Eddie Munster Is Alive — and Living in Missouri 

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click to enlarge Major Leaguer Ken Hunt hangs out with his famous stepson, Butch Patrick, to a father-son game. - COURTESY OF BUTCH PATRICK
  • Major Leaguer Ken Hunt hangs out with his famous stepson, Butch Patrick, to a father-son game.

Quitting Hollywood early was always the plan, Patrick says. He acted steadily from the age of seven until he was eighteen. By the time he landed The Munsters gig, he had already worked as one of the original cast members of General Hospital and played more than a dozen, mostly minor, roles in television and film.

It was his portrayal of Edward Wolfgang Munster, however, that changed his life forever.

The pilot for the show had featured another child actor, who played the young werewolf as a ferocious, snarling terror. When Patrick took over for the series opener, the role of Eddie morphed into that of an earnest son. The show's producers had recently wrapped Leave It to Beaver, and their new cast of friendly monsters navigating suburban California was a knowing twist on a traditional family sitcom, extending the joke through Eddie's very Beaver-like lines.

"Gee, Pop, do you always have to pick on me?" Eddie says in a second-season episode where he briefly runs away from home.

The show also gave CBS an answer to The Addams Family, which opened the same week on ABC. The two competed in black-and-white for two years before both were canceled following the 1966 season.

Patrick was just twelve years old but already an established pro. After The Munsters, he acted in just about every big sitcom of the era, including Gunsmoke, I Dream of Jeannie and a recurring role on My Three Sons. His sister Michele says directors liked him because he could read a script, quickly learn his lines and perform a scene in one take.

He was still just sixteen when he flew down to Brazil to play a young gang member in the film adaptation of the novel The Sandpit Generals. He traces the beginning of decades of addiction to that time away from home and family. It was an intense shooting schedule, and the young actors were more or less unsupervised to drink and party when they weren't on set.

"I tell everyone he left the house looking like Richie Cunningham, and he came back looking like John Lennon," Michele says.

The film was supposed to carry Patrick's career to another plane, but the release was delayed. When it did finally come out, its run in theaters was brief and unremarkable. He spent another two years acting, including a morning kids show called Lidsville that marked him as a heartthrob in a string of teen magazines. But Patrick says his boyhood plan was always to quit Hollywood at nineteen, maybe become a race car driver. He claims a relatively unknown George Lucas approached about him about starring in American Graffiti, but by then he was nearly done with full-time acting. He now says he dropped out of the running for the part that ultimately went to Richard Dreyfuss, because Lucas told him he would have to cut his long hair.

"When I saw the movie two years later, I realized what a huge mistake I'd made," Patrick says.

The film would earn Golden Globe nominations for Lucas and Dreyfuss. For his part, Patrick was surfing and going to parties.

"He worked so much as a child that I think once he turned eighteen and had his money, he was like, 'Now, it's time to play,'" his sister says. "And that's what he did for a really long time."

click to enlarge Patrick's mother, Patti Hunt, and grandmother, Marjorie Greenstreet, in an undated family photo. - COURTESY BUTCH PATRICK
  • Patrick's mother, Patti Hunt, and grandmother, Marjorie Greenstreet, in an undated family photo.

Patrick says he was an addict for 41 years, a lifestyle that sometimes led to trouble with the law. He was arrested in 1979 for transporting Quaaludes. "I had a connection and ended up with a couple hundred of them," he says. In 1990, he was arrested again after a limo driver told police the ex-child actor and another man beat and robbed him when he got lost on the way back to Patrick's hotel. Patrick says he met his co-defendant for the first time that night in a bar, and the man decided to try to physically extract a refund from the driver, leading to criminal charges against the man and Patrick.

"'Munsters' Actor, 37, Is Arrested," read the headline in the Chicago Tribune. A robbery charge against Patrick was later dropped, but he was convicted of battery and ordered to pay $1,050 in fines and fees.

The run-ins were embarrassing, but he says his substance abuse was hardest on his family.

"I did some serious damage," he says.

The drug and alcohol abuse went on for so long, his sister wasn't sure if he would survive.

"It was to the point I thought, 'When is the call going to come, and how is my mom going to deal with it?'" she says.

And then he quit. He entered rehab on November 21, 2010, partly as a favor to a drug counselor who thought a celebrity success story would be a good example for others. There was another round of headlines, but then all was quiet.

Michele says she was not expecting rehab to work, at least not without a handful of relapses. She would visit her brother at the facility, and each time he would say he was about ready to quit the program. At first, it was "I'm not staying here" and then "I'm leaving tomorrow," the sister recalls. He was adamant about dropping out in time to spend the holidays at home. But he just continued to stay, remaining in place until after the new year. He will celebrate seven years of sobriety in November.

"He's so great," Michele says. "I can't tell you how thrilled I am, because I was so worried."

Patrick says his counselors described his break with substance abuse as a "burning bush experience" — the rare example of treatment taking hold on the first attempt.

"I haven't touched anything," he says, "not a line, not a pill, not a joint, not a drink."

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