June 27, 2013

Gandhi Meets Frankenstein

Must have been quite a sight, Gandhi hobnobbing with the Frankenstein Monster, former President Coolidge, and assorted “gypsies, pierrots, troubadours, Russian dancers and tramps” at the Sokol Society’s annual carnival, as reported in the social pages of The Daily Star, Long Island and Queens, NY, for February 2, 1932. 

Note the date.

In time, the Frankenstein Monster would become a staple of costume balls and the introduction of cheap rubber masks in the late Forties would multiply the Frankenstein sightings at parties and Halloween happenings, but this is early 1932, when James Whale’s Frankenstein was still deploying across North America on its first run. 

There were “ballyhoo men” — plentiful in a job-starved Depression era — hired by theaters to patrol lobbies and downtown streets in Frankenstein boots, faces greasepainted pasty white or garish green, but Mr. Joseph Taisler, looking “startling” as the Frankenstein Monster at the Sokol event, was something of a pioneer. This is certainly a very early “popular” manifestation of The Monster, and perhaps the earliest newspaper account of a non-promotional appearance.  

One can imagine Mr. Danek’s Gandhi, a figure who had captured attention the world over, represented no doubt as baldheaded, with wire rim glasses and a baggy loincloth. The article says he was “better dressed for indoors than out-of-doors”. Calvin Coolidge, however that was pulled off, earned Mr. Koubec a first prize, but what of Mr. Taisler’s Frankenstein? A dark suit, most likely, maybe the sleeves rolled up to allow for The Monster’s long reach. Was there a flattop wig, or hair combed down on the forehead? Stitches perhaps, drawn in makeup pencil? What about neck bolts?

Join me. Have a cup of punchbowl lemonade, unspiked. Remember, it’s Prohibition and, besides, the Sokol Society promotes clean living and physical fitness. Let us raise our glasses to Mr. Joseph Taisler, early adopter, prototypical Monster Kid and one of the very first men anywhere to party as the Frankenstein Monster!

1 comment:

Ana said...


I never would have expected to see them on a blog of this kind - and with Gandhi, no less :D !