Interview with Butch Patrick from TV’s The Munsters, Part II

Part II of my interview with Butch Patrick (November, 2013) runs touches on topics related to Butch’s illustrious acting career, when he first realized he was famous, and details about the upcoming The Munsters “coffin table” book that Butch is compiling.

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Me: Now, you’ve worked with some big names, obviously. Which of your acting jobs do you take the most pride from?

 

BP: I really loved The Phantom Tollbooth with Chuck Jones, you know, his only feature film, and having the chance to work with all of the voice over people I had grown to love through cartoons: Mel Blanc; Daws Butler; June Foray; Hans Conried…the people, the A-list voices that Chuck brought in for The Phantom Tollbooth was great. 

            I especially enjoyed doing The Monkees Christmas show because a 14-year old kid landing…that was the plum of the year for me was getting The Monkees because they were very large. I missed meeting The Beatles when they came on the set, but The Monkees, working with The Monkees for three days was very cool.

            I did some work at Disney I was very proud of, one was called The Young Loner and it was about a kid in the Depression. I worked with Edward Andrews and Kim Hunter, an Academy Award winner, and Frank Silvera, three major stars at the time. I was a kid who worked back and forth between the two camps, between the Frank Silvera and Kim Hunter camp, and then the Edward Andrews camp. I really enjoyed that. I was a big fan of Edward Andrews from his Twilight Zone work.

 

Me: Wow. I’m a big fan of Mel Blanc as a voice actor who did all the great cartoons that I thoroughly enjoyed.

 

BP: Right.

 

Me: When did you fully understand that you were a celebrity? What was the experience like when you realized you were someone that people knew?

 

BP: They sent me over to a mall, one of the first malls in America, the Thomas Mall in Phoenix, and they hired me to fly over and do an appearance for their grand opening. At that point in time I was by myself. I put the makeup on myself in the bathroom on the airplane. These were the old days where I think there was actually a prop we flew over, because it was just a short flight. I brought a gentleman along, his name was Bob Burns, and he was a gorilla expert, so he had this gorilla suit. My pet gorilla was the idea. But we got there and there were 6,000 people, mostly kids.

 

Me: Oh my gosh!

 

BP: That’s when I knew something was up. By the end of the day I had signed as many autographs as I possibly could, and after I got a rubber stamp because I never wanted to be caught in that situation again. That’s when I knew something special was going on. The fan mail was reaching several hundred letters a week and 6,000 people are showing up at our shopping mall openings. That’s a pretty good indicator that something good is there.

 

Me: Yeah, no kidding (laughing). Once you decided to stop acting, that was after roughly 10 to 12 years of acting experience, is that correct?

 

BP: Yeah, I was about 16 or 17.

 

Me: Did you find it hard to switch careers after being an actor for all of that time?

 

BP: No. I was never really an actor, I was a kid who could act. It wasn’t a calling, it was more a means to an end. I wanted to be a race car driver and I had this really good way to make money. When I got my money out of the bank at 19, I didn’t really have enough to campaign properly, so that kind of fell by the wayside.  I wound up going into the business my dad was in, which was gaming and gambling. I worked at that a little bit, then I spent my money. You know, it was the ‘60s. I was running around, smoking weed and doing stupid stuff like everyone else. My money kind of went by the wayside. Then I got back into acting a little bit. I went back in it for a few years because it was all I really knew, but I wasn’t in love with it. The people had moved on, and I wasn’t really as professional about it as I should have been. It was kind of a happy parting of the ways for both camps.

 

Me: In terms of careers that aren’t acting, I know you’ve dabbled in music and taken some other really interesting career tracks. What is the career you wish you still could pursue or wish you had pursued more than acting?

 

BP: I probably should have been the architect that I was going to be had I gone to college (laughing).  In the industry, though, in hindsight, I like to travel a lot and I think I could have been a good scout for a movie company because it takes a certain type of mindset to be able to read a script, understand how that script will transfer into real life, and understand what cities and towns work, what kind of legalities, the permits, how you work with the city’s fathers and all the people in place to make it acceptable, profitable, and affordable for a city to take on a production shoot. It takes a certain kind of mindset, and you’ve got to be able to read a script properly and look at a city and see what’s feasible, what’s not feasible, what will work and what won’t work. I think it would have been a good, unique little niche I could have probably been good at.

 

Me: It sounds like it would be a fun job.

 

BP: It’s a lot of work, but it’s interesting. It’s a unique situation that requires some finesse on one side and logic on the other side. You have to be able to read a script and be able to visualize, because what they want to do is they want to find existing buildings in existing towns they can use because it’s cheaper than building them. When you do that, you have to deal with the powers that be in the town to do it.

 

Me: You’ve got to be able to schmooze a bit, but also know the business side of it, it sounds like.

 

BP: Yes.

 

Me: In terms of reactions you’ve gotten over the years, I imagine it must be, at some point in your life, a little bit frustrating to be known as Eddie Munster instead of by your real name to your fans.

 

BP: No, not at all.

 

Me: Really? Wow, that’s awesome to hear.  What sort of reactions do you get from your fans?

 

BP: Good ones. Always lots of good ones. [For example] a guy’s got a hot rod or something to do with cars. He’s a George Barris [auto customizer who designed and built The Munster Koach], or he grew up loving the show. Everybody’s got something personal about the show. Really, that’s where the book [about The Munsters’ fans] comes into play with www.munstermemories.com which will come out September 24th, 2014, 50 years to the day the show first aired. It’s nothing but fan stories and it writes itself. I’ve got 775 stories right now, and I’m going to use about 169. It’s 13 chapters with 13 stories per chapter [The Munsters lived on 1313 Mockingbird Lane], and I’ll fill in around each chapter a bit to make the book about 250 pages. It’s going to be a coffin table book. I use those words instead of “coffee table”.

 

Me: (laughing)

 

BP: It’s going to be great. All it talks about is what the people who have come to the table have shared with me over the years about what The Munsters has meant to them.

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Keep tuned for the final installment of my interview with Butch Patrick!

 

 

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~ by Jennifer Dodge on January 26, 2014.

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