Interview: Butch Patrick Remembers The Munsters
Actor Butch Patrick talks about being Eddie Munster in the classic horror comedy TV series The Munsters
When the classic Universal monster movies of the 1930s and ’40s were licensed for television in the 1950s, the seeds were sewn for monster kid culture to thrive and, with the advent of the magazine Famous Monsters of Filmland, thrive it did. Suddenly, little boils and ghouls all across America were falling in love with Karloff, Lugosi and Chaney (Jr. and Sr.) and their silver scream visages were blasted across comic books, Halloween costumes and assorted merchandise.
Amidst all this monster mania, TV vets Alan Burns and Chris Hayward created what is now recognized as one of the planet’s most beloved entertainments, the first family of monster kid kind, The Munsters (1964-1966). Taking the familiar fright flick faces of Frankenstein, Dracula, The Wolfman and Dracula’s Daughter , The Munsters transformed them into a kind, loving and supportive all-American family. The joke being that while The Munsters celebrated all things macabre, to them the rest of the world was weird: they (including oblivious “normal” niece Marilyn) were the normal ones.
50 years later after the series ended its brief but hugely successful run, The Munsters is bigger than its ever been. On June 2-4, the Shock Till You Drop co-sponsored Falls Horror Fest will be bringing former child actor Butch Patrick – the cute kid who played werewolf lad Eddie Munster – to the show. Patrick is the link to real deal The Munsters history and a great guy who has owned his legacy and parlayed it into a fantastic adult career.
We connected with Butch yesterday to talk about his cast-mates Fred Gwynne (Herman), Al Lewis (Grampa), Yvonne De Carlo (Lilly) and all things Munster.
ComingSoon.net: First of all, I love The Munsters and now my kids love The Munsters. So thank you for being part of our lives…
Butch Patrick: I’m glad I could help!
CS: When did you first realize that The Munsters was striking a chord not only in America but the world?
Patrick: At the time we knew because it was popular and the ratings were great. But then it went off the air after 2 years, like a lot of shows back then did, and we really didn’t know until syndication was in full swing about 20 or 30 years later.
CS: Why only 2 years? It was a huge hit?
Patrick: It was a big hit! But the ratings did suffer a bit in the second year and Fred and Al wanted to go home and, well, things just turned out that way. It’s time was up, We did 70 episodes.
CS: There’s such a warmth about the show, like everyone really was a family. Were you treated well?
Patrick: Everyone was very nice to me. All of them. And the fact that the show was produced by the people who made 6 years of Leave it Beaver also added a lot to the nurturing environment.
CS: So, I guess you were pretty much a rock star in your school…
Patrick: Yeah, pretty much (laughs).
CS: Anyone ever give you a hard time for being Eddie?
Patrick: Oh sure, yeah, that too. But that kind of goes with the territory for these things.
CS: I love the 1966 movie Munster Go Home and it’s such a treat to see the cast in vivid technicolor. When you shot the show, did the make-up department paint Fred green and pay attention to color?
Patrick: Oh yeah, we were in full colored makeup even though it was a black and white show, because there was always people taking shots of us, publicity shots and behind the scenes pictures. I think they thought we would go to color in the third year, that would have been a natural progression. So instead we did the movie and called it quits.
CS: Was the movie shot on location in England?
Patrick: No…a lot of people ask me that and I always joke around and say that ‘yeah, we went over there on a cardboard boat’ (laughs). Making a feature was much different than making TV. There were less scenes per day and bigger scenes that you needed to prep for. The scope of everything is just bigger. It took 24 days to make which was huge for us.
CS: What’s the weirdest The Munsters merchandise you’ve seen in your travels?
Patrick: Oh goodness…The Munsters is the most heavily merchandised show of all time and I’ve seen a lot of stuff. The weirdest stuff isn’t really the merchandise, it’s the tattoos. It’s an honor but at the same time people sometimes get a bit overzealous with their fandom.
CS: I read an interview about Yvonne recently and the director said she would hide bits of dialogue around the set and attached to props to help jog her memory. And it added to the performance. Do you recall her doing that?
Patrick: No, not in The Munsters she wasn’t doing that. Maybe later in life. Because sometimes your memory starts slipping on you. But that’s a great idea, actually! I’ll have to remember that!
CS: Did you stay in touch with your TV family through the years?
Patrick: No, after the show ended, everyone went their own ways. But in the early ’80s I contacted Al Lewis and we became friends and I started attaching myself to the Munster name and brand. And then 10 years after that I started talking to Yvonne. I was actually a guest on The Vicki Lawrence Show where I was this surprise guest brought out for Yvonne and after that we became friends. I started going up and visiting her and she was somewhat of a recluse, living in North Los Angeles and I introduced her to this guy in Hollywood who would send her care packages, movies to watch and sort of get her back in the loop of Hollywood.
CS: How about Fred?
Patrick: Doing the TV movie The Munster’s Revenge was the last time I saw Fred and he was sort of an anti-Munster person so, it’s not that we wouldn’t have talked, but he just went on with his life.
CS: He had so many varied roles and yet at the end of the day, it will always be The Munsters that will serve as his epitaph.
Patrick: Totally. it’s good to be part of something that lasts forever, especially if it’s a comedy role that keeps making people smile.
CS: You have been vocal about your battles with addiction and I know that when you finally sobered up, nature gifted you with prostate cancer! You beat it. Are you still cancer free?
Patrick: Yeah absolutely! I went in about a year ago for some blood work and zero-zero-zero so we’re good!