True horror fans know one vital fact about Friday the 13th: Jason Voorhees isn't the killer in it. It's his mom, Pamela, and Jason isn't really even in the movie. Or at least he wasn't supposed to be - the famous ending sting of Jason jumping out of the lake, deformed and dead, and grabbing Alice - was added at make-up artist Tom Savini's insistence that the film needed one last scare, like the final moment in Carrie. And so Ari Lehman's career was born.
Brooklyn-born Lehman was 14 when he was drafted into the New Jersey shoot, playing the young dead Jason. Lehman thought he was coming in for a real role, one that would even have a makeout scene, but he ended up with an iconic role without any dialogue. He was made up by Savini, who took a character who never appeared in the script - the boy whose long-ago death was the impetus for Mrs. Voorhees to go nutso - and decided to make him deformed. There was discussion that perhaps Jason had been slow, that he had been a camper with special needs whose needs weren't met by the callous, drunk and horny counselors, but Savini took it to the next level. He described young Jason in the press as 'mongoloid,' which caused some blowback later.
And then put in the water. Lehman had to hold his breath, because the lake needed to be still and any breathing apparatus would create bubbles. So he sank himself down, holding his breath, waiting for his cue. Later Lehman said that he erupts from the lake at such velocity because the big foam appliance on his head gave him some serious bouyancy.
Friday the 13th was an unusual film at the time - it was an independently produced movie bought by a studio in a deal known as a negative pick-up. Adrienne King, who played Alice, says that she brought her mom to the screening where Frank Mancuso Jr bought the picture for Paramount. The King ladies sat in the front, and as the film ended and Harry Manfredini's score went to quiet sweetness as Alice sat in the boat, Adrienne's mom relaxed. And then BANG!, out jumps Jason and so jumps Mrs. King, straight out of her seat. Adrienne King says that was the moment Paramount decided to buy the film.
Jason would return in Friday the 13th Part 2 (how? Who knows), but Lehman was left behind. And he didn't act again for decades - his interests instead turned to heavy metal. And so was born First Jason, Lehman's horror-metal band.
Lehman fronts the band, playing a keytar that is skewered by a machete and emblazoned with Jason's famous hockey mask (which he wouldn't even get until Friday the 13th Part III), despite the fact that Lehman's Jason never wore the mask, never wielded a weapon and never even killed anybody. First Jason toured conventions and clubs, and released an album called Jason Is Watching on the same day as the Friday the 13th reboot. It includes tracks with titles like Jason Never Dies!, Machete Is My Friend and Sink or Swim, which I assume is a deeply personal recounting of Lehman's acting gig.
It includes the song Victim, which has magnificent lyrics:
First Jason's second album, Heed My Warning, has the greatest cover art imaginable:
First Jason is still out there, and they're playing in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania this Halloween. Click here for more info.
To find out more about First Jason, or to buy Slasher Hot Sauce that Lehman has autographed, visit the First Jason website.