THE DAY I MET PETER CUSHING
Every movie fan in the world dreams of meeting their favourite star. My meeting with Britain's horror king Peter Cushing was one such case and a one-off chance dream come true.
The road to my 1993 'meeting' started with the placing of an advert by budding Kent Hammer fan Mark Walter who wanted Hammer penpals to write to him. When I eventually wrote off to Mark, little did I know what was waiting around the corner for me. A week or so later a reply came back to me from Mark with a list of his Cushing collection and also a few words on his meeting with Peter.
After several weeks of communication, via letters and telephone calls, Mark asked me down to stay with his family and hopefully get the chance to trek down to Whitstable (home of St.Peter) and personally hand Peter Cushing a special cake for his 80th birthday. Needless to say I jumped at the chance and on the 24th May, 1993, headed on down the M1 to Kent! Upon arrival at Mark's house, I was warmly greeted by his family (all of whom, of course, I'd never met before) and it wasn't long before the Hammer and Cushing talk was a-flowin'!
The next day was the BIG day. It was to be the day that I would meet my all-time favourite actor Peter Cushing at the Tudor Tea-rooms in Whitstable (we traveled this day, the 25th, May, the day before Cushing's actual 80th birthday, because on Wednesdays the tea-rooms closed for the day). I packed all my necessary books to be autographed, a birthday card and a camera. Mark also packed his things and of course the birthday cake.
When we reached Whitstable, and as we had arrived early, we toured the area and took pictures of a couple of 'Cushing monuments' including 'Cushing's view' (a plaque and a seat near the sea). So then it was off to the Tudor Tea-rooms and the meeting with Van Helsing and Baron Frankenstein himself!
Once in the tea-rooms, we ordered our meal and before we had chance to say "Pass The Marmalade" (a little in-joke for CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN fans), there HE was in all his gory glory, the man who stitched together Christopher Lee, forced Lee into the sunlight, beheaded one of the Twins Of Evil, took on several Golden Vampires, a Blood Beast Terror, the Creeping Flesh and countless other classic British horror nasties, there HE was, the man, yes, PETER CUSHING!!!
Well I just could not believe my eyes, I thought "Oh my God, it's Peter, I don't believe it!". Mark laughed at the expression on my face, but he was just as excited as I was, even though he had met the master twice before. After handing him four books for him to kindly autograph for me (in which he also corrected a few spelling mistakes and one factual error), the exchanging of presents, lots of photographs taken and of course the presentation of the cake itself, myself and Mark rattled off a few questions to him, all of which we got perfectly straight answers from.
In that near 2 hour meeting with Peter at the tea-rooms, we got to find out that he:
* Never did get to meet Boris Karloff, though he admired him as a wonderful actor.
* Never did the opening narration for THE MUMMY'S SHROUD.
* Liked Arnold Schwarzenegger (or that "Schwarzy" fellow as Peter called him at first). Peter said "I think he's marvellous".
Other information Mark and I found out from Peter included:
* That Sir John Mills' house was used in certain sequences for Hammer's CAPTAIN CLEGG (1962).
* That the spectacles he was wearing in the tea-rooms were the same glasses he wore as 'Mr. Smith' in one of the short stories in the 1972 Amicus movie ASYLUM.
* That his then proposed new movie A HERITAGE OF HORROR was in limbo till later in that year.
Well all good things have to come to an end and it was time for Peter to leave. After several handshakes later we went our own ways. Later in that week, I had to make my way back home, taking back with me lots of fond memories and stories to all my friends and family. My only concern now was that all the photos came out OK, which they did thankfully. The local evening newspaper ran a feature on my visit and included a picture of me and Peter together. I even gave a local film fanzine some photos of Peter's 80th birthday cake which, for anybody interested, featured a severed eyeball on a severed hand as its main decoration! (Peter thought this was so wonderful).
* Well that was seven years ago now and my, how the time has shot by since that day. Mark and I are still the best of pals and it's all so hard to believe that it all started through the placing of an ad in the pen pal section of a Hammer fanzine.
LONG LIVE PETER!
COPYRIGHT PAUL DURKAN, 2000
Peter with his birthday cake!
Tudor Tea Rooms