TV star talks Munsters, Milo and movies

By Ryan Cornell

WINCHESTER — If you’ve ever wondered what former child star Butch Patrick says when his picture is taken, the correct answer is “Munster cheese.”

Best known for his role as Eddie Munster, Patrick, 61, dropped by the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema on Thursday night to introduce a screening of “The Phantom Tollbooth” and answer questions from filmgoers.

Audience members included fans of his work, those from Film Club 3.0 and students from a local school about to start reading “The Phantom Tollbooth.”

Patrick portrays Milo in the animated-live action film, which is about a boy’s adventures through a fantasy kingdom.

He said director Chuck Jones approached him with the idea of adapting the book — Patrick didn’t end up reading it until after the movie hit theaters in 1970 — into a movie that would air on TV each year like “The Wizard of Oz.”

Over the course of two years, Patrick worked alongside Jones as well as a host of talented voiceover artists including Mel Blanc.

“It probably was the best piece of work I ever did, honestly,” he said. “…[T]his particular two-year period was when I was 13 to 14 years old and it just seemed like a real special time to be around the studios.”

Unfortunately, he said, the movie was never properly released. At the time, MGM Studios was in the process of breaking down the studio and building the MGM Grand Hotel, “so the movie kind of fell through the cracks.”

“It was Chuck Jones’ only feature film, and right there is a reason to want to see it,” he said. “Whether you’re a Bugs Bunny fan or a Roadrunner fan or just anybody, it’s a good movie, it’s a good book and it’ll be around forever.”

Patrick answered the number one question people ask him: where’s Woof-Woof?

He said he was shooting a TV series in the ’70s when a prop man gave him Eddie Munster’s werewolf doll to take home.

“I then proceeded to hang him from a noose in a bay window and he deteriorated into nothing,” he said. “I recreated him from the head that was left over and we sold 93 aftermarket dolls from 1980 to the year 2000.”

Patrick would later start a band called Eddie and the Monsters. Their first song, “Whatever Happened to Eddie,” was set to “The Munsters” theme and lyrics he had written. A music video of the song aired on MTV.

“I like to call myself the original Munster Vanilli because I lip-synched and faked the bass the entire time,” he said.

The group became the first unsigned act to appear on MTV and helped bring about the channel’s “Basement Tapes” series for independent artists.

“So in a way, I feel like I helped a lot of talented groups who didn’t have recording contracts but had a video camera to create a video and get some exposure and hopefully lead to some success,” he said.

Currently, Patrick is busy “fighting tooth and nail” to preserve his grandmother’s Macon, Missouri, house, which has been foreclosed on.

He has recently completed 25 episodes of “Dengue Fever Adventure Hour,” a Mystery Science Theateresque show in which he wears a pith helmet and an iron lung, and will appear on an episode of “Beverly Hills Pawn” showing off some of the Munster collection.

He said he’s releasing “Munster Memories,” a book commemorating the show’s 50th anniversary, on Sept. 24.