Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Lon Cheney & the Willful Little Girl

. . . or how I escaped a much deserved spanking from my father.

I adored Abbott and Costello movies and the crazy vampire and werewolf stories that went with many of them. Monsters and outcasts fascinated me even then and there weren't many opportunities to see movies about them.  Godzilla didn't exist yet and my most adored supernatural hero was Mighty Joe Young (how many of you remember that movie?), the persecuted giant ape who was soothed only when the heroine sang Beautiful Dreamer.  Their tale engaged my imagination.  As you might guess, I was very excited on that Saturday morning when the neighbor boy, who was all of a year older than me, was entrusted to take my sister and me on a solo bus trip downtown. To see -- and I jumped up and down at this -- Abbot and Costello Meet Frankenstein.

Lon Chaney as the Wolfman

Our fearless leader was eight years old.  I was seven.  My baby sister was six.  Our little stair-step party arrived late to the theater and scrambled for seats.  I sank back with my soda and popcorn and threw myself into drinking up the chills and thrills of some of the most evil paranormal characters to ever occupy the 'silver screen.' which in those days was indeed silver. 

I was delightfully terrified by Dracula and the clumsy but deadly Frankenstein monster even though they were pretty scary.  But what still sticks in my mind are Lon Chaney's large sorrowful eyes and sad homely face.  Through no personal fault, this poor creature turned into a monster during full moons, powerless to stop it, and was filled with self-hatred and remorse when he woke up human again.  See for yourself through the miracle of YouTube by clicking on this link: Wolfman and Lou Costello

Like kids all did back in the day, we stayed over for the part of the movie we'd missed by being late and when it hit our entry point, our fearless leader announced it was time to leave.  I said, "Let's stay and watch it all the way through."  My sister was game, but our guardian took his lofty 'elder' duties seriously and said, "Nope, we have to go home."   My usually compliant sister did not argue, but I did, and after a while they left without me.  That was okay.  I was armed with certain knowledge of how to find the bus stop and I had my fare tightly wrapped up in my pretty white handkerchief.  So I settled in for more thrills and chills and caught a fever for werewolves that would stay with me all my life.

Costello meets the Wolfman
The movie ended mid-afternoon. Plenty of time to get home before dark. So I hurried to the bus stop.  And hurried and hurried.  No bus stop.  Where was the bus stop? I asked several people and everything they told me was wrong.  It was getting close to dinnertime.  I was hungry.  After a while I stop asking for help and just wandered around looking for a landmark I recognized. Finally I found one, a public swimming pool I went to often with my family that was probably two miles from the movie theater.  I waited until the bus eventually came and I emptied the coins from my pretty white handkerchief into the collection box and rode home to my family.

I'm sure I was in big trouble but I don't remember what happened then.  What stuck with me was the certainty that no one had come looking for me.  A couple decades later while I was attending a human potential workshop, it all came back to me.  Or at least the part that counts.  I expected to be in trouble when I got home but I didn't know how much.  I'd never done anything that disobedient before.  Daddy was basically an even-tempered guy but when he got really mad he roared like a bear.  I'm pretty sure he roared that night and I have no doubt I cried copious tears.  What came to me in that workshop was a slightly later memory.  How he sat down beside me on the front porch steps and told me he'd been so  worried while he was driving around and couldn't find me.  Then he said "It took a lot of guts to find your way home by yourself." 

And he hugged me and I said I was sorry and cried again.

The real Lon Chaney. A hottie, yes?
Despite my fuzzy memory of some parts of that day, I credit  it for sculpting me into the willful woman I am today, one sometimes thought of as groundbreaking and at other times thought of as too over the top.  But werewolves led me into my career as a paranormal romance author.  Not many people realize that I was one of the first -- if not the actual first -- romance author to write a novel with a hero who truly was a dangerous supernatural creature. Sure, Anne Rice wrote about vampires, but her books weren't romances, which at the time had much touchier sensibilities.  I've always been grateful to my publisher for taking a chance on me because these books became bestsellers, both at the distribution levels and at online booksellers. They stayed on Amazon's paranormal romance bestseller list for over a year.

So am I indulging a flight of fancy and sentiment in thinking that my impulsive decision on the day I met the Wolfman had anything to do with my success as a paranormal writer?  I hope not.  I like to think it has everything to do with it.

My dad has been gone now for quite some time. Sadly, he didn't live long enough to share my publishing success, yet it still gives me a boost of confidence to remember that moment when he praised be so highly.

A little aside: In case you're wondering what kind of parents let their kids ride alone on the bus at that age? Or what kind of people let a seven-year-old wander the streets all alone?  Times were different then. We lived in a less fearful age. Children were considered capable at younger ages.  While dangers abounded, people didn't believe they would happen to them and didn't worry as much.  This was not child neglect, it was a very common occurrence.  And I have to say I think that exercise in self-reliance has a lot to do with me being the person I am.

Someone who still loves werewolves. And writing. And stretching my imagination.

Shadow on the Moon is the story of tortured Morgan Wilder and the courageous woman who risks her life to redeem him.  Shadow on the Moon (The Werewolf Series #1)

Connie Flynn/K.C. Flynn is a fulltime author of paranormal romances and mysteries and lives in Scottsdale,, Arizona.  She unwinds by playing online Mahjong but isn't very good at it. 

(Photographers, please note:  If any of the above photos belong to you, I would be happy to include your credit here as well as a link to your website!  Thanks, Connie Flynn…)