As a fan, I had the opportunity to meet and speak with Ben Chapman at a number of coventions, including Chiller Theater, Charm City Creepcon, Frightvision and Monster Bash. In 2002, when my wife, Heather, and I were planning a trip to Hawaii, I e-mailed Ben to ask if there were anything on Oahu that he would suggest we not miss. His response was to send me his home phone number and ask me to call him when we got into town so that we could discuss it over coffee. That was the kind of man Ben Chapman was. He loved his fans and he loved Hawaii. His kindness and good humor will be sorely missed!
This is a hard piece to write - because Benny was a close friend and sort of adopted second father. I was shocked and stunned to learn of his passing. However, I have so many fond memories I would love to share and what better way to subdue the pain of his death, than by celebrating his life.
I remember the first time I met Ben for breakfast to interview him and it turned into a five-hour breakfast and was the beginning of a beautiful friendship. The restaurant was well into the lunch crowd by the time we were done .........
It would be nearly impossible to pick one great memory of this amazing man, who was a wealth of knowledge where the Golden Age of Hollywood was concerned. I remember one convention in Baltimore he asked me and Scott Erhard to join him to assist him and work his table with him for the weekend. Or when he strongly suggested I attend my first MONSTER BASH and I brought my girlfriend at the time, what a weekend that was. All of the dinners I shared with him, all of the fond memories and great stories. Documenting the 50th Anniversary CREATUREFEST with my producing partners Matt Crick and Eric Rosenberg, for our feature film, CREATURE FEATURE: 50 YEARS OF THE GILL-MAN, which will be coming out soon on DVD.
Perhaps my favorite was watching BENNY miss two hours of PRIME AUTOGRAPH TIME on a Saturday afternoon, so he could sit and watch CREATURE FEATURE in the auditorium with a full house of MONSTER FANS at the MONSTER BASH CLASSIC FILM CONFERENCE, a screening that still means more to me than MOST of the BIG FILM FESTIVALS or MOVIE HOUSES that screened it. More than the forthcoming DVD release. Watching my good friend, Ben Chapman sit quietly and intently, living and breathing every moment of our film. And hearing his response afterward, how much he liked it. Him saying, "When can I get one?" Or even all of the help he gave us along the way. All of the love he showed me, the film, and his genuine friendship, which I will treasure for the rest of my life.
Ben Chapman - YOU were the last of the original Universal Monsters, and you will LIVE FOREVER in our hearts and in our minds, and yes, on the SILVER SCREEN you enjoyed so much.
CREATURE FEATURE: 50 YEARS OF THE GILL-MAN
I have a mini-poster of the film in my apartment. Now I can tell my sister's kids that he was not only an American hero, but an inspiration.
May he rest in peace.
Please send my condolences to his family and friends.
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To Ben Chapman's Family,
I am very sorry to hear of Mr. Chapaman's passing. My own father passed a way this past October, so I know how hard it is. About a year ago I wrote to Mr. Chapman to tell him what a big fan I am am of the Creature from the Black Lagoon and to get one of his autographed pictures. After he sent it to me I wrote him a note of thanks. He then responded with a note back which I thought was so considerate.
Our family will keep yours in prayer during this difficult time.
Dr. Bradford Garrigues, Sr.
When i was small, i loved horror movies and watched them every chance i got. my favorite was the creature from the black lagoon. i decided i was going to be a mermaid when i grew up and i would marry the creature from the black lagoon. my mom burst my bubble by telling me i couldn't grow up to be a mermaid, so i decided i wanted to be lily munster or morticia addams and i was still going to marry the creature! nothing was going to stop me!
fast forward 30 some years later. i meet a funny werewolf from toronto and we become friends. he learns of my creature obsession and happens to know ben chapman personally, having met him at a horror convention. it is february, and i am having a tough time due to some personal setbacks. the wolfman emails ben and has him send me a valentine to cheer me up! honestly, it was the best valentine's gift i have ever gotten! not long after that, ben sent me an autographed photo in all his gilly glory! he was an amazingly nice person and i will never forget the kindness he showed me. i am truly a fan for life. may he rest in peace!
truly saddened by the loss,
I met Ben at Fan Expo in Toronto in 2006. He was right, there were a lot of Canadian fans that hadn't met him yet! He told me and probably everyone else that his doctor forbade him to come, but he wouldn't hear of it, saying that he lived for his fans and always would. How about that, making me feel special! In less than five minutes, he absolutely made my whole trip, and I travelled 3,000 miles to get there. By the end of the weekend he was getting wheeled around in a wheelchair, but he still had a big smile on his face. What a helluva guy. My sincere condolences to his family.
Red Deer, Alberta, Canada
Having met Ben at several conventions the past few years, most notably at "Monster Bash," and knowing him through my friend Sam Borowski's documentary "Creature Feature," I can share with everyone how nice and warm a gentleman Ben was.
Ben was a gentle giant, who ALWAYS had time for his many adoring fans. I had the chance a few times as the conventions were wrapping up to sit down with Ben at dinner with some friends -- even though he was a bit tired from an exhaustive convention weekend, he had the energy to regale everyone with Creature tales and stories of old Hollywood.
Aloha, Ben. You will be missed.
-- Stephen Hart
sportswriter and horror/sci-fi fan
Staten Island, NY
I am deployed with the Marines in the Sandbox. I could submit a nice Ben tribute to the Public Affairs office. I will explain he served in the Korean War as a Leatherneck.
I am not sure how many kids he had. I know of his wife, Merrilee, and son Ben (III). I also know he has a Marine son and a daughter. However, I don't know their names. If you know all his children's names, please send them to me. Big Ben will be missed.
My wife, Lise, and I met Gentle Ben four times between 1999 and 2004. Please send our condolences to his family.
Pasted below is an article my hometown paper printed for me. Here is to Big Ben:
This story was published 11/10/2007 by the Opinion desk.
Letters / Thanks for the memories (Creature Feature Tribute)
JON THORSON - Cedar Falls native deployed in Iraq
Waterloo/Cedar Falls, page A7 (Full version)
CEDAR FALLS --- Autumn 1974: The seven-year old ran into the kitchen after playing kick the can with pals, "Yum, chocolate milk good!" His mother eyed the clock --- 10:25 p.m., "Jon Allan --- no monsters."
At 10:30, a blood-shot eye stared down thousands of eastern Iowa kids on KCRG Channel Nine. Jonny frightfully bolted toward the stairs, taking only two leaps to his basement lair. Did he just hear his Aurora Wolf Man model howl? He imagined beautiful vampire brides hovering about. He quickly wrapped blankets around his neck for protection and tiptoed to the stairs in paranoia. What fun loving kid could miss out on Dracula, Frankenstein, the Gill Man, Godzilla, Mr. Hyde, the Invisible Man, King Kong, the Mummy or the Wolf Man?
Chuck Acri hosted the legendary Creature Feature, showcasing a double-header of creepers. My former creative writing teacher, Erik Melberg, praised the show due to its mixed chemistry of gags, interaction with children, monster skits and some quaint adult humor. It kept all ages glued to the tube. As my mother, Franki, hates to admit it, I would often bust her gazing at a monster flick as she tried to crouch behind the recliner.
My wife and I met classic celebrities, such as Kevin McCarthy, Sara Karloff, Ben Chapman, and Waterloo 's Julia Adams at the Monster Bash in 2004. This autumn, treat yourself to a classic monster film. Thanks for the Friday memories Chuck Acri and your gang of ghouls.
I just read the sad news through my myspace friend William. I wanted to send my condolences to the family at this sad time. How sad we lost such amazing talent so soon. God Bless.
Thank you for making me jump!
Merrilee- You may not remember us (Ben always thought that Joe looked like your Dad), but the three of us did meet you at the Creaturefest in Wakulla, FL. All of us, especially Claire, are grieved deeply now that Ben has gone on to be with the saints and his family in the true Paradise. We can just imagine his cousin, Jon Hall, waiting at the pearly gates for him with St. Peter.
Ben became very dear to each of us, not just as a favorite "Classic" motion picture monster icon, but more importantly, as a kind and generous friend who never became bored or impatient with us, no matter how many times we imposed upon him at the shows, and who always made us feel that he genuinely enjoyed seeing us. We were looking forward to seeing him at the Monster Mania next month in New Jersey, but that is not to be. Instead, he was with us last night at our home in King of Prussia, PA.
Carmine (Sonny, to Ben) suddenly suggested that we watch the Creature from the Black Lagoon last night. We didn't know of Ben's passing at the time. After watching the movie, we watched for the first time, a special feature on the DVD which showed various still photos, not only from the movie, but of Ben clowning in costume, some with his mask off so you could see that incomparable smile of his. At the conclusion, oddly, although we have watched the movie innumerable times previously, we all felt somehow really happy in a way that we hadn't on any of those other viewings of the show. Just before going to bed, Joe checked our answering machine for messages received earlier in the day. One of the messages was from Ben's friend and film personality, Connie Brooks, of Plan Nine From Outer Space fame. Connie's message was to let us know of Ben's passing. We were devastated, but suddenly we realized that it was Ben who inspired us to watch the movie. It was his way of being with us for the last time.
We'll all miss that glowing smile and "Aloha", but we know that Ben is always with us; he lives in our hearts and minds forever.
Claire, Sonny and Joe De Maria