Catching Up With…Butch Patrick From ‘The Munsters’
The 64-year-old former star of The Munsters talks cars, haunted houses and his prostate cancer diagnosis.
Butch Patrick was only 11 years old when he was suddenly thrust into the spotlight as the lovable werewolf son in the monster sitcom, The Munsters. Although the series only ran for 70 episodes over two seasons (1964-1966), it attracted a dedicated fan base that continues to embrace it in syndication—and made huge stars out of Patrick and his cast-mates.
“At the time it was my third TV series, but the content on the show was so unusual and unlike anything I’d done before,” recalls Patrick, who played the werewolf son, Eddie. “Between the special effects and the makeup, and the idea that these traditional monsters would be on a sitcom, made it fun and unique.”
The running gag of the series was that this odd little family were actually typical working-class people: Herman Munster (played by Fred Gwynne) was the sole breadwinner, like most men in the 1960s. His wife Lily (Yvonne De Carlo) and Grandpa (Al Lewis) spent most of their days at home, concocting grand money-making schemes while watching over niece Marilyn (Pat Priest) and son Eddie.
The characters and costumes were all based on the classic monsters of Universal Studios, specifically the films from the 1930s and 1940s. For audiences in the 1960s The Munsters was a nostalgic throwback to the horror films they grew up watching—only with a comic twist.
For Patrick, he was living the dream, taking part in Munsters-themed parades and watching the show’s merchandise fly off toy shelves.
“It was a pretty cool time,” he says. “I was really into building toy models, and to see your own face on the packaging for toy models and on dolls was neat, I must admit. I especially liked the Munsters lunch boxes.”
But with the advent of a certain comic book hero, The Munsters suffered a ratings drop during the second season from which it couldn’t recover. By 1966, the colourized live action Batman starring Adam West captured the imagination of audiences, relegating the Munster clan to the background with the once-popular Universal monsters after which they were modeled.
For Patrick, he went on to appear in episodes of The Monkees, Gunsmoke and I Dream Of Jeannie.
However, after trying his hand in music in the 1980s with his band, Eddie and the Monsters, Patrick eventually checked into rehab in 2010. “I had been partying for 41 years,” he says. “At that point I wasn’t really living, I was just surviving. So I started to make adjustments in my life and create a more sober lifestyle. The irony is that, four months into sobriety, I found out I had [prostate] cancer.” But now, coming up on six years of sobriety and a clean bill of health, Patrick is mounting a return to his TV roots.
Later this year, he will return to his supernatural beginnings with the debut of his new series, Property Horrors, in which he visits the homes of residents being targeted by spirits, malevolent or otherwise. “I’m very confident that it’s going to do very well,” he says. “And it allows me to travel around and visit other people in situations similar to mine. I recently bought the house my grandmother owned in Missouri…I bought it not knowing what I was getting into—it’s actually a very active haunted house.”
From Eddie Munster to ghostbuster, it seems Patrick’s embracing his ghoulish roots.
We caught up with Butch Patrick to talk cars, haunted houses and his prostate cancer diagnosis. Click to the next page for the full Q&A.
On auditioning for The Munsters…
“There wasn’t an actual audition. I was living in Illinois at the time and the producers had looked at every kid in Hollywood and hired Happy Derman [he appears in the unaired test pilot]. At the last minute, they decided to change Happy for someone else. My agent knew that they had looked at hundreds of kids already and he said ‘I think the kid you’re looking for is in Illinois’ and he sent them some of my clips from The Real McCoys and I went directly to the studio from the airport. I did a quick screen test and was hired on the spot. Happy’s interpretation of Eddie was very edgy—he did a lot of growling, almost rabid. I think the Eddie character producers were looking for was just a regular little boy with makeup on. For whatever reason, they liked what I offered and hired me.”
On his favourite memory from the set…
“I liked exploring the studio. When I had time on my hands, I was able to wander around and visit the massive Phantom of the Opera soundstage and go up the catwalk. There was always something going on at Universal Studios, sometimes as many as 20 or 30 productions at a time, so there was always a lot of activity. I also loved riding around in the Munster Koach a lot.” (laughs)
On his favourite episode of The Munsters…
“It’s hard to pin just one down, so I’ll give you three: ‘Hot Rod Herman,’ ‘Eddie’s Nickname’ and ‘Zombo.’ The ‘Zombo’ one is funny because Eddie wins a chance to appear on TV with his hero Zombo, only to find out that he’s not real. I thought it was clever because here we are on a show where we’re playing these types of characters and we’re not real and we’re all made up. I loved ‘Hot Rod Herman’ because of the drag strip and the fact that we introduced [the car] Dragula to the show. And ‘Eddie’s Nickname’ was great because it was funny seeing an 11-year-old kid grow a full beard.”
On catching up with his former co-stars…
“It wasn’t until I was in my 30s that I reconnected with Al Lewis [Grandpa] and Fred Gwynne [Herman Munster]. They were actually filming The Munsters Revenge at the time. They were on location in front of my friends’ business and my buddy called me up and said “The Munsters is filming right across the street from my shop” and I said “No, I would have known about it” and he told me “I’m telling you, they’re over here.” So I drove down and snuck up behind the production and visited Al and Fred unannounced to surprise them. I remained in contact with Al afterward, but Fred was later trying to distance himself from being associated with The Munsters, so obviously if you’re hanging around with a former cast member it draws attention to that connection.”
On fan encounters…
“It’s one of the things that keeps me going and makes it so fun to go out to events to greet people. It’s all about the kids who are discovering it for the first time with their parents or grandparents. And it’s the fact that three generations of a family can sit down and enjoy it together, which is pretty rare. Kids love it for the entertainment value and film students can watch it for the technical aspects. There’s a lot of good stuff there besides the acting.”
On the whereabouts of his character Eddie’s famous Wolfman doll…
(laughs) “I’ve still got him. There was the original one, which I have, and 93 others I had manufactured about 30 years ago that we sold to collectors. I’m going to launch a brand new one in the future at TheMunsters.com.”
On playing bass in his 1980s-era band, Eddie and the Monsters…
“I don’t play anymore, but I actually wrote the song ‘Whatever Happened to Eddie?’  for the group. I never was much of a bass player. I never buckled down and learned to play it properly. It was more of a therapy outlet for me. I just plucked along when I had time on my hands. I can sing a lot better now, but back then my voice wasn’t strong so, believe it or not, I had our guitarist do the singing. His voice is so much like my own that everyone assumed it was me. I was the original Milli Vanilli. (laughs) The ‘Munster Milli Vanilli.'”
On how rehab and his prostate cancer diagnosis changed his life…
“It’s interesting. When I went into Oasis [rehab centre] it was more just to see what it was all about and to get an education and figure out why I was doing what I was doing. I had been partying for 41 years so it was a very long haul—at that point I wasn’t really living, I was just surviving. So I started to make adjustments in my life and create a more sober lifestyle. The irony is that, four months into sobriety, I found out I had cancer. I thought, ‘Isn’t this great? Now that I’m clean and sober and I’m looking forward to life, cancer is going to punch my ticket.’ Luckily, there was another patient in treatment with me who was a rock star ninja doctor himself and he introduced me to his rock star ninja doctor buddies and they fast-tracked me into surgery. They got to the cancer quickly and got it just in the knick of time. I’m now cancer-free and coming up on six years of sobriety.”
On meeting his wife and getting married in 2016…
“We first met several years ago very briefly at a George Barris car show in Florida. [When we later bumped into each other again] we got to talking and she offered her help with my car shows to work as an assistant. So we started going out and I realized she didn’t have a ring on her finger. She drove cross-country when I moved into my house and six months later we got married.”
On his grandmother’s haunted house…
“I recently bought the house my grandmother once owned in Missouri. I’d lived there with her before filming of The Munsters and wound up moving back there after filming was completed. But I bought it not knowing what I was getting into—it’s actually a very active haunted house. We’ve had multiple encounters with ghosts and Leila, my wife, took a photo of one on her phone the other day when she was walking around at night. You can see a ghost peeking out from around a corner. We’re OK with it, though.” (laughs)