BY MIKE COOK
Las Cruces Bulletin
LAS CRUCES – Even though she’s worn one of Bela Lugosi’s capes, visited the real Dracula’s castle and even written a book on the subject, folklorist and award-winning author and columnist Norine Dresser isn’t all that interested in vampires.
But, after she was quoted in a Los Angeles Times story in the 1980s while teaching folklore at California State University (CSU), Dresser became revered as a vampire expert and began receiving vampire memorabilia – including a “Drac in the Box” and a baby pacifier with vampire teeth – as gifts.
Dresser, who has made her home in Las Cruces since 2012, was a guest scholar at the 1995 First World Dracula Congress in Romania and became a committee member for “Dracula 97,” celebrating the centennial publication of Bram Stoker’s gothic horror novel “Dracula.” She is a card-carrying member of the Transylvanian Society of Dracula and Patron of the Vampire Empire and has talked about vampires on HBO, KCBS, The Learning Channel, Fox Family TV, UPN-TV, KNBC-TV, the Sci-Fi Channel and the Women’s Entertainment Channel.
Dresser starred with actor George Hamilton in the 1989 TV movie “Dracula Live from Transylvania,” where she met “all the movers and shakers in the vampire world.” Dresser was flown to Budapest for the film, appearing as herself (she had just written “American Vampires”) and talking to Hamilton in a castle dungeon.
“I’ve discovered that there’s vampires everywhere in our culture,” she tells Hamilton. “They even drink blood. There are people who call themselves vampires … who are engaging in this practice of drinking one another’s blood” – a practice she details during several minutes in the film. Dresser offers to introduce Hamilton to real vampires, but Hamilton declines. “She does this kind of thing for a living,” he says. Dresser then interviews a real-life practicing vampire and a “donor,” whose faces are hidden in shadow.
Dresser was one of 50 scholars – and about 250 members of the media from all over the world – to attend the Dracula Congress, where she visited the real castle of Vlad the Impaler – the real-life Dracula – and many of the locations Stoker used in his novel, evening eating in the same restaurant and having the same meal as Stoker’s Jonathan Harker.
“It was very exciting,” Dresser said.
“American Vampires: Fans, Victims, Practitioners,” which Dresser dedicated to her late husband, Harold, “explores the American fascination with vampire folklore,” according to amazon.com, where the book is for sale. At a book signing in Los Angeles, Dresser autographed copies for Stephen King and for “Hollywood Babylon” author Kenneth Anger. Movie props at the book signing included a cape and a ring that Lugosi wore in a Dracula film.
“Writing that book brought me the most fun,” Dresser said.
Dresser wrote a column called “Multicultural Manners” for the Los Angeles Times for eight years. “That’s my real passion, she said. In Las Cruces, she is the host of the award-winning “Multicultural Minute” that is a regular feature on KTAL Community Radio, 101.5 FM.
Her 1996 book “Essential Rules of Etiquette for the 21st Century” received a major write-up in the New York Times Book Review in 1996. She is also the author of “Our Own Stories: Readings for Cross-Cultural Communication” and several other books.
Today, Dresser’s home is a mini-museum with collector’s items that run the gamut from Dracula to musical instruments to oriental masks. She also has an online museum and is about halfway through documenting everything in her collection.
Dresser received a Bachelor of Arts in anthropology and a Master of Arts in folklore and mythology, both from the University of California, Los Angeles, and taught for 20 years at CSU.
For more information, visit norinedresser.org.
Mike Cook may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.