I was already reading folklore books at the age of eight. I read about Hindu vampires, Mesopotamian myth, Greek chronicles of vampirism, Roman vampires, Mexican vampires, Eastern European vampires. Around the age of 10 or 11, I came upon this description of strigoi — certain vampires in Eastern Europe that have a stinger under the tongue, and they projected it, and they have no sharp teeth. Each vampire is fascinating. The aswang with the long tongue, or the penanggalan with the hanging intestines. They are such florid creatures of myth.
I'm going to confess something: my least favorite vampire is the Bela Lugosi Dracula.
He never did it for me. All I saw was an uncle in a cape. And I'm a huge Universal fan. I've never said this before — probably my street cred just went down 10 points. As a kid I was fascinated by Udo Kier as Dracula. I find him repellent and innocent and sexy and evil and everything at the same time. I always loved Christopher Lee as a steamrolling vampiric machine. The first time I saw Francis Coppola's Dracula, I thought, "What is this? It's so strange." I came out scratching my head, and now I'm completely addicted to it. I watch it religiously, I own one of the original helmets of the wolf suit, and I have the original cane. I'm painting model kits of Gary Oldman. I don't know why that attracts me. I love vampires — now and then — that are unsuspecting. I love Janos, the vampire in The Night Stalker, the Kolchak movie — I think he is very powerful and very brutal. I'm sorry to disappoint, but Lugosi never peeled my banana.
If you see Dracula in its context, it was a very modern novel, a novel that was using cutting-edge technology. It was of-the-time, with crazy machinery like typewriters and telegraphs and voice-recording devices. The first time I encountered the vampire as a contemporary reader was Richard Matheson's I Am Legend. Where it was happening right there: bringing it to urban America. And Stephen King brought it to suburban America, or rural America, with Salem's Lot, and it was fascinating. What sealed it for me was a vampire in Vegas, conceived by Jeff Rice and written by Richard Matheson on The Night Stalker. The procedural stuff of Kolchak and his editor, Tony Vincenzo, arguing about whether they published a note or not. The back and forth, the vulgarity of the work of Kolchak, was imbued in the tale. It's like this: I'm a hypochondriac. You know how when they say, "If you want to know about diets, talk to the fat guy." It's the same thing with hypochondriacs. I'm not a doctor, but I could resuscitate someone if needed.
I was voracious as a kid, but as an adult, I watch more comedy, animation, and drama than I do horror any more. I find it harder to get interested. It's sort of like a gynecologist reading Penthouse: "Oh I see! Miss January has displaced labia on the right, and there is an occlusion . . ." When it happens that I get excited, I love it. But it's rarer. People get surprised when I tell them that I've tried now, twice, to watch The X-Files. And I can't, because all I can think is Kolchak, Kolchak, Kolchak!