My pop was the strong silent type. He was stoic. He was fearless. He was fair…Growing up in the Bronx he would pronounce things like Toilet Paper as Terlit Paper and Oil as Erl. He had been a marine in the Korean War. He worked two jobs most of his life until a heart condition knocked him down permanently. Mom was a mix of Sarah Bernhardt and Blanche DuBois. She was an incredible painter and a frustrated actress who did local Theater and sang a bit like Ethel Mermen which brought about a lot of wrath on me as a kid because the neighbors would taunt me about it. She always left the kitchen door open and would bellow out show tunes while making lunch or cleaning the house. I would be harassed relentlessly about it until I moved away from the neighborhood.
Me, I was terrorized by the neighborhood kids for being different. Not different like weird in a serial killer way. I didn’t light things on fire or have a fascination with taxidermy. No, I was normal in that regard. I just wasn’t mainstream like them. And I was very very sensitive. They smelled it on me like fresh blood to a shark.
They tortured me endlessly. One such person even locked me in her basement for what seemed like an eternity, although it was probably no more than a few hours. It’s not like I was Stephanie Powers at the mercy of Tallulah Bankhead in Die Die My Darling or anything but still as a child, that was traumatic. That’s why I gravitated toward the misunderstood monster. So what if he was greenish? hairy, 50 feet tall, and eating tourists. He had feelings, didn’t he? You gotta eat don’t ya?
Mom and Pop never treated me like a freak, even though I was obsessed with monsters and creepy tales and the supernatural etc. They nurtured my imagination and allowed me to explore my creativity and my otherness. I’ll always be grateful to them for that. They gave me my piano when I was 8 years old. They encouraged me to play for their friends and anyone who would listen. Even the plumber. They were very proud of their pretty little monster girl. It made me kind and sympathetic. Thank god they understood that about me and didn’t force me to roller skate or become a cheerleader. Yikes! And I did play with dolls, I was just less interested in Barbi and more into action figures and Aurora Models of Frankenstein and Wolf Man.
One of Pop’s jobs was working for a printer. He worked the presses late at night and would often go on deliveries to the local Stationery and Candy Stores on Long Island. There’s nothing really like that anymore. Just 7/11’s and Gas Station Mini marts. But I am sure there are those who will remember the small mom-and-pop stationery stores that carried all your needs. At least Whalens did. My pop would often take me on his route and buy me the latest issue of Forest J Ackerman’s Famous Monsters Of Filmland. I’d get a package of SweetTarts and perhaps the latest DC comic with Iron Man or The Flash! These little excursions meant the world to me. My pop never complained that I was not doing girlie things or that I might have been morbidly preoccupied with creatures with 1,000.000 eyes or Mad Doctors and such!
He just loved me and let me be. He even put up with my taking his hammer and tools to build the space stations out of boxes, putting on knobs and dials where ever I could find loose odds and ends around the house. This I would endeavor in the basement. Oh, he’d get a little annoyed if I’d forget to put things back in his workbench, but he never said, go put on a dress and stop acting like Dr. Pretorius!
Although I don’t think he would have known who that was, more like Gary Cooper is like it. And that’s cool with me!
My folks never put constraints on me. They would let me stay up late and watch Chiller Theater or Alfred Hitchcock Presents or Thriller. And when the latest Hammer Horror, 70’s cult Film or Drive-In movie came out, they would take me. I spent so many balmy Saturday afternoons in the cool dark movie theater enraptured by the double bill’s offering. I saw Rosemary’s Baby and The Mephisto Waltz at 9 years old. They were released as a double feature. They had a lot of double features back then. Nothing like today. Back then I would see every horror movie there was to see. On television, Movie Theaters, and Drive-In Theatre. My imaginary world often collided with my waking life.
I could always count on my folks to give me access to the dream world that was horror and sci-fi. It was my salvation and my escape. They were my muse of a sort. I carry those impressions with me still. I’ve written music because of it. I’ve learned to cope because of it. It gave me a unique perspective on life, which I think is very characteristic of classic horror movie fans.
On the weekends I would watch cartoons like The Groovy Ghoulies or shows like Lost In Space. I’d sketch superheroes and read true stories from Hans Holzer about ghosts all over the world. I had a subscription to Fate Magazine. I had toys like Cootie that bore a resemblance to the Zanti Misfits from The Outer Limits. I’d build Aurora Models of the Universal Monsters and sometimes, I’d put the chair against the basement door when no one was home. I believed in things that lurked in the dark. But I welcomed them as long as they were on the television screen or on a page. This was just a bit of my childhood on Warren Drive. This was where dreams were made. And visions became clear. On Warren Drive…