Ingrid Pitt died in London on her way to a birthday dinner hosted by her fan club. When this news finally reached me via face book, after the initial shock, my first thought was she has died far too soon, but at least she was on her way to yet another party populated with Hammer fans who never ceased to tell her how beautiful and sexy she still was at 73. This is the way she would have wanted to go out…still in demand and in full party mode, much like a Hammer version of ABSOLUTELY FABULOUS.
|Ingrid Pitt as our favorite sexy vampire.|
I had no idea what to expect, arriving at the Meadowlands Hilton with Barbara that first night. Ingrid and her husband Tony Rudlin had already checked in and were holding court in the hotel lounge. I took Barbara up to her suite before going down to introduce myself. Ingrid, by this time, had allowed her screen persona to overwhelm whatever she must have been like before Hammer made her reputation as the Queen of British horror. I liked her straight away since she obviously liked to drink and so did I, and we toasted to our mutual success at Chiller. Ingrid asked after our first round, "Is your lady Barbara going to join us?" I said, “She was indeed coming down” and soon after we were joined by, what horror fans refer to as, The Queen of Italian Horror.
|Barbara Steele giving you the "Look".|
The two ladies seem to have parallel careers, if you take into account they were both about the same age and both came into prominence playing vampires (Barbara as Princess Asa in BLACK SUNDAY with Ingrid matching her with Carmilla and then COUNTESS DRACULA). It has always amazed me that Barbara could be so British and yet was never approached to do a Hammer Horror film.
Ingrid Pitt, by this time, had really embraced her horror persona to the max. She ordered Bloody Mary's at the bar, much to her fans delight, playing the diva of the undead for all it was worth. I, on the other hand, could not coax Barbara downstairs for her panel discussion, which put me in the doghouse with Kevin on more than one occasion during our stay.
|Ingrid and I.|
It would be at least two years before Ingrid Pitt and I would meet again and this time in Los Angeles. The centennial of Bram Stoker's DRACULA was approaching (1897-1997) with a convention in the works out by LAX. Gordon Melton was in charge of the affair and he was the perfect choice since he was an academic with many books to his credit on the subject of the undead.
Gordon asked me to create something for the event and I came up with the idea of having the two Carmilla's of Hammer films meet each other for the first time on stage. My friend and colleague David Skal was also doing a panel on Dracula with Bela Lugosi Jr. so we seem to have covered the waterfront, at least for the moment.
|Ingrid Pitt reveals her inner TOM & JERRY.|
This particular convention was not without its problems, but all in all, everybody seemed to enjoy themselves. I had the evening panel after David Skal's with not only Ingrid Pitt but the two ladies from DARK SHADOWS, Kathryn Leigh Scott and Laura Parker. Yutte Stensgaard was making her first convention appearance and I for one wanted to make the best of it. We all meet for an early dinner before going onstage, then I had to run back to the house to get a recording of LUST OF A VAMPIRE so Yutte could make her grand entrance to the music from the film. Perversely, I chose “Strange Love”, the pop song that plays over the one scene of heterosexual love making in the film.
Ingrid was in a foul mood during all of this and without going into details she did not interact with the other ladies on the panel nor did she want to answer any of my questions. At one point she informed the audience in response to a question about Hammer nudity that, “I have given my breasts individual names. This one is to be called TOM and the other one is JERRY.” Apparently this was something she felt strongly about because she told this to many other people over the years.
|"David, you're so bloody vain."|
A few weeks later I received a hand written letter from Ingrid Pitt. In it taped to a card was one copper penny. She then wrote, "Expecting a package from you shortly." She signed it three times…CARMILLA---MIRCALLA---MARCILLA.
I realized at that moment just how silly it all was and sent her back a card with pictures of my three cats, each titled accordingly to her above names. I would like to think she and I were back to our old selves with all this and I never really had a chance to make proper amends with her, which is my loss.
Ingrid Pitt was a remarkable lady with great poise and humor. She brought pathos to her character in THE VAMPIRE LOVERS that Tudor Gates could only dream of and she performed with such conviction and grace that she owned the screen when she was on it. I feel privileged to have had the time with her that I did. She embraced her cult following and they loved her for it.
|"Mirror mirror on the wall....I'm the Queen of Horror, damn it!"|
Somewhere in Beverly Hills, Barbara Steele is looking in her mirror asking the specter within, "Who is the Queen of Horror now?“ I think we all know what the mirror’s reply would be.