Living life between the barrel staves in Bourbon Country

Waiter, there’s a hair in my beef chow mein!

Chaney Wolf Man

“I saw Lon Chaney walking with the queen doing the werewolves of London.
I saw Lon Chaney Junior walking with the queen doing the werewolves of London.
I saw a werewolf drinking a pina colada at Trader Vic’s.
His hair was perfect.”

“Werewolves of London” by Warren Zevon

Few are those who are unfamiliar with Warren Zevon’s most popular song. Jimmy Buffett has covered it. Kid Rock has sampled it. Thousands, if not, millions, have gone in search of Lee Ho Fook’s. An even greater number have wondered what a werewolf was doing with a Chinese menu in his hand. What many do not realize is that Lee Ho Fook’s was an actual restaurant in the Soho district of London, now sadly no longer around. Allegedly, they did not give out menus.

Also largely unknown is the song’s namesake was actually not the 1941 film starring Lon Chaney Jr., but an earlier Universal Studio’s take on the werewolf myth starring Henry Hull as the title character in Werewolf of London from 1935. The following year saw the release of She-Wolf of London, which explored lycanthropy from a psychological perspective. Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man followed two years after The Wolf Man, and was the first, and most believe – the best, of the mega monster clashes on the movie screen. Britain’s Hammer Studio’s oddly made only a single werewolf picture, 1960’s Curse of the Werewolf starring Oliver Reed.

The Wolf Man would keep showing up in Universal monster movies, battling Frankenstein, mad scientists and even tangling with Dracula. It was the only famous monster character to originate from the post World War II era of movie making. Like The Mummy, it had no single literary source, but was cobbled together from myth, legend and the fertile imagination of writer Curt Siodmak. Just in case you ever meet a werewolf in a dark alley, you should be aware that killing it with a silver bullet won’t work – that idea was purely an invention of Siodmak in the original script for The Wolf Man. The movie character will get a reboot in 2010 when Benico del Toro reprises Lon Chaney Jr.’s role as Larry Talbot, with Anthony Hopkins portraying his father (a role played in the original film by Claude Rains), and Hugo Weaving as Inspector Aberline of Scotland Yard. The movie will be released just in time for Valentine’s Day weekend, so make your date plans now, if you dare.

My most cherished cocktail book is a revised edition of Vic Bergeron’s (aka Trader Vic) original bartending guide first published in 1947. More than just a collection of drink recipes, the book gives background information on some of the world’s most famous cocktails along with sound, experienced advice on what being a great bartender is all about. So, since we can’t eat at Lee Ho Fook’s and Trader Vic died in 1984 (his chain is still around though, check them out at http://www.tradervics.com) the next best thing we can do is to sit back and enjoy and authentic pina colada. I don’t know how well it goes with a dish of beef chow mein (I would probably recommend a Gewurtztraminer or maybe a Marlborough district Sauvignon Blanc). But then again, that’s not really the point is it?

Trader Vic’s Pina Colada (from Trader Vic’s Bartending Guide, Revised edition 1972)

  • 2 oz golden Puerto Rican rum
  • 3 oz unsweetened pineapple juice

Blend in an electric drink mixer with 1 scoop of shaved ice for 10 to 20 seconds. Pour over ice cubes in a tall 10 oz glass. Serve with a straw, and garnish with a pineapple slice.

For those who want to make the ubiquitous dish from Lee Ho Fook’s, one of the better recipes I’ve found is from the September 2005 issue of Gourmet magazine (sadly R.I.P). The recipe can be found at epicurious.com by clicking here.

And remember, this Halloween, beware of gypsy caravans, fortune tellers, full moons, and the odd howling sound in the distance. Until then, ahhhOOOOO!

“Even a man who is pure of heart
and says his prayers by night,
may become a wolf when the wolf bane blooms
and the autumn moon is bright.”

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