THE DAY I HAD A BRUSH WITH DRACULA
In the 1960s, ignoring the taxi ranks, we used to queue up outside the doors of the Odeon around midnight on a Friday. We were waiting to enjoy such big screen gems as ‘Dracula’s Daughter’, ‘The Pit and the Pendulum’, and ‘Taste the Blood of Dracula’.
It took some motivation to stay up and out that late, especially with a skinful. Serious horror fans, yes. Or were we just weirdos? People were emphasising how scary Dracula was, and repulsive, but I said I for one found him cool and with it, compared with most of the yokels and jerks he was feeding off.
Then one Saturday afternoon in 2007, Joan and I went to the Novello Theatre in London to see Patrick Stewart in Antony and Cleopatra. We had to ask a fellow sprawled on his seat in the dimly-lit auditorium to let us get by. Slowly stirring in the gloom, he did, but at the same time he bared his teeth and hissed.
We pushed past. If he didn’t like it, tough. We had bona fide tickets. (If only we had reflected that it was not strictly necessary to go by the exact seat numbers in a practically deserted theatre.) The stranger must have wondered why we singled him and his row out when we could have sat anywhere.
It was during the interval, when the fellow in question, a lanky figure with a dark beard and slicked-back bushy hair, was talking to a lady a few rows in front of him, that we heard cultured tones. This was a trained voice. In fact, to watch a leading light of Stratford and Star Trek strut the boards, one of the greats of British cinema had joined the audience: Christopher Lee. Count Dracula himself.
At the end of the show we did not attempt to budge from our seats until he’d got out and disappeared. We were not going to chance trying to slip by the Transylvanian twice.
Still, that afternoon, along with a bit of retrospective intimidation, I had found the lead character for a bloodsucking story set in modern England. Shave the beard, add more charm, and you had Derek Langard, the anti-hero of 'And In That Grove There Was A BAT'.