Twenty-Five Years Later...


A Quarter Century After The Hit Movie, The Ghostbusters Are Still Going Strong


Ectozone Press International
June 8, 2009
On June 8, 1984, Columbia Pictures (now a subsidiary of Sony) released Ghostbusters, a big budget movie comedy starring Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, and Harold Ramis (along with Sigourney Weaver, Rick Moranis, Ernie Hudson, Annie Potts, and William Atherton). Today, of course, not only marks the twenty fifth anniversary of the movie release, but we see a resurgance of the media presence of the famous spook smashers. Sony is releasing the two movies (the original and its less successful 1989 sequel) on Blu-Ray, and a big budget video game (reuniting the original cast minus Weaver and Moranis) is soon to be on the shelves, courtesy of Atari. And the talk of a third movie has been the strongest it's been in a decade, with Gene Stupnitsky and Lee Eisenberg (the writing team from the American version of The Office) working on a script.

But what about the real Ghostbusters? Behind the media blitz and the famous films and successful 80's animated series hide the genuine personalities from whom Aykroyd and Ramis drew their inspiration.

When I interviewed the Ghostbusters recently, the first thing that came up was the fact that "You know 2009 isn't really the twenty-fifth anniversary..." commented co-founder Peter Venkman (54), chuckling as he reminded us that the original Ghostbusters office opened in June 1983. "It took a year for everything to come together and get the movie made" Venkman continued. "We even got to go out to Hollywood and advise on the script."

"Yeah. They wanted our advice as long as they didn't have to change anything." Winston Zeddemore (56) interjected.

"But we've just about given up trying to remind people of that." Venkman continued. "Of course, our franchising operation really did start in 1984, so it's okay. Ah, well, it means we got to throw a huge party two years in a row--so where's the downside?"

It can be said to have started in 1973, when Venkman was a freshman at Columbia University and was dormed, due to a fateful administrative mix-up, with physics prodigy Egon Spengler (now 51). The unlikely friendship later included the third Ghostbuster founder, Ray Stantz (49), and Micheal Draverhaven (52), who has been tragically confined to the Albany Psychological Corrections Center since a freak lab accident in 1979. Venkman, Stantz, and Spengler later went on to work for the University, specifically the Psychology Department, and were given a research facility at Weaver Hall.

In 1983, at the end of the spring semester, Venkman, Spengler, and Stantz were fired by Columbia University and went into business for themselves, in short order hiring Zeddemore (as fourth Ghostbuster) and secretary Janine Melnitz (50) (Now married to Spengler). Their first case culminated in a battle with a Sumerian god taking the form of the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man and the destruction of several floors of the Shandor Building at Central Park West.

Despite a booming business in those early years, and the creation of franchising body Ghostbusters International, the Ghostbusters found themselves in legal trouble. In 1986, shortly after several rather public setbacks, including being nearly driven out of business by would-be competitor Grossjuck Industries and their "Robo Buster", the fivesome was forced to accept a settlement that included a judicial restraining order barring them from acting as "professional paranormal investigators and eliminators"

That changed two years later, in late 1988, and the Ghostbusters returned for their second period of business, retaining the services of legal and financial advisor Louis B. Tully (52). The aforementioned movie sequel soon followed, and in several high profile cases the Ghostbusters became involved in a public feud with journalist Julio Ramanajan (now with Fox News), and a political football during the 1989 mayoral election, with Republican candidate Arnie Lapinski at first embracing, then trying to undermine, the famous team. It got so heated that, at one point, rumors suggested Venkman had considered running for mayor himself on the New York State Independant Party ticket (When Venkman declined, the NYSIP nominated Jock Mulligan, who went on to win the election and serve one controversial term in office).

The second heyday of the franchise turned out to be as transitory as the first. But it wasn't legal action against them that closed the doors of the former Hook and Ladder #8 in September 1991--it was a massive slowdown in business caused, Professor Spengler says, by a drought of the Earth's "ectosphere". Some interpersonal frictions reached a flash point after Melnitz was injured in a car accident, and the company was dissolved shortly after. The Ghostbusters scattered in seperate directions, and in some cases had no contact with each other for some six years afterward.

But when things turned around in 1997, the third and most successful life of the fabled company began. Older now, the four original Ghostbuster have turned over most day-to-day activities of the company to the four proteges they hired in 1997, the foursome sometimes referred to as the "Extreme Ghostbusters": Roland Jackson (31), Kylie Griffin (31), Garrett Miller (31), and Eduardo Rivera (30). While the original Ghostbusters sometimes accompany the younger group on busts (Stantz being the most likely to do so), they seldom go into action as a team anymore--the 2002 trip to England, where they saved then-Prime Minister Tony Blair, and last year's battle with an entity Venkman refers to as "The Doom Cat" being notable exceptions.

They oversee a thriving franchising body, a revived GBI, squarely under the guiding hand of Venkman (the company CEO) and Tully (CFO), as well as Director of Ghostbuting Operations Richard Roy (31) (formerly of GBI's New Jersey Franchise). Successful franchises (and the lists that follow are far from comprehensive) are found in many parts of the world, from England's Ghostbusters UK, to Australia's Sidney City Ghostbusters. The United States still sees the largest number of franchises, from Virginia's Ghostbusters Virginia, Philadelphia's Ghostbusters Doom Patrol, Ghostbusters Chicago Division, Los Angeles's Ghostbusters West Coast Division, to Tampa's Ghostbusters South Coast Division, and many more in-between. New York City itself now hosts three Ghostbusters offices: in addition to the original facility in Tribeca, there are the rowdy, Brooklyn-based Ghostbusters Nightsquad and the somewhat mysterious Ghostbusters Arcane Division.

Shortly after the 1991 break-up, Venkman married celloist Dana Barrett (now 53), and raised her son from a previous marriage as his own: Oscar Venkman (21) (born Oscar Wallance) is the lead singer of the hot new band Mood Slime, which debuted to great fanfare and multimillion copy sales of their 2007 debut Killerwatt. The Venkmans also have a daughter, Jessica (16). During his hiatus from Ghostbusting, Venkman formed his own talent agency; he is credited for discovering actress Catharine Bartholomew and was a close friend of the late director Jon Dennison, who died in 2003. Venkman still maintains ties to the entertainment industry, and has been credited with helping convince actor Bill Murray to participate in the upcoming video game and possible movie. "Bill is great at playing me." Venkman admits. "Even though he doesn't really look anything like me--it's all in the attitude. He has that nailed."

Ray Stantz taught at Stanford after the 1991 break-up, before being fired after a laboratory accident. He married legal historian Elizabeth Hawthorne (48) in 1995, and they have a son, Eric (12). Stantz seems quite proud of his wife and son, but didn't really want to talk about them much "on the record" for privacy reasons. Having never been depicted in any of the Ghostbusters-related media, they've managed to avoid the searing spotlight, and Stantz appears to prefer keeping it that way.

Spengler served a stint as a paranormology instructor at New York City Community College before returning to GBI; the "Extreme Ghostbusters" were actually his students at the time, and took up the mantle of Ghostbusting during the mysterious outbreak that paralyzed the city in 1997, which Spengler maintains was paranormal in origin. Spengler and Melnitz married, after a sixteen year courtship Venkman described (while rolling his eyes) as "eventful", in June 1998, and have fraternal twin children, Eden Marie and Johnathan Christopher Spengler, who will be celebrating their tenth birthday on June 13th.

Zeddemore, like Venkman, married his longtime girlfriend Kaila MacMillan (52) shortly after the 1991 break-up, and they have a daughter, Charlene (16) who, unlike contemporaries Oscar and Jessica, has shown an interest in following her father's career choice: she's currently serving a summer internship at the Ghostbusters West Coast office. Zeddemore, a former Army medic who served in the latter days of the Vietnam War, got his commercial pilot's license during the Nineties, and spent some time flying a commuter plane during the team's break-up.

Twelve years in, even the "new" team has developed their lives outside of GBI. Jackson attained his Doctorate in Mechanical Engineering in 2004, and will soon be marrying Grace Temple (29). Griffin is currently working on her own post-graduate degree, and anticipates attaining her own Doctorate in 2011; she and Rivera are married, and have two young daughters, Conchita (8) and Rose (5). Miller works most steadily away from GBI, as a physical therapist--which is how he met his wife, the former Joanna Kendall (28); they adopted a son in 2006, Max (4)

While GBI has attained its most lasting success, it is not without challenges. Government authorities can be itchy about their activities, especially in an age that has been marked by terrorism--some lawmakers have publicy wonder whether it's really a good idea to let "these bozos out on the streets with nuclear accellerators where Al Quaeda can just grab them." Former EPA official Walter Peck, who ran for Vice-President in 2004, notoriously ran the Paranormal Contracts Oversight Committee (PCOC) back in the early 1990's. Peck and those like him are convinced that the Ghostbusters are, were, and forever will be, "frauds" and "publicity hounds".

At the other extreme lie the likes of "Ghost Aid", a political action group founded by Jake Fuller , who advocate a strong stand on "ghosts' rights", harassing GBI offices with complaints that they are "willfully assaulting and imprisoning the spirits of our loved ones without any pretense of due process"

And there are the inevitable competitors. The first and probably most notable was the rival "Ghost Busters" group originally founded in the 1970's by Jake Kong and Eddie Spencer, and continued by their sons Jake Jr. (54) and Eddie Jr. Venkman maintains to this day that the name similarity was a total coincidence, and the matter was settled out of court around the time the first movie debuted. Ironically, after the dissolution of Kong and Spencer's group, the son of Jake Jr. (and grandson of Jake Sr.) Peter Kong (28) served with the Ghostbusters West Coast Division for a year.

While Grossjuck's Robo-Buster failed, and the Tampa-based "Banshee Busters" proved little competition to the South Coast Division, the LA-based Ghosts R Us have proven a much hardier threat to the bottom line of the West Coast Ghostbusters. "So, okay, those clowns appeared at the Rose Parade..." Venkman commented dismissively. "We were at the Macy's parade in 1984, and saved it from a giant praying mantis. Ghostbusters was around when most of these wanna-be's were in diapers, and we'll still be around when they're gumming oatmeat and shouting at kids to get off their lawns."

And even without legal, political, and business complications, the truth of the matter is that Ghostbusting has proven to be a job with more than a little danger--and as the scope of the business has grown, the casualties have mounted. While, by dint of luck or provenance, none of the original Ghostbuster have "Crossed to the Other Side" (to use a bit of company slang appropriated from the movie), the franchises have seen the deaths of Ian McPherson, Ernie Slaughter, Euan Sinclaire, John Lipsyte, Julie Madison, and Dr. CJ London, not to mention near-misses with other GBI employees--from Spengler himself to Dr. Fritz Baugh (38), Andrew Williams (33), and Brian Roig (31)).

"We honor all of their sacrifices" Zeddemore said. "Just like I honored all of the brothers-in-arms I lost in Vietnam. Just like every cop and fire fighter honored their brothers who died on 9-11. It's not an easy job, and there's a chance that some of us might not make it back every time we go out."

And even with the resurgence in media exposure can come challenge. Six years ago, Venkman negotiated a deal with small independant publisher 88MPH Studios; the comic book mini-series that resulted drew much critical praise, but was grievously delayed (taking a year to release four issues) and the hardcover collected edition, solicited in fall of 2005, never materialized. Former 88MPH President and Publisher Sebastien Clavet could not be reached for comment on the matter. "I'd like the find that crook and wring his neck." Stantz remarked bitterly.

And at least some members of the GBI family are looking upon the upcoming video game and possible movie warily. Mrs. Spengler, in particular, was vocal in her criticism of her portrayal in Ghostbusters II. "Ramis wrote me like some kind of doped out slut." she remarked, with an edge of menace in her voice. "He does that again, there will be trouble."

Those concerns aside, the future looks bright for the world's foremost Professional Paranormal Investigators and Eliminators. If history is any guide, no matter what happens, the dream will live on.

Because after all, to paraphrase Dr. Venkman, sometimes stuff happens. And when stuff happens, Who Ya Gonna Call?

Filed by Dr. Fritz V. Baugh, GBI Official Historian

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