The Creature From the Black Lagoon Creature From the Black Lagoon! Ben Chapman


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From Monster Kid Magazine- (our favorite)

For the live promotional appearance with Abbott and Costello on The Colgate Comedy Hour, the Creature was played by Ben Chapman who portrayed the Gill Man in the original movie. Ben worked with the principal cast and legendary genre director Jack Arnold at Universal Studios filming all the scenes of the Creature above water. Recently it was my pleasure to sit down with Mr. Chapman and get a unique insider's view of the evening that the Creature invaded the living rooms of America with Bud and Lou in tow.
MK: I am very curious to know how the Creature came to star in a sketch with Abbott and Costello. Do you know why his debut was on The Colgate Comedy Hour?

BC: [Well] the picture hadn't been released yet. You've got to remember that Abbott and Costello were stars at Universal Studios at one time and evidently they still had some clout. They were going to do a skit and they wanted two monsters. Of course, since "Creature" was going to come out, the studio said, 'Hey, we'd like to preview him.' So Glenn Strange and I did [the sketch].

MK: What can you tell us about Abbott and Costello? Did you have much of a chance to interact with them much before or after the show?

BC: No, it was a one day deal. I got there [at the studio] in the morning. Of course [Abbott and Costello] had their own dressing room because they were the stars. I never got to know Abbott and Costello themselves. I met them, but I didn't get to know them.

MK: What about Glenn Strange. What was your interaction with him like?

BC: I think Glenn Strange, from what I can remember, was a wonderful person. Actually, Glenn Strange was the first person [Universal] asked to do the Gill Man. He turned it down because he didn't want anything to do with water. He was a cowboy [actor]. Cowboys and water don't mix! [Glenn] just wasn't interested in it, period. When they were casting that movie, it was just another movie. Nobody knew. People would have been breaking down the doors [for that role] if they knew it was going to survive to what it is today.

MK: How long did it take you to get ready for this sketch? I know you said that you and Glenn were at the studio for the entire day?

BC: I know we were there in the morning. We sat and we talked for a while. What I remember was that I was in my room by myself with the attendants that I had. It took about two or three hours to get into [the Creature costume]. We had to be very careful putting it on, so we took our time. It wasn't like when you're working, shooting a picture, we had plenty of time [to get ready]. Glenn and I had a room side by side. Glenn was being made up next door to me [as the Frankenstein Monster]. We were getting into [our characters' get-ups]. Mine wasn't make-up like his, mine was a costume. We almost died because they got us there, they put us in our costumes and we had to sit around for hours. [Then] we finally did the skit, and the skit runs, I think it's fourteen minutes from the beginning of the skit until they get to us. And when they finally get to us, we were seen for two seconds.

MK: Now the guys who were with you, your attendants, were they sent over from Universal Studios' make-up department?

BC: Oh, yeah, definitely. One of them in fact was Bob Dawn and he was with me all the time. He helped me into the costume and helped me out of the costume. His father was an Academy Award winner by the name of Jack Dawn, who was the head of make-up at MGM. [Jack Dawn's] big thing of course was The Wizard of Oz. [MK historical sidenote: Bob Dawn would later do make-up work on Boris Karloff's Thriller and he also worked with Alfred Hitchcock on Marnie and Psycho.]

MK: You recently team-up with Abbott and Costello all over again, right? This was at the 2002 Monster Bash show in Pittsburgh. Tell us about that.

BC: It was a salute to Abbott and Costello and the monsters. Lou Costello's daughter Chris was there, and I was there co-signing because of that show I did with Abbott and Costello.

MK: One of the events at the Monster Bash was a showing of the kinescope of the sketch and I heard the crowd loved it. Thank you very much for taking the time to talk to the readers of Monster Kid.

BC: You're very welcome.

Ben Chapman at the

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