcom "Family Matters").
Roger Grimsby plays himself as the New York Anchor of "Eyewitness News," a job he held from 1968-1986, as do Larry King and Joe Franklin of "The Joe Franklin Show" (“How is Elvis and have you seen him lately?”). Casey Kasem, longtime host of "American Top 40" and the voice of Shaggy from "Scooby Doo," also plays himself, but only as a voice on the radio, while his wife Jean is the tall, pneumatic blonde with whom Louis dances at his party. Speaking of blondes, Jennifer Runyon, the pretty college girl Venkman hits on in the opening scene, is Roger Corman’s niece by marriage, and when Louis is being attacked beside the Tavern on the Green in Central Park, there’s a young girl celebrating her birthday inside who went on to be popstrel Debbie Gibson, though you really can’t ever make out her face. Finally, the library ghost puppet used in the finished film was a replacement for the original which was deemed too scary for younger audiences. The rejected puppet, however, was repurposed for use in the following year's "Fright Night" -- we like to think as this one, but we can't be sure.
2. "I don't believe in any of that stuff."
Writer and star Dan Aykroyd is a true believer.
Aykroyd, who had the original idea about teams of ghost catchers who behaved like pest exterminators or firemen but for supernatural phenomena, actually drew on his very real interest and belief in spiritualism. Indeed, it's something in the way of a family business for him as his great-grandfather was an avowed mystic who was in contact with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle about spiritualist matters; his grandfather carried on the family tradition; and his father, Peter Aykroyd, even wrote a book about the seances that were held in the family home in those times -- stories he passed on to his son Dan, who wrote the introduction. Dan is also a UFOlogist and a card-carrying member of the American Society for Psychical Research, if those guys carry cards. Hey, for $70 a year you can find out! So a lot of his psychical research fed into the original screenplay, like the name “Gozer” which is quoted in connection with a famous (and partially, at least, debunked) poltergeist story that occurred in London in 1977 - The Enfield Poltergeist. That title has itself been optioned, with a film apparently currently in development, but we wouldn’t advise any breath-holding there. In any case, Aykroyd’s very real fascination and faith in this area (he apparently has witnessed phenomena himself, such as “ectoplasmic tubes of light” on the stairs of his childhood home) led Ivan Reitman to state in the book “Making Ghostbusters - The Screenplay” that he feared Aykroyd meant all of this “rather seriously,” and so he brought in Harold Ramis to collaborate with him on the screenplay rewrite.