Saturday, January 10, 2009

Yep, that's me they're talking about at the top of the front page! I've been trying to get the guys at the newspaper to publish something about "Project Lugosi" for some time now. I submitted a couple articles, but they were never published. The paper told me that it was impossible to publish my stuff since at the time the elections were going on and a lot of the space in the paper was devoted to political ads.

After the elections were over, one of the writers at Redesteptarea, Cristian Ghinea, called me to his office to talk about the project. He too is passionate about local history (in fact, he's written a book on the topic of Lugoj history and folklore). So I did a short interview with him, after which he gave me a copy of a documentary about Lugosi that was made by some people in Timisoara in 2007-- quite well-done by the way

After my interview with Ghinea, I looked expectantly at the papers every week to see if his piece had been published. But no. The holiday season had already befallen us, and work at the paper had been disrupted (as it was just about everywhere else in town).

However, just this past Thursday I met with an acquaintence on the street and he said, "I saw you in the paper!" "Oh yeah," I responded, "what about?" "Something about a legal infraction," he retorted with a twinkle in his eye, obviously joking. My hunch was that the piece had finally been published, so I went to the nearest news kiosk and bought a copy of Redesteptarea, and as soon as I saw that picture of Dracula at the top corner, my suspicions were confirmed. I'm glad it was finally published; hopefully more peolpe will now be aware of my intentions and perhaps it'll create a public discussion.

You can find the article HERE (in Romanian)

Here it is translated into English:

by Cristian Ghinea

The great Lugojean actor, Bela Lugosi is better known in America than in his hometown.

Michael Nork is an English teacher at "Coriolan Brediceanu" National College. Before arriving in Lugoj, he had heard of the city, knowing it as the birthplace of Bela Lugosi. But Michael was surprised to find that the actor is almost unknown here in town.

In the United States, Lugosi is a symbol of Hollywood; he is considered a pioneer of the horror genre and the creator of the Dracula persona for the film industry.

"To my surprise, many of my friends and colleagues in Lugoj said they'd never heard this name. It's something surprising because Bela Lugosi is quite famous in the United States. He was the Hollywood actor who defined our modern conception of Dracula and he was born right here in Lugoj. Being that Bela Lugosi is such an important personality where I come from, I naturally assumed that he would be just as important here in his hometown. Anyhow, I came to discover that this is not the case. And this might be because he left this region long ago and became famous there in the United States. But, even if he left at a young age, he never forgot from where he came, adopting the stage name Lugosi to remember his place of birth," says Michael Nork.

Finding Lugosi's childhood home

The idea to look for Lugosi's home came to Michael around Halloween. "Seeing vampire masks and the like, I thought of Dracula and, naturally, Lugosi," says Nork. Not knowing where to start, he asked a few locals if they knew where the home was. Since no one seemed to know, he postponed his search for a while. Then, he decided to try a Google search and discovered an article written by Gary D. Rhodes, a renowned professor of film and Lugosi biographer. Rhodes came to Lugoj in 2003 just to find the famous actor's birthplace. After talking with a local historian and consulting town records, Rhodes located the house at 6 Kirchengasse (today Bucegi Street), right next to the Roman Catholic church. "I've passed by this house many times without thinking for a second. There isn't even a plaque to recognize who was born there. To me it seems ironic that Lugosi, an actor with such international fame --probably the most important personality to come from Lugoj-- is practically unknown in this area. Maybe it's just my humble opinion, but I think that the memory of Bela Lugosi deserves at least some sort of recognition, whether a plaque on his home, or just this simple article. After all, it would be a shame if we forgot the man who never forgot Lugoj,” declares Nork.

Dracula deserves at least an exhibition and a memorial plaque

"In the first place, I’d like have an exhibition about the man and his career at the Pro Arte art gallery, and afterwards put it in the town’s history museum, when the renovations are complete,” hopes Michael Nork, adding that Gary Rhodes, director, documentarian, and film historian has promised to help Nork with making an exposition which would commemorate the career of this actor.

In this way, Lugoj will receive photos, original files and cinematographic materials. Here in Lugoj, Michael has benefited from the help of Ivan Bloch, director of the Rotary Club, who has guided him with his requests on a local level.

"We've spoken with the mayor, Francisc Boldea, about putting a plaque on the house on Bucegi Street, and we got his initial approval. We hope that we’ll also have the consent of the current owner,” further remarks Nork.


Rachel said...

Congrats, you finally got the word out! Score one for local history!

Also, have you checked eBay for Lugosi stuff? At a quick glance, there are lots of (non-Dracula) DVDs for under five bucks; perhaps you could get some willing souls in America to get them and ship them over to you. (If regional-DVD encoding is a problem between the US and Romania, I can help you get around that.)

Anonymous said...

Amazing stuff!

I also think you should get some Lugosi memorabilia or talk to other film buffs, I'm sure this could be made into a small corner of some local museum or even the American corner!

Talk to you soon!


Linda din Arad said...

i think you're doing a great job about this. it's high time we Romanians learn to appreciate our values. or at least, as this case so sadly and shamefully presents, learn about them. even if this means a foreigner coming along and nudging us into the right direction. keep it up!


Tim said...

A Florin Piersic concert?! Now that's front page news!


Stefan said...

Well done!