BEN CHAPMAN TRIBUTE FROM JULIE ADAMS
Hard to believe that on February 21st, 2013, Ben Chapman will have been gone for five years. Ben was a kind and generous man, with whom I had the good fortune to work with on Creature from the Black Lagoon. I remember the first time I saw him in the Creature costume, I was terrified. But as the production wore on I gradually became used to him as the Gill Man. By the middle of the production I would greet him in the morning with a friendly pat on his rubber cheek and say, "Good Morning, Beastie." Working on the film together became part of a lifelong friendship that many years later took us to horror conventions all over the country: Chiller in New Jersey, Monster Bash in Pittsburgh, Monster Mania in Philadelphia, too many to remember.
What I do remember was how much fun we had sharing a table together reminiscing about the good old days at Universal. Fans of all ages would approach, and Ben would delight them with every detail about how Creature from the Black Lagoon was made. He would tell the kids about how he would be watered down between takes to keep cool in the rubber suit and lots of other delightful stories. His energy and enthusiasm for the film was and is a large part of the enduring legacy of Creature from the Black Lagoon.
Though I knew he was having some breathing problems near the time of his passing, I never imagined losing him. He just seemed so energetic and full of life, particularly when the fans came around. He would always light up when someone would ask about his character or the making of Creature.
There is one behind-the-scenes story that we told at least a thousand times. It is the cave incident, when the studio forgot to heat the tank on the cave set. Ben and I were reluctant to get into the cold water, but there was no time to heat the tank, so we carried on like troopers. In the scene, he is supposed to emerge with me unconscious in his arms as he carries me to his underwater lair. Things didn't go according to plan!
Ben's Creature goggles fogged up when he emerged from the chilly water with me unconscious in his arms. I was freezing cold, trying hard not shiver when I felt a bump on my head. My eyes jolted open on impact and our director, Jack Arnold yelled, "Cut." Ben unable to see clearly, had accidentally hit my head against the paper mache rock of the cave set. As a result, I had a small scrape on my forehead.
Of course, the studio made a publicity stunt out of it, and a nurse was called in to tend to my minor wound. There is a wonderful picture that has become a fan favorite; it shows the cast looking over me with worry as the nurse tends to the scrape on my forehead. The best part of the picture is Ben as the Creature, kneeling over me solicitously. Every time I see that picture it warms my heart, and makes me miss him even more. It was Ben's gentle soul inside the rubber suit that helped make his character so enduring and resonant with audiences. Of course, I was fine and a few minutes later we got the shot and worked our way through the rest of the scene.
I have many wonderful memories of Ben. I know lots of other people who had the pleasure of knowing him do as well. I believe Ben is resting in peace, knowing that the Gill Man, that he helped make famous, is bigger than ever, living in the hearts and imaginations of film lovers all over the world. My heart goes out to Ben's lovely wife Merrilee and their family. It's hard to believe Ben has already been gone for five years. Like so many, I miss Ben dearly, and he will forever hold a special place in my heart.