1977 is a year I’ve almost completely wiped from my memory. August was an especially intense month. Groucho Marx died on August 22nd. Sebastian Cabot died on August 19th. But the most memorable day in August of 1977 was the 16th: The day Elvis Presley died. August 16, 1977 also happens to be the day that my mother had an aneurysm in her brain rupture. (Jesus, that was a shitty week.) For years my sister blamed Elvis’ death on my mother. (If I’m honest, at the time the death of Mr. French eclipsed Groucho and Elvis but none of them mattered once my mother fell ill.)
I was eight and a half years old that summer and thanks to the helpful comments of a neighbor (“My mother said your mother’s brain exploded!”) I was convinced my mother was going to die. She thankfully didn’t, but her recovery was long, painful, and frustrating.
She had only been back home from the hospital for a few days when my grandparents decided it was time to give her a break from me and my older sister. We were told to get dressed up and before we knew it my grandparents were driving us into Boston to go see a play.
My parents met working in the theaters in Boston. My grandmother was the first woman theater manager in the country. My grandfather, uncles, aunts, and cousins, all worked in the theaters at some time or another in the 50’s, 60’s, 70’s and 80’s (as did my sister and I for a time in the 70’s and 80’s).
I knew what the theater was and that it was important in our family and had visited a few times when other people were working, but I had never actually been to a show. Under any other circumstances, I would have been thrilled. But my mother had been in the hospital about a month and neither my sister nor I were very happy about leaving her, even if only for a few hours.
So I think my sour mood (and the years…Jesus it’ll be 40 years this year!) has made me forget most of the experience. I remember how dark everything was. Not just the theater itself but the stage. And I remember there being a couch on stage and after the show we were allowed to stick around and someone showed us that there was a trap door in the floor behind the couch (which is how Dracula appeared and disappeared so quickly during the performance).
I remember that, even at 8 years old, I was oddly attracted to Dracula or rather, Frank Langella, who would be the subject of many weird dreams of mine during my pre-teen years! Even a child knew he was supposed to be mesmerizing. And holy cow he was. My grammar school crush on Kevin McCarthy (a classmate not the actor from Invasion of the Body Snatchers) aside, I’m pretty sure seeing Frank Langella as Dracula is how I truly knew I was into boys.
(With one line at the end of this I Love New York commercial, you can see for yourself the appeal of Mr. Langella)
The only other thing I remember is the rubber, glow-in-the-dark, vampire teeth we got. I can’t remember if they were a gift from the crew or if they actually sold them at the show, but I kept them for years and sometimes even slept with them in my mouth (my mother would have freaked had she known that). And I’m told that we got to meet Frank Langella. I have literally no memory of this. None. Which kind of pisses me off. I mean I remember meeting Richard Harris and Rex Harrison and Donnie Osmond (heart emoji here) but can’t conjure up one second of a memory of Frank Langella. Time is cruel.