Gary James' Interview With The Munsters'
He's an actor. He's a recording artist. He's famous! He is Butch Patrick. Butch is best known for his portrayal of Eddie Munster in the CBS TV show The Munsters. That show ran from 1964 to 1966. We talked to Butch Patrick about his time on the show, his career before The Munsters, his recording days and what he's doing these days.
Q - People like Paul Peterson will say that child stars have a tough time transitioning from being a child actor to an adult actor. Did you have any problems?
A - Well, let me clarify that. Some do. Some don't. I'm a firm believer it's a case by case situation. A lot of people who aren't actors have a difficult time becoming adults in regular walks of life. I do think the music business makes it a little more difficult because of the nature of the attention one gets and the special treatment one can sort of get to become comfortable with. As far as myself, no, I grew up in the '60s. My transformation occurred in the summer of '69. I went down to Brazil for three months without a teacher, without a parent, and did a movie. My only job was to show up for work in the morning and after the cameras stopped rolling in the afternoon or evening, I was on my own to do what ever I wanted to do. So, I got into a lot of mischief. Drank. Smoked weed. Did all kinds of crazy things in the summer of '69 down in the southern hemisphere. When I came back, I continued to do such for the next 40 some odd years. Back then, the '60s, it was acceptable behavior to party, get high, and go out and do a lot of crazy things. Then the '70s rolled around and there was a lot of drug use going around again. I enjoyed that lifestyle and it continued to be sort of a problem for me for quite a while.
Q - It didn't interfere with your work, did it?
A - Well, actually I had stopped working in the early '70s. It was just something that I felt my heart wasn't really in it. They were happy to see me go and I was happy not to be working. I just decided to go to the beach and surf and do what I like to do. Go to car races and drag races.
Q - How did you make a living? Were the royalties from The Munsters paying the bills for you?
A - No. I had done a series in the summer of '71 called Lidsville, which was with Sid and Marty Kroft. It was 11 weeks of work. I made some pretty good money. It lasted the next five years from reruns. By the time I turned 25, I was pretty much broke. I was pretty smart. So, what I did was, I would open businesses and figure out ways to make money. My dad owned casinos. I would work in the casino business occasionally. Most of the time, I guess in the old days. I would be called a horse trader. I'd see an opportunity, make a business go. Go into another business and this and that.
Q - Did you get any money from the merchandising of The Munsters?
A - No. No money from the reruns and no money from the merchandise.
Q - I would have thought that would've been high on the list of contract negotiation.
A - Contracts before 1974, especially a standard contract, didn't cover those bases. Syndication didn't exist in the mid-' 60s and merchandising was an option for some of the adult actors. For a kid actor it was out of reach.
Q - Before The Munsters, you were a movie actor. Was doing a TV show a step down for you?
A - No. You gotta understand at 11, 12 years old, I had done a year of The Real McCoys TV series, I'd done a year of General Hospital TV series, I had done some movies, but basically most of my work was done in television and commercials, although I did do 17 movies, most of them before The Munsters.
Q - Auditioning for The Munsters, did you think it was a silly TV show or did that not enter into your mind?
A - It didn't really enter my mind. It was just something that kind of fell into my lap. They flew me in from Illinois. I did a screen test with Yvonne De Carlo. I put the makeup on and just kind of did my job and let the cards fall where they may. It turned out to be a popular show. I enjoyed it very much from the makeup and special effects standpoint. I thought it was a lot of fun to be around really cool things. The fact that I was on the Universal lot when I wasn't working on the show, I'd go explore. The entire back lot was my playground and my uncle used to supply horses to the westerns Wagon Train and The Virginian, not to mention the major movies that were being done there.
Q - You didn't need to hit the books, you were getting an education in real time.
A - Well, you hit the books for three hours a day and the rest of the time you could get some reality check. Even though it was a studio, there was some real stuff going on behind the scenes.
Q - The Munsters was a half hour show. How much time did you have to put into that show?
A - The typical time would be 8 o'clock for makeup and 9 o'clock on the set for me. Everybody else would be on the set by 8 o'clock and they'd usually do the first hour of shooting before I was even there. Sometimes I'd have to be there at seven to be on the set at eight. Then I would try to get most of my schooling out of the way by lunch. Then in the afternoon I would work from about one to five, depending, sometimes until six.
Q - Were you shooting four days a week on that schedule? Then on the fifth day you filmed?
A - Monday was a reading the script day. It was a very short day in the office of the producers. Tuesday was a blocking day for the director and the camera, maybe four hours. Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday were makeup days and filming.
A - And weekends were off?
A - Weekends were off.
Q - In the '80s you put out a couple of records under the name Eddie And The Monsters. What label was that on?
A - That was on the Rocshire label. That was actually the second go around for me. In 1971, '72 and '73 on the Metromedia label, we put out records as well with Sugarloaf. We did American Bandstand . In the '80s when MTV came on the air, we gave it another shot with a Rock band called Whatever Happened To Eddie, Eddie And The Monsters. We were really in the business to do Rock videos and we just used that as a vehicle to sort of showcase what we could do for a small amount of money.
Q - You were part of Sugarloaf?
A - No. Sugarloaf was my backup band.
Q - Eddie And The Munsters would probably have been the name to go with. I take it you couldn't use that name?
A - If it had been Eddie And The Munsters, then theoretically you would've had characters like The Munsters. Eddie And The Monsters, the premise was we were going to do a TV show where Grandpa had lost his power and went back to the old country and created The Monsters in the dungeon and we became a Rock band to pay the bills. That theory was it was Grandpa's creation for Monsters. So, Eddie And The Monsters as opposed to the characters of The Munsters.
Q - Did you tour with the band at all?
A - Nope. All we did was a studio version and we were the first unsigned act to be on MTV, which was kind of cool because they formed The Basement Tapes from that concept, knowing there must be a lot of other unsigned acts out there that are doing video production and have talent that just haven't secured a record deal yet. That's probably one of my proudest achievements, is the fact that we probably helped a lot of talents break into the music and video business.
Q - Why did The Munsters go off the air?
A - Well, it was a combination of several things. Ratings were suffering, which was always a big factor. We were greenlighted for a third season, but Fred and Al decided that they preferred... Al wasn't doing so well because the suit and makeup was really wearing thin on his physique and they wanted to go back to New York. The combination of the ratings and the color and the friction between them and the producers; they just decided to call it quits.
Q - You were talking earlier about the TV shows you appeared on. You were on The Monkees TV show. Do you remember that?
A - I did The Monkees' Christmas Show. I was in the eighth grade and that was a very big feather in my cap, to spend a week with The Monkees, because they were larger than life at the time.
Q - How do you make a living today?
A - Well, I buy and sell cars and send them to Australia. I do a lot of car shows. The Munsters were the first show to have a hotrod. Because of that, people ask you to come to the shows. It's a nice deal for me because not only do I get paid to be there to meet and greet, but I get a chance to canvas the countryside for cars to purchase and sell. That's one thing that I do. I'm working with the ink industry now. There's a line of Eddie Munster colored inks from Formula 51 and I also represent another company called Munster Mash, which is an ink removal system for the inkers and the tattoo artists. So, I'm doing the convention circuit with the tattoo industry, which is really cool. I have a haunted house in Missouri that my grandfather used to own, that I'm in the process of purchasing, that I lived in when I was in the eighth grade. I'm going to turn it into a haunted Bed And Breakfast.
Q - This is a real haunted house you are talking about?
A - Yeah. A real haunted house.
Q - That's been documented? Somebody's come in there?
A - Yeah. I've had two paranormal sweeps in their. There's 13 entities. My sister has actually seen the ghost. I haven't. My grandmother saw it. We are going to do a radio show out of this paranormal property and then I just got approached the other day about a show on the Discovery Channel to host a traveling around the country show featuring haunted attractions and paranormal stuff. So, it looks as though I may have a TV show. I am going to do the radio show for sure and the ink industry and conventions and personal appearances. And I'm doing a Munsters Memory book for the 50th anniversary of the show. September 24 (2014) there will be a book coming out featuring nothing but stories and fan appreciation of The Munsters.
Q - This radio show, will it be syndicated?
A - Right now, it probably will be a syndicated show because I turned 60 and it will be '60s music and the decade of the '60s. Because I'll be broadcasting from the haunted house, I may put a little bit of paranormal spin on to the whole thing, make it a midnight macabre show of sorts.
Q - You should come to the Syracuse Nationals if you are going buying and selling cars.
A - It looks as though I'll be in Syracuse. It's the 50th anniversary of The Munsters and a lot of people like the idea of bringing the Munster Coach. So, I should be at the Nationals in July (2014).
Q - Is that the original Munster Coach or a replica?
A - I have access to the original one, but the one I use most often is a replica.