Creeping in the Crypt with The Frank and Drac Show
The Haunted Cinema (THC) – Thanks for stopping by The Haunted Cinema. Ghastly and I are getting ready to host a blood drive (we need to restock the concession stand) and were hoping that you could give us some advice on how to handle reluctant donors.
Drac – Well, if it’s a guy you just drug his wine and when he’s unconscious you suck out all of his blood. That’s the easiest way for me to do it if the “donor” is a man. It avoids any awkward moments. It worked out pretty well for me with Jonathan Harker and Renfield. And it’s safe for me to drug their wine, I won’t drink it by mistake because I never drink — — — wine. But if it’s a woman I tend to be a bit more sensitive. I look into her eyes and whisper sweet nothings to her while putting her under my spell. Then once she is under I uncover her throat and dig in!
THC – Before we get to talking about your show, it’s obvious that you have a love for the classic monsters. Do you consider yourself a Monster Kid? Where you a part of the Monster Craze of the 50’s or 60’s? How did that passion come to be?
Drac – Of course I’m a Monster Kid! Let’s assume for a moment I had been a kid in, oh, let’s say the 1960s for example, I would say I was hooked from the first time I saw the Aurora monster model kits on the shelves of a Woolworth’s store. I would have seen that great painting of Dracula by James Bama on that kit’s box and became obsessed with Drac! Then came Famous Monsters of Filmland #28 with a cover painting of Bela Lugosi in a test makeup for Island of Lost Souls and the deal was sealed. Aurora model kits, Spook Stories trading cards, Soaky bubble bath, buttons, wallets, Marx plastic figures, Jaymar puzzles; the Universal Monsters were hotter in the 1960s, due to television airings of the movies, than they had been when their films were new. So, if I were to pretend, I had been a child in the 1960s and not a 500 year old vampire I would imagine it would have gone something like that.
THC – What are some of your favorite horror classics? Do you have a favorite actor form these films?
Drac – I love all the Universal monster movies from 1923’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame through The Creature from the Black Lagoon movies of the 1950s. My favorites would include The Bride of Frankenstein and The Black Cat, but my all-time favorite has to be Dracula (1931). Bela Lugosi did such a great job playing me! I first came to America when Universal hired me to act as an advisor on that film while it was being shot in 1930. I think it’s a shame, in retrospect, that Dracula didn’t get any Academy Award recognition. The film has held up and is still being viewed and revered in the 21st Century, what other film from 1931 has proven to be that popular? Well, Frankenstein, of course, but both films are still popular because they set the benchmark for the genre.
THC – If you could spend some time with that actor, is there anything that you would want to find out?
Drac – I would want to ask Bela Lugosi if he regretted not staying in Hollywood to appear in Dracula’s Daughter instead of going to England to shoot The Phantom Ship. I would have loved to have seen him reprise playing me in Dracula’s Daughter.
THC – You were the host of The Frank and Drac show that aired in Cleveland, Oh. Tell us how that show came to be? How long did it last?
Drac – After the horror craze died down the advising job in motion pictures dried up a bit. To make ends meet and supplement my income I moonlighted as a Chippendale Dancer. While on tour in 1987 we got stranded in Cleveland and I sucked up my pride and took a job as a custodian at Channel 19 in Shaker Heights, Ohio. Of course, sucking up my pride was a lot easier to deal with than sucking in my gut while I was dancing — and it was less degrading. I always felt so objectified when those women would shove those dollar — errr, ten dollar — bills into my trousers with their grubby, sweaty, hands. Well, I wasn’t at the station long until I realized I could take over the dump, and I did. I hired an actor to play Frankenstein’s Monster and we went on the air on Halloween Night, 1987.
THC – Besides showing a film, did you do skits as well? What were some of your favorites?
Drac – I had a lot of fun shooting the sketch material for Frank and Drac. Among my favorites would be The Seventh Seal, which was a Bergman lampoon that perhaps only real movie lovers could appreciate, and Dancers. Dancers was a hoot to shoot; at the end of the sketch, we parody the scene from An Officer and a Gentlemen where Louis Gossett is demanding Richard Gere’s DOR (Dropped on Request). That dialogue tickled my funny bone and I think we had to shoot it at least a half dozen times because I kept laughing. My top favorite sketch would probably be the one we shot with motion picture director Wes Craven when he did our show. I wrote the sketch as if it was taking place in an A Nightmare on Elm Street movie. Craven was a joy to have on the set and had fun with us and treasured his Frank and Drac coffee mug. And until the day he passed Craven remained one of the big names in Hollywood who would take my call whenever I phoned him.
THC – Did you write your own material or did you have a crew working with you that participated?
Drac – Frank and Drac wrote their own material. Frank, Allen Christopher, wrote much of the material for about the first month we were on the air. But between you and me, I didn’t think it was funny. So I started writing the lion’s share of the material after that and I think we hit some high notes with it. And the material that Frank contributed after that improved as well with bits like The Drac Rap and some funny prop driven segments like the Frank Fix It with the white mouse. And, the mouse wasn’t harmed and ended up being adopted by Frank’s cousin who bought it a $50 hamster habitat where it lived out its life in a mouse’s paradise. I’ve been amazed at the reaction some of the material is getting over three decades later! Several of the sketches were shown at my induction into The Horror Host Hall of Fame at the Horrorhound Weekend in Cincinnati and the people attending the induction roared at the sketches. It was very gratifying to hear their laughter so many years after the shows were shot.
THC – Cleveland seems to have been “Ground Zero” for Horror Hosts from the 60’s thru the 80’s, with not only Frank and Drac, but Ghoulardi, The Ghoul, Big Chuck and Hoolihan, later Big Chuck and Lil’ John, and Super Host and even today there are hosts active in the area such as The Mummy and the Monkey, and Son of Ghoul. Why do you think Cleveland was such a hot-bed for these shows when many areas of the country had none?
Drac – Cleveland fans are the best fans in the world, that’s why it’s a hotbed of horror hosts! How else could you explain the success of the Cleveland Browns from 1999 until this past year? Cleveland fans are loyal. Look at how fondly Ghoulardi is remembered 53 years after he left Cleveland for Hollywood. 53 years! And many of the stations retained their on-air talent for the long haul which built strong name brands.
Channel 19 had no loyalty to anybody and did not. Even today that station has trouble retaining the best talent in its news department. Consider Big Chuck who had done sketch material with Ghoulardi and stepped into his shoes, or one of them, when he and Bob “Houlihan” Wells took over Ghoulardi’s time slot in 1966. Chuck is still on the air at Channel 8 today. WUAB aired Super Host for years and the same is true of WKBF and The Ghoul. And even today newcomers like The Mummy and The Monkey are developing a strong fan base, which they deserve because they’re funny, flashy, and full of high-octane energy! So I think the answer in short would be that the horror hosts developed an audience because, again, Cleveland fans are the best fans in the world.
THC – What was the first movie that you hosted on your show? What was your favorite film? Which was your least favorite?
Drac – I think the first film we aired was a Halloween or Friday the 13th movie, I can’t really remember because when we aired on Halloween night, I seem to recall that it was a multi movie event.
My favorite movies that we aired were the previously mentioned Dracula and The Bride of Frankenstein. And to credit Channel 19’s program director, Dick Sullivan, when he told us he had purchased The Universal Monsters library for us to air I convinced him that we should air the movies in chronological order so that they played out like a single story. We ran the major Universal movies in order from Dracula through 1945’s House of Dracula. I don’t think any other horror hosts had done that up until the time Frank and Drac did. Which was my least favorite movie? I think The Cobra Woman was pretty bad.
THC – Often Horror Hosts, besides being on the air showing classic films, are active in the community as well. Did you do promotional appearances? Do any stick in your mind that you would like to share?
Drac – Frank and Drac were constantly doing personal appearances in both Cleveland and Akron. They started before we even aired our first show with mall appearances all over the area. We also appeared at fund raisers like Take a Broadcaster to Lunch and the Celebrity Waiter event. We did bridal shows, police variety shows, and right before we were canceled The National Rib Cook Off. We did so many personal appearances while we were on the air that The Cleveland Plain Dealer’s television writer, Tom Feran, wrote that Frank and Drac would show up for any event larger than a two car collision.
The National Rib Cook Off was fun because we were a bit of an opening act for Mark Summers who was hosting Fox’s big children’s show, Double Dare. That appearance was on a Saturday afternoon and after the performance we were placed in the gazebo at the Cuyahoga County Fairgrounds to sign autographs, Summers was on one side and Frank and Drac were on the other. I looked over my shoulder at one point and saw that Summers had about six kids in line waiting to get his autograph. Frank and Drac went through an entire packet of 500 8x10s. It was a lot of fun to see how far our line stretched out in front of the gazebo.
THC – Horror films are hot today. Many films have lately been Box Office smashes; however, the horror films of today are not the same as those classic films. Audiences are routinely treated to over-the-top gore and scares. Is there a danger that the old films will be forgotten as the Monster Kid generation gets older and passes on?
Drac – No. No matter what shape horror films take in the future I think that there will always be fans that will discover and latch onto classic horror films. Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff will be around long after most contemporary horror films are forgotten.
THC – In your opinion, how do we keep interest in these classic films alive?
Drac – Show the films to kids. Kids are an incredible networking tool. And kids are still fascinated by Dracula, Frankenstein, The Wolf Man, The Mummy, and The Creature from the Black Lagoon. One tool that isn’t fully utilized is Universal’s theme parks. If Disney owned the monsters they’d be marketed as fiercely as Mickey Mouse. Make kids aware of the old monster movies, show them one or two, and you will build a new generation of Monster Kids!
THC – Recently you were inducted into The Horror Host Hall of Fame. What does this honor mean to you? How important is the Horror Host Hall of Fame?
Drac – The induction into The Horror Host Hall of Fame was a real eye opener for me. I had no idea that there were still Frank and Drac fans out there. It was very touching to be remembered thirty years after we left the air. I have found out after the fact that Frank and Drac had remained cult figures with horror fans and that they would regularly gather in their rooms at horror conventions after hours to watch our old shows. Again, who knew? If they had invited me, I would have probably joined them and done the material for them live!
How important is The Horror Host Hall of Fame? To begin with it contains a lot of revered names in the field from Vampira on. I was very flattered when I realized that Vampira hit the air 65 years ago in 1954. There are 210 television markets in the United States and most of them had horror movie hosts over that 65 year period. Many television markets could have had multiple hosts over the years and in cities like Cleveland you could have several running concurrently. So it touched me to realize that out of all of that huge talent pool my certificate was #89, which meant I had cracked The Hot 100! But on a grander scale The Horror Host Hall of Fame is important because it memorializes a diversion, and diversions are a good thing. Theatrically I always found it very gratifying that my work allowed my audience to momentarily escape theirs.
THC – Did you have a favorite Horror Host? Who was it, and why were they special?
Drac – I think my favorite horror host would have to be Cleveland’s Big Chuck. Chuck is a class act, a truly nice and decent man, and with a 53 year career on television is a broadcasting legend. Then, of the new breed I adore The Mummy and The Monkey who provided a great video inducting me into The Horror Host Hall of Fame.
THC – Do you interact with the other Cleveland Hosts that are still around?
Drac – I don’t interact with many of them often. I don’t even interact with Frank/Allen Christopher, for legal reasons, but that’s another story. But I have formed a friendship The Mummy and The Monkey over the with past couple of years and I made some new horror host friends at The Horrorhound Weekend where The Horror Host Hall of Fame Induction occurred, so that may change.
THC – Joe Bob Briggs just made a comeback on the Shudder Channel, and interest in Horror Hosts seems to be rising. Any chance of a revival of your show?
Drac – There has been some interest in bringing Drac back to horror film hosting. I would love to dust off the cape and revive the act and I’m currently considering what would be the best way to do it. Do you have any suggestions? Does anybody?
THC – How can people find you? Do you do any appearances?
Drac – We’ll see if this old vampire finds his sea legs again. If I find a forum anything is possible and I may even show up at a Bar Mitzvah or two. Remember how comics used to joke about how they appeared at Bar Mitzvahs? Drac did that once! It was great! No crosses, just Stars of David everywhere! Until that time folks can stay in touch with me on the Facebook page that my personal handler, The Countess Stefanie, started called The Official Frank and Drac Fan Page. We’d love to have everybody who is reading this join the ranks on the page!
Thank you for taking an interest in conducting this interview with me! I’ve enjoyed it! And please tell your readers here at The Haunted Cinema that they can become members of The Drac Pack by visiting The Official Drac Fan Page on Facebook and joining our group. We have a lot of fun there!