What Is to Become of Princess Dracula?
By the summer of 1997, the year that marked the 100th anniversary of Bram Stoker’s celebrated novel, I had been portraying Dracula through dance for almost a quarter of a century! I started by creating a 3-act dance version of the novel but could not get additional dancers for my cast. Finding myself alone, I met historians – world Dracula authorities Radu Florescu and Raymond McNally; I read their research. I educated myself thoroughly on the original Dracula, aka Vlad Tepes; creating additional solo dances depicting his real story; I did not squander time or attention on the vampire. From 1977 to 1982 I appeared on local TV in 19 states plus Montreal, Canada. I researched the period costumes and re-created four for the Dracula Fashion Show, first presented in 1982. I appeared in comic book/science fiction conventions in major U.S. cities. Some performances were in conjunction with milestone anniversaries of either the novel or a Dracula movie. Several were on anniversaries of real-life incidents. I sent copies of extra-special events’ programs to Drs. Florescu and McNally; I relied on them to circulate my information among the appropriate VIP’s and influentials. I contacted publications whose job it was to be aware of new achievements, especially apparent “firsts.” I had a Romanian-born pen pal in Phoenix, Arizona. If anyone wanted to call me Dracula with an honorific title, I emphasized Princess because of Vlad’s real-life title.
But I also suffered many mortal blows.
My family was deeply disappointed in me. My mother accused me of “glorifying an evil
character” and “setting him up to be God… it’s un-Christian.” My father claimed that whenever a coworker spoke to him about Dracula and me, in the same breath, “I break out in a cold sweat!” At one time that a new school year was about to start, my father insisted that two of my brothers had confided their fear of being hounded about me by the other students. He said that upon answering a few phone calls, the callers stammered and choked in asking for me; they were men (up to some sinister purpose?) astonished and surprised that another man, not a woman, had answered. My mother “hit below the belt” with a question “What makes you think you’re good enough, or qualified, to perform in public at all?” She also knocked any newspaper write-ups I received; she hollered that I was indiscreet in my choice of words. Even in time when I had my own apartment, and over time was written up and photographed – by regional and far – distant publications – in a number of topics and costumes other than Dracula, my mother still had
somehow found fault with the results and castigated me accordingly. Even though each additional time I was more conscientious in my choice of words and topics, my mother still was not satisfied. My family refused to consider me as a person in my own right, no matter what my age.
Several performances were outdoors in broad daylight, in Philadelphia’s John F. Kennedy Plaza. TV – news cameras filmed me in action. But when I was shown on TV later those same days, the commentators jeered: “We’ve seen some weird acts during this (U.S.) bicentennial (1976), but this is by far the battiest! …that suave Transylvanian charmer… she’ll stick her fangs in your neck! …She works for… full-time, but she doesn’t hang upside-down by her knees or sleep in a coffin after drinking a pint of blood at night.” What snide remarks! But like my brothers’ alleged confidings to my father, I never heard them myself; I received the information second-hand!
Once I auditioned for a dance festival to be held at Philadelphia’s Annenberg Center. The judges were distinguished New York critics; they had to become aware there was a formidable dancing Dracula. But their reviews were so cruel and ruthless that I might as well have been butchered and mutilated, while still alive, by Jack the Ripper, with words instead of knives!
I tried, in the beginning, for guest spots on the nationwide TV late-night talk shows. Instead a regional program offered me an opportunity to be together with Dr. McNally! Our objective was to pay tribute to Dracula on the day that marked exactly 500 years since his death! But then the top brass double-crossed us! I was badly shaken and depressed for weeks afterward.
Another Dracula buff, Esther, who pledged to be my life-long and faithful friend, also double-crossed me.
Agents or managers I had to have according to protocol neglected me or engaged me in degrading events before uncultured, ill-mannered clientele. I was told I should be a member of Equity, a union meant for dancers; but it granted membership only to artists who already had performance contracts; one could not obtain these contracts unless he/she already was a member.
The Philadelphia Chapter of the March of Dimes held a Dracula Lookalike Contest in 1978, in search of a mascot for a haunted house in conjunction with Halloween. I was excellent as both sides of the man; but I finished second by a hair to a “vampire” who was fat, lame in one leg, on crutches, and comical.
Two Philadelphia blacks, biological brothers, formed a company of performers with apparent unusual talents. But one night they put on a TV telethon to promote a glow-in-the-dark safety button. My performance (not Dracula) opened the program; I followed with an integral sales pitch. But as the evening wore on, the pitches grew worse in terms of dignity. Each additional pitch was slightly more vulgar and degenerate than the one just before it. Finally, the advertiser was joking about his otherwise naked baby wearing buttons all over the back of its diaper! I screamed and ran out of the room crying. The brothers’ would-be Friday-night series was soon cancelled.
I taught interpretive dance at a Montessori school in my hometown. There were about a dozen students ages six to twelve. Besides dancing in general, I taught popular characters and holiday themes. The first December after I started, my students did a Christmas recital for the school’s younger students. But near the end of my second year, the principal unexpectedly called me into her office and wielded a copy of the regional newspaper’s Sunday magazine. The issue had a photo of me in full Vlad Tepes regalia on the front cover! Some parent had found it and turned it in to the principal. I pointed out that the photo and issue were six years old. But the woman seemed not to know beyond the obvious about Vlad; I had to debunk the myths and explain the true story. The reader also needs to learn and remember that not once had I said the name Dracula, not one word about him, or one word about my dance portrayals to students, faculty, or principal. Neither had I once involved my students in Dracula-themed dancing, let alone dances from my Stoker ballet. Nevertheless, I was fired at the end of my second year; I have not taught dancing since.
In the spring of 1987, it was my second time in a New York City variety show, Beyond Vaudeville. The host was Al Lewis, who had played Dracula i.e., Grandpa, in The Munsters. The year also marked the 90th anniversary of Bram Stoker’s novel. I made sure to be as serious and scary as possible; the audience responded well. But only 10 minutes later, two comedians satirized him. When they returned to the back room, I confronted them Vlad-style, ready to lunge, my stake pointed at them! “You Dracula exploiters! I ought to skewer you right here and now!” The comedians recoiled; a couple of security agents stood by. I wrathfully reprimanded the comedians and their routine for having undermined all the trouble I had gone through to leave a lasting serious and shudderful impression. I put down my stake; I meant to scare them only (they deserved it), never to jab them. Security saw no further action or presence was needed.
Though I had contacted cultural and special-interest publications about my topic, use of dance, and modeling historically re-created garments, the newspapers/magazines shortchanged or ignored me. Dance Magazine, especially, was unpardonable because its job was to be on the lookout for and publicize apparent “firsts.” A second unforgivable publication was Famous Monsters of Filmland; it always could afford to glorify vintage horror movies and deify the lead actors, even the “monsters.” When I was in a Philadelphia – Las Vegas double header celebrating the 50th anniversary of Bela Lugosi’s movie, I was ignored.
Refusal to acknowledge me by these crucial publications brought a disaster in the autumn of 1986. I found out that someone else had created a dance version of Stoker’s novel; a dance group agreed to it and performed it! I had been told in the beginning that Dracula was “too morbid,” and my group-dance version of the novel was rejected. Would this rival version, its creator, producers, and cast be lauded as “firsts” and put on top of the world as I had not been? Would I be forced to give up dancing Dracula? This rival ballet is a constant threat to me, even today.
Two publications in New Orleans, LA and Glastonbury, CT professed interest in my case; their publicizing it would make a crucial difference. I sent both of them copies of my most informative papers. I never heard from either publication again!
At the beginning of 1992 I was contacted by a New York based television program I had never heard of. The caller claimed it was nationwide and one of the highest-rated; its creator-host was well-known on radio (I rarely listen to radio; if I did, it was to classical music only). The show had discovered me via Beyond Vaudeville. The creator wanted me to dance TV- cartoon super-hero Underdog (my best-known theme) rather than Dracula. Unfortunately, I was denied the chance to think it over or learn more about the program before appearing on it. The show and its creator-host, Howard Stern, proved to be profane, vulgar, and sexually explicit! I emerged thoroughly shaken.
The airing resulted in widespread ridicule, not praise. People who never acknowledged me before frowned, not smiled, now. My father complained, again, of answering phone calls by unidentified men who stuttered upon hearing a man rather than a woman at the other end.* Two children’s cable-TV programs, which meant to have me appear regularly, double-crossed me. My mother scoffed, “You haven’t become famous; you’ve become notorious.” My parents never forgave me; they refused to accept the truth that Stern et al had been complete strangers to me; and that they, not I, had made the very first move! My parents refused to let me go out in public lest strangers recognize me and make big snide remarks. When I was in a hit-and-run accident in 1994, I was hospitalized; personnel continuously peeped around my doorway to remark, “it’s the woman from the Howard Stern Show!” – or so my mother claimed. I was confronted day after day, week after week, month after month. A pattern became established: a stranger would speak first, “I saw you on Howard Stern. I’m ashamed of you! That program is degenerate.” “Well, then! If the program was vulgar, and my being on it was inappropriate, why were you watching it?” “I was channel-hopping and stayed tuned solely because of you.” In requesting Underdog, Stern et al created gross misconceptions which I have had to set straight ever since. I have also had to berate passersby or event goers who choose to continue to heckle me with insults, nicknames, profanities, even false accusations dating from 1992 and Stern. I am paying the consequences for a mastermind’s past misdeeds even today!**
Some of the comic book/sci-fi conventions in which I performed were annual events produced by organizations within the localities. The majority, however, were by Creation Conventions, headquartered outside New York City but mounting conventions in major cities nationwide perennially. It’s two directors were enchanted with my artistry but insisted after a while that the conventioneers cared nothing about polished theatrics, just costume history and workmanship. I was restricted to Star Trek, Doctor Who, and sometimes Dracula in terms of modeling duplicated costumes. But even thematic fashion shows by me were ultimately discontinued!
*I have had my own address since 1977, but my phone is unlisted. **A detailed pamphlet, Howard Stern: The True Shocking Story, is available at http://muldowneyville.tripod.com/shocking.htm
On the day that marked 100 years on the nose for Stoker’s novel, Deptford, New Jersey held its annual town celebration. There was a parade followed by entertainment in the park. I had been in this event several consecutive previous years, but not as Dracula. Now, I had made the planning committee, in advance, aware of the monumental anniversary and my intentions. Today I had to play the Count, but I was still historically authentic, and kept a dignified profile as I processed. The area newspaper had publicized the event in depth, with one paragraph about my theme and program. But I hadn’t processed more than a quarter mile when a belligerent man yelled, “Oh, it’s you again! Now who are you? What costume is this? What drugs are you high on this year?” I gave him a hellish look. “How dare you! Are you accusing me falsely in public? I am not high on anything! You know better! God will punish you!” I saw no police officer around. For a long while, there were no spectators. Then – I turned a corner into another street, where there were good numbers of spectators, but – suddenly! They threw explosive caps at me! Not one at a time every 10 seconds or so, but volley after volley after volley, for 10 to 15 minutes altogether! Instead of being a majestic Count, I was screaming and jumping and dodging and running! I looked around wildly every few moments without spotting one police officer. When I reached the end of the route, I was sobbing; a marshal comforted me. I next went to the park and bandshell where a bag containing my other costumes and my stake `had been forwarded. I slipped behind the structure and changed into the Castle Bran ensemble; I was to do the Fashion Show a while later. When the time came, the emcee had his script; but when I made my first entrance, a group of preteen girls only a few feet away mocked my gestures! When I disappeared to make my next change, two or three preteens followed me. Were they expecting me to strip to the skin? No! The format never called for that; I always wore the man’s staple costume, underneath, from start to finish. Still, these young parasites continued to mock me, follow me, even to interfere with the emcee! When I finished the show, and was all packed, and headed out of the park, they still pursued me and threw sand! The next year, the parade chairwoman told me I was banned from future participation “because you can’t control your emotions! We will not have your running and yelling and screaming!” “Hold it! Hold it! You’re blaming the wrong person! I wasn’t being mean; the spectators were! Didn’t you hear that mean man at the start? What about all those explosives they threw at me? Or those girls who disrupted the fashion show? I was doing fine until other people made the first move and spoiled everything! If anyone deserves to be rounded up and interrogated, its they, not I!” “We can’t hunt down and seize all the troublemakers. That’s the police’s job.” “So why did I see not one policeman when I was being molested?” “We don’t care. We’ve decided not to invite you anymore.” “Why must I be ousted when other people got away with their misbehavior? You’ve made a sacrificial goat of me! Just you wait until the tourists come this time and discover I’m missing. They’ll ask what happened. And you and the rest of the committee will have the responsibility of confessing it was your doing because I was punished for others’ malice!”
At the beginning of the summer of 1977, a Mr. Madison was releasing a book Dracula: The First Hundred Years. If his objective was to immortalize the veteran serial impersonators, he made a grievous error by overlooking me. I had been active since 1973!*
I think it was in June of 1997 that I found out there would be a centennial convention. I just had to perform in that! I was referred to a Dr. Elizabeth Miller in St. Johns, Newfoundland. But when I was ready to contact her, I hesitated. Was she aware of the rival Stoker ballet? What if some dance group was invited to do it at this convention? Would I be disqualified if only one dancing entity was considered enough?
“I understand there’s to be a Dracula convention to celebrate the hundredth anniversary of the vampire novel?”
“Yes. It’s august 14th to 17th in Los Angeles.”
“Los Angeles!? Why not London? That’s where Dracula’s made to go!”
“Correct. We thought of it, but we decided Los Angeles was more convenient. Now, who are you? What can I do for you?”
I gave Dr. Miller my name and my information. I had done both sides of the persona through interpretive dance and costume modeling since 1973. I had met the historians in 1976.
Dr. Miller seemed impressed. “Dracula. In dance! That sounds intriguing.”
What a relief! I had said nothing about the rival Stoker ballet; neither had she. Hopefully she hadn’t heard of it.
But I had to know! “This is extremely important to me. Is there any chance Dr. McNally and Dr. Florescu will be there?”
“I don’t know. They might. Why?”
*For a detailed article about my Dracula-related performances and other experiences, look up http://muldowneyville.tripod.com/ddance.htm
I became very solemn. “It has been my goal for more than 20 years to dance Dracula and do the Fashion Show in their presences! Considering those two were my whole inspiration? They went through all the research and expected the world to take the facts to heart? I went to all the trouble to be as accurate and authentic as possible. Why shouldn’t those topmost authorities see a dance program tribute?”
“I see, but I’d have to see examples of your work. Have you anything on tape?”
“Yes! I have a number of past performances on cassettes!”
Dr. Miller gave me the address. I hung up with my heart pounding. Had I made a crucial achievement in talking with this woman?
I made sure to send the best-of-the-best videos of both dances and the Fashion Show. I’m sure I also sent copies of my best newspaper interviews and past show programs. I had to be accepted for this convention if Drs . McNally and Florescu would be there!
The convention was emphasized as a worldwide celebration of the novel’s centennial. Would the attendees indeed be from all over the globe? For years I had exhorted the historians to spread my story wherever they traveled. What a triumph it would finally be if attendees worldwide saw me in performance! I’d receive the acknowledgement I had craved for the past twenty-plus years!
Prior to the May fiasco, I had contacted several newspapers who had been friendly to me in the past. But I had been unable to touch base with anyone. Now, in light of this convention, I tried again, but with no greater success.
At this time, I also contacted Kevin McMahon, who since 1992 had been a kind of media advocate in the wake of Howard Stern’s villainy. If I was to go to the convention, so would Kevin; but we would travel separately since we lived near two different airports.
Would I be able to afford the trip? Plane travel was the most expensive, especially to farther-distant sites; the convention was to be in one of the hotels by LAX. I had Social Security, but no job.
Then! Dr. Miller called to say I had been accepted! She and a number of committee members had been overjoyed by my videos. I was to perform on two consecutive days! Thursday the 14th was out, I explained to a Dr. Donald Reed because I had the vigil of a Catholic holy day; but I would head out at dawn of Friday the 15th and could perform that night plus almost anytime Saturday the 16th. Would the historians be there?
Over the next few weeks, I negotiated with travel agents, airlines, the hotel, Drs. Miller and Reed, several other event coordinators, Kevin, and two local men who would provide free ground transportation out west.
But during this preparatory time for “London and Carfax Abbey,” I tried unsuccessfully to contact Drs. Florescu and McNally! Were they aware of my inclusion on the program? Were they on the program? I received no calls or letters from either of them.
If the convention was of worldwide significance, was it being publicized on a grand scale? In the summer of 1973, there had been a mammoth publicity blitz, in Philadelphia, for Reverend Sun Myung Moon, who was to visit in late September. For the convention, there were no TV ads. I received no convention-related ads, news clippings, fliers, posters, etc. in either English or other languages, in the mail. Neither did I receive any long-distance calls. I had been unable to contact any papers or magazines about the convention, the occasion, or my part in it.
The only hope I had was Kevin; he would tape my performances and propagate them accordingly. But would enough foreign publicists see me in action? The night before I was to leave, I paced my bedroom, around and around, talking softly to myself. “What nationalities will be there? Romania, yes. But Hungary? Poland? Bulgaria? France? Germany? Switzerland? Holland? Russia? How about Orientals? Chinese? Japanese? Korean? Filipino? Indian? Tibetan? Australians? South Americans? Africans?” I had notions of large groups wandering the premises in native costumes! Would there be ethnically dressed people among my audiences? I had to stop my imaginings and focus on my necessities for the trip to “London” (Los Angeles). Just as it would begin to light in the morning, the “Slovaks’ wagon” (airport limo) would arrive to load my “earth boxes” (luggage and other belongings) and other passengers for shipment to “Varna” (Philadelphia Airport).
When I awoke, I donned most of my vampire costume. I hated being another Count, but the costume was historically authentic unlike so many other Counts!! The medallion bore the coat-of-arms; the black cape bore the Burgundian double crosses. It was a monumental anniversary! I wore an extra black civilian skirt under my doublet. For the time being I simply carried the folded cape close to me.
The airport limo was due any minute, but as I checked my place for the last time, I spotted two big bagfuls of recyclables! I didn’t want to leave them there over the weekend. I put down my accessories and lugged the bags downstairs. Just as I emptied the contents into the dumpsters, the lime came down the street! I ran back into the apartment, dropped the empty bags where I kept them, and gathered my accessories. The limo driver offered to carry the biggest bag and my stake. I took one last look, gathered my things together, and came out.
I was silent on the way to the airport. I turned my head again and again to look at passing scenery; I’ve done so all my life. I looked forward to what would happen. Most of the time I prayed, but silently. Neither my lips nor my hands gave me away. I had to give a world-class performance… and those two… those two… those two…
Upon entering “Varna”, the limo had to stop at the terminals one by one for passengers to disembark and collect their suitcases. I had to go as far as Terminal D. It would be a D, for Dracula! I put on my black cape, collected my “earth boxes,” and headed for the entrance.
Since this time was the aftermath of the Unabomber’s atrocities, I had to tell the check-in agent the contents of my bags and ski box (I always transported my stake in the latter); their purposes, and that I alone had packed everything. The agent checked and tagged my suitcase and ski box, sent them down the ramp, and handed me my folder with the stubs. He told me which gate the “Demeter” (my L.A. flight) would leave from.
On the escalator upbound, I wrapped one hand around my carry-ons and gathered the bottom of my cape with the other to avoid snagging. Going through security and the entire length (!) of Terminal D to find the right gate, I took on a sinister smile – closed mouth! – and said to myself soundlessly, “I am coming… I am coming… the Princess Dracula is coming!… to London (i.e. Los Angeles)… to London… where the Count relocated in the novel! … a hundred years… a hundred years… Dr. McNally! Dr. Florescu!… will we meet again?… will you be there?… Will you finally see me in performance?… Twenty-one years… Twenty-one years… I’ve struggled for this opportunity!… please… please… my goal… my goal… “Pater noster, qui es in caelis…” I made sure to take note of other gates, vending machines, restrooms, and other features I passed.
At the far end of the terminal were several gates, but the “Demeter” had not yet arrived at mine. To keep occupied, I sat down to work on a sewing project. But I looked up every few minutes to see if my plane had arrived. When it finally did, I arose and stared at it for a while. But at the angle it was facing with the jetway pressed against the left side, I could not watch the loading process.
Time to board! I made sure I had all my carry-on objects and entered the jetway. I could hear the music from my Stoker ballet that corresponded with the Slovaks’ gathering the earth-boxes together; and with several Londoners carrying a large box containing the defeated Count. The same music signified the starts of two journeys: the trek to England and the forced escape.
I had been assigned a window seat in the first third of the cabin, on the right side. I’ve appealed for window seats every time I’ve flown, since I always liked to watch the passing scenery! When flying west, I’ve sat on the right side of the aircraft; when flying east, on the left. Whatever side, I’ve asked to be as far forward of the wing as possible.
Once I strapped myself in my seat, I arranged my things in front of and underneath me. I had brought some food to eat while airborne because by those times, airlines had stopped automatically serving meals or snacks en route. Beverages were still available, but passengers had to choose from among several entrees and pay for their selections.
The “Demeter” started moving backward. This was it! I was headed for “London!” I settled back and paid attention to the crew’s mandatory explanations and demonstrations of safety/emergency procedures and devices. Over the past two decades I’d occasionally pantomimed putting an oxygen mask to my face.
Now the plane had stopped, I looked around quickly at any passengers I could make out clearly; then I looked out the window back and forth, again and again, between the airport buildings and one of the wings. Over time I had observed that when the aircraft first moved out, the wings appeared to be perfectly flat and narrow; but while the aircraft taxied; other surfaces emerged and curved forward; when the plane was ready to take off or land, each wing looked like half a gigantic cardboard tube, cut lengthwise.
I was breathing fast with anticipation.
Then! The engines rose to a higher pitch. The plane started forward, faster and faster! This was it! Time to take off! My eyes opened widely, my mouth opened in thrills, and I raised my arms slightly. The “Demeter” was airborne!
“I am coming! I am coming! I, the Princess Dracula, am on my way at last! The convention! Los Angeles! One hundred years! Kevin! Dr. Miller! Dr. McNally! Dr. Florescu!” My goal finally reached, perhaps? How many nationalities would be there? Would I be interviewed? Would attendees from worldwide take notice of me? Would I receive any prize, awards or other prestigious acknowledgments?
Now I settled back to enjoy the ride. I looked out the window almost every minute. Flight attendants told passengers what meals were available, but I cared for none of them. I ate what I had brought, but I also drank abundantly of orange juice and milk. From time to time when I felt full, I made sure to work on my sewing project. I was especially thrilled when the plane passed over mountains!
The last mountain range, to my right, numbered about five individual peaks. The captain announced we were over Pasadena, because the aircraft was much closer to the ground now.
My excitement was building up again. The pre-landing instructions were made by the crew; passengers were buckling themselves in place; I rearranged my things on the floor.
The “Demeter” was about to “dock at Whitby!” I saw that the wing had repeated the process of “changing” from flat to half a tube. The plane was coming down fast, zooming over the edge of the runway; at last the impact as wheels touched the ground.
I was familiar with the rise and fall of pitch and volume as the plane put its power in reverse in order to slow down. Once it was quietly taxiing to the terminal, I saw the wing revert from half-tube to flat.
Now that I was on the ground, I imagined that the music from my dance version of the novel was playing. It was the portion that opened the second act, showing the Demeter’s dead sea captain slumped over and tied to the wheel, while a mist wafted behind him. Audiences would see the tableau for a total of only ten seconds before music and stage action shifted to the next scene. That brief musical portion played again and again as the aircraft headed for the gate. I looked around and around at the buildings the aircraft was passing; most of them had to be hotels! Which was mine? The Westin?
“I am here – I am here! The Princess Dracula has come to ‘London!’ Are you here, Dr. McNally? Dr. Florescu? Dr. Miller? Kevin? What countries are here? Are the media here? Have enough advertisers and other media VIP been alerted about me and my past achievements and what I’ve intended for here? I feel that I must make a lifetime accomplishment.”
The “Demeter” was “docked!” Passengers were collecting their things, getting up, and inching down the aisle. I just sat quietly. I would not leave until almost everyone else did. I wanted to wait so that I could make a conspicuous entrance.
Two local men would provide transportation between the airport and the hotel, as well as a couple of prospective rides into town. Since I’ve long forgotten their names, in this account they will be known as George and Pete.
Almost everyone had left. I walked down the aisle taking my time. When I reached the front, the crew bade me goodbye. I did not divulge the identities of my character and costume.
Two or three people were still inside the jetway. Then, they turned and disappeared, so that now I was alone. I thought I heard men’s voices unclearly, but I heard a woman’s voice clearly ask, “Are you waiting for the Vampire?” I blushed.
Savoring the moment, I entered the waiting area. George and Pete shook my hands as I maneuvered my things to do so; then we embraced. They offered to carry my bags, but I had to keep charge of my own purse. We went down a number of moving sidewalks, but I couldn’t keep still; I walked slowly down the lengths of the ramps, making subtle hand gestures. When I stepped off the end of a ramp, I waited for the two men to catch up; they seemed content to walk casually.
At the arrivals belt, it was a while before my suitcase appeared. The three of us waited until all the baggage from my flight had been unloaded, but I was alarmed. The ski box containing my stake was missing! I had to go to Lost and Found to describe it, show the agent my claim stub, and let him know the hotel where I’d be.
I’d had my share of experiences in which my stake failed to arrive at the same time my other baggage did. If the stake didn’t reach me in time for my performance, someone on the premises had to substitute a six-foot handle unscrewed from a large maintenance broom!
George and Pete loaded my things into their car and let me sit in the front seat. We were on our way to “Carfax Abbey” (the Westin Hotel) where the convention was. I told the men once I was registered, I had to go to my room and unpack. I would rejoin them in the lobby.
My room number? 1147. It was a very nice room with a King-size bed. I had some perishables in my food supply; I had to transfer them to the mini refrigerator immediately. Non-perishables I arranged neatly on a table. And, I had made sure to bring a supply of “blood,” commercial red fruit punch! There was an in-room bar, but the only liquid I cared for was orange juice. I started to remove the container but then saw it was attached to a mechanism that would register it as having been removed, to add to my bill! I reversed my action and never again touched that bar.
Next, I removed my audiocassettes, my makeup, my grooming and hygienic articles, and arranged them in the bathroom. The cassettes I took back to the other room.
Suddenly my room phone rang, “What’s taking you so long? We’ve been waiting half an hour.” Pete!
“Oh, I’m sorry! So many objects to take out and put away, and discovering extra features in the room I’ll never use.”
Now George came on. “How much longer?”
“Oh! Oh, my! Oh, dear… oh, dear… Ten to fifteen minutes.”
I took off my extra skirt, combed my hair, packed some absolute necessities inside my torso garment, and looked at myself to make sure I was a presentable Count.
Downstairs, the men took me to the auditorium where I was to perform that night and the following afternoon. It could hold 150 to 200 people; there was a good-sized stage; a short staircase connected the stage to the center aisle. My fashion show runway!
I was guided down some halls; in one were triangular columns, eight feet high, pointing inward toward the corridor. The visible sides were actually full-length mirrors! I happened to glance into one, gasped, and stood stock-still. I saw myself, full-bodied, in full vampiric regalia! My face was wide-eyed and stern, as if I were looking at an enemy.
“What are you doing?”
“Look! Don’t I look sinister?”
“All right! Save that for later and come on.”
I withdrew immediately and went on. According to a detailed printed program book, Dr. McNally was scheduled to be in a specific room at this very moment! The two men took me to a hallway and went off.
In the hall there were doorways to two rooms. I went quickly down to the farther one, turned my head to the right, and gasped! My eyes opened widely. I turned my whole body so that I was still in the middle of the hall, but looking into the room directly at my objective.
Seated behind a table, apparently signing autographs for queued visitors, was a distinguished older man, clean shaven and white-haired. He wore a dark business suit which somehow made his white hair glow. He was – he was – no mistaking his face! – the one, the only – Raymond McNally!
Raymond McNally, one of the two historians, the world’s greatest Dracula authorities, who had rediscovered the true story, the authentic relics, and the true-to-life landmarks about 30 years earlier.
Raymond McNally, who at the beginning of 1976 had sent me a letter, stating his interest in my dance portrayals and in seeing me perform!
Raymond McNally, who on February 25, 1976, made an unexpected appearance at my Philadelphia workplace and conferred with me, privately, about the upcoming 500th anniversary of Dracula’s death!
Raymond McNally, who had returned the next day and taken me to lunch during which time he had promised to help me get past my family in order to make a spectacular debut, but instead had paid only lip service!
Raymond McNally, to whom and to his other half, Radu Florescu, I had sent letters, copies of interviews, copies of event programs and their pre and post publicity, and exposes of books and plays and movies and artwork and even a building, that distorted or falsified the facts, over time!
I continued standing there in the hall, my eyes fixed on McNally’s head. At the distance and angle that I was to him, he could not see me.
I clasped my hands and squeezed them together against my chest. I spoke to myself, but inaudibly. “At last! After twenty-one years, I see him again! That first surprise meeting in 1976! That one and only lunch date! Our hopes for 1976! I needed his help that summer, but he did nothing! All these years I’ve sent letters and reports and souvenirs to him and Dr. Florescu! But he never once contacted me! In all that time, did the two of them circulate my name and doings among foreigners? Wherever I appeared, I gave credit where due. Now, I must fulfill a mission. He is uniquely suited. I finally see him again! O Jesus! O Jesus! I thank thee! I thank thee!”
The line of people was almost gone. I entered the room and slipped behind the last person. McNally did not see me coming. I kept my eyes on him as much as I could as the last person dealt with him and turned away. McNally did not look up.
Now! I stepped forward and moved my hands on the table, palms up, toward his hands to cup them slightly. He finished what he had to, then noticed another pair of hands copying his. He looked up casually, but when he saw who I was, he was amazed!
“It’s been twenty-one years.”
I forget what he said next, but he did arise and move away from the table. We had the empty room all to ourselves!
“Do you remember when we met?”
“Do you? I need to be reacquainted.”
“I remember the exact date: February 25th, 1976.”
“How did it happen?”
I related how I had just returned from lunch in Philadelphia, received a phone page, and met him in the lobby. He and I had talked in a private room; he remarked that he was on his way to Pottstown to deliver a lecture, but had chosen to make a surprise visit in the meantime to me! He had described several of his horror movie-style entrances to his lectures, and his ambition to do something extra-special in 1976 because of the 500th anniversary of Dracula’s death. We had agreed to meet again the next day and go out to lunch.
“So, what else have you been doing all this time?”
“What do you think? I wrote letters frequently, but neither you nor Dr. Florescu ever answered. I sent both of you copies of my interviews and my most important performance programs! When I was scheduled to be in Boston once in a while, I gave you the details, but you never came.”
“You’re performing here, aren’t you?”
“Yes! Tonight, and tomorrow afternoon.” But then I became very serious and stressed. My fists pressed against my waist. “There is something very, very important I need to discuss with you.”
“All these years I’ve struggled for an opportunity to dance before you and Dr. Florescu! And tonight it may happen! I have to – I have to – I must – I’ve imagined it so often, and now – and now – I pledged to myself I’d come after you if I ever got a chance!”
“What do you mean – get a chance? How would you get it?”
“Well – look at the lineup! I’m performing tonight! As part of my dance (The Dracula Archives) I make the change to the vampire. Then, if possible, I go after a victim. I – I – I want to feign an attack – on you – as my victim!” I was breathing heavily.
“Why should I be your victim?”
I could speak calmly now. “Think carefully, Doctor. It should be obvious.”
“Come on, think! It’s logical. You’re an expert; you’ve toured all over; you did all that research and the books. You wanted to be taken to heart, and you were, worldwide. Look at what happened to me! No one had ever done Dracula in dance; I chose to do so; I discovered the research and used the true stories for my plots. I re-created the historic costumes.”
“Can’t you see? It’s symbolic. Why shouldn’t a formidable dancer who knows and performs the facts feign a vampire attack on someone who brought the facts to light and also craved the fictional side? You have unique qualifications. You professed an interest in my dances; you’re a world authority on Dracula; and you’re also a vampire buff.”
McNally seemed convinced; he drew himself up to his full height. I had forgotten how tall he was! Not having seen him since 1976 –
“Well, under those circumstances, it would be a privilege and an honor to be your victim.
But would you pursue me from room to room?”
“No! I come off the stage and pretend to go after a victim.”
“Come after me, but don’t bite me.”
“I will not bite you. I did not plan to.”
I apparently was going to achieve another old, old goal. Two major forces about to meet!
“One more tip, Doctor. Please do your best to be in an aisle seat – on either side of the center aisle? The moment isn’t until late in the dance, but I need to be able to spot you as quickly as possible.”
“I’ll think about it.”
But he did not appear totally enthusiastic!
In the next several hours, I went with my music cassette to the crew in the back of the auditorium to give them instructions and cues for special lighting effects; George and Pete drove me around the neighborhood to look for a Catholic church and to arrange a presentation of the Fashion Show at a nostalgia shop the next day; I returned to my room to do some sewing.
Later that afternoon I returned to the convention floor to do some searching. Were there any reporters or photographers around? But I also had to check with hotel management: had the airline found my boxed stake and brought it in? As I moved from hallway to hallway, room to room, all the people I saw were leisurely dressed and hairstyled. I saw no ethnic or horror costumes. There were no Latin-American, Middle or Far Eastern, Native American, African, or other notable face types. No one accosted or spoke to me.
I entered a good-sized but empty room and stood quietly to be alone with my thoughts. Though I had finally found and touched base with McNally again, I was deeply discouraged. I was being ignored; there had been no advance publicity. Some outfit named Miramax was advertised as conducting interviews and taping parts of the convention, but I didn’t know anyone in Miramax.
I happened to look to my left. The view was across the room and through an opening into the next room, a larger one. At the far end of this second room, a man was standing soundlessly.
I looked at the man; I felt nothing. But then – I think he did! He shifted his weight and turned slightly; then resumed his original position. This way I could tell he had white hair, a mustache, and glasses. Wait a minute! Could he –
White hair and mustache? Glasses?
Radu Florescu, the other half!
Radu Florescu acknowledged on the back cover of one of the research books as “an indirect descendant of Prince Dracula!”
Radu Florescu, for whom I had taken my first airplane trip to Boston, in order to meet him. He had driven me from Boston U to my hotel, where we had a late-night snack.
Radu Florescu, who on November 13, 1979, had hosted a showing of Vlad Tepes, a Romanian-made film with English subtitles, at the Romanian Library, New York City. The movie dealt specifically with 1456 to 1462. But at the beginning of the assembly, he had made a fiery speech about how the masses still looked at the fictional Count; had taken the facts and falsified, distorted, changed, mutilated, and ignored the truth “without our consent!”
Radu Florescu, whom I had made sure to notify about upcoming sci-fi cons in Boston; thus, he had witnessed me present the Dracula Fashion Show on November 21, 1982; and November 20, 1983.
No mistaking him now! I walked fast across the room and into the second room, my arms partly outstretched. “Doctor!”
“Suzanne! You’re here!” Florescu was overjoyed. He stood still as I tried to reach up to him. But – but –
“I – I can’t get my hands around your neck! You’re too tall!”
Florescu wrapped his arms around my waist and bent his knees so that I could wrap my hands and lower arms around his neck! I pressed my right cheek against his chest. “Oh, Doctor… oh, Doctor… Doctor… Doctor…” I was so happy!
After a while we disengaged. “Oh, it’s so good to see you again, finally! It’s been so long I forgot you were tall.”
“Have you seen Raymond yet?”
“Several hours ago. You coming to see me tonight?”
“You performing today?”
“Yes, I am! At 8:45! You two will finally see me in performance!”
“I can’t remember how long it’s been since we last saw each other.”
“Oh, I remember exactly. 1983! That’s fourteen years!”
“Are you sure? It seems longer to me. Is this our first time since?”
“No! There were several times.” I gave him the details of the other dates and occasions.
“So now it’s been thirteen years?”
“Fourteen years. But when the sci-fi conventions and Fashion Shows were coming up, I notified you and Dr. McNally. He didn’t come.”
“So, you’re counting on both of us to see you tonight. I’m looking forward to it.”
“Don’t forget now! 8:45!”
Thus, on Friday, August 15, 1997, I finally was reunited with the two historians who were the world’s foremost Dracula authorities and my very special friends, my inspirations! Tonight, they would witness a milestone performance of the much-mentioned Dracula Archives!
Sometime later that afternoon, I encountered Kevin! He was eager to tape my performances tonight and tomorrow. I think I showed him the auditorium and its stage.
I took out some time to return to my room, eat some dinner, and unwind by working on my sewing. I needed a morale booster with some red punch!
Concentrating on the evening ahead, I began to grow nervous. I had seen them both; Kevin was ready; George and Pete would drive me to church the next morning. I looked around, locating and gathering together the remaining costume pieces and props I would need. When I felt satisfied, I hid my room key, opened the door, and went out with my load.
There were to be two other performances before mine that night. When I arrived backstage, I saw a long table that I had requested for my “coffin”. It was cloth-covered, as I wanted; I draped another cloth panel so that the coffin side facing the spectators would bear Dracula’s name and dates.
Thank goodness the airline had rounded up and forwarded the stake! I picked it up and practiced some impaling rituals without making noise, since another performance was getting underway.
Suddenly, a man came up to me, “You Suzanne Muldowney? We had to move up everything by 30 minutes. You were scheduled for 8:45; be ready to go on at 8:15.”
“Eight-fifteen?” My eyes opened widely.
“What! Oh, no!” Dr. McNally! Dr. Florescu! “Please, no! Two very important men are coming to see my show and they’ll miss it if they’re not warned about this!”
“I don’t know what I can do.”
“Please! Can’t you get word to Security, Concierge, Management? There must be some department in the hotel to page or get hold of Raymond McNally and Radu Fladescu! They’re historians! They know I’m performing tonight and they’ve got to be told I’m starting earlier!”
“I’ll do what I can.”
What was I going to do? Would all my labor and struggles be wasted? “Oh, God! Please, God! Please!”
Another man came by; I’m sure he was in uniform. I told him the same urgent situation; could he get hold of someone to help?
In the next few minutes I intermittently practiced my moves and prayed, soundlessly. Far to my right were some curtained screens. I went to the gap between two of them and searched, with one eye, for any glimpse of McNally or Florescu among the attendees. But I could not make out either one.
The other performance had ended, and its cast was bowing. I would be next! I squeezed my hands and chattered my teeth, praying silently, “Oh, God! My time has come! Please! I must do a worthwhile performance!”
Two stagehands took my “coffin” table onstage. Once they had left, I went onstage and arranged my extra garments and my props strategically. The light was dim, but still sufficient that I could see what I was doing.
Then, there was nothing left to do but lie down and wait! Wide-eyed. I sat on the center of my table, gathered my black cape around myself from the waist down, swung my legs onto
the table, and lay quietly on my back and head, my hands clasped over my medallion and chest, and my eyes closed.
I lay perfectly still, breathing silently but imperceptibly. On the outside I passed for dead but inside my mind was on fire as I prayed silently, my lips still. “Oh, God, this is it! This is the time I’ve worked and prayed for all these years! You let me see Dr. McNally and Dr. Florescu again! I must do a world-class performance on their behalf! But with the entertainment schedule moved up, are they out there waiting? Did anyone get through to them? Oh, please let them be out there! Please let me perform well! Please – please…” I prayed Our Fathers, Hail Marys,
Glory Bes by rote. Once in a while I prayed a memorare, sometimes I said simply “Jesus” again and again.
Now the audience noises had stopped. Utter, absolute silence. Even my utterances of “Jesus.”
Then! The music began, softly then rapidly louder. How full! It was as though the music were live, not taped! “Thank you, Lord Jesus!” I said silently as the lights came on and I began to rise.
Once I was standing erect and dancing, I surveyed the spectators’ ranks and faces. The room seemed about half full. I expected better turnout than that! The spectators were mostly men; I recognized only one woman in the front, Dr. Elizabeth Miller. Everyone seemed to be only casually dressed and hairstyled, with only nonchalant expressions.
Was Dr. McNally among the attendees? Was he in an aisle seat? Being careful not to look too much in any one direction, I began to search for him. But not one aisle seat was occupied by him! Was he in the main seat sections? I couldn’t find him there, either!
Unable to find Dr. McNally, I next searched for Dr. Florescu. I could not make out his face among the few bespectacled! Had the historians failed to get my news?
I reached a point in dance and music where the latter stopped hurrying and slowed to a pause; I knelt down. To a cymbal stroke, I bent forward at the waist, my arms outspread, and touched my mouth to the stage floor as if feeding. But there was no reaction from the spectators!
The lights came up brighter and I raised my torso while still on my knees. I pressed my fingers to one temple and shed the black cape to start the “reverse time travel” to Dracula’s own era.
While I continued to dance, I donned my Vlad costume pieces, but the onlookers did not “ooh” or “ahh” each additional garment; I “impaled,” “drank shed blood,” “sighted the enemy,” “summoned the troops,” “fought in combat,” and “escaped to Hungary,” all to silent, blasé spectators. Wasn’t I being convincing enough? Not one spectator appeared impressed, let alone fixated!
I continued my number, depicting Vlad “imprisoned,” “returning to the throne,” and “being killed;” in the last I staggered, gasped, groaned as if in pain, and ultimately fell “dead” to the floor. Still no spectator reaction! I “awoke in the nether world,” gazed around the room while furtively looking for the historians, lay my eyes on my copy of the novel, knelt down “in curiosity” to touch it, and yowled! In making the symbolic metamorphosis to the vampire I writhed, feigned a seizure and withdrawal symptoms, convulsions, while all the time screaming, howling and moaning! Twice I glanced at the side door; had any emergency personnel heard my cries and entered the room? No. The metamorphosis was the climax of this dance, but still the onlookers were passive! After completing the change, I stopped shrieking; but soon it was time for me to “claim a victim.” Where were Florescu and McNally? Dr. Miller would have to suffice! I came offstage toward her but was still looking wildly from side to side for my intended victim! At the last second, she made a makeshift cross with her fingers. Keeping in character I snarled, stared at her hands, glared at her wrathfully, and returned to the stage. All that without a sound from the spectators!
It wasn’t until I finished my number that they responded. The applause was long, but not loud. One man in the side front yelled, “Encore!” I wasn’t totally happy because Drs. McNally and Florescu had missed it! What would I say to them? When would I see them next?
I finished my bows, collected all my belongings, and went down the center aisle to the back to retrieve my music cassette. That done, I returned to the front where a few scattered people were waiting to congratulate me. I told them about the more extensive program I had tomorrow afternoon.
But I happened to look through the open doorway. I saw Dr. Miller in the hall! She was surrounded by a few other people; would she remain there long enough? I finished my chat with my contacts and ran out.
“I – I’m sorry. I apologize for coming after you! I didn’t mean to; I did not intend to. I meant it for someone else, but all the entertainment for tonight was moved up by half an hour and I couldn’t get word to or find the party!”
“Who was it?”
“I – I intended it for Dr. McNally.”
“Did he know? Did you see him?”
“I met him hours ago and we talked it over; he agreed to it. I told him he should be in an aisle seat, but then the schedule was moved up and I couldn’t find him or Dr. Florescu.”
“Then why did you come after me?”
“Um – you were my best VIP substitute.”
“Oh, that’s nice.”
“But – I kept looking for them. Didn’t you notice I kept turning my – my head – even down to those – last two split seconds?” I thought I was going to cry. “I’m really, really sorry! Please forgive me! I had everything planned so well but the schedule was moved up and I couldn’t find Dr. McNally or Dr. Florescu among the spectators!”
“Oh, Kevin, hello. They moved up the entertainment schedule and spoiled everything! Oh – yes – ” I introduced him and Dr. Miller to each other.
“I got your whole performance. You did great.”
“Ohhh… I was terrible! I had to go after Dr. Miller instead of Dr. McNally and now I don’t know if I’ll see them again before – Aaaahhh!”
“What’s the matter?”
I pointed. “Look! Those two tall men coming down the hall – towards us! They’re the ones!”
The historians came up to me. “We’re looking forward to seeing you dance.”
I moaned and my face grimaced in sorrow and fear. “I’m glad you’re here, but – but – I’m afraid – you’re going to be sore with me. Please don’t get angry. I’ve already performed!” I sobbed as I explained about the unexpected change with the entertainment schedule and my failure to get word to the two distinguished men. “Please don’t take offense!”
Then I deferred to Kevin. “For the past five years I’ve mentioned Dracula and his real story and told you about the two historians who rediscovered the facts – and here they are! Drs. Radu Florescu and Raymond McNally.”
The three men shook hands and discussed their work. But the historians had to give Kevin permission to use their statements on the Howard Stern Show!
“Kevin, no! He mustn’t exploit them the way he did to me! You’ll be playing with fire!” Then I returned to Florescu and McNally, “I’ll be performing again tomorrow; it’s a longer program than I did tonight. You have another chance. But I can’t afford a repeat of tonight’s fiasco. Here’s the time I’m starting – please! Come at least half an hour earlier if they should screw up again! Please! Please, don’t forget!”
I headed down the hall with my things, thinking I was finished for the night. Instead, I was accosted by several Germans who wanted to interview me! Elated, I sat down in the lounge and arranged my belongings; I gave an in-depth interview, stressing Dracula’s night attack on the Turks, comparing it with George Washington’s night attack on the Hessians at Trenton in 1776. But suddenly one of the men said they had to leave but would be back in about five minutes.
I took his word in good faith and sat waiting quietly. But I ended up waiting longer and longer; apparently the Germans intended never to return. Sadly, I gathered up my things and returned to my room.
Not until more than twenty years later, did I learn that Germany had had a centennial celebration! I would have been such an asset!
Today I had come to L.A. for the convention; locals George and Pete had shown me part of town; I had seen Kevin; and I had finally seen the historians again! What a shame they had missed my performance that evening! And then those Germans had given me the slip!
Next morning, I was determined to make good with both my scheduled performances. The historians just had to see me today! As for the in-town Fashion Show, the store’s interior was rather rundown; the proprietor would need to prettify the show area ahead of time.
The hotel entrance was on Sepulveda Boulevard; on the other side a block and half away, was a fast-food restaurant. I dressed myself in the Castle Bran robe, with the staple garment underneath and bought a scrambled egg breakfast to go.
Returning to the hotel, I saw a part of it containing a restaurant whose exterior wall appeared to be circular. I gazed around at the patrons – and there were Dr. Florescu and his wife Nicole! I waved to them and they waved back.
Quickly I made my way to their table. “Good morning! I’m so happy to see you again.”
“Good morning Miss Muldowney. You remember Nicole, my wife?”
“Nice to see you again.”
“Take a look, Doctor! Thought I’d give you a little preview of the Fashion Show! I’m wearing the Castle Bran outfit!”
“I can see you went to a lot of work to make it.”
I put my purse and bagged breakfast on the table. “I haven’t much time. I have to get my breakfast to my room while it’s still hot. I’m here to remind you that I have another performance this afternoon. It’s longer in content!”
“What time does it start?”
“Hmm… I have to see if I’m available then. I don’t know…”
“Oh, Doctor! Please! I need for you to be there! For more than twenty years. I’ve been struggling for an opportunity to perform before you and Dr. McNally! From the time I first thought of doing Dracula in dance, and I learned your names and discoveries, I slaved over the dance steps, the research books, the music, the plots, and the costumes, all in the names of authenticity and correctness! I kept you supplied with letters and old programs! I loved that movie you hosted at the Romanian Library! When you saw me do the Fashion Show, I was ecstatic! Dr. McNally’s never seen me perform. You both professed your interest! All these years I’ve been trying to perform in your presences! It’s been my goal! I would have done it last night except the schedule was moved up, and now it could finally happen this afternoon!”
Dr. Florescu apparently saw clearly. “Yes, yes! I shall do my best.” He stood up and made a move to hug me again. I again tried to wrap my hands around his neck; he bent his knees again so that we could hug passionately. Mrs. Florescu had heard and seen everything, but she was content; she knew I was no extramarital sweetheart.
“I – I have to go now. But – don’t forget, three-thirty. And please – come earlier in case they screw up the schedule again.” I picked up my things, started to go, but then I hurried back. “Please make sure Dr. McNally knows too!”
After I had eaten my breakfast, George and Pete took me to the site of the additional performance. I had hoped the nostalgia shop would be made to look neater and more festive, but it had done nothing of the sort! The shop was still rundown with no space cleared, no chairs or makeshift runway, and no decorations. I was led to a door which opened out onto a decrepit parking lot littered with small stones!
This parking lot, with nothing set up appropriately for the occasion, was the space in which I was to do the additional Fashion Show? All the attendees would be standing! And a screen I had said I would need, to hide behind when changing costumes, was very wobbly. It was bad enough for the store to be unattractive, but the parking lot was sheer squalor! I voiced my concerns to the store managers. I had thought the area was going to be sophisticated and dignified. If any media came, what denunciations might they make about the site, the attendees and my presentation in such a would-be dump?
I was driven back to the convention heavily hearted. Kevin would be my commentator, but what would he think of the rundown address? He would also tape my feature performance in the hotel auditorium.
When I returned to the hotel, I got out my musical cassettes and went to the auditorium to have the sound engineers cue them and to instruct the engineers on sound cues and lighting, since I was doing three numbers all together.
Three numbers! All the more reason the historians simply had to see me in the afternoon. Would I spot either of them earlier?
Now I had some time to myself; I decided to explore. I drifted from hall to hall, room to room without being accosted or even looked at. The attendees wore no ethnic costumes; neither did they have recognizably foreign faces, notably Far Eastern. I did not spot either Dr. McNally or Dr. Florescu.
By and by I entered a room occupied by a single man. His desk and one other table appeared to have postcards, photos and other small flat objects focused on Romania. Was the man Romanian? Yes! He introduced himself as Nicolae Paduraru.
Being in costume, I introduced myself and enlightened the man on my complex Dracula focused story. What if Paduraru could come and see my performance! Unfortunately, he could not. I promised to mail him information on myself later on, after the convention excitement had quieted down. “Proof positive!”
I had always implored McNally and Florescu to tell their audiences about me, but that territory was mostly the United States only. Being a homeland Romanian, Paduraru might propagate my info in Romania and adjoining countries!
Now I had some free time to work on my sewing. But I had a couple of recurring worries: would I perform at the set time and not at the hands of another spoiled schedule; would Drs. Florescu and McNally be present? I had not seen McNally since last night.
I also looked back: there had been no mention or inclusion of the rival Stoker ballet; no other famous “Draculas” had been or would be there; I had been presented no flowers or other tokens of appreciation after my performance; no photographs had been taken of me all day, let alone while I was on stage; no crowds had pursued me.
Suddenly, another thought shot through me like an arrow. I had felt it for some days previous but did not feel the full impact until now. Today’s date was August 16, 1997. It was on the date in 1976 that I had danced Dracula outdoors for the first time, to mark the 20th anniversary of Bela Lugosi’s death! Though 1997’s number, 41, was not a multiple of 5 or 10, it marked exactly 21 years since my television debut in the noontime entertainment series “76 Days of Fun” in Philadelphia. And what a program I had today! What an achievement it would be if the room was packed. I danced and modeled my heart out, and the authorities were there! In the past I had learned about a few big-time Dracula clubs and societies; would any of their members and/or staff see me?
I also was just the right age. I had learned that Dracula was born and killed in December; he perished at age 45. Here it was August 1997 and I was barely past my 45th birthday!
Numbers, dates, anniversaries, and VIP’s were roaring in my head. I felt an obligation to perform as I never had before! I also felt as though my whole future was at stake.
The performance immediately before mine was almost over. Unlike last night’s, this afternoon’s entertainment timetable was correct! The performance before mine was also one hour long and done by one person. But it was a dramatic speech, not dance.
The stagehands put my table on stage. I went around arranging my props and extra garments in the sparse light. I could not make out details among the attendees such as hair colors, hairstyles, faces, or clothes. I might as well have been looking at seated 3-D silhouettes. But there seemed to be fewer of them than there had been last night! Were McNally and Florescu out there somewhere?
It was time for me to settle down “in the coffin” as I had the previous night! Lying back with my hands against my medallion, I began a second round of silent, imperceptible prayer.
“O Jesus! O Jesus! Here we go with Round Two.”
“August 16th, 1976.”
“August 16th, 1997; twenty-one years to the day that I danced Dracula at Kennedy Plaza for the first time.”
“1897, the year the novel was published.”
“1997, a hundred years later.”
“He was killed at age 45.”
“I have just turned 45.”
“I danced well last night; I thank you. But now I must prove myself again! I have a longer program. Will they be there?”
“Our Father… Hail Mary… Glory be… Our Father… Hail Mary… Glory be…”
“Please may they be there! Please may they be there! This may be my last chance. Will we ever meet again after tonight?”
“Jesu! Jesu! Jesu!… ”
“Dr. McNally! Dr. Florescu! I dance on your behalf! Please be there!”
“I must dance well! I must dance well! O God! O God!”
The music softly began, and the lights came up. I began to rise…
Once I was erect, I seemed to be re-living yesterday. There were about only 35 attendees today, mediocre in wardrobe, hairstyle, and attitude! I did not see Dr. Miller this time. What about the other two? I scrutinized the aisle seats again without success. Still keeping in character, I looked among the other spectators. And then – there he was! Dr. McNally! I had found him! But he wasn’t in an aisle seat; he was in the middle of the row, ten to twelve rows back!
Would I be able to come after him easily enough?
Still severely faced, but inwardly thankful, I danced on to a solo organ. One of them was here, but what about the other? I still had to examine the onlookers’ faces. There were no recognizable faces right by Dr. McNally. I kept scanning until –
A bespectacled face! With white hair and a mustache! Dr. Florescu! He was seated far in the front.
They were both there! After all those years struggling to find them together, they finally were, together, watching me perform!
“They’re here! They’re here! They’re both here! O thank you, Lord Jesus!”
Seeing them there, my whole body seemed to flare up. My adrenalin surged. I had to be perfect, for their sakes! The organ, horns, drums and cymbals gave their all.
It was time for me to start the flashback. The music became lyrical since it was mostly strings. In my mind, I kept hearing “They’re here! They’re both here!” But I also might as well have been hearing Gary Oldman, from Bram Stoker’s Dracula released five years earlier, saying “See me now!” I was conveying that message now to the spectators, notably the historians.
I really put my soul into my performance. But for all intents and purposes, I was appearing before last night’s audience, bored and passive. Even Dr. McNally looked uninterested! I could not make out Dr. Florescu’s expression. Worse: twice when I glanced at McNally, his eyes were closed!
When I was supposed to notice the novel, and I knelt down to touch it, I prayed, “Jesus!” several times soundlessly, so that I would make a superb job of the metamorphosis. But when the time came for me to go after Dr. McNally, his eyes were closed again! He was unfamiliar with the act and the music; what was I going to do? I took a good look at his clothes: navy blue business suit, white shirt, red tie. Being many rows back, he would take a while for me to reach.
I came down the stage steps and walked fast a few rows, keeping my eyes on him. I had to carry out my “attack” before the corresponding music ran out! I ran down a few more rows and reached his; I could see him a few seats inward. But as I prepared to head for him, I encountered another obstacle. The space between his row and the next row ahead was so narrow that I couldn’t get to him without stepping onto the intervening spectators’ feet!
I would have to advance on Dr. McNally from behind. Thank goodness the space behind his row was enough! I was ready to move when –
A realization came over me. For more than twenty years I had had a goal to “victimize” McNally, a worldwide Dracula authority and a diehard vampire expert! My eyes opened widely, and I assumed a toothy wicked grin like the villains in a melodrama! But not one spectator turned to look. Neither did I make a sound.
I returned my mouth to normal and made those precious footsteps toward my distinguished chosen “victim” arriving behind his right shoulder. He was absolutely passive.
But so was the whole room! Except for the music, not a sound was heard. Neither did the spectators, even in the frontmost rows, turn their heads to watch! No spectators behind me reacted or intervened! Would Dr. McNally react? I placed my hands gently on his shoulders, then bent down.
I did touch my upper and lower teeth to the right side of his neck and his collar respectively, but made absolutely sure not to penetrate! I began sucking. McNally did not react; neither did the spectators. I raised my arms like wings, but instead thought No! I want to hold him! I moved my lower left arm slowly diagonally across his upper chest, and my lower right arm across his waist; I never stopped sucking. And I hugged him very lightly, I could not see his face.
As my music continued, I kept sucking, holding him and hugging him lightly. But my eyes closed, too; no, they should stay open! I opened and closed them every second. When open, they showed a still unresponsive historian and audience. I felt so happy and content; was this ecstasy? Was it wrong or sinful to feel this way?
I gently released my hold on McNally when the music indicated time to stop. I stood dignified and quietly. The whole “attack” had lasted no more than 30 seconds. McNally’s collar had only a quarter-inch wide line of my saliva; otherwise his clothing was undisturbed. But most vital -! His skin was intact! My face never gave me away as I returned onstage and finished The Dracula Archives.
I gathered up my stake and discarded garments, shoved the table against the back wall, and exited the back door to prepare for the Fashion Show. More garments were backstage. I could not take a breather. There were several I had to don now. I had been wearing the staple shirt, belt, pants, breeches, shoes, and laces for hours. I removed the black cape, and put on the Castle Bran robe, sash, coat, and hat.
When the show began, the MC began the commentary I had sent several weeks earlier. I came out wearing the Castle Bran ensemble and felt I should use the “runway” – the center aisle. As I did, I was distressed at the sparse attendance. My heart ached when I reversed direction to return onstage because the attendees were still “zombies:” no one turned around to look at me again!
I did not use the aisle again until I was modeling the last outfit: the vampire. I processed at a slower rate, my face stern. This time three men, scattered about the auditorium, held up their fingers in makeshift crosses! I did not panic. I kept my composure and sternness as I gave each man a dirty look and moved on.
But I also was arguing with myself: should I go after McNally again? He had been completely passive; would he react to another attack? But not once, when doing this format before, had I diverted. I looked around; I had not come down the aisle far enough. No, I would not go after him again.
The MC congratulated me on my presentation but then said, “There’s more to come!”
I rushed to the back of the stage because two stagehands were trying to remove my table! “No! No! I’m not finished yet. I still have one more number and I’m going to need it again!”
I needed no costume change; I was in the vampire outfit and my last dance was to be the Vampire Solo, from my Stoker ballet! Suddenly I remembered: twenty-one years ago, today, I had started my Philadelphia performance at Kennedy Plaza with this same dance!
“Dr. McNally should really appreciate this.” I said to myself as I settled back onto the table.
As I arose and went through the dance, I made sure to omit any gestures or poses popularized but unauthentic in movies, TV and stage. But as I did a brief bat sequence, my spirits sank. My supreme Dracula recital, which I had so carefully planned and tailored for the historians’ sake, on the occasion of the novel’s centennial, was drawing to a close! With this event under my belt, where would I go from here?
The attendees began to applaud; I felt better. I took a number of grateful bows, but I was also sad that the room wasn’t chock-full; the attendees weren’t smiling, standing, cheering, whistling or waving; they weren’t spellbound, ecstatic or overwhelmed.
Next, I had to give credit where it was due! Drs. McNally and Florescu were applauding, but still seated. McNally was not smiling; I could not make out Florescu’s face. I beckoned to one then the other, to join me onstage! McNally understood immediately, but Florescu hesitated a moment or two.
In my mind, I could now hear the music at the very end of the movie Ben-Hur, at which point the title character sees his mother and sister, cured of leprosy, and embraces them while a chorus sings “Alleluia!” The historians mounted the stage and I cried out “My mentors!” but not loudly enough so that the spectators heard me. I guided the two into positions (“Over this way”) so that Dr. Florescu was on my right and Dr. McNally’s right hand on my left.
Since both men were taller than I, I might as well have been an average-sized icon between two historian giants. I raised my arms as high as I could, with the historians’ hands still in mine. The movie chorus might as well have sung “Alleluia” here and now, resounding throughout the room! I wanted to hug them – both of them! – at that moment, but I was afraid it would be inappropriate, before onlookers. My face was an open-mouthed, glowing smile.
There was neither increase in applause volume nor any vocal acclimation for the three of us.
I could not see the two men’s faces; neither did I know if they were acknowledging either spectators or me.
All too soon, the three of us had to let go of one another. I went to the “coffin” and removed the ID cloth. We went through the back door into the next room.
“All these years I read your books, worked on the dances and the costumes, and kept you informed because of my goal to perform a serious conscientious, authentic Dracula dramatization before you two because of your great accomplishments. And now I’ve finally achieved that goal!”
“I thoroughly enjoyed it.” Dr. Florescu asserted.
His remark has stayed in my heart and soul since!
I forget if I said anything to Dr. McNally, or vice versa.
I told them about my next booking in town and agreed to meet them again at the Masquerade Contest to be held that evening.
I forget if I went back, then, for my cassettes or if the sound technicians brought them to me. At any rate, I packed all my other garments and props and prepared to go to town. I bade the historians goodbye.
Although I didn’t know it yet, that was the last time I ever saw historian Radu Florescu.
The nostalgia shop was in confusion when George, Pete, Kevin, and I arrived. Prospective attendees were conversing but drifting around. With difficulty I came to the interior and door I was supposed to use. Kevin had his script, but no microphone. The wobbly, flimsy screen I was to hide and change behind would have to be handled by George and Pete because a strong wind had arisen!
The store manager had much trouble getting the gossipy attendees out the door into the derelict parking lot. I had hardly any inside space to put on my first costume. With much difficulty, the attendees settled outside but still had to be told to be quiet.
The presentation was miserable because of incessant chatting among the spectators, like discontent school students forced to attend a concert or lecture; the screen’s constant swaying, lurching, and several actual falls despite George and Pete’s struggles; Kevin’s occasional digressions from the script and attempting to silence the spectators or threatening to stop the show; and my having to hide inside to avoid peeping toms while changing costumes, keep my eye on the screen to enter, model an outfit and exit, and keep my hands on my hair or clothes to avoid disarray. I was very discouraged at presentation’s end.
I doubted I would ever again visit this shop or part of town.
As I returned to the convention, I thought ahead of the Masquerade at which I hoped to win a prize. But I also thought back, sadly, on the disastrous in-town show, and how half-heartedly my dancing had been received at the convention site. Had I been inferior, since there had been poor attendance, and no cheering, smiles, vitality, presentation bouquets, or other awards? All my life I had gone to, been in, witnessed, or learned about, events so overwhelming that onlookers and/or participants overreacted. Even tamer happenings had to be impressive enough as to be remembered, even immortalized. The maxim that participation only, not the result (success vs. failure, victory vs. defeat), counts has proven wrong countless times throughout history. One could be told “do your best” at any one moment only to be unappreciated and disapproved of the next.
Back at the convention, Kevin and I were walking together down the hall. We started to turn a corner and then –
I stood stock-still, wide-eyed.
I had come to the aforementioned corridor with the triangular columns of mirrors! And I was in vampire costume! I called Kevin’s attention to it. I advanced on myself slowly, hands reaching out slightly.
“What are you doing?”
I went a few steps down the hall, turned, and stared into another mirror. “Bella Lugosi always did this!”
“What do you mean?”
“Are you aware of what day this is?”
“Well? Doesn’t the date ring a bell with you?”
“Tell me. Enlighten me.”
“Bela Lugosi died on this day in 1956! Exactly forty-one years! And it was twenty-one years ago today I first danced Dracula in public, to mark the twentieth anniversary!”
“What does that have to do with these mirrors?”
I explained to Kevin about having read that Lugosi, while making his Dracula movie, wandered about the sets during breaks, still in costume; whenever he passed a full-length mirror, he stopped, stared at himself, and raised his fists, proclaiming “I am Dracula!” Now, I raised my fisted arms saying loudly “I am DRACULA!” I was more authentically costumed.
Could Lugosi, from the Great Beyond, have observed me just then?
I came to the Masquerade room; there seemed to be many competitors. Had I made it in time? People were being called out and capering before possible judges. I introduced myself to an important-looking woman and demonstrated how I dressed as and portrayed both sides of the persona.
I joined the procession of competitors and put on the best stage presence I could in what was my last chance to win a prize at this convention. Upon first entering the room, I had noticed Dr. McNally seated; if only I could impress him further by winning a prestigious award!
But I won nothing.
Well, there it was. The final blow. All my hopes shattered. I turned and went to the other side of the room, facing the wall, sobbing.
“Suzanne?” Dr. McNally’s voice! “I presume you’ll be using curved hats from now on when you do this?”
What was he saying!? “Curved… hats?”
Apparently, all the men’s hats of the time, he insisted, curved backwards like the curved end of a candy cane! The illustrations showed it clearly.
“I had only front-view pictures and illustrations to go by! I had never saw any side or back views!”
“Well, they’re out there. You should look for yourself.”
“I – I wouldn’t know where – to find them!”
The instant he mentioned a change, I recalled a conversation I had had with my father a couple of months earlier. For some years, In Search of Dracula, based on the first research book, had been on TV from time to time. It was this film that had shown Christopher Lee in the Castle Bran costume. The first time I saw the film; I duplicated the costume for the first use at Leprecon VIII at Phoenix in May 1982. Each time the film ran again, I checked for any mistakes I might have made; I ended up correcting and remaking costume sections a number of times! Ultimately, my father insisted, “You mustn’t fret so much. No one cares about every last detail being one hundred percent correct.”
“Wrong! There are two people who will care! If I ever see them again!”
My predictions had proved right. Two people, the world’s foremost Dracula authorities, did care about the minutest authenticity. And one of them said my two headdresses were incorrect!
“Ohhh… noooo… ”. I turned away from McNally and toward the wall. I did my best to speak clearly, but I was also sobbing. “All these years, since I heard about you two and decided to do Dracula in dance… I went out on a limb to make the dances and the costumes as authentic as possible… because I respected you and your work… and now you say the hats are defective!”
“I would rather you go find Radu and stay with him.”
Just then a man boasted suavely, “I’m dressed as both the original and fictional Draculas!”
I turned in the direction of the voice and saw the man in a Castle Ambras cap, wig and mustache. But from the neck down, in costume, he was just another vampire! “Oh, no!!” The man passed me as I stared after him. Where had he gotten the raw materials for the hat? Had someone made it for him? He moved to the middle of the room where a crowd gave him a hero’s welcome and I was left sobbing.
“I’m asking you again. Please go away and stay with Radu.”
My head bowed, I collected my things and gave McNally a hurt look and left the room.
I no longer needed the stake and a few costume pieces; I returned to my room and packed them along with my music cassettes. I also packed my program book. I hid my purse and concealed my room key inside my costume. It was getting late and I had to find Dr. Florescu! Would anyone downstairs want to interview me?
When I returned to the main floor, I wandered through a number of rooms and halls like phantom. Though I was trying to find Dr. Florescu, I was also taking stock of the attendees. None had worn national or ethnic dress, looked recognizably foreign, borne national flags or club/societal banners or pennants. Now, looking the attendees over, I saw that the only nationalities were Canada, Germany, Romania and the United States! And this convention had been promoted as a world event, considering the monumental anniversary, something marketed as global had proven only small-time! A world icon was short changed.
I looked around to see if anyone recognized me, but I received no acknowledgements. Strangers saw my stressed expression and asked if they could help; I asked them about Dr. Florescu. Where was he? I ended up half-running among maybe six rooms, and backtracking, with no luck. I headed back toward a previously noted room with a great many couches. Dr. McNally was there! I ran into him and told him of my fruitless search, but he gave me no sympathy. I ran away the way I had been and saw a group of people with cameras, coming out of another room!
But the people had their cameras, and some mics, facing the other way! They were waiting for an older woman: veteran actress Ingrid Pitt. They dwelt in depth with her having portrayed 17th century Hungarian “Blood Countess” Elizabeth Bathory almost 30 years earlier.
Being at the fringes of the crowd, I watched as a few of them changed positions from time to time or seemed to be on the verge of breaking up. I tried to speak to a couple who appeared silent. Alas, the interview apparently was not going to adjourn for some time. I would never get a chance for those media to learn about me. I was beaten.
Unnoticed by anyone, and with head bowed, I retraced my steps to return to my room. When I came abreast of the room with couches, I saw Dr. McNally, seated and talking with people. Finally, I turned and moved on. The ecstasy of the afternoon was completely gone.
At other sci-fi conventions I had been to, many of the guest rooms had had parties, and the doors opened into the halls. But here everything was locked and silent. I disappeared inside my room.
Only a few hours since my landmark Dracula performance, and already I was a has-been!
The next morning, I was not refreshed when I woke up. I had limited time, before having to catch the “Czarina Catherine” (my return flight), to find Dr. Florescu, reconcile with Dr. McNally, and see if there was still anyone who wanted to interview me.
But Dr. McNally refused to make up with me; he repeated his demand that I find and stay with his other half.
I went down the verge of tears to the auditorium where I had performed. I took one last long look at the empty room.
Just then a man appeared; he was a stage manager. Had he seen my performances? More important; years from now, would average citizens remember or tell their neighbors what had happened here, or what I had done? The stage manager’s mind was a complete blank.
I returned to the room with couches only to find that McNally had vanished! I ran to the spot where I had seen him. Where was he? I looked all around. There! He was climbing a staircase with a group of men. Would this be my last sight of him? Apparently, they were headed for a group of second floor elevators. Yes! They were on the narrow balcony headed for the elevator at the end of the row. They were talking and their faces and voices were smiling and cheerful!
Dr. McNally was still happy as he got aboard with the other men and turned around. But when he saw me looking up at him, his face went stern and cold! My face was like a whipped puppy’s as I waved farewell. He raised his hand only a split second. We looked at each other as long as we could until the elevator doors closed.
I had just had my last contact with Dr. Raymond McNally!
What could I have done wrong? He hadn’t praised my dancing; he had taken fault with my costume hats.
Had I offended him with my “vampire attack”? I had made sure to discuss it and get his consent beforehand! Was he offended that I had approached from the back instead of the front? I had had no chance to explain or apologize.
I never meant to offend him!
I meant him no harm!
Deprived of a dear friend and mentor, I returned to my room to gather my things together. But I was so unnerved that in desperation, I used my room phone to have the switchboard put me through to Dr. Florescu’s room! But the operator, not knowing the room number, asked me who I wanted and could not put two and two together!
George, Pete and Kevin were waiting to take me to the airport. I heard the departure music from my Stoker ballet, in my mind, as I took a last look at the hotel premises and prepared to leave “London” to return to “Transylvania”. No conventioneers were around to cheer the Princess Dracula homeward. I was like the defeated Count, having to flee for his life.
Kevin and I talked for a while because we had different homebound flights. It was so important that he had taped both my performances! The program of August 16, 1997 was paramount. My finally having performed Dracula, after twenty-one years of struggle, before the “Fathers of the Dracula Renaissance”.
The PA system started the boarding calls for the “Czarina Catherine”. Since the seat rows farthest back were called first, I did not react. I glanced at my watch and wandered slightly away from the jetway entrance, taking my last look at the immediate surroundings.
“Suzanne! Come on! Don’t wander off, or you’ll miss your flight.”
“I am being careful! I’m watching my watch; I’m not wandering that far off; and I’m listening to the PA. My row won’t be called until almost the last minute”. When my row was called, Kevin and I hugged each other goodbye.
Aboard the plane, I had a window seat in the first third of the cabin. But now, I was on the left side going east. I strapped myself in, arranged my things, and made the same observations of passengers and aircraft getting ready. But instead of feeling excited, I felt sad. I was grateful for having achieved my twenty-one-year-old goal, but I also felt that it was all over. Would I see either McNally or Florescu again? Would I perform before either or both again? Would Dr. Paduraru publicize me? Would my sown seeds yield crops or die of neglect?
Throughout my homebound trip, I heard the music, a symphony’s last movement, which corresponded to the last few scenes of my Stoker ballet. I felt as though everything was over.
There was no “hail the returning hero” celebration. There was no follow-up publicity blitz, any more than there had been advance publicity for the convention. No interviews or performance offers came around in the weeks that followed.
Later that fall, Ivy Leaves, my high school’s semi-annual graduates’ magazine, printed a summary of my convention achievement. But only my school’s graduates read it. More to the point: any info about any graduates’ latest activities had to be written and submitted by the graduate himself/herself.
I received no award, citation, commendation, or other acknowledgement for my Dracula related artistry either at the convention alone or during the past almost-quarter century. It was a mortal blow that at the former, neither historian bestowed a gift or other token of appreciation!
All the copies of the convention program book had information on the luminaries and activities. The info for August 16,1997 included the names, music, and synopses of my dances and the Fashion Show. But the same was as for the aforementioned Ivy Leaves, the participants themselves had to take the initiative and submit the info in advance.
As Fall 1997 went on, I realized that the only imminent Dracula performances I could do were in Halloween parades. Four were up and coming in sites where I was a regular, but I had not yet done Dracula.
Unfortunately, I was in only two parades because one was rained out and I had been given the wrong date for the other!
At the first, the costume judging preceded the procession. I registered my entry as “Two Sides of Dracula”, explaining and modeling the costume differences between the original and imaginary personae before the judges. I had to alert them about the novel’s centennial. Once judging was finished, I rearranged my garments so that I would appear as Prince Vlad.
Out on the street, the lineup was not well organized. When we turned onto the main street, I struggled to maintain a sensible space for myself, but other marchers would hem me in. I could not brandish the stake; I was limited to holding it upright.
The other Halloween parade was the night of October 30, 1997. The site was one that for years had had me perform alone in the local athletic field immediately before or after the parade. The lineup was much better tonight; I had sensible empty space to rotate in a circle, hold my stake upright, and brandish it.
However, about two-thirds through the route, someone barged into the street and sprayed me with Silly String! I screamed, hurrying to clean my face and costume. I noticed the culprit: a blond teen boy. I ran after him intending to have him reprimanded, but in the scuffle, I allegedly struck him because a police officer confiscated my stake and refused to return it! The blond boy started the trouble but apparently never was penalized!
Without the stake, I was gravely handicapped. I could no longer make the same kinds of gestures! One sympathizer brought a replacement, but it was a monstrosity of a tree branch! I still had a post-parade dance in which to “combat,” “fall dead,” and “metamorphosize”; what was I going to do?
Just then my long-time friend David brought another branch, still somewhat zigzagged, but much better than the previous one. I finished the parade route distraught. What would the spectators and judges think of me?
But my suffering wasn’t over yet. The Director of Recreation announced my performance over the PA, and I went into my number. But I had barely started when I saw something coming toward me.
No, it wasn’t an object; it was a person in a costume. As he came closer, I recognized the character and stopped dead in my tracks, outraged.
It was the Philadelphia baseball team’s mascot!
“What are you doing here? This is my performance, not yours! I’m supposed to perform alone! Please leave!”
I went back into my dance, but the mascot did not leave. When I “marched into battle,” he kicked his legs like a saloon dancer! Every move I made, he spoofed! I was supposed to be a horrendous, blood curdling Dracula, but the mascot was making a fool of me!
I wanted to scream bloody murder and run from the field, but I was afraid that if I did, I would be hounded and branded unprofessional. Three times I stopped in mid-routine to get him to leave. “Why are you still here? Look at me! Can’t you guess I’m someone horrid? You’re spoiling my presentation!”
Couldn’t the spectators sense something was wrong? I didn’t scream or run away because I hoped someone would come to my aid. But no one intervened, not even over the PA! I had to seize my makeshift stake and advance on the intruder. “You asked for it! I told you to leave and you wouldn’t! You ruined my presentation!”
I had to threaten to impale the meddler, that instant, if he didn’t leave. He did, but he had soiled my number I had yet to finish. I left the field stunned, carrying my things. By then the mascot had vanished; I could not trace him or find out if he had an official supervisor or boss.
It was not until the spring of 2019 that my New York City friend, Phil, found out about a Mr. Middleton, who by then was the Philadelphia baseball team’s manager. I promptly wrote him how I had suffered at the apparent customary antics of the mascot; was it his M.O. always to materialize out of nowhere and unexpectedly disrupt planned activities or entertainments?
Surely the player could tell that
I was stock-still, white face, and
He turned my performance
and dedication into farces!
… I meant to tell the player I was
Dracula, but wasn’t he intelligent
enough to realize I was a villain,
dressed totally in black?
…. Although this fiasco was over 20 years
ago…. If the 1997 player cannot be traced,
care still must be taken that future appearances
do not repeat the mistake of intrusions…
resulting in more harm than good.
As Dracula, I needed no outside help!
… you see fit for present and future mascots
to do their homework before appearances.
Mr. Middleton never answered my letter; neither did the guilty party apologize to me!
Twice tonight, less than an hour apart, I had been mistreated by practical jokers! One had gotten me into trouble with the police; the other had spoiled a crucial dance number. Both had barged in unexpectedly, taken their liberties with me, and gotten away scot-free! In the mascot’s case, there were no photos, footage, printed accounts, or investigations in the days that followed.
I made sure I had all my things and began looking for a return ride to my hotel. Instead, two teachers from a school in town called me over. They wanted me to perform Dracula before the eighth-grade class tomorrow – Halloween!
“Are you sure? After what that goon did to me?”
“There are no pranksters where we come from. We do want you.”
What a relief, after being maligned twice!
We settled down to planning tomorrow’s program. The whole event would be videotaped. I would start with the Vampire Solo but had not included the music among my trip belongings; the school would provide an alternate. I had the Dracula Archives, but my shrieks would have to be way, way down in volume lest the staff think there was an emergency! I would finish with the Fashion Show, but I had not brought the Castle Bran outfit; I would model only the other three.
One of the teachers drove me back to my hotel; she would also provide round-trip transportation to the school the next day.
In the morning I had to write a new fashion-show script since I’d be modeling only three outfits. The only dance for which I had the music was The Dracula Archives and I was trimming it as I had last night.
Until it was time for me to be picked up, I wore the vampire costume. It was still the vampire image’s centennial! At least I kept historical authenticity. Since the police had taken my stake, the school would provide a maintenance broom’s handle.
In the designated room was a table for my “coffin.” Another table next to it had a radio on top; I had to play around until I found a frequency with a good number. Unfortunately, the Vampire Solo didn’t go very well because the music changed unexpectedly or were unfamiliar to me or faded out into static. I changed frequencies once but aborted the dance when a famous part of Schubert’s Unfinished Symphony began playing
The Archives fared better until my “doctoring up” of the music confronted with the closing phrases unexpectedly. As for the Fashion Show, one of the teachers blinked the room light switch for “lightning” when the vampire was being introduced. Why hadn’t I had that teacher do it for the Archives metamorphosis!
Being in eighth grade, these students might soon intermittently write research papers, for which they would have to read and acknowledge many sources of information. I explained what was in the foreseeable future by reading the Dracula novel’s all-important story behind the story.
The teachers thought a group still picture of the students be a keepsake. “I have a better idea! If we’re going to take a picture, let’s have some of the students as members of the anti-vampire posse finishing me off!
I sat on my table again and became a director. “Who’s going to pound the stake?… over here, right there… your hand should be at least halfway down… a boom!… there should be another student up here… see if you can find a pencil or pen on the desk or other tabletop… press it against my neck… you’re supposed to be cutting my throat… the rest of you, look horrified! Eyes and mouths wide open… cower… hands over eyes or mouth… Let’s go!” I lay back on the table. “…where I showed you… OK, we’re ready!” I turned my head to my right and froze, my face grimaced in my “death agony,” until the teachers said they had the picture.
The students, teachers, and the principal thanked me; they promised to send me the video cassette in due time. I was grateful for the opportunity in the wake of that post-parade fiasco.
But that was my last Dracula performance in the centennial year of 1997 A.D.
I had had a harrowing 1997 so far; I had had a couple of major triumphs but also many insults. The only events left that year were Christmas parades; I had to use other costumes and themes.
In the next two years I performed Dracula only twice. One was in a Halloween parade meant for the centennial, but which had been rained out; the other was at Duke Mack’s, an Atlantic City night club, in October 1999.
From mid-1999 to mid-2000 I had another bad scare. In June of the former I saw a Pennsylvania Ballet brochure about the 1999-2000 season. The group was going to dance the rival Stoker ballet in May and June 2000!
I had dealt previously with groups doing the rival work, but the Pennsylvania Ballet was headquartered in Philadelphia; it was too close for comfort.
… I used music mostly by Khachaturian
that was not already associated with any
given theme… Your brochure mentioned
[Franz] Liszt as the composer; I know from
My [music appreciation] studies at school he never
wrote anything named “Dracula.”
… My first public performances of my Dracula
dances were in 1976… the 500th anniversary
of the historical Dracula’s death… performances
for the first three or four years were in Philadelphia.
I have enclosed copies of… old programs
and news clippings… [According to] the
dates, you will see how far back…
Since I went unmentioned, ignored, the
[world’s dance] authorities may rule that
this rival dance work be the only [one]… of
Dracula allowed; that I must give up… or else
risk being falsely accused of stealing someone
else’s idea. Then who will remember, or even
believe that I [did it] … first? That I’ve
danced the role on stage and TV across
North America? That some of the world’s
foremost Dracula authorities are aware…
and have witnessed my performances?
But this letter, too, went unanswered!
In the months after the convention, I sent Nicolae Paduraru my promised papers (“hard evidence, proof positive”). But was the Bucharest address he gave me accurate? I saw him and Dr. Florescu’s son John in several TV specials, and wrote him additional letters, but in vain.
With the turn of the 1900s to the 2000s, I expanded into additional events, costumes, and themes. From time to time there were milestone anniversaries of incidents, books or characters. Some of the costumes were strictly for artistry, without representing anything.
The convention was the last time I ever saw Florescu or McNally. Florescu and I promised to keep in touch by letters. Would McNally forget all about me?
Kevin and I occasionally kept in touch by phone. He said he had recorded both my convention performances, notably August 16th’s with its two great climatic moments! He wanted to know when and where my next appearances were, what were the themes, and what I would wear; he would provide transportation. But gradually he became elusive. I would call but could only leave a message; he never called back. He forgot events and had to be reminded. A day and hour arrived when he was to provide a ride but failed to show; he was not home and I had to take a bus or get another driver. Repeatedly he promised to send the convention tapes but never followed through. After many unsuccessful calls, I heard a message that his number was out of service! He never had given me a business or home address.
Though Halloween is the traditional time to “glorify” Dracula, it is not celebrated worldwide, only in North America. In learning his real story, I discovered various dates throughout the year that were enhanced by either significant deeds or crucial life incidents.
But there were no special dates in October. The day I had met Dr. McNally, he had said, “Dracula is a perennial.”
In the fall of 2002, Dr. Florescu wrote to me that Dr. McNally had died! I wept for days but was amazed to learn that he had died of cancer! I never knew McNally had had it. In mourning for him, I bitterly recalled how he had given me the cold shoulder the last I had seen of him.
Every November, my church holds a memorial service for all parishioners who have died during the previous twelve months. Though McNally was not from my parish, I submitted his name to the list of honorees. During the service, when his name was called, I went to the back of the church where there was a table with lighted mini candles in see-through crystal cups; I brough one forward to the altar. I wrote Dr. Florescu about it in my next letter; in his next letter he expressed his gratitude.
Could Dr. McNally, from the Great Beyond, have observed what I did?
I did not dance Dracula again until 2006. There were three occasions; the last was a Halloween parade in the town where the Philadelphia baseball mascot had degraded me nine years earlier! But by now the town had discontinued the post-parade entertainment. Still, there was a moderate celebration. The Recreation Department was gathered in a part of the athletic field. When I joined them in my Impaler costume, we drank toasts to Dracula, for his 575th birthday, with “blood” – that is, commercial red fruit punch! We consumed several large bottles worth! I made sure to write to Dr. Florescu about a party focused on the Prince rather than the Count!
One day the following summer, I had just arrived at the Jersey Shore for interview when
a woman photographer, Christine, who had followed me for many years, told me that Kevin McMahon had died of alcoholism! I had lost all contact with him some years earlier; how had Christine been able to find him? The life-and-death convention performance tapes never were found! They were the only proof of my greatest Dracula performance and my triumph with the historians!
In the next few years, I danced Underdog at several annual events. A great many spectators relished these appearances, but some perverts still chose to perpetuate the Howard Stern stigma and misconceptions.* In two or three of his letters, Dr. Florescu stated he was interested in Underdog and wanted very much to see me dance him!
I wanted to so much to grant his wish, but in these years, he spent at least half his time commuting among the United states, France, and Romania! Sometimes it was months before I received his next letter. I addressed several of mine to his French address. If he was in Europe so much, how was I supposed to earn the money and know where he would be if/when I was ready to travel, meet him, and perform what he wanted to see?
Then, in 2014, his wife Nicole wrote that he had died on May 18. I mourned and wept for him more intensely than I had for Dr. McNally because Dr. Florescu had been the kinder and friendlier of the two great men. He had died without my having granted his wish!
*Look up Howard Stern: The True Shocking Story at muldowneyville.tripod.com/shocking.htm
In November of 2014 I paid the same memorial respects for Radu as I had with Raymond.
It seemed to me that the years 1997 and 2014 were major turning points in my life. After 1997, I yearned to see Radu and Raymond again and perform the Dracula dances I had not done in years: in plot they “closed the gaps” in his story left behind by the other dances more frequently done.
I had sent Nicolae Paduraru of Romania my “goody pack” of literature so that as a VIP he would propagate my name and info in strategic parts of Europe. But no interviews or performance offers came from overseas.
With Radu’s death in 2014, I lost all hope of touching base with VIPs that counted, in both the East and West. His widow’s letter had had no return address. I could not trace her sons, John and Nicholas. The former and I had not been together since 1979. He had been impressed by “Egrigoz” from Vlad Tepes.
Even before 1997 I had become established in some localities and regions for my appearances. But passerby virtually everywhere referred to me as Underdog only, even when I was costumed otherwise or in plain clothes. Even today I have to inform the masses that I perform a variety of themes. After 2014, no one seemed to care anymore about Dracula, except
in October and North America only. With the vampire having been overused a second time, the historians’ research books and all knowledge or even awareness of the real story was fading into obscurity. Then how would anyone remember what I did, and can still do, in the name of Dracula, especially for the sake of the Impaler?
It was imperative in the past that there be a change of pace or viewpoint toward Dracula because of overuse of the vampire and of consequent stereotypes; with little or no reference to “the story behind the story” when it came to dramatics. It was too easy to be clouded by fantasies and lose track of reality if/when there were facts behind the myths. Over time and worldwide, adults made the first move by imposing fantasies onto children’s minds. The children “ate them up,” believing what they were told was real. So many fictional characters, often supernatural, allegedly interacted with children with positive or negative consequences. (“If you want this character to bring you gifts, you must be a good boy/girl… Go to sleep now, or you’ll be empty-handed… Any bad boy/girl will be torn to pieces on the spot… You must be good or the ____ will get/punish you.”). And so on. Adults were dishonest fostering fantasies as if they were real; ultimately the adults turned the tables and stressed reality only with an iron fist. Assorted fantasy characters either never existed or existed other than tradition said they did. In Dracula’s case, he existed as an exiled mistreated youth who fought for his country’s political and religious independence, spilling much blood in the process, but he was not supernatural, let alone a vampire.
If “reality only,” “the facts – – just the facts,” “the story behind the story,” “the facts behind the myths/legends,” etc., were/are all sorts, etc., in the case of Dracula there are many rules:
*Readers of the Bram Stoker novel must heed, learn and remember it’s passages referring to “that [real-life] Voivode Dracula.”
*The general public must remember that the novel was/is solely responsible for the imaginary Dracula.
*Involving/concerning oneself with Dracula solely for escapism/fantasy is forbidden.
*The man and his true story are not meant to be falsified, distorted, mutilated, or mocked.
*Dramatizations of the novel must include Stoker’s factual research in their plots.
*As with other historical tyrants, Dracula was evil but not born evil; all were conditioned as they matured.
*Dracula and the other tyrants must be remembered as having been conditioned by their times, not today’s standards.
*Neither the real nor the imaginary image is meant to team up with/confront other familiar but irrelevant entities.
*Dracula is not meant to team up with/confront other familiar but irrelevant entities.
*Individuals/groups making significant achievements with the Dracula theme, especially first-of-a-kind or breakthroughs, deserve to be acknowledged/credited accordingly and their names and deeds/work made common knowledge permanently.
*Visitors to Dracula homeland landmarks should come out of respect for Prince Vlad and not for vampiric/horror fixations.
These rules or standards are not my inventions. They are based on eons-old logic and human experience/traditions.
After the 1997 convention, there were a number of major obstacles:
The internet and other later websites did not yet exist or were barely known.
If cell phones had been introduced, they did not yet have a plethora of features, notably cameras. Ever since, especially during nighttime parades, I have seen countless spectators wield small but discernible cameras; they are independent of other mechanisms. There were no small cameras among the Dracula conventioneers, let alone my audiences.
PA/sound systems meant for phonograph records or audiocassettes were becoming out of date. So were the records and cassettes. I had many records at my parents’ house but they were preparing to move and threw out all the records. Without them, I no longer had the music for dances I had created way back but now could not perform.
The above-mentioned items were being replaced by CD and CD players. The CDs could not be relied upon to have the same musics the audiocassettes had had.
Not only audio but also video objects and systems were changing. New TV series and reruns of old ones were increasingly difficult to obtain and replay. From 1977 to 1982 when I was on a number of local TV programs in different parts of the country, I had my segments put on videocassettes. But with the playback systems now coming into vogue, how was I to prove what I was/am capable of, then and now? How would the masses find out about the convention and what I had done, and in whose presence?
I no longer had money or literature to contact distant TV stations or make long trips to be on local or national programs.
Cable-TV systems coming into vogue, if they were forerunners of the websites, had the ability to run new programs, rerun old ones and even replay long-past historical events. How was I supposed to touch base with those in charge to replay my significant past performances?
I had heard about vampire clubs; would they be interested in live performances? But a TV exposé made my heart sink. The clubs were social only; members gathered periodically expressly to slake their thirsts. One woman, allegedly a fore-aft vampire, said on camera that only two tablespoons of blood satisfied her craving. Obviously the vampires led normal lives but kept their dark sides hidden from the outside world. Gatherings were an excuse for members’ actually to sample other members’ blood! Members were sworn to secrecy about the clubs’ existence, nature, objectives, and interactions. When I told Kevin about what I had seen, he said the clubs were not appropriate for me.
In the fall of 2015, a community theater in the town next to mine displayed their choices for the season. The theater was built on a street which paralleled my church’s parking lot. While on my way to the church, I passed the sign and my stomach turned.
The 2015-16 season’s first production would be the standard Dracula play! I grimaced, but I said nothing. This all-time standard was one of the novel’s earliest dramatizations; there was not one word in the script about the original Dracula!
A couple of weeks before the play was to open, a woman who shall here be known as Sally came to call on me. Sally and her husband were and still are members of the group; they also had been long-time friends of my parents, who had died in 2013.
Sally knew I was a Dracula authority, but wanted information beyond the obvious. Apparently, she wasn’t aware that the standard play had omitted the story behind the story! I informed her of the “missing link”. And adequate information on Vlad Tepes.
The last week the play ran, Sally told the cast, “There’s someone I know who’s an expert on Dracula.” She wanted me to give my input to the cast after the last performance. But on the night I was to come, I had a previous far-distant performance commitment and had to stay overnight! Why hadn’t she had me address the cast prior to the opening!?
Time passed, and I continued with my career. My costumes and themes depended upon the locales, natures of events, times of year, and sometimes milestone anniversaries. But usually, along these guidelines, Dracula was not appropriate.
At the beginning of April 2018, nine major concerns hit me all at once, more severely than before:
In the early 90’s, I had created Shelley, the South Jersey Shore Mermaid, a territorial mascot; I played her myself. The major metropolis of the area was/ is Atlantic City. But in 2016, Ocean City, NJ’s Director of Public Relations retired. His successor did away with virtually all OC events for which Shelley was a regular, and no other maritime towns engaged me as the character.
Parade spectators who have seen me as Underdog many times still choose to burn me in the name of Howard Stern; new scars over old. I was horribly afraid that I had mortally offended historian Raymond McNally with my feigned attack on August 16, 1997 at the Dracula convention, since from that point on he either gave me stern looks or told me to go away. I did not mean to offend him!
I was afraid that the historians, their books, and Prince Vlad himself all were becoming has-beens. I casually questioned strangers what they knew about Dracula; they mentioned only the Count! Had they forgotten, or ever learned about, Vlad the Impaler who had been overshadowed a second time?
If too many people in North America were unknowing or uncaring about the original Dracula, was it worth all my effort portraying him anymore in those countries? Since I had had no wave of publicity or prosperity after 1997, I had crossed out the prospect of Europe. Now, I feel that I must go there! But where would I find interested audiences? Where would I earn enough money? Would one or more natives be my chaperones? Would portrayal of the vampire offend any nations? Should I stick to Vlad alone?
At the end of my career, I need to will all my costumes to deserving entities. But the Dracula costumes are the most highly specialized! An extra-special, respecting body is required. I had thought originally of the Florescu clan; but after Radu, “an indirect descendant of Prince Dracula,” died I was unable to touch base with his heirs. Who else would respect those costumes as museum pieces for the public to see?
Neither historian had willed me any Dracula-connected treasures or relics.
Whereas the historians were bestowed award after award, prize after prize for the rest of their lives following the rediscovery expedition, not once have I received a prestigious award, commendation, or citation for my work.
Since spectators never cowered, cried out, gasped, rose from their seats, or took fright any other way during my scariest performance moments, the implication is that I never performed up to par, and am a failure. In my high-school freshman speech textbook, veteran actor Boris Karloff confessed to having stage fright. “And he is the one who performs to make everyone else shudder and shake!” From now on, when I perform Dracula, must I scare the spectators out of their wits to do a good job? Along similar lines, must I be so outstanding a quintessential, that witnesses howl with enthusiasm, in standing ovations?
From this point on, I felt I must perform, again and again, the dances I had not done in years; the dances whose stories “close the gaps.” By re-reading Dracula: Prince of Many Faces, I heard the musics in my mind and revised the choreographies. Nearly every waking minute, I was involved in this brainstorming so that people around me would be puzzled or sometimes interrogate me. “Why are you so worked up? What’s the matter? Calm down!” I said nothing, or that I was working on theatrical dances, but omitting the name and nature of the subject!
Since the deaths of my parents, I had contacted my church’s rectory to book the weekday morning Masses on their behalf on the anniversaries of their births and deaths. The anniversary of Radu’s death was approaching, but the date was already booked. Since Sally always went to the morning Masses, I asked her to transport me on the anniversary date.
“Who are you honoring in private?”
“Who was he?”
“One of the historians who rediscovered Dracula’s true story.”
“Was he a Catholic?”
“He was European-born. I don’t know.”\
“What church was he?”
“I never found out.”
Sally flared up! “You, a Catholic, offer up Masses for a man who may not even be churched?”
What kind of attitude was this for Sally to take? Three years earlier, she had been pleased that I was a Dracula authority! Now, it was wrong for me to honor another authority posthumously?
Several days later, it was the anniversary date and Sally picked me up. But on our way to the church she asked again: for whom was I offering this Mass privately? When I told her, she turned ornery again. She gave me the third degree: who and what was the honoree? How I came to meet him? Was anyone else involved? What were the two (Radu and Raymond) doing when I met them? How did we interact?
Did they have me do anything? When and where had I last seen them? How had we kept in touch? Sally wrested multiple confessions from me, shaking her head and growling with each additional one. I grew more and more scared.
After my parents’ deaths, Sally had appointed herself my personal caregiver. But here she was regarding herself as my superior; I was not a person in my own right. And here she was mortally offended at a subject that had apparently fascinated her three years ago. Why had she changed her viewpoint somewhere between 2015 and 2018?
When Sally and I were headed home, she noticed I was all in black. “Are you mourning?”
“Radu, the historian!” I wanted to hug them – both of them! – at that moment, but I was afraid it would be inappropriate, before onlookers
“But he’s a Dracula person! I will not stand for you paying tribute to anyone connected to that evil man!”
I didn’t dare bring up the subject of the community theater. I just bowed my head and sobbed.
Sally had been congenial when the theater did the Dracula play! She never had confronted the lead actor; neither had she reprimanded or punished the company for its choice of play. Who or what did she think she was?
Several weeks passed while I thought hard, and desperately, for a Dracula comeback! No big-scale performance; I had no idea who would want one, or where. Was there a more subtle way? I poured my memory over my greatest performances and publicity campaigns.
I had to let the masses know that Princess Dracula was still around! I hadn’t danced him in over a decade; I hadn’t done the Fashion Show since 1997! What could I do? It had been so long since – since…
The March of Dimes contest! I had lost by a thread to a crippled “vampire” comic, but several weeks later he was shown in costume, at a blood bank, in the newspaper with the caption “Dracula Giving Blood!?” I could tell in the photo that the man was still clowning.
It had been forty years since that look alike contest! What if I gave blood? Every six months I gave a sample anyway just before my next checkup with a gastroenterologist, who shall here be known as Dr. J.G. I went to Quest Diagnostics at six the next morning. It was to be a hot day, but at sunrise it was still cool. I explained my idea to the receptionist, but Q.D. was forbidden to take patients’ photos. I was told to try the hospital down the street.
But the hospital had no entrance marked “Outpatient.” The only conspicuous entrance was the Emergency! Once through it, I warned the sentry I was in no trouble. But he pushed a button and two women came out, asking me all sorts of questions.
When I finally was able to explain that I wanted to talk to an authority to get the OK to be photographed in costume, I was passed around and around, again and again, from group to group like the proverbial buck! Several interns bugged me about having used the Emergency entrance. Finally, when I had to leave for home, one woman took me to the Outpatient section which was very small with no lab! “Quest Diagnostics misdirected you!”
One of the doctors said I would have to call Dr. J.G. to have him look through his resources. Once home, I called his office, but his nurse said he was on vacation!
I had to take the nurse into confidence. I was frustrated and exhausted from all that buck-passing. But the nurse cut me off in mid-statement. “Hold on.” I was panting until she returned. I tried to finish my story only to be interrupted by a knock at my door. “I’ll wait.”
When I started to open the door, Sally was there! She looked angry.
“What are you doing here?”
I tried to shut the door, but Sally grabbed it open! “Let me in!” She stormed up the stairs.
“Hey! You can’t do that now! I’m in the middle of a phone call!”
“I know! The nurse called! I’m handling it now!” She grabbed the receiver. “Yes, I’m here. I’ll get to the bottom of this.” She hung up and faced me with fire in her eyes. “Alright! What’s going on here? What’s this about Dracula?”
“What? I don’t understand.”
“The nurse said you were trying to do Dracula and get Dr. J.G. involved!”
“I had to confide in her because she said the doctor’s on vacation!”
“I want the whole story.”
I collapsed onto my couch and told Sally everything about the March of Dimes contest; the winner’s newspaper picture; my inspiration for a similar deed and photo; the false leads I was given; and my unsuccessful call to Dr. J.G. The nurse had betrayed me to Sally!
Sally was thoroughly disgusted. “It was such a hot day! You also behaved irresponsibly by going out on such a hot day! You could have become sick from heat exhaustion!”
“Wrong! I started very, very, early this morning so that it wouldn’t be boiling hot when I got back!”
Sally got up and stormed out, leaving me in the lurch.
Neither was my persecution over yet. While my parents were still alive, they appointed a State-employed advocate, who shall here be known as Barbara, to look after me. I was mandated to meet face to face once a month. Now, she chose to castigate me further. “Suppose the hospital personnel had forced you to stay as a patient? What if the doctors thought you were having delusions?”
“Not one medical person I spoke to ever said the word delusion!”
“From now on, whenever you have a prospective idea, you must tell Sally or me about it first! I want to be in on it!”
“So, from now on you two can knock any idea I have!”
I had been betrayed by two people!
For the remaining days until my appointment with Dr. J.G., I was quivering with anxiety and nervousness. I was afraid to speak let alone confide, with anyone lest he/she be a security leak, as Dr. J.G. himself tested my liver and found it healthy. Now my moment had come.
“I have something extremely serious to discuss with you.”
“Oh, about Dracula?”
I gasped, “Who told you about that?”
“Out front. Two nurses told me about taking your picture.”
“Your nurse got me into a ton of trouble by a security leak.”
“Tell me the whole story. I won’t get you into trouble.” He appeared genuinely interested.
I told him the whole story. When I came to the part about the hospital doctors telling me to have my doctors look up their resources, Dr. J.G. exclaimed, “They gave you homework to do!” He listened on as I told him about the security leak and the denunciations and demands Sally and Barbara had made.
“Can you see I’m trying for a comeback? The public has to know I’m still around. But after being – condemned! – by those two women, I haven’t a chance. They cursed the idea.”
“I don’t. It’s a great idea! We can do it right here. Unfortunately, I’m not authorized to draw blood. The lab always does it.”
“Oh, noooooo! And I was counting so much on this.” I was sobbing.
“Calm down. You’d be seated simulating giving a sample while a nurse works with you. I would take the picture.”
“But once you have it, how would you get copies to publications that don’t circulate so that they reach the wrong hands or eyes?”
“I’d email them. I understand the need for secrecy.”
“Oh, Doctor – Doctor… I’m so grateful.”
During the next few weeks, Dr. J.G. and I seized every work break to get ready. There mustn’t be the slightest mishap in this Top-Secret endeavor! We chose September 25, 2018, the 40th anniversary of the March of Dimes contest! I would wear the Castle Bran costume minus the hat, since the most appropriate depiction was of the original Dracula before impalements. I wrote an appropriate caption. This would be my first Dracula appearance in eleven years! But it would be a photo session, not a performance. Phil made lists of “safe” and “no-no” publications.
On the appointed day, I did not don my costume until I was hidden in the one room. We took several rounds of cell phone pictures. “I seem to be grimacing in some of these,” as I examined some of the results.
“Now, Dracula, can you afford to be choosy when you’re after necks?”
Another nurse I had not previously seen was in the room with us!
“Oh, no!” I screamed. “Now she knows who I am too!”
“She’s reliable with secrecy. She won’t betray us.” the Doctor reassured me.
“I can never forget that security leak!”
“You’re the prince.”
Since Sally and Barbara, self-appointed superiors, were so overbearing, not once have I uttered the name Dracula, one word about him or his connections, or one word about my dances or costumes to either of them. Sally had proven herself inconsistent.
I never found out which publications Phil contacted. Where in the country were they headquartered? I never saw any feedback. AS of this writing, I still have not done another live Dracula performance.
What is to become of me?
I have a number of videocassettes with my past performances on them; the topics vary. But accommodating sound systems have gone out of date.
Since 1987, I have been in parades; they account for about 90% of all my appearances. As of this writing, I have done 500-600, but I did Dracula in about only a handful.
I have a few trophies and plaques for Dracula appearances, but all the appearances were in annual events. There were no one-of-a-kinds, no events focused solely on Dracula, and certainly no awards customized with my name or for long-time periods of Dracula related work. Since Drs. Florescu, McNally, and Paduraru all have died, I have no way of knowing if any other authorities in the right parts of the world are still alive, let alone aware of my name and deeds.
I have not done, for years, dances that depict Dracula as evil but show that he was not born evil, or that he lived in difficult times. I need to dance that often as possible while I still have the ability. These also need to go on the web; though I have been on the Internet, Google, YouTube, etc., for some time, some topics or performance numbers still need to be added. But being on the web has not brought an influx of performance requests.
I have stated earlier that vampire clubs are out of the question. In the mid 70’s I learned about a Count Dracula Fan Club and a Count Dracula Society headquartered on the East and West Coasts respectively. Recently, in re-reading their original literature, I lost heart because both focused too much on the vampire. I do not know if these clubs still exist. Neither do I know if there are other groups, elsewhere in the world, focused instead on Vlad Tepes. Would they be interested in my performances? Would they be worthy costume heirs?
I have developed a Dracula Fashion Show format that I can do in parades – but in the reviewing area only, and involving only two of the four costumes.
A major matter to remember is that Dracula lived in times when life was cheap: Christians and Muslims were at war; many European nations were weak; succession of monarchs/rulers was rapid; children and teens were hostages of the political and religious enemies.
I have to portray him as evil because of environment. A question I have formulated is: How can the original Dracula, aka Vlad the Impaler, be made at least PARTLY family-friendly? I looked back at live, animated, or filmed TV, movies, stage plays, or store displays from when I was aged two to seven. There were many negative elements, most of which I was not yet smart enough to understand but could cry about:
Invasions from outer space
Caged wild animals let loose
Cruelty to animals by people
People/animals trapped in fires
Casting of spells
Quarrels leading to physical assault
Innocents taken by force by villains
Innocents threatened with misery or death
One person physically mistreated by many
Predators attempting to kill unsuspecting
Innocents put in dire/threatening situations
Heroes killing villains
There were no rating systems or warnings for discretion at that time.
Since I grew up a target and victim of perfectionists, who “wanted everything yesterday,” as the saying later went, I was threatened with dire consequences, and I was physically mistreated. I was barely among optimists. I was criticized about my aspirations. I was forbidden to fantasize. I was blackmailed and bullied into concerning/ involving myself with reality only. All through school I was unmercifully teased by my classmates and criticized by my teachers. The college students were out-and-out fiends, since I had to live on campus during the week. Ultimately, when I knew better about Dracula’s formative life, and compared it with my own, I said to myself, “No wonder he was horrendous later in life! No wonder I’m drawn to portraying him authentically.”
I have explained, as best as I could, how as a solo dramatic dancer I stuck to my own creative originals, and made sure prospective spectators were never taken by force to watch; they came and went on their own.
Whatever time and ability I have left, I must be faithful to my principles. It is/always will be my obligation to utilize whatever God-given abilities I have. In terms of Dracula, I need to go on through the year 2031, when Vlad, the original, turns six hundred years old!
Suzanne Muldowney May 5, 2020