When I said to my colleague, Geo Brawn, that it looked like Patty Mullen was going to be hard to nail down for an online interview, but would be well worth the efforts to pursue, he replied; “Oh definitely. I mean, c’mon, she was Frankenhooker!” That, she was.
If you’re a horror fan, then you undoubtedly know Patty from her iconic title role in Frank Henenlotter’s 1990 cult B-horror classic, Frankenhooker. Perhaps you also remember Patty as Penthouse magazine’s 1988 Pet of the Year. Some of you have memories of Patty that go even further back to when she was the August 1986 Pet of the Month.
However Patty is remembered first and foremost, she has a select legion of adoring fans. They show up to meet her at horror and comic cons, have her sign (occasionally) Penthouse and (mostly) Frankenhooker memorabilia, ask to her her say “Wanna date!?” and even show her their Frankenhooker tattoos. However, there was long hiatus between the release of the film that made Frankenhooker a household name among horror fans, and Patty’s reemergence at horror and comic cons a few years ago. It was a hiatus that was filled with, as Patty puts it; good, bad, and ugly. Above photo courtesy of Patty, herself.
For this interview, I got together with Patty through Facebook chat, where she was sweet enough to give very detailed replies to my questions. In fact, her replies were so detailed, she was sometimes one step ahead of my questions and she delved into some of the personal details of her life during her absence from the spotlight (most of which Patty subsequently chose to have omitted here). As this goes to press, Patty is slated to appear at Scare-A-Con in Springfield, Massachusetts on June 3rd-5th and is tentatively (not etched in stone yet) slated to make her comeback to acting in Bianca Allaine’s Zombinatrix (as mentioned and confirmed in Bianca’s interview) later this year.
My brief and candid February 4th promo with Patty (with a little behind-the-scenes banter
at the beginning), right after our chat interview (text below) wrapped up .
CHRIS CHARLES: I’ve been a fan since you first appeared in Penthouse magazine as the August 1986 Pet of the Month. Do some fans, like myself, remember you first and foremost as a Penthouse Pet and not Frankenhooker? PATTY MULLEN: Baby pictures! (laughs) To answer your question; I was not a just a Penthouse Pet. I was Pet of the Year ….and very rarely does anyone ever mention it. Sometimes a rogue fan will come up with the magazine, wanting me to sign it. “Can you write ‘Dear Dave, thank you for last night’?” People are most interested in Frankenhooker. Its just recently I’m being asked about Penthouse, since they’re out of publication now. Like I told you; the end of an era. Sheila Kennedy’s book is coming out. Mine will follow. My experience with Bob and Kathy was VERY different than Sheila’s.
CHRIS: Yes, Sheila’s book is on my list and I look forward to yours. Oh, and of course I know you were Pet of the Year. In fact, I still have that issue, as well as your Pet of the Month issue! I was just saying I was a fan since the first time I saw you, which was as August 1986 Pet of the Month. So, did you first start modeling professionally for Penthouse or were there shoots before that?
PATTY: It was before that but after that, I worked a lot more. I did a lot of posters. It was the 80s, so don’t forget posters were huge. I’m 5′ 7″, so I was too short for the big girls and to tall for the petite girls. Luckily, Elite Petite squeezed me in. Penthouse kept me busy. I found myself on Howard Stern and Larry King Live. I was just a kid and it was a little overwhelming for me. CHRIS: I can imagine. How did you first come to the attention of Penthouse?
PATTY: I heard someone was testing for it, so I took some bikini shots with the photographer. I can’t remember his name. My girlfriend Joan and I called him “Frogman.” Something about him must have reminded me of a frog. Not that that’s a bad thing. Anyway, Frogman submitted the photos and they were in touch with me right away. I was introduced to Hank Londoner and his wife Suzy. I liked them immediately. I did a test shoot with Hank and his wife Suzy did all the makeup. She stood behind him and she showed me how to pose. I can remember it as if it were yesterday. When I was asked to remove my clothing, I hesitated. I was nervous. I was not sure if it was the right thing to do. Hank sat me down and he said, “If you do this, I promise you that you will not only be Pet of the Month, but you will be Pet of the Year” and he told me everything that comes with it. He promised me a wonderful life would follow. So I did it. Like closing your eyes and jumping into a cold pool, You just have to f**king do it!! And like jumping into a pool, once you get in there, it’s great. It’s a freeing feeling to stick your ass out to the camera. Right after the test shoot with Hank, all of us went over to St. John. That’s where the Pet of the Month shoot was shot. I remember being totally naked on the beach. Nothing but a black hat and earrings and a huge ship of sailors going by far enough away from me to tease them. They were screaming and hanging off the ship. They were passing binoculars and waving to me and I ate it up. The crazier they got, the crazier I got. That’s where Hank got the idea for the cover. It’s me with three sailors on it. One of the very few Penthouse covers that ever had men on it! That was it. I worked for Penthouse for many years. Public relations, promotions, car shows, boat shows, bingo games, you name it.
CHRIS: Awesome story (deciding not to ask about “bingo games”). So, you knew at the time of that first shoot that you were going to be Pet of the Month and later Pet of the Year and neither came as a surprise when they happened?
PATTY: As I said, as soon as Hank sat me down he said; “Patty, if you do this not only will you be Pet of the Month, but you will be Pet of the Year. $250,000 was a lot of money at the time. I thought it would last forever. I burned through it like a sickle through a hay field.When I saw all the girls that I’d be running against, I thought s**t, they’re so beautiful. It rattled me. I was not sure. Then a call came that Bob wants to shoot me. I knew then, but nothing was sure until I signed the contract and lots of roses were sent to me from Bob telling me; “Congratulations Patty.” I hooked up with the drummer from the Misfits after that and disappeared.
CHRIS: Wow, so I suppose that’s another story in itself. But back to being Pet of the Year. I believe at that time, Playmates of the Year got $100,000 and a car. You said the Pet of the Year got 250 grand? PATTY: Yes. It was some cash but mostly prizes over the top. Gaudy prizes like an Excalibur and a mink coat, a tanning bed, and a cruise. Stuff like that. I did not even take possession of a lot of it. You also make money afterwards, showing up at promotions. I was kept on a retainer from Penthouse for years. There was someone who gave the magazine a gift for me, but they didn’t want it published and they didn’t want me to know who they were. They were beautiful diamond earrings with rubies and drop pearls. They were the size of a quarter. I’ve never seen anything quite like it. They were in a black velvet bag. Even now, I wonder who gave them to me. Id like to hug them and thank them ….maybe marry them.
It’s no secret that Playboy and Penthouse were competitors from the start. That’s why Playboy uses the rabbit and Penthouse uses the tortoise. Bob (Guccione) told me once that when he met Hef, he said “I’ll give you two more years to be on top and then it’s my turn” and. Hef threw a fit, stomping his feet, acting like a big baby and Bob said to him, “Now you have one year” ….and sure enough, Penthouse outsold Playboy two to one (laughs). I loved Bob! He was the genuine article. CHRIS: I know that the editorial that accompanies Penthouse pictorials isn’t usually quoted from the models. In fact, it’s not even paraphrased, it’s simply written by the Penthouse editorial staff to accompany the photos and enhance the reader’s fantasy. I’d like to read you a couple of quotes that accompanied your layouts and ask if you actually said these or Penthouse staff created these: “I don’t get tan. And I like to fish if somebody puts the worm on the hook for me.”
PATTY: What happens is they take it out of context, or something from the middle of a paragraph that you said as a joke, is taken out put in big bold letters right above you. I don’t rip anyone’s clothes off ….and I could give a f**k about Nancy Reagan’s hair. When I looked at the final copy, I was like WTF? It’s true I don’t like to put the worm on the hook ….but I get tan. See, that must have been taken out of context ….and I don’t like to fish ….I LOVE to fish!
CHRIS: (Laughs) This is great. You always seem to be one step ahead of me because the next quote I was going to ask you about was: “I always like to make sure I’ve got my bases covered. I really want to make sure of a home run with a guy. I send out vibes. If that doesn’t work, I get him drunk, If that doesn’t work, I rip his clothes off. I like to play the big league.”
PATTY: Does it really say that? Don’t remind me. Yes, they embellish quite a bit. I guess that’s their job. Look at the pictures. Chris, do I look like I’d need to inebriate someone to be with me?? Some people think because you did something like that (pose nude) that you’re an exhibitionist. In real life, believe it or not, I’m a one-man woman and the shades are closed tight when I’m nude. I might open them halfway if you were around (winks). CHRIS: Hmm, So, if this interview were in person, you wouldn’t try to rip my clothes off? PATTY: No, I wouldn’t. But I must say you’re adorable. CHRIS: Thanks. As are you. So, I have an interview with Bianca Allaine later this afternoon and I see you’re slated to appear in her movie Zombinatrix? PATTY: Yes, I liked it. It has man slaves in it. CHRIS: Can you tell me about the character you’ll be playing if it pans out?
PATTY: Yes, I’ll be a friend of Zomanatrix (Mistress Tawny), who gets attacked by the same thing. It’s been a while since I’ve read it, to be honest. I have to go back and take a look. I know that Michael (Kyne) wrote it in a handful of days. There was nothing in there for me, so he wrote me in.
CHRIS: So this would mark your comeback to acting, wouldn’t it?
PATTY: I’m not sure. Nothing is set in stone. I believe they shoot in Baltimore but I don’t know when and I don’t know how long they need me. I need to know these details. It sounds like fun. Bianca is beautiful. She will be a kick-ass Zombinatrix.
CHRIS: Yes, she is and will and I sure hope to see you in that one too. So moving on, maybe you’re tired of Frankenhooker questions, but have come to expect them in interviews, so I’ll now ask you some Frankenhooker questions ….but just a few I promise, and then we’ll move on. PATTY: I don’t mind Frankenhooker questions at all. It was a big deal when I did it ….and then friggin’ 17-18 years later, a man named Eben McGarr found me. He found me through my attorney. At the time, I was hard to find. The guy did not give up. He wanted me to do a horror show. “What if no one comes?” I asked him. “They will” he said ….and they did and they hugged me and they told me I was great. Eben has no idea that he caught me at a time of my life where I felt like the world was upside down. I was going through a divorce from an attorney, and he was keeping my daughters away from me. I was so sad, Chris, and when I met these people, I felt the love. I needed it. I LOVE Eben McGarr. That’s someone I’d love to work with. He did Sick Girl and 1000 Werewolves. WOW, up until then, Frankenhooker was a thing of the past. I was busy dodging my X [sic] and keeping out of jail. When I saw the Frankenhooker tattoos and the young fans, it lifted me up and gave me strength to fight that bastard. Okay you got me teared up now. (Author’s Note: We took a break here, until the following day.) CHRIS: Did you have to audition for that role or was it offered to you? PATTY: I had to read for it. I had to meet with Frank Hennenlotter and read. “Do you think you can do this?” he said. “Yes, I can do this” I said. “Okay Great.” And that was that. CHRIS: Was the “Frankenhooker Face” your idea or did Frank Henenlotter have you do that? PATTY: Frank showed me the face, the walk ….everything.
CHRIS: When you accepted the role, did you have any idea that the film might become the cult hit it eventually became?
PATTY: No, it was funny. It was a cool thing to be a part of. I saw it at the Bleecker Street Cinema (in Manhattan) several times and it was always crowded ….but then life went on. Time went by. I was blown away when I found out how many people loved it. I would have continued on totally oblivious, if Eben had not found me for that first horror show. And last year around Halloween, it played on Showtime, it played on Hulu, it played on Flix, and played and played. Again, I was blown away.
CHRIS: When you found out it had become such a cult favorite and had such a following, did you feel that this would be the role you’d probably always be most associated with and best remembered for?
PATTY: Yes. I worked a little before that. I worked on a movie of Woody Allen’s called Another Woman, but the entire scene was cut. He met me in a staircase and had me read for him. I said. “I’m sorry buddy, but I have a bit of a Brooklyn accent.” He said, “I’m from Brooklyn too” and he smiled. He gave me the part. Just a small part that no one will ever see (laughs), but it was great experience. I also got to kiss Philip Bosco in an episode of The Equalizer. I met the producer on a plane, we sat next to each other and we talked about our dogs. We both had poodles at the time. We talked and talked the entire plane ride. He told me what he did and asked if I’d like to be in it ….and there I was ….and then of course, Doom Asylum. Actually, this is not in the correct order. Doom Asylum was first. The very first thing I did in a red bikini, screaming, running through an insane asylum with a monster hot on my heels. That was the first movie for Kristen Davis as well. About six months after the movie, I was walking down a city street and bumped into Kristen and I stopped her and said, “I saw your salad dressing commercial. It was great you were great.” She smiled. “Really? Do you think so?” “Yes, really Kristen.” We chatted and said goodbye. The next time I got to see her was on Sex in the City. I thought to myself; “HOORAY, the part she played is really how she is! A sweetheart, just adorable!” I shit you not, Chris. Oh yes, and Frankenhooker. I got a call to go read for Frank. I liked him right away. He is a native New Yorker and he made me laugh. Awwww, Frankenhooker ….how do you follow that up? YOU DON’T. When it came out, if someone met me after they watched it, I’d hear; “Really, that’s you? No way. I love that movie!” or “Really? You’re so short.” I guess they expect me to tower over them. I never really mention it to someone who never got to see it. They think its porn (laughs). I love the horror shows. Someone contacted me yesterday to do Scare-A-Con. Sounds like fun.
CHRIS: Fans will take note of that. So, how many Frankenhooker fan tattoos have you seen?
PATTY: I took pictures of a lot of them and the special ones I became friends with. I know I’m on the back of Philip Meenans head. That was the first Frankenhooker tat I ever saw. I couldn’t believe it ….and I know I’m across James Howard’s chest. I got very friendly with James. We are still friends. Him and his partner crashed in my room with me. James has worked a couple of shows with me. They’re all special ones. To be honest, I lost count. I remember two gentlemen coming up to me, each with a tattoo of Frankenhooker on the back of their right hands!! I asked them if they both lost in a card game. CHRIS: So moving on; after Frankenhooker, you pretty much quit acting, moved from New York to Florida and became a wife and a mom. Did you plan on possibly returning to acting someday or had you had enough of show biz, at that point?
PATTY: I went from Joey Image with his blue black hair and all his tattoos. My drummer boy! I went from that to a suit-and-tie-wearing respectable attorney. I went from New York City to Florida. I fell in love. I had a huge, beautiful wedding on a yacht with 140 of our closest friends and family. We have two beautiful girls, not so little anymore. I went from apples to oranges. I have to write a book.
So, this takes us back to me telling you about Eben finding me through my attorney and telling me that people would like to see me. I had to get clearance to leave the state ….and there I was, surrounded by people who shook my hand, took pictures with me, made me laugh. You never know what’s really going on in someone’s life. It lifted me up. I felt safe ….safe and happy for the first time in a long time. From all this, I’ve realized that in any given moment, your whole life can be turned upside down like a salt shaker. Shaken up, upside down from one day to the next. ANYTHING can happen. I’d love to be a part of another movie. Id jump on it. Had enough of it you ask?? NEVER.
CHRIS: I appreciate you sharing that with me and your fans who’ll be reading this. So, IF you do appear in Zombinatrix, that will sort of be touted as your big film comeback, correct? PATTY: Yes it would ….unless something comes up before they start. It reminds me of one of Frank’s movies. Funny and off the path. Ive had quite a few movies put in front of me, but they all sucked. They were beyond bad except for Eben’s script. I liked it a lot. I really wanted to be part of it, but he had trouble getting the backing he needs. Got any money, Chris!? (laughs) Other than that, Zombinatrix feels like it’s going to be cool. How can it fail with leather, whips, chains, scars, and a Zombie dominatrix? Oooooo, Chris, not holding off. I guess what’s done is done. I enjoyed taking a trip down memory lane with you. I shared a lot of things with you. The good, the bad, and the ugly. It was more like a therapy session than an interview. If you get down to South Florida, get in touch. We will go fishing. You handle the worm part.
CHRIS: I’d love to and you’ve been amazing, Patty. Just one last question: If you were going to ask me out, how would you phrase it? PATTY: WANNA DATE!!?
Originally from the San Francisco Bay Area, Chris flirted with the music business there and in Nashville before joining the U.S. Army and serving in South Korea. He remained in Asia for several years afterwards, teaching English and covering the regional entertainment scenes. Currently in a mindset between Seoul and San Francisco, besides Idol Features, you can also catch his writings in the print edition of the quarterly magazine, Effective.