If you read my earlier post (Addams Family vs Munsters: Can’t We All Get Along?) you know that I’m a Munsters Maniac going way back. So when my friend Mark invited me to go meet Butch Patrick who played Eddie Munster in the original series I enthusiastically said yes!
Typically, I’m not one to attend “meet the star” events but I realized that this was likely my last opportunity to meet anyone from the original cast as sadly most are now gone. Other than Butch Patrick only Pat Priest, who played the second Marilyn during the original run of the series, survives. However, since she is now 84 I suspect she doesn’t tour as much as she may have before.
Trivia tidbit – technically Butch Patrick is the second person to play Eddie. The role was played by another child actor, Nate “Happy” Derman, in the unaired pilot. Likewise Yvonne DeCarlo was the second Lily as she replaced Joan Marshall before the show aired. However, unaired pilots don’t really count in terms of television.
The Munster Koach
We met each other at Freedom Comics in Toledo, OH a few minutes before 2:00 PM which is when Butch was scheduled to appear. He had already pretty much set up and was taking pictures and signing autographs when we arrived. We were pleasantly surprised to discover that Butch was traveling with a replica of the Munster’s Koach – which in my opinion is the second coolest car ever on television. The first being the original Batmobile from the Batman TV series, a show that also had a great theme song, and which, not coincidentally, was designed by the same person: George Barris. The Koach was kept in a trailer but we were allowed to go in and take pictures. The only rules were don’t touch and don’t sit!
Meeting Butch aka Eddie Munster
We had beat the crowd and only had to wait a few minutes to meet Butch Patrick. Knowing that these days many (most?) of the stars from these fan favorite shows charge for autographs I had come prepared with cash. In fact, I had enough on me to purchase a copy of Butch Patrick’s Munster Memories which he did sign for me. We talked for a few minutes and remembering some advice I had gotten years ago about meeting celebrities I asked about his current projects. I was pleased to learn that he has several things in the works including a series of interviews with surviving WWII veterans, cars, and others. If you visit his Munsters Fan website, named aptly Munsters.com, you’ll find more information on what he’s been up to and working on.
Butch was pleasant to talk to and generous with his time. I’m impressed that while Mark and I browsed the comic shop and it’s wide-array of collectibles that the line to meet Butch continued to grow. Of course there were plenty of older fanboys like myself but a number of younger people, too. It was a testament to the enduring popularity of The Munsters. Possibly the popularity of Lidsville, but I don’t think so.
I got to visit with a friend who I hadn’t seen in person for over a year thanks to COVID, meet someone whose work I enjoyed as a kid (and today), and explore a comic book shop I hadn’t visited before.
All in all, a pleasant way to spend a couple hours on a holiday afternoon!
All photos by David P. Wahr unless otherwise noted. Photos and words @copyright David P. Wahr
Anyone who has known me for a sufficient length of time – let’s say a week – knows that I have more than a passing interest in the Bigfoot phenomenon. But, do I actually believe that an eight foot tall primate stalks the deep forests and valleys of North America? Let’s explore that a bit…
My history with Bigfoot
The earliest memory I have of being introduced to the idea that we might share our planet with undiscovered primates is when I was terrified by the appearance of the Abominable Snowman, aka “Bumble,” during the annual airing of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. The build up to Bumble’s appearance was so effective and scared me so much that I think it was several years before I actually had the nerve to look at him on our giant 24″ black and white television! Which might be more understandable if I didn’t happen to be 15 years old at the time…(just kidding, I was 4 or 5 at the time).
Flash forward a couple of years to a still young me, now out of therapy and able to watch Christmas specials on television again without hiding under the couch, reading the National Wildlife Federation’s April 1968 issue. This issue happened to feature an article on the Bigfoot mystery in Northern California. I could hardly believe my eyes – could such a thing be real? Unfortunately, unlike today where there is a new book or television show produced about Bigfoot just about every week, research resources were scarce in this pre-Google age. It wasn’t until my early teens when I stumbled across John Napier’s book Bigfoot: The Yeti and Sasquatch in Myth and Reality. Napier was one of the first notable scientists to give serious attention to the Bigfoot phenomenon. His book provided some compelling evidence, but no actual conclusion that Bigfoot or the Yeti (the primate said to live in the Himalayas) actually existed.
A squatcher is born
Napier’s book only whetted my appetite for all things squatchy. I devoured anything that I could regarding Sasquatch or the Yeti. I studied any articles I could find, I watched movies, and I watched docudramas like The Legend of Boggy Creek. Heck, even today I’ll watch anything that has Bigfoot, Sasquatch, or Yeti in the title. No matter how good or bad they are (spoiler: most are bad). By the way, I found the 1957 film The Abominable Snowman especially frightening and fascinating when it ran on Saturday or Sunday afternoon TV. Either on Sir Graves Ghastly or Bill Kennedy at the Movies, I’m sure it’s one of those two because Rita Bell’s Prize Movie was on during the week when I was in school. Man, I miss shows like those. The closest thing today to Bill Kennedy at the Movies is TCM. I’m glad they are keeping the tradition of talking a little about the movies before and after the show alive. But, I digress…
Other interests develop
Along with this Bigfoot fascination I developed an interest in world geography. How could a Yeti survive in the harsh conditions of the Himalayas (spoiler – they can’t. Most sightings are actually in the valleys not the peaks of the mountains)? How vast are the forest of North America? Where else have mysterious creatures and monsters been found? I became interested in other things – Mount Everest and wilderness exploration and tales of survival for example. My own passion for the outdoors never let up either. Even today, whenever I’m hiking I try to observe everything. Not only for signs of giant primates but for signs of other things, too.
In short, my curiosity about Bigfoot led me to explore other things about the world we live in. So my seemingly irrational fascination with Bigfoot led to a very rational exploration of nature. Ranae Holland, of Finding Bigfoot fame, in her TED talk explains this type of thing better than I can. You can watch her talk What Bigfoot Can Teach Us About Curiousity on YouTube.
So, back to the question I asked at the beginning of the blog – do I actually believe in Bigfoot? Well, the rational part of me says that the chances of a giant primate roaming the forests and mountains of North America is very slim. However, that same part of me says that it is unlikely that all those foot prints are made by pranksters. More compelling to me, after watching all those movies, is that no one in Hollywood has made a costume that looks like the creature in the famous Patterson-Gimlin film. Were a couple of cowboys really that good at faking a Sasquatch’s proportions?
Do I believe?
I won’t go so far as to say that I definitely think Bigfoot is out there. I will go so far as to say that people are seeing something. Maybe grizzly bears spend more time walking upright than we think, maybe there’s a spore in trees which causes hallucinations, maybe…I don’t know.
But there is one thing I know for sure. I would rather live in a world where the possibility of something like Bigfoot exists than a world where people are so convinced of their own pre-conceived ideas of how things should be that they can’t even entertain the possibility that there are things beyond their comprehension. That the world still holds mystery and wonder. That they could possibly be wrong in their perception of how things are because they are focused on how they want things to be.
Because beyond the limits of what you “know” is where the real adventure begins.
All photos by David P. Wahr unless otherwise noted. Photos and words @copyright David P. Wahr
The recent news that Rob Zombie will be directing a “reboot” of The Munsters for NBC’s Peacock streaming service and/or theatrical release (which by the way is either the best news ever or the worst – I don’t think there’s much middle ground here) is certain to revive a debate that is as old as time…or at least as old as 1964. Which show was better – The Addams Family or The Munsters?
For those who aren’t old enough to remember, it is important to know that television in the sixties was a golden time for anyone who liked variety in their life. On any given night you might be able to watch a show with an uncle who was a Martian, a suburban housewife who was a witch, an astronaut who had his own personal genie, seven stranded castaways, superheroes, voyages to the bottom of the sea, visit millionaire hillbillies, enjoy rural life, sing with partridges, leave everything to Theodore, or even take a five year mission into deep space (just don’t get lost out there).
You could even watch shows featuring typical American families. Families with a couple of children, household pets, and even an elderly relative or two living in the same house. Two of these shows in particular had an enduring impact upon popular culture. Both first aired within a week of one another and, two years later, both were canceled at the same time as well. Both have had movies, spin-offs, cartoons, and merchandise galore. These shows have always been linked in some mysterious way and have been the subject of much debate and most people fell into one of two camps: you were either an Addams Family Fan or a Munsters Maniac. Much like politics today there was no middle ground when it came to Munsters vs Addams Family. You could like one show but not the other. Long before anyone wondered who shot a Texas oil baron, this was the debate which tore playgrounds, bars, and perhaps even a few families apart.
Both of these shows have superficial similarities. They both feature families most audiences then would consider to be unusual if not downright macabre. Both families lived in spooky houses, kept odd hours, and so on. Both families had strong parental figures who were not necessarily tied to the social stereotypes of the day. Both shows left us with mysteries to ponder – did Morticia have feet? If Grampa was Lily’s father why did everyone call him Grampa Munster? Both shows even had snappy and memorable theme songs!
But underneath each show represented a different version of the American dream.
The Munsters, in case you don’t know, are a family of “monsters” who immigrated to the United States. Grampa, who by the way is a Dracula but not the Dracula, often speaks longingly of the “old country.” Herman was assembled in a lab in Germany (at the University of Heidelberg) and lived in the United Kingdom and Transylvania before immigrating with his Transylvanian wife and father-in-law to the United States. Along with their niece, Marilyn (apparently adopted), and son, Eddie, they do their best to live out the American dream. Herman is clearly a blue-collar working man, he’s a grave digger by trade, and as a group they work hard to fit into their community by participating in civic events and attempting to know their neighbors. But like immigrant groups before them they are often shunned because of their “odd” lifestyle, customs, and appearance. Even those people who don’t scream and run away at first sight of them display a certain nervousness while around any member of the family. Except for Marilyn, the “normal” one to the audience but who is considered an unfortunate freak by the rest of the family. Oddly enough, none of the rest of the family seems to notice that they are the ones who look and act differently than everyone around them. They consider slim, blonde, and presumably blue-eyed (the show was filmed in black and white) to be ugly. But she looks like the rest of the world around them.
I think a case can be made that the Munsters are not only immigrants but that they can stand in for any minority group in the United States at the time. What they experienced, though exaggerated for comic effect in some cases and sanitized for television audiences, echoed to a small degree what many Black, Asian, LatinX, and other groups who looked or acted “different” might have experienced as unwelcome newcomers to a neighborhood.
The Addams Family, by contrast, are wealthy people from a wealthy family. They even have a butler – who is either a zombie or a Frankenstein like creation, I’m not sure – and all the trappings of wealth. Their theme song describes there house a “museum” presumably because of the rare artworks and antiques inside. Patriarch Gomez appears to be Spanish American (not Latino as we define it today), but seems to be native to the USA. Matriarch Morticia can trace her family tree back to the Salem Witch Trials. Unlike the Munsters, they do not worry about fitting in. They have money and know how to use it. Though they do seem to be civic minded, they tend to stick to the comforts of their home. The world is forced to come to them. They do what they please and don’t worry what others think of them. Like the Munsters they don’t always understand the reactions of people around them but they are in a position to not really care about it. In fact, Gomez often solves problems by literally throwing money at them! Wealth has it’s privileges and Gomez at least seems to be very aware of this.
Even though I’m a dyed-in-the-wolf’s bane Munster Maniac I do have to admit that over the years since the original television shows The Addams Family has been the more financially successful franchise. With several major motion pictures having been released, one (animated) as recently as 2019, and even Broadway musical. Though, as one of my theater friends pointed out to me, the play does have a plot more suited to The Munsters than to The Addams Family.
Prior to the news of this latest reboot The Munsters have had a handful of television specials over the decades and one poorly executed syndicated show (The Munsters today) which somehow actually stayed on the air for three seasons and ended up with 3 more episodes than the original show. However, the theme song from The Munsters is still popular with just about every indie rock band out there and was even sampled by Fallout Boy in 2015 (Dance Like Uma Thurman).
But back to my original reason for this post, can’t we all just get along? I personally think that there is room for both families in everyone’s heart and minds. In fact, I am actually a little concerned that as time goes on some of the uniqueness of each franchise is becoming eroded and I hope that both can get back to basics.
For example: in addition to the above mentioned plot of the Addams Family musical being better suited to the Munsters, the most recent film has a scene were the Addams Family is chased out of their “old country” which again is more suited to the Munsters characters. Granted, since The Addams Family is actually based on a popular series of single panel comics by Charles Addams, there is no reason to think that the entire Addams Family franchise should be limited to the television show’s canon. But even in the comics there was never a suggestion, to my knowledge at least, that the Addams family were first generation immigrants.
For the Munsters, I think that the problem of the various sequels and reboot attempts is that they focused on the slapstick comedy and not on the family and community relationships. With the exception of 1313 Mockingbird Lane. A version which I think actually did a nice job of focusing on family but strayed too far from the premise that the Munsters were trying to fit in. Plus, Herman was not made by Grampa – he is very clearly a later creation of Dr. Frankenstein’s. After all, the origins of the Munsters was based on Universal Studios wanting to take advantage of the classic monster properties already in their portfolio.
So, to sum up, I think that as long as both franchises stay true to their original character and perhaps expand on what makes each one unique that there is room for both in our lives. In fact, if treated properly, I think that both of these families can even teach us all how to be a little better in our own lives as well.
What do you think? I’d love to see your thoughts and comments.
All photos by David P. Wahr unless otherwise noted. Photos and words @copyright David P. Wahr
Those of you who follow me on other social media (yeah, both of you) may have noticed that I usually tag any remotely fitness related post first with #oldguyslifttoo. Though it clearly hasn’t caught on I’m trying to make a point with that hashtag.
It doesn’t take much observation to realize that in our culture and society fitness and athletic activities are the province of the young. In mo and t pro sports you’re finished before 40. A quick look through Instagram and you’ll find hundreds, if not thousands, of posts, pictures, selfies, swolfies, and not so random flexing poses of young men (and a few women) in front of bathroom mirrors. Each who seems fully dedicated to their particular workout, diet and intent on spreading their knowledge and enthusiasm to the world. Or at least get a date. Maybe both, I’m not sure, and I’m not criticizing this in the least. If it motivates anyone towards physical fitness I’m for it. Heck, if I had the abs and biceps of some of these guys I’d be right there in front of my mirror with my phone snapping a picture too.
But, you don’t see so much from older people. Go to a gym, again filled with folks under 40. Now I’m sure that there are a lot of reasons for this. The usual being other priorities. Career, family, etc. But, these reasons don’t explain all the middle-age men and women out there who have just stopped moving. The kids are out of the house, but instead of using the time gained from no longer running mom’s transit service they have doubled down on Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime and the like. Then complain that they hurt all the time or don’t have energy.
It’s time to change this folks. The benefits of daily exercise are well documented. Both men and women at any age can increase strength and improve quality of life with a moderate program of walking and weightlifting. Barring an underlying medical condition (and hey, I’m pooping into a plastic bag as I type this so I know about underlying conditions) you can stall father time. You may never have 20 inch arms or buns of steel again but you can keep your bones strong and muscles firm well into old age.
Which, for all you teens out there, doesn’t start at 30.
So, I’m proud to be an old guy who lifts, too. I hope you’ll join me.
And whoknows, maybe senior citizen swolfies will catch on too!
WordPress has told me that I’ve now been posting this blog for a year (since November 19, 2015). So I thought maybe I should reflect just a little on what’s been going on with the blog.
First and foremost, I enjoy keeping the blog. For me it is a little bit of a journal of my life and a way to occasionally vent and/or muse about things. I started out focusing only on my fitness journey but soon changed things up to cover a wide variety of topics including my life with Crohn’s disease, comic books, leadership and management, and whatever else strikes my fancy at the moment.
Here are a few stats I find interesting:
I’ve made 68 posts so far. 33 in 2014, 28 in 2015 and the rest are dated 2013 or earlier and were imported from another site.
Over 1,000 visitors (I’m sure many are repeat) have been to the site and looked at things 1,680 times.
The most views on one day occurred on December 2, 2014 with 49. The blog entry was “Peter K. Vaughn – Profile in Crohn’s Courage” from the day before.
The most popular time to read my blog is on Sundays at midnight.
I have 35 regular followers (thank you).
I’m read from all over the world now (sort of). With most views coming from the USA. Followed by Italy (where I have a friend), then Ireland (another friend), Italy (yep, I know a guy there too), Germany, the UK, Russia, India, Switzerland, Portugal, Singapore, Pakistan, France, Croatia, Denmark, Bangladesh, Australia, Netherlands, Greece and Argentina.
In 2014 the top 5 blogs where: “Crohn’s or No Crohn’s – a New Wrinkle (115 views),” “Peter K. Vaughn – Profile in Crohn’s Courage (58),” “Crohn’s or No Crohn’s – Step One Completed (45),” “The Day After…Thanksgiving (39),” and “A Day in the Life of a Crohn’s Flare Up (39).”
So far in 2015 they are: “A Mile in Someone Else’s Shoes (56),” “Early Inspirations (43),” “Crohn’s Update: Humira (31),” “January 25, 2015 Update (30),” and “When is an Arm Considered Big? (23).”
Overall Top 5 Posts:
Peter K. Vaughn – Profile in Courage (59 tie)
Crohn’s or No Crohn’s – A New Wrinkle (59 tie)
A Mile in Someone Else’s Shoes (56)
Reflections on A Visit With a Doctor (47)
Crohn’s or No Crohn’s – Step One Completed (45)
Not surprisingly, most of the most read posts have been in regards to my Crohn’s disease. Not the direction that I had intended for this blog, but it seems to be the one that people are interested in. After Crohn’s fitness/bodybuilding has the most reads, social issues, and then coming in last my thoughts on management and leadership. To be fair, all the stats are not kept in WordPress as my blog is cross posted to other social media sites. So, for example, my posts on management do much better over on LinkedIn than on the site here.
So, as interesting as this all is what will I do? I’ll keep posting things as I like and hope some folks have enough interest to follow along and even comment on occasion. Watch for more about Crohn’s and fitness and I’ll be talking more about roller coasters and my play writing pretty soon.
If you’d like to see me post on a particular topic just let me know. Chances are I’ll be glad to share my thoughts and opinions (of which I have many).
It might surprise some of you to know that even though I’ve been reading comics for just about as long as I can remember and have been a big fan of sci-fi and fantasy for at least the same length of time that I have never been to an actual comic book convention. So, this year I decided to make a short trip to Monroe, Michigan (where I hang out a lot actually) and go to the 3rd annual Monroe Comic Con.
I knew that it would not be as big or as glitzy as some of the larger cons out there and certainly nothing to compare to the San Diego Comic Con, but I’m glad to say that this local show met my expectations and more.
The first thing I had to decide was what to wear. I first put on my official San Diego Comic Con t-shirt from the National Cartoonist Society that was given to me as a gift and then put on a pullover with the Superman “S” shield on it (it was a cold day). The Superman pullover proved to be popular as three people stopped to ask me where I got it from. Unfortunately, I’ve had it so long that I can’t remember. My best guess is that it was a gift and purchased at one of the now defunct Warner Bros. stores.
I did not go to participate in the events or dress up for the costume contest (aka cosplay) – however, a friend of mine took “honorable mention” in the cosplay contest – but just to get the feel of the event. I walked around the vendor floor several times (got to get the steps in, too) and chatted with some people whose work I’ve enjoyed over the years such as writer Bill Messner-Loebs (Flash, Wonder Woman and artist Arvell Jones (All-Star Squadron), met an independent “local” comic book creator, Dominic Riggio of Mess Bucket Comics who it turns out also has ties to Necroland by the way (which I act in)!
I also found out that the Red Mighty Morphin Power Ranges are on average shorter than you might expect and that actor, romance cover model, former English teacher and Monroe native Mike Foster is literally a “giant among men.” Very tall and super-heroic looking…and part of the reasons that the Rangers looked so small now that I think of it. I also bumped into a several friends from around the county as well.
I saw one of the modified DeLoreans used in the “Back to the Future” movies (I had also seen one in California, but I got to get closer to this one). Several Star Wars robot models and a mock up of Iron Man’s “Hulkbuster” armor by Monroe native Rob Miller.
Did I have a good time? Definitely. Will I go again? Most likely, depending on time and my availability. Will I dress up like my favorite super-hero and walk around. Unlikely…
If you are a fan of comic book super heroes it is a good time to be alive. After decades of being relegated to comic book stores and garage sales, comic book characters have hit the big time: movies, television, toys. No matter where you look there’s an Avenger, a Justice Leaguer, or some comic book themed movie or show you didn’t even realize was from a comic book (“Walking Dead” anyone?). Yep, it’s a good time to be alive…
Except when it isn’t.
One of the frequent complaints from fanboys and girls) is that whenever a character makes the leap from the printed page to the silver or small screen is that the character isn’t treated properly (just listen to the amount of complaining, grumbling, and skepticism surrounding the new Fantastic Four movie – much of it, in my opinion, justified). However, I think that there is a bigger problem and that’s when writers in the characters home medium (comic books) don’t seem to understand the characters that they are writing about either.
Now, some difference in interpretation of character is to be expected in comics. Most characters are handled by multiple writers and artists over many years, if not decades for the most popular, and let’s face it – times and expectations of the audience change. However, in some cases, the mishandling of the characters actually happens from the beginning. For example, let’s look at the last survivors of Krypton – Kal-El and Kara Zor-El aka Superman and Supergirl.
I’d be willing to wager that Superman’s origin is well known to the vast majority of the western, and possibly the rest, of the world. Rocketed as a baby by his parents, Jor-El and Lara, from the doomed planet Krypton, he was found by a kindly couple, the Kents, and raised as their own son in America’s midwest and grew up to be a reporter for a great metropolitan newspaper fighting for truth, justice and the American way.
Now a lot of this makes sense (in a comic book way). If Superman was raised on Earth in America’s heartland (Smallville, Kansas for those who don’t know) of course he has good old fashioned American values. And for several decades he was portrayed as pining away for the planet he never knew. Presumably, like the adopted child who never knew his parents he searched and did everything he could to embrace their culture without ever knowing it. This was sometime’s taken to extremes though and even dealt with in a wonderful story by Gerry Conway (I think) where Supergirl and the Kandorians (more survivors of Krypton…for a time there it appeared that only Jor-El and Lara actually died when Krypton exploded) go so far as to try and convince him that he is not actually Kryptonian and needed to stop obsessing about it. This plot was undone in part because they never came up with an explanation for Krypto (Superman’s dog) and other small loose ends. Okay, I can go with that…mostly. I actually prefer John Byrne’s interpretation that though Superman learned about Krypton’s society later in life he never really missed it – because he didn’t live it. Heck, for most of his formative years he didn’t even know where he was from!
My real issue is that Supergirl (Kara Zor-El by the way, not one of the other similar characters to be named Supergirl over the years, including a clone of Lana Lang who later was merged with a human being and became and angel…yeah, it’s complicated) has usually been portrayed as completely accepting her lot, loving people, and rarely if ever misses Krypton. The problem? To my memory every version of Kara Zor-El, including presumably the version who will be seen on CBS this fall, actually spent her formative years on Krypton! She was a teenager when sent to Earth by her father (Jor-El’s brother). She was not raised by humans, let alone in the American heartland. She is truly a stranger in a strange – and technologically primitive – land. Superman was the baby rescued when adopted. Supergirl is the refugee who’s world has been destroyed and thrown into a situation completely against her will.
To be fair, Supergirl was first created in what we would call a more innocent time when kids, not adults, actually were reading the comics. Her purpose was to not only expand the “Superman” brand (i.e. merchandising) but to draw in young girls to comic books so many of her early adventures involved romance (a trap that even Wonder Woman fell victim to, by the way).
My point in all this? Not sure I really have one. However, I think that as a writer it is important to pay attention to the origins of any character you might be writing about. Whether it is a play, a short story, novel or even comic book, you are better off if you don’t deviate from your core character without writing in a reason. And when it comes to movies about comic book characters it’s always my hope that the writers of the movie or television show remember what made a character popular for so many years. And for the writers in the comic book world to do the same,
The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog. Just some interesting information on the short life of this blog. Thanks to all who have followed along so far, there’s more to come in 2015!
Here’s an excerpt:
A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 660 times in 2014. If it were a cable car, it would take about 11 trips to carry that many people.