Gettin' High Under the Summer Sky!
Tom Van Dell Interview

Interview by Jeff Hayes

Most people who crossed paths with our favorite femme-fatale, Angela, found themselves wrapped in black plastic. There weren't many exceptions. "Kenny" ended up becoming a reptile storage tank, "Billy" became a post-mortem bee-hive...BUT what about their good buddy "Mike" who ridiculed Angie and Rick just as much!!? Mike not only helped tease Angela but also had fun giving cousin "Ricky" a hard time...and worst yet, he locked lips with Angela's #1 nemisis: the prudey Judy!! Still, "Mike" walked out of SLEEPAWAY CAMP alive! Leaves ya guessing doesn't it?? Well, I recently had the pleasure of catching up with "Mike" himself: TOM VAN DELL. Just what has he been up to these days...and what does he think about the whole mystery? Let's find out:

How did you get involved with SLEEPAWAY CAMP? My agent sent me out on a casting call for the film, no particular role. I hit it off with the director because I played Lacrosse (go figure) and after several call backs got the role of Mike.

Tom and John get High under the summer sky and show off their cool 80's threads!

What was it like for you on the set? Like a big party. I really liked the people (cast and crew) that we got to work with on the project. It was kind of like going away to college, but without the school work. But like any move project you also had to wait around a lot in between takes, and hanging with people you like makes that much easier. Who did you hang around with most during the making of SLEEPAWAY...and what did you do for fun? Mostly Rick and John. We did lots of stuff that young adults at that age do. Talk about and look at girls, we went to see The Clash at one of the Polytech Colleges up there, ate lots of baked goods since there was some form of Freihoffers sponsorship. We mostly enjoyed just hanging out on the set. Even when we didn't have scenes to film we would hang out at the camp. Do you talk to anyone from SLEEPAWAY these days? Sadly enough no. I just sent Jonathan a note since he has a band and I happen to be a Record Exec. We all kind of lost touch after a while. For some time after the shoot I was hanging out with John, Rick and Kathy quite a lot. Great people.

Speaking of Balloons, Tom and his buddies look real sorry for throwing a water balloon at poor little Angela don't they?

Tell us some fun and interesting stories that you can recall about making SLEEPAWAY. We were all sworn to secrecy about most of the stories. If I told you the really good ones, I am sure Angela would come and hunt me down with an ice pick. Kidding! There are a couple of things I will always remember about making that movie. One day I woke up in my hotel and went to the bathroom. There was a window on top of the toilet and I was doing my biz, just standing there, when a hot air balloon landed right outside the window. They had a Balloon festival at Saratoga and this poor guy must have run out of gas. That scared me more than the movie! While we were filming the fight scene we where kidding around with the locals, who were the extras, so that it would look realistic. We were calling them names trying to get them vibed up to at least make some of the punches look good. Well, it worked, they were pissed off enough to really let a lot of the punches fly. John and I got nailed and actually started punching back. So what you see is not anyone holding back, we slugged it out pretty good that night. But everyone walked away friends.

Tom consoles his good buddy John. "It's okay to have a shrunken penis!"

As everyone knows, John cut his hand doing the Canoe scene. When they took him out of the water he had that thing happen, when most guys swim in cold water, shrinkage. It was cold up state, especially at night and in the water. After cutting his hand, the wardrobe ladies dressed him to take him to the hospital and he was pretty embarrassed afterwards. When he came back he told me the story and asked me to talk to the ladies to confirm that guy's privates really do shrink in cold water and that what they witnessed is normal and that John, (not that I would know), is probably pretty well off under normal circumstances. I told them to watch the extras get out of the water after their skinny dipping scene and that they would also have the same thing happen to them. Well, the director yelled cut and the extras, all wholesome local farm boys, got out of the water. Much to John and my surprise, they all were dragging their privates behind them. No shrinkage problem there since unlike us city boys, they were used to the cold water. The wardrobe girls just looked at John and smiled. I felt bad for both of us that night.

The cop's mustache thing was funny too. He was a model and they shot some of the scenes when he had his real mustache and the rest after he shaved it off for a modeling shoot. The fake one was so bad, it looked like electrical tape. I still get a kick out of that to this day.

Tom puts his groove on and tries to convince Angie to go skinny dipping...And you thought ARTIE was bad!"

How do you feel about SLEEPAWAY these days and how do you feel about the cult status the film has generated over the years? To be honest with you, I haven't thought about the movie in quite a while. I heard something a while back that it was a cult classic but didn't really believe it. A friend of mine, Dr. Dan Lucas, called me from Phoenix today and told me about your site. I was amazed by the site and some of the other ones I found afterwards. I guess the rumor is true, SC is a cult classic! It was fun to be a part of it and it is nice to see that people like your work even 18 years after the fact. I am psyched that they have it on DVD since I never had a great copy of the movie. It also feels nice to read that most people thought the first one was the best one out of the three. If you were asked to return as "Mike" in a future SLEEPAWAY what would you say?

Did Tom do it all for the nookie??

I would love to do it as present day Mike. Given how cocky and rotten he was I am sure he would have schemed himself into some great gig, or become a mercenary. He always reminded me of someone who would grow up to own a diet supplement company, chain of radio stations or become the dictator of some small island nation.....not that I think people who do that are cocky and rotten...he,he. To do the movie with all of us getting together at some reunion and then being killed off one by one would be awesome. The ending could be written from one of the folks who submit theories to the web site. If they pick your ending you get Fifty grand etc.. This time around I would like to be the killer though. I always thought that there was no way Angela knocked off all those people, far too much ground to cover. If you ask me, Mike joined in on some of the fun which is why Angela never killed him and which is why he hightailed it out of Judy's room. No way would she have let him live otherwise, since he did more rotten stuff to her than some of the other people who bought the farm. Anyway, you know how I feel about secrets, so enough on that subject. Good food for thought eh?

Did Tom go for a cold shower...or did he have other things in mind??

Any crushes on the set? Did Mike and Judy ever finish their "make out session" inbetween filming? (laughing). Nah, Judy and I never finished that session, she thought I kissed too wet. There weren't any obvious crushes on the set. Rick did have a thing for Kathy and I was trying to fix them up through John, since he knew Kathy from the All My Children days. That never worked out, but in the end John fixed me up with Kathy and we dated for a while. For you, What is the best thing that came out of SLEEPAWAY CAMP? Without a doubt, a tie between Mrs. Dunn's Tortellini soup and dating Kathy Kamhi. Kathy was really nice. If I was a little bit older at that time, we probably would still be together, since she was a truly cool cat. Now, I know most of you are thinking that it is crazy to compare Tortellini soup to a pretty girl, but you have never tasted Mrs. Dunn's Tortellini soup. I've been looking for one that comes close to this day, without any luck. Hey John, freeze some up and send it over! And whatever you do, don't break my heart by telling me that your Mom got it out of a Progresso can.

Jeff greets Tom as he arrives for the SLEEPAWAY CAMP REUNION in April 2001 (left) and Tom is reunited with old camp buddy John Dunn at the SLEEPAWAY REUNION! (right)

Tell us what you have done since SLEEPAWAY and what you do these days. I did plays and some TV work afterwards, but mostly concentrated on making music. I lived in Asia for 9 years and owned Pacific Entertainment Group before joining Universal on the Music Group side, first as their Regional VP in Asia and then as VP of International here in NY. I got to work with loads of great acts from No Doubt, Bush, Live and Aqua straight through to Godsmack, 3 Doors Down (Kryptonite) and Brian McKnight. Right now I am in the process of launching my company, IN2N (pronounced IN TUNE) Entertainment Group consisting of an Independent Record Label and Artist Management Company. We launch in July, so check the web site ( out sometime after that for info on our releases and artists. Any free time I manage is dedicated to our four kids and building hours on my logbooks as I am a private pilot.

Tom with Dennis Franz and Brian McKnight
Tom and son, Nick
Which Spice Girl do you want to see get killed in a future installment of SLEEPAWAY CAMP?