Munsters are not monsters, but people like you and me.
To many, the people who play the parts on the telly and in the movies are the roles they play.
Most antique shows do not have celebrities signing autographs and talking to crowds of people eager to meet and speak with them. Toy shows are not like any other type of antique show. The hoi polloi with pinkie out- stretched would never unbend for this atmosphere of monsters, comic books, movie posters, zany festivities accom- panied by costumed characters, music and sound effects. The Boston Toy Expo run by Gary Sohmers of Wex Rex for Show Promotions recently featured a gala of celebrities at the Bayside Expo center. This wasn't just a great toy show with some of the best toy dealers exhibiting but a place to feed one's nostalgia glands.
"Dukes of Hazzard" cast member Sonny Shroyer; Van Williams "the Green Hornet"; Richard Herd from "Seinfeld"; Melody Patterson of "F Troop" and Gary Wolf of Roger Rabbit fame were present, as well as this year's Playmate of the Year - but none held the fascination and devotion that the Munsters cast did. Yvonne DeCarlo who played Lily Munster and was one of the great screen beauties of years ago had to cancel her appearance as she was badly damaged breaking up a fight between her two dogs a few days earlier. That left only three Munsters and two Monster Cars, but the fans lined up two and three generations deep to meet them, take photos, and get autographs.
Al Lewis who played Grandpa Munster, Pat Priest who played Marilyn Munster, and Butch Patrick who played Edward Wolfgang Munster in the popular 1960's television show seemed to enjoy meeting and chatting with their fans.
Al Lewis puffed on his cigar and hugged some of the new generation of fans who wanted to have their pictures taken. Some of them were very young and very excited.
Butch Patrick and Pat Priest came by our booth before the show and stopped to chat.
"Butch, how did doing the Munsters add or detract to your enjoyment, your sense of fantasy?" I asked.
"You were a young boy working in television with two big stars seeing all the reality of making a fantasy into something concrete."
"We had a lot of fun on the set, everyone was helpful, and there were many practical jokes. We had fun but we worked hard. It didn't add to my sense of fantasy because I saw how it went together, what we did, not the finished product that others saw on television. I've always had a strong sense of fantasy and enjoy dressing up," he explained.
"Do you dress up for Halloween and go trick or treating?"
"Definitely. Halloween is my big month anyway, as I make a lot of personal appearances then and I have a great time joining in on the festivities of the places I'm at. I love the parades and people dressed up in costume."
"You now bring the Monstermobile and Coffinmobile to the shows and parades. People seem fascinated with them."
Eddy looked over to the two cars and the dealers crowded around it. "Yes, I met them at a show and he showed me photos of these two incredible vehicles that he made himself. I often have them come and do the functions I'm at."
"Do you collect antiques or toys yourself ?"
He nodded. "Too much."
Later, as they were leaving I saw a large Goosebumps kit under his arm.
Pat Priest played Marilyn, the normal looking member of the family. She was bubbly and had a wicked gleam of humor in her eyes, which was apparent the moment she began talking.
"I loved working on the Munsters, it was so much fun. I'm new to the circuit and being back, renewing old acquaintances, meeting new people, this is so interesting."
You could tell she was very intrigued with the Munsters memorabilia in the booth which we had brought from home to get signed.
"Believe it or not I don't own a single piece of Munsters stuff," she explained. "I never thought to keep anything. Who knew back then. My kids are collectors and I have a house full of antiques. I really collect knife rests. For some reason, I really like them. Actually, I like so much stuff that even the attic and the garage are full, but I only collect the knife rests as a collection."
"Has being in the Munsters affected your attitude toward life, your sense of fantasy?" I asked.
"I've always had a great imagina- tion. What I imagine I like to turn into reality. It's like this house I've created in my mind. I want to build that house some day. Perhaps, it's more creativity and goals, but once I set my mind to things I want to make them real. I love dressing up and I adore Halloween.
"One year I dressed like a bag lady. I tied worn out rubber tongs to my feet with bungie cords, and put on rags and a wig, and blacked out my teeth. I looked awful. Then I got in the Cadillac and drove to my husband's dental office. Well, the looks I got on the road! They saw this awful looking bag lady driving a Cadillac and they stared so. I got to my husband's office and went and sat in the reception room. The receptionist saw me sitting there reading a magazine and came over to me. "Can I help you?" she asked. Well, I just told her no. The other patients were staying as far away from me as they possibly could. The nurse came out a few minutes later, took a look and I kept on reading the magazine. Soon the dentist himself came out and said, "Can I help you?" I looked him in the eye and said "Yup, you can fix my tooth." Then I blew it, I started to laugh so hard that heknew right away who I was. He then took me all around and introduced me as his wife to everyone in the building. I really work hard on making costumes for my husband and I because we have a costume contest where we live and I want to win. I made a Raggedy Ann and Andy costume one year that was so good that no one knew who we were. We went skipping about and everyone kept asking who we were and I just said, Raggedy Ann and Andy of course. I love holidays and decorating. Whether I'm more game for doing fun things because of the Munsters, I can't say, but it was a wonderful experience."
Pat had this bouncy way of telling a story that made you laugh and want to hear more of her exploits. I watched the three Munsters greet their fans for the next two days, and the genuine interest they exhibited in their many fans as well as the joy that those fans had meeting not just celebrities but ones who were warm, genuine, and caring. It's amazing how much pleasure shows on a person's face when they've just met not just any celebrity, but ones that represent an era that was funny, warm, happy, non- violent, and memorable.
Note: My apologies to Gary Sohmers of Wex Rex for reversing his shop name in the November issue. The name Wex Rex was used by record people to describe a wicked, dynamite, different type of record.