Monday, February 2, 2009

Today is the day The King died.

Today I am remembering the King of Terror, Boris Karloff, and BLACK FRIDAY.

Not the 1940 film Karloff made with Bela Lugosi, but Friday, February 2nd, 1969. Forty years ago today--the day the King of Terror was taken by Prince Sirki, and all horror film fandom wept. I know I did. I was 7 years old when my father told me my favorite actor was gone. I cried hot tears in my bedroom. I had looked forward to growing up with new Boris Karloff films! Wasn't he the man who vowed to never stop working? Hadn't Famous Monsters magazine informed monster kids everywhere of his future film plans? I couldn't imagine Forrest Ackerman no longer cheerfully reporting on Boris' busy schedule of appearances on TV and film. Karloff's workload was amazing for a man in his 80's, despite crippling, painful arthritis and debilitating emphysema. He seemed to be imbued with the immortal life force that Frankenstein's monster was given. But like the films Boris appeared in, that was only a wonderful illusion.

He was a man I wanted to be like. He was courteous, energetic, and dedicated to a profession that made others happy. Respected and loved, his life was productive, despite his ailments and in spite of his experiencing the tragedy of divorce. My young life had known a lot of illness, and my family had suffered through divorce. But Mr. Karloff had overcome these problems, so I believed life was not as scary as the films I watched Boris in.

And now he was gone, joining Bela Lugosi for a final time. My mother had died a year before, and the power of death to change life for the worse was now confirmed as absolute. So I sobbed until I couldn't anymore. I lay on the bed, miserable.

My father came back with a copy of Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine. I said nothing. He said nothing. He just smiled an awkward smile, set it on my bed, and left.

Inside were new photos of Boris not run before. I lost myself in the pictures, imagining the stories they seemed to tell. Boris' baritone was speaking words of menace and power, and in the back of my mind was the thought that there were future issues of FM to look forward to. And no one ever died in Famous Monsters of Filmland.

I wish I still had that issue.


Pierre Fournier said...

Good Art and good Artists impact our lives. That is the distinction between Art and diversion, or "entertainment". The art and, in consequence, the life of Boris Karloff touched so many of us.

Thank you for sharing a beautiful and very personal tribute, Max.

Jim Bertges said...

I remember that day too. I was at Valley College in San Bernardino and I didn't hear the news until I got to my Drama class. Our teacher started the class by announcing that, "We lost one of our great actors today, Boris Karloff has died."
I sat in stunned silence realizing that my dream of actually meeting the great Mr. Karloff in person would never come to be.
Thanks for sharing, Max.

Max the drunken severed head said...

Thanks very much for the comments, Pierre and Jim.


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