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CATCH UP WITH MUNSTERBUTCH PATRICK IS LAUGHING ALL THE WAY TO THE BLOOD BANK

Onetime child actor Butch Patrick, best known to three generations of TV viewers as little Eddie Munster, thoughtfully examines an old publicity photo. Taken some 25 years ago, the shot features Patrick in a typical Munsteresque pose of the period: Decked out in wolfboy makeup and clad in his trademark Little Lord Fauntleroy get-up, the lycanthropic lad flashes fangs (actually his own eyeteeth) at the camera while clutching Woof-Woof, his omnipresent wolfman doll.

"A friend of mine recently told me, `You know, with you carrying that doll, it would have been real easy for you to come across as being a little sissy,'" says the 37-year-old Patrick during a visit to the Valley last month. "Instead, my friend told me, `You came off like a regular kid. You must have been a hell of an actor.'" Although there hasn't been much demand for Patrick's dramatic talents in years, the former kid performer can thank his lucky stars he spent his wonder years schlepping around with that doll, which the Universal prop department fashioned out of a stuffed monkey from Toys R Us. Patrick keeps the wolf from his door by peddling limited-edition replicas of the doll at personal appearances around the country. He's a partner in a Glendale company that manufactures the collector's item.

"Rather than pay Butch a flat fee, he takes the doll wherever he goes and we split the net profits fifty-fifty," explains Jim Madden, the Glendale entrepreneur who bankrolled the dolls. "That makes him a partner and seems to work out better for both of us." Even though only one hundred dolls were manufactured, Patrick still has his work cut out for him--the pricey playthings cost $1,000 apiece. The pair has reportedly sold about 33 dolls--each accompanied by a "Munster Pack" including a certificate of authenticity and autographed candid photos of Patrick. When Patrick makes a television appearance with one of the dolls, the actor signs a sworn statement that that very doll appeared on such and such TV program.

So who's willing to shell out a grand for what is, after all, merely a copy of a minor hand prop from an old TV series?

"Collectors, fans of the shows, nostalgia buffs, people like that," answers Patrick, explaining that one of the dolls is on display at a TV-themed restaurant in Danbury, Connecticut, where he was hired to sign autographs. According to Patrick, the eatery also features his old Eddie Munster outfit, which the cafe's owner picked up at a Christie's auction for $5,200. "I like to do these appearances every other weekend," claims Patrick, who often appears in tandem with 81-year-old Al Lewis, the actor who portrayed Grandpa. "You go to these towns, you have a good time, you meet some people and you get paid. I have the best of both worlds. I can show up at these things and get a good response, yet I don't have to worry about dodging people when I walk down the street." Patrick, who lives in Austin, Texas, when not working the autograph-hound circuit, found himself in the doll biz about a year ago, after selling the original Woof-Woof to Jim Madden for an undisclosed price. Madden, who operates the doll business as a sideline to his Chaparral Speedway in east Phoenix, may well be the Valley's biggest Munster fan. In addition to the original Woof-Woof (now residing in a glass museum case in Madden's den), the collector's Munsterabilia includes videotape copies of Munster episodes, posters, masks, scripts and the piece de resistance--Eddie Munster's customized solid-chain StingRay bicycle that appeared in one episode of The Munsters.

Although it's been nearly 25 years since he last donned the woolly widow's peak and pointed ears that characterized his most famous role, Patrick is still Eddie, willing and able to cash in on his long-ago Munster fame.

Although it now seems that the series ran forever, actually only seventy episodes were produced. Faced with a then-monstrous budget for a sitcom, so-so ratings and an increasingly unhappy cast, Universal decided to bury The Munsters just two years after its fall '64 debut.

Like his fellow actors, Patrick wasn't upset about being on the receiving end of the ax: With the possible exception of Marilyn (the show's token "human"), the cast had long since grown disenchanted with schlepping around in Munster drag all day.

"I was in the makeup department about an hour each day," reports Patrick, who got off relatively easy. Fred Gwynne's cosmetic odyssey to Herman Munster took more than two hours in the makeup chair, followed by a full day of wearing heavy boots and stifling padding. Yvonne DeCarlo, meanwhile, was plagued with frequent headaches from wearing her thirty-pound Lily wig. "Fred wanted out," Patrick recalls. "Yvonne wanted out. [Producers] Bob Mosher and Joe Connelly had just come off Leave It to Beaver, so they didn't need the money. Then there was a big discussion about whether or not the next season would be shot in color. The bottom line was that everyone was just so tired we said `To hell with it. Let's quit.'"

After a halfhearted last hurrah--eager to recoup some of the show's production costs, the studio released the quickie movie Munster, Go Home--Universal laid The Munsters to rest in 1966.

"I wasn't particularly bummed when the show was canceled," remembers Patrick. No wonder. As the only member of the cast who wasn't seriously typecast, he continued performing for another seven years--ironically landing the one-shot role of Pugsley Addams in a 1971 revival of The Addams Family, The Munsters' one-time TV rivals.

"I was making good money for the era," reports Patrick, who pulled down $650 a week during the height of his Munster fame. "Because I'd worked from the time I was seven until I was nineteen, I'd saved up quite a bit. I was frugal, so I moved to the beach, hung out and surfed for a long time." Eight or nine years, to be more exact. And by the time he returned from the shore, he found he was pretty much washed up as a performer.

Perhaps because he was getting a little long in the fang, Patrick didn't reprise the role of Eddie in The Munsters' Revenge, a 1981 TV movie. A couple of years later, when he cut a record that asked the musical question "Whatever Happened to Eddie?," few record buyers stuck around for the answer. His non-Munster projects have fared no better: In the mid-Eighties, he lost a bundle investing in a failed pilot for a TV show called The Great American Talent Hunt. His last acting gig was a cameo in Scary Movie, a low-budget horror film due out later this month. While it seems he can't get arrested in Hollywood these days, he found Chicago police were considerably more obliging several months ago. Following a scuffle with a limo driver, Patrick and another man were charged with robbing the chauffeur of $130 in early November. Patrick, who has entered a "not guilty" plea, blames his alleged partner in crime, a fellow he'd just met in a bar. "If it hadn't been me and it hadn't happened around Halloween, this thing would never have gone to court," he says. "The only one who's getting robbed in this whole thing is me--by my lawyers."

He keeps the wolf from the door by peddling limited-edition replicas of the doll at personal appearances around the country.

So who's willing to shell out a grand for a copy of a minor hand prop from an old TV series? Yvonne DeCarlo was plagued with frequent headaches from wearing her thirty-pound wig. While it seems he can't get arrested in Hollywood these days, he found Chicago police were more obliging several months ago.

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Dewey Webb