The entertainment business can suck the life right out of an actor. So when Dracula himself advised his son to stay away from the talent side of entertainment, Bela G. Lugosi heeded his father’s warnings.
Lugosi, an intellectual property attorney with O’Brien Zarian, practiced in the areas of oil and gas, environmental construction defect and intellectual property for 32 years. But with a name like Bela Lugosi, he couldn’t ignore the lure of Hollywood for long. In 1994 he was one of three co-counsels representing the heirs of two of the Three Stooges, Larry Fine and Curly Joe DeRita, against the heirs of Moe Howard. It was a case disputing ownership of rights to the work of the comedy trio, and after a four-and-a-half month jury trial, Larry, Curly and Lugosi prevailed.
Although this seemingly marked his jump into the entertainment world, he had been conducting business there since the early 1960s as president of Lugosi Enterprises, licensing his father’s name and likeness.
The elder Lugosi, the iconic Dracula of the 1931 film, quickly grew into a horror film regular, acting in more than 100 films in his career. He was 56 when Bela Jr. was born — the younger Lugosi recalls very few boring moments growing up as the son of Dracula. “He would always get a lot of attention wherever he went, just because his voice and his presence were so recognized,” says Lugosi. “I remember as a kid sometimes being embarrassed by the attention, but dad was a very good father.”
Although the embarrassment has waned with time, the attention hasn’t. Lugosi still receives fan mail for his father, at least two letters a month, and he answers “pretty much all of them.” Occasionally Lugosi, who bears a startling resemblance to his father, gets requests for his autograph, and he is happy to give it out. But when asked to do something on the talent side of entertainment, he always turns it down. “The name has value, but I’d be worried that I couldn’t even come close to being what people would expect,” he says. “It’s very hard to follow in the footsteps of someone so unique.”
And like many fans who count “I vant to suck your blood!” as among the best lines uttered in movie history, Lugosi’s favorite movie of his father’s is Dracula. “In later years, I appreciate even more what he’s accomplished; he’s become an icon. Very few people become so much a part of American popular culture, and I do appreciate his ability and talents. No matter how good or bad the movie is that he was in, he always did a great job.”