Sunday, September 25, 2011

Me and Bela

If all goes well, I might be able to add a few more photos (I'll consider myself lucky if I manage to get this on here), but here is one of the photos the Pioneer Press photographer shot of me for the upcoming article to run in the Press.  I painted that Bela Lugosi bust years ago, after buying it from a ceramic store that my sister and I used to frequent.  Somewhere packed away is a huge head of the Frankenstein Monster.  Who knew decades later that the Bela bust would come in handy?  Hopefully when the photographer works his photoshop magic they'll make the boxes in the background disappear.

It's hard not to feel bad for Bela Lugosi when you dig into the story of how Dracula flew from print to the stage and then to the silver screen.  Bela came in late to the stage production once it had reached Broadway, yet truly managed to make the role his own with a curous mixture of smouldering chill (I know, figure that one out).  He possessed the accent and the pedigree having been raised in the area not far from where the real Vlad did his thing.  He also possessed a mysterious, imperious, perhaps even dangerous, aura that helped add to the romantic mystique surrounding the character and helped make the stage production even more popular than it was.  Yet when it came time for the story to move onto the screen, he was not the first, second or even third choice for the role.  Had Lon Chaney not succumbed to cancer, we might have a completely different history.  Bela had to lobby hard to get that role and even had to agree to lower pay.  But he got it and made the most of it.  Later roles, especially later vampire roles he would play would show just what he could have done with Dracula had he been given the chance.  Was it the rather curiously conservative direction from Tod Browning that kept the movie from being so much more, or the unfortunate stroke of luck that left the project finally greenlighted just as the Great Depression was picking up steam?  Whatever it was. what we're left with in the 1931 movie is a rather constrained production of the stage play which, written more as a drawing room drama, was a rather tepid treatment of the original novel. 

Still, Lugosi would get a chance to sink his teeth into the role again in "Bud Abbott and Lou Costello Meet Frankenstein released in 1948."  It's curious to note that Lugosi was once again not the first to be considered for the role of Dracula but the fact was, so far had his career sunk by the time of production, no one in the industry knew that Lugosi was still alive.  Universal Studios had released a few more Dracula movies after the success of the 1931 movie, but none starred Lugosi whose star was on the decline (perhaps partly due to Universal throwing him over for Boris Karloff).  Cast as Dracula trying to revive the Frankenstein Monster while being hunted by Larry Talbot, the unfortunate man cursed with lycanthropy (the character made famous and played here by Lon Chaney Jr.), Lugosi gave the role of Dracula his all.  He became the scheming, deadly, power hungry vampire hinted at in the 1931 movie and end battle between Dracula and The Wolfman is classic.

Sad to think that the role that led him to world attention perhaps also helped dig the grave for his career.  Yet having only played him twice in his life, it's Lugosi's portrayal of Dracula that gave us the iconic image not only for Dracula but for vampires decades after he last portrayed the character. 

It seemed only fitting in promoting my book on vampires that I take a picture with the master.  I hope he liked the book.

Friday, September 16, 2011


Well, I have to send the folks at VampChix a huge "thank you" for their nice review of Vampires' Most Wanted.  And if they're excellent site is any indication, they know their vampires.  Check out the review, then check out the site for a really fun and interesting vampire experience.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Free Lance Zone Interview

A few weeks ago I did a five question interview with a site called Free Lance Zone.  On writing, of all things.  Imagine that!  It was published on Sept. 5 and always Johnny on the Spot, I'm linking it here on Sept. 7.  When my late brother Dennis was in his early twenties, he told me and my younger brother that he wanted to start a business called Turtle Electric.  The motto being, "We're slow, but efficient."  Perhaps I'm living the motto.  He did start the business.  Side jobs, mostly.  But forever became known to family and friends as The Turtle.

So in honor of The Turtle, I'm posting the interview here a few days late.  Slow.  Perhaps not terribly efficient.  But earnest.  That's the best I can offer right now.  :)

Monday, September 5, 2011

I was a guest of Nick Digilio on WGN radio Saturday (9/3/11) night.  It took some effort on the part of producer Craig Collins but he was able to finally track me down (thanks in large part to Lisa Poirier and Diana Bucko, the latter of whom took the 40 minute drive to my house to tell me that they were trying to get a hold ofme) to discuss my book Vampires' Most Wanted.  Nick is a huge fan of the genre (it's second in his heart only to zombies) and was a gracious and engaging host.  A wonderful experience all around.  And we spoke briefly of how great "Fright Night" was and how pathetic it was that it seemed to be tanking at the box office.  I still think it has something to do with the limited release of the regular verison in exchange for the larger release of the 3D version.  I think the producers or the studio shot themselves in the foot on that one.  From what I've gathered, the 3D version is exceptional (in comparison to the 3D version of other movies) but I still think that if the regular verison had been given a wider release, you'd see a much better box office record.  My interview on WGN can be found at,0,4495654.mp3file