What a story! 'The Room' soundtrack writers talk working with Tommy Wiseau

Lyndsey Parker
Yahoo Music
Tommy Wiseau (Photo: Josh Brasted/Getty Images)
Tommy Wiseau (Photo: Josh Brasted/Getty Images)

More than 15 years ago, a gospel singer named Kitra Williams, her son Jarah Gibson, and teen singer Clint Jun Gamboa met up with a “peculiar” black-clad man in a nondescript room in a Los Angeles mini mall, hardly realizing they were about to make history with the one and only Tommy Wiseau, the director, producer, writer and star of one of the best worst movies of all time, The Room.

The R&B slow jams they came up with — “You’re My Rose” (written and performed by Williams), “Crazy” (written and performed by Gamboa), “I Will” (written by Williams and performed by Gibson), and “Baby You and Me” (written by Williams and Gibson and performed by Gamboa with Bell Johnson) — ended up soundtracking the infamous flick’s four cringeworthy, gratuitous sex scenes, much to the churchgoing Williams’s embarrassment at the time. When The Room became an instant laughingstock at its now legendary Hollywood premiere, the musicians slinked out of the theater and moved on with their lives, quickly putting the bizarre project behind them. (Gamboa later became a contestant on American Idol Season 10, making it to the top 24 live shows; watch his audition here.)

Years later, when The Room became a cult classic and eventually inspired the Golden Globe-nominated film-about-the-film The Disaster Artist, Williams, Gamboa, and Gibson could not have been more shocked … especially since they claim they barely saw any money from The Room’s soundtrack, released on Wiseau’s own TPW Records in 2003 and now available on iTunes. Yahoo Entertainment caught up with Williams and Gamboa this week — the week that The Room at long last received a wide theatrical release — to discuss their involvement with the “Citizen Kane of bad movies,” what Wiseau was really like, and if they’ll ever be able to get in touch with Wiseau and finally get to say, “Oh hai, royalties!” 

GAMBOA: How I got involved was through one of my friends, Kitra Williams, a lady that’s like my auntie. She had the connection. She just called me one day and said, “Hey, come on, we’re gonna go to this thing,” and we literally went right after church.

WILLIAMS: It was through my girlfriend’s husband at the time. He introduced me to Tommy, and we hit it off really well. Tommy heard some of my music, and we went back and forth a couple times and locked down a deal. … My son and I were the original songwriters of pretty much the whole soundtrack. Clint was a part of our family, besides being a phenomenal vocalist, so we asked him if he would sing and write one of the songs on there.

GAMBOA: After church, we went to go meet Tommy. It was in L.A. somewhere; he was renting out this space. The parking lot was in one of those plazas where it’s a bunch of different little shops. We didn’t have anything written. He just showed us the scene that we were going to be singing over, and we went in the booth. We could see through the little window, on the little TV screen as we were singing, this love scene that was going on between him and the leading lady [Lisa, played by Juliette Danielle] in the movie. It was very awkward, because I was young at the time — I was like 18, maybe, barely legal — and we’re just leaving church singing about Jesus, and then we go to this thing and we’re having to freestyle some love song over some raunchy love scene, while I’m standing next to this holy lady!

WILLIAMS: Well, at the time I didn’t look at it like it was a sex scene. I imagined [Tommy and Juliette] were married. So it was all good.

GAMBOA: When we first met Tommy, when he was showing us this movie, and he really hyped it up to us. He’s like, “My movie is so amazing!!!” He got us all excited about it. And then, when we were sitting there watching that one little love scene, it was just kind of like, “ew.” Not to be mean, but when you look at his face, it’s not really something that you want to look at in a love scene. Or his ass.

WILLIAMS: He was eccentric, but you know, people call me eccentric too! He was very friendly, and I think that’s what I liked about him most. He was very approachable, and very adventurous, and just really, really excited about what the future had for him. We were all rooting him on. And then after we saw the final results, we were like, “Um, okaaaay. Great…” But we were still rooting for him.

GAMBOA: I was just tripping out how we’d literally just left church, went straight over there, and didn’t even know what we were getting ourselves into. … We were watching the scene [with Tommy’s bare butt closeup] and the girl’s boob, and everyone was talking about how [Juliette’s] boobs were lopsided or something like that. I was just embarrassed, because I was standing right there seeing a boob, with my auntie. I was like, “We’re not supposed to be watching this!”

WILLIAMS: But Clint and I just love meshing our voices together. Whenever we can sing together, we can. So we just began to sing. And stuff magically began to happen. We would kind of look at each other like, “What just happened?”

GAMBOA: Tommy played some music, and we were all just feeding off of each other, really. It was more of a collaborative thing, rather than all of us trying to individually do something, so we were looking at one another, pointing at each other, saying, “OK, now you sing something.” Then like, “OK, now you do something.” We all took our turn, but we had to work together.

WILLIAMS: He gave us like an outline of what was going to be going on in each particular scene, and what he wanted. Like for one scene, he wanted the song in a Guns N’ Roses vein. Then there was another song, “I Will,” that he wanted to be a country song. So we made it country — and he didn’t like it! He said, “It doesn’t have the country feel that I need. Just sing it regular.” So we did, and then I think it became one of the most beautiful songs that I’ve ever in my life written. The lyrics are just profound.

GAMBOA: Specifically for the “Rose” song, there was a Guns N’ Roses song that he played for us to reference, like a vibe. It was one of their slower ones; I think it was “Patience” or “November Rain.” That’s how he wanted the song to sound over that love scene. …Tommy was into what we were doing. He really did like our singing, and he really did like us. We weren’t going to be disrespectful in any way, because when it comes down to it, he was very nice and he was paying us to do a service. But looking back on everything, it really is crazy to see from how it all started to where it is now. I definitely would like to reach out to him and maybe see if he would be willing to give us something.

WILLIAMS: We convinced him [we were right for soundtrack]. We had great production, and it was everything he wanted it to be. I just wish that the dollars and cents had added up to his gratefulness. Maybe it will now, who knows? I’m going to reach out and see exactly how fair square he is.

GAMBOA: We got paid 500 bucks, total, to split between three or four people.

WILLIAMS: It was a little more than $500. It was more like $1,000. We had agreed we would get royalties off of stuff, and then after I didn’t hear no more from Tommy, so I thought, “OK, I guess the darn thing didn’t do anything, and there’s nothing to get royalties off of!”

GAMBOA: I never did ask him what his story was. I think I wasn’t even thinking about that. Obviously, I was really young at the time, and I was just excited to be a part of something. It was about gaining experience for me, so I didn’t really ask him any questions on how much money the guy had, or how much money was being put into the movie. I wasn’t really educated on those things at that time, so I didn’t think to even ask those kinds of questions. Now I’m more aware of how things work, so I’m more inclined now to ask people questions about that kind of stuff — like how much are we going to get paid!

WILLIAMS: I never asked [about his background]. You don’t ask guys with accents where they’re getting their money from. [laughs] He was a very classy man, and so you knew he was getting his money from somewhere.

GAMBOA: The time that we met him, that initial meet and greet with Tommy, we just freestyled it. But then we actually had a little bit of time, once he paid us. We had a friend that had a recording studio, and we had a couple people make the music for it. It was even hard even trying to convince them to do it, because everybody likes to get paid. We only had so much money to split between so many people. We even had to take a bit of a pay cut to pay one of my other friends [Bell Johnson] to come sing on one track [“Baby You and Me”]. I don’t even know if she even got the rest of her money; it was like 50 bucks or something that she was supposed to get. And now, to find out that, like, $5 million went into that movie…

WILLIAMS: But did the money really go into the movie? Because that was not $5 million worth of nothing! I’m sorry, but come on now. I’m going to tell Tommy, “Next time you find $5 million, you take it and you invest it in some acting lessons — every penny of it!”

GAMBOA: To me [$500] was a lot to be paid at that time, because I didn’t know the magnitude of how people got paid in the industry. And we didn’t know how much this thing was going to blow up. We weren’t thinking that this movie was even going to go anywhere. We thought it was just some low-budget thing that would probably only get seen by a few people, and nothing would really come of it. But it just became this big ol’ thing, and now here’s my auntie Kitra, this gospel singer, all paranoid because she’s like, “Oh Lord, they’re gonna find out that I was singing on this movie!” It’s kind of crazy, but with some things you just have to take a loss.

WILLIAMS: Maybe it’s time to maybe knock on Mr. Wiseau’s door, and say, “Hey, how you doing, happy new year! I’m the one that sang ‘You’re My Rose’!”

GAMBOA: I remember going to the premiere. We did the whole red-carpet thing. When we got there, the vibe, we were trying to feel it out, and it seemed pretty cool at first. Everybody seemed to be having a good time. But we could hear people whispering amongst themselves, talking about the movie, and nobody was really saying anything good about it. Then when it came time to play the movie, we didn’t even stay for the whole thing. It was hard enough to sit and watch the movie, but to see everybody laughing and mocking it was embarrassing. We had to duck out of there — we sat in the back anyways — because we were like, “Ooh, this is rough.”

WILLIAMS: Oh, honey. Let me tell you, when we first saw the movie, this was our big debut, and we walked in there so excited. But then I thought, “OK, something is not right.” Everybody was making a mockery of it. We just said, “Look, we gotta ease our way out of here.” We creeped out of the theater. But before that, we kind of enjoyed a little mockery ourselves. It was kind of like laughing at ourselves. You have to laugh to keep from crying.

GAMBOA: I think Tommy was drunk that night. He was sitting in the front row, and he kept getting up and yelling at the audience. He was really angry [at the people who were laughing]. Even beforehand, he was already a little drunk, because I think he was overhearing what people were saying about the movie.

WILLIAMS: I admit, I had thought this was my big break. I had hoped that one day that my dreams of becoming this actress-slash-singer would land me somewhere, and I thought, “If they can’t see me on the big screen, maybe they’ll hear me.” So I thought my only opportunity to make the big time had been devastated. It was a big flop. This was supposed to be my moment, and it just didn’t happen for me like that. … So we left The Room in our past. We said that was just a piece of the past that never came to pass. It was so devastating, we didn’t want to reach back to any of that.

Clint Gamboa on “American Idol” in 2011. (Photo: Michael Tullberg/Getty Images)
Clint Gamboa on “American Idol” in 2011. (Photo: Michael Tullberg/Getty Images)

GAMBOA: How I found out that The Room was getting a lot of attention was literally when I was on American Idol. A couple of my friends from high school would go religiously every month to see The Room; it was kind of like The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Those friends, when they saw me on American Idol, they were like, “Hey, weren’t you also a part of The Room?” I was like, “Yeah, how do you even know about that?” They’re like, “Dude, that movie is the best worst movie ever. It’s this huge deal now.” I thought that was insane.

WILLIAMS: For quite some years, I hadn’t heard from Tommy, and I’d wondered what was going on with him. But then, slowly but surely, I started hearing that the film was blowing up out of nowhere for being the “worst movie ever.” It was quite entertaining, to say the least.

GAMBOA: A lot of the people were talking about how the soundtrack and the movie really didn’t fit together, because the soundtrack was too good for the movie! The soundtrack actually was for sale at … what was that store? Sam Goody. I think we found it at the Ontario Mall, there was one Sam Goody that had it. I think you can even purchase it on iTunes now.

WILLIAMS: It was a privilege and an honor [to be on the soundtrack], and now I’m hoping to do more work with Tommy. It’s been a while since we spoke with him, and I need to — because we have some pertinent business to discuss.

GAMBOA: It’s been very hard to reach out to him. … I was going to try and reach out and say, “Hey, now that this movie has blown up, where’s our residuals?” I’m not trying to throw any bad juju towards Tommy; it is what it is. But I’m just saying it would be nice to get those residuals, especially since times are really tough right now as a struggling artist.

WILLIAMS: I’m happy for Tommy, I really am. He worked hard. It paid off for him. It just goes to show if you have a dream, and you persevere and you continue to believe in your dream no matter what people say or how hard they laugh, then surely it will come to pass. I’m encouraged by that, and I’m looking forward to my Room one day, when the same thing will happen for me; I’ve always desired that as well. You know, I starred in Tyler Perry’s Diary of a Mad Black Woman and Oprah Winfrey’s The Color Purple on Broadway with Fantasia. My biggest dream was always to get some type of Oscar, or some type of Golden Globe, or something to that effect. I never got the recognition I thought I deserved. So, we’ll see how things turn out.

Gamboa recently teamed up with YMCA on a holiday track, “Spend Christmas With Me,” to benefit Operation Ride Home, which raises money to help military families get together during the holidays. Williams’s latest endeavor is the Million Youth Peace March, which will take place on Oct. 6 in Washington, D.C.

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