Born December 25, 1928 in Bronx, New York, Dick Miller began his career in the world of entertainment at the age of 8 as a singer at a resort in the Catskill Mountains. At 15, he got a job painting scenery for a Summer Stock company. That is where he first tried his hand at acting. His first role was as a butler in an English Comedy. Following his discharge, his activities branched out to include his work as a drummer for Bobby Sherwood, a stint as a radio Disc Jockey on WNEW and WOR, and a spell as a late night Talk Show Host on “Midnight Snack”. Dick’s educational pursuits included both dramatic arts and psychology. He attended, City College of New York, Columbia University and New York University ultimately attaining his PhD in psychology. As a graduate Psychologist, Dick worked at Bellevue and Queens County Hospital.
Hello Hollywood! Dick arrived in the early 1950’s. He met Roger Corman through a friend. Since he had written jingles and gags while in New York, he sought work as a writer in Hollywood. Roger told Dick didn’t need a writer, he needed an actor. That being the case, Dick declared himself an actor and Roger gave him a job as one. His first film for Roger was “Apache Woman”.
Corman cast him in most of his films, usually playing unlikeable sorts such as a vacuum-cleaner salesman in Not of This Earth (1957). His most memorable role may be that of the mentally unstable, busboy/beatnik artist Walter Paisley, whose clay sculptures are suspiciously lifelike in A Bucket of Blood (1959) (a rare starring role for him), and he is also fondly remembered for his supporting role as the flower-eating Vurson Fouch in Corman’s legendary The Little Shop of Horrors (1960).
Miller spent the next 20 years working in Corman productions, and starting in the late 1970s was often cast in films by director Joe Dante, appearing in credited and uncredited walk-on bits as quirky chatterboxes, and stole every scene he appeared in. He has played many variations on his famous Walter Paisley role, such as a diner owner (Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983)) or a janitor (Chopping Mall (1986)). One of his best bits is the funny occult-bookshop owner in The Howling (1981). Being short (so he never played a romantic lead or a threatening villain) with wavy hair, long sideburns, a pointed nose and a face as trustworthy as a used-car dealer’s, he was, and is to this day, an immediately recognizable character actor whose one-scene appearances in countless movies and TV shows guarantee audience applause.
Monsterama is ECSTATIC to welcome Dick and his wife (and collaborator) Lainie this year! Lainie Miller produced the documentary, “That Guy, Dick Miller!” and will be screening it for us over the weekend. Welcome, Millers!