I Owe Your Father More Than Can Be Expressed
Good Ms. Karloff,
I owe your Dad more than I can put into words here, but I will try.
Born in December of 1957 with cerebral palsy at a tiny 2 pounds, 12 ounces, I wasn’t supposed to be around long enough to tell you this tale now! Since God spared me, however, I decided some years ago to track down the folks whose art helped me get through the 16 surgeries to correct my orthopedic problems while I was yet a youngster, (and 12 more since then). Boris Karloff’s body of work tops that list!
My debt, therefore, to your Father is a bill long overdue. I still recall how terribly sad I was when he left us on 2-2-1969, and I’ve wanted to say thank you to him all along. Having discovered your website, I hope that you’ll now accept my thanks, and allow you to know how wonderfully I was affected by all that he did, from his Universal classics, old radio shows, and his splendid narration for “The Grinch”, and beyond!
Particularly in the Frankenstein trilogy, but not only those, what your Dad’s work did for me was:
1) Allow me to know that someone else empathized with what it was to be often shunned and mistreated by others. Even though your Dad was only acting, you have to truly “get it” in order to play the part as magnificently as he did! You see, Ms. Karloff, in the early 1960s, I was the only “handicapped kid” in my whole school. Most kids were great about it, and even gave me kudos for “bravery”, but about a half-dozen kids made my life a real Hell every school day for 8 long years. I’m over it, and have long since forgiven them for their daily physical and verbal abuse, but Dad’s work helped me reach that point. Can you imagine how huge that piece of this puzzle is, in and of itself?
2) Take my mind off of what was often intense physical pain. In those days, even if one had leg bones surgically sawed into pieces then re-assembled and bolted back together, as I did, twice, morphine was still forbidden for kids, period! What pain shots were available gave only the relief equivalent of tossing a pair of deck chairs off the bow of the Titanic. That doesn’t include the pain I that endured during months of physical therapy/rehab after each of those surgeries, either. However, the TV stations often ran Dad’s movies in late afternoon, or after the news at night. Getting lost in the characters that he played was like a little vacation from all of that awful pain. The relief was wonderful! Bonus delight: For the 12 adult surgeries since? I had VHS or DVD, thank goodness, and put Karloff movies on constantly. Still do!
3) Broadcasting, and Life. When I went into the radio business for awhile, then in all manner of speaking to people since, I recall how carefully your Father pronounced every word in a script, and took that to heart in all I’ve done. This was particularly true of his work in radio, wherein he nuanced each syllable to chill every spine within the sound of his incredible voice. (My favorite example of this is his “Creeps By Night” episode, The Final Reckoning from May 2, 1944. This should be required listening for the whole of radio folks, and every actor and actress. I wish that you would post that one show to the website. It’s already all over YouTube!)
Finally, 4a) Convince my kindergarten teacher I was nuts–funny story, and 4b) Bring me even closer to my late brother, Dick. It was Dick who taught me to enjoy the “pretend” of Frankenstein and not be scared of Dad’s “Creature”, or his other creations. Dick and I were always close, and your Dad’s movies brought us all the closer. Now the funny part: After watching Frankenstein with him for the first time at age five, surely enough, the next time I picked up a kindergarten paintbrush, I detailed your father’s leading role in full portrait, with all his blood-red scars. My Mom understood, and laughed….The teacher, however, thought I was seriously nuts!
I have few regrets in life, Ms. Karloff, but I wish so dearly that I’d met your Father just once when I was a lad to tell him these things. I do believe that from Heaven he knows them all now, but I am so very glad, in any case, that I can express them right now to you, and to your family.
With much gratitude,
John T. R. Gorman
Ft. Myers, FL