Bela Lugosi At Home --- Part 2
This man fairly reeks with style, doesn’t he? Lugosi's pipe rack is so utterly cool, it makes you want to take up the habit just so you can erect such a display. And that fireplace! They may all talk about a roaring fireplace, but this one really roars! I wouldn’t stand too close, Bela, especially in that devastating lounging robe you may well have borrowed from Karloff’s wardrobe designer for The Black Cat. Those are admittedly the kind of shoes that would have gotten a teenage boy beaten up at school, but Bela wears them with such panache, don't you think? Love that vase too. Could Colin Clive’s ashes be in there? Did Bela claim them? By the way, it was noted historian Greg Mank who uncovered that hitherto unknown fact about Clive that we mentioned the other day. He researched it for his outstanding book, Hollywood’s Maddest Doctors, and we got a very nice e-mail yesterday in which he informs us that he’s revising it for a forthcoming edition. Keep us posted, Greg. We’ll want that book! Meanwhile, check out Bela sitting on that massive trunk. Maybe he doesn’t want the photographer looking in there. Did they ever find Judge Crater, by the way? These two shots side by side give us a nice look at that section of the room. Wouldn’t it have been great to visit Bela in such cool digs? Boris Karloff was great to his fans, but they say Bela was downright effusive. He’d get paid for White Zombie, or some such thing, then blow the whole check on a slap-down meal for all his pals. None of that British reserve like you know who, Bela would fire up a stogie in one of those little Hungarian joints he loved, and have the whole place spellbound with stories of a hardscrabble life in the Old Country. Even when he went on the skids in the fifties (and boy, did this poor guy have a rough time then), he was, well, indomitable. Despite being mired in monstrosities like Bela Lugosi Meets A Brooklyn Gorilla and Bride Of The Monster, this man lit up the room. There were a group of teenage boys in Bela’s neighborhood, all devoted fans, that used to drive him to the grocery store, help out around his (by then modest) apartment, that sort of thing. According to their memories, he was great company. Still the consummate host and great reconteur. One night he took the boys on a tour of all his old Hollywood domiciles, striding up to the door of each and announcing his presence. All the current residents were thrilled to invite him in. Now this was just before Lugosi had himself voluntarily committed to the State Hospital for drug rehab. He’d gotten hooked on pain meds years before after some injury or another, and now he was making a valiant effort to get the monkey off his back. Have you ever seen that priceless L.A. news footage of Bela exiting the facility after his treatment period? The nursing staff is all lined up outside the door to say goodbye. You can tell they absolutely love this guy. He’s shaking hands with each one, time-honored cigar in hand, making the occasional theatrical gesture for effect, leaning in close to each well-wisher to express his appreciation. Honestly, you could cry watching this. He’s cheerful and optimistic, but here’s this damned reporter with rude questions right off the bat about Lugosi’s marital separation. The first cold splash of a cruel world just as he’s preparing to re-enter it. If Bela were leaving that hospital today, I wonder how many fans would be waiting that grew up with him and revere the man still. Thousands, I’d say. No vintage star has a more devoted following than Bela Lugosi. No one deserves it more.