Sure, life might be easier if Forrest Frankenstein had a last name like Smith or Jones, but “my life would be too bland and common if it was,” said Frankenstein, who collects images of his namesake.
The creature Frankenstein, subject of the 19th-century book and more than a few movies, was created in a lab from old body parts and chemicals, then came to life with a mysterious spark.
In real life, many Frankensteins are good humored about it. They may as well be: The last Friday in October — Oct. 30 this year — is National Frankenstein Friday, honoring the book and “one of the best-known horror characters of all time.”
“They always try to knock me. … I’ve heard everything my whole life,” said Frankenstein, who has what he calls a Frankenstein-like feature of a metal plate and screws in his head as a result of an attack in which a stranger kicked him in the head. “Call me anything but late for supper, and I won’t be upset.”
Frankenstein, who worked in the construction industry until his injury, says his name has been a reliable source of amusement — like the time when he was pulled over and the police officer looked at his driver’s license and asked: “Forrest Frankenstein? How the h--- did you get a name like that?”
He replied: “Look at the ID; I’m junior. I got it from my father.”
Frankenstein’s two daughters — Desarae, 21; and Tristen, 23 — hated their name because of the teasing they got as kids, he said, but it grew on them over time.
Kids can be brutal when picking on other kids, but they don’t dare make fun of their teacher, at least to their face, said Jeff Frankenstein of Beaver, Pa. He is a music teacher and band director at New Brighton Middle School, where he said kids are surprised at first, but then they get used to having Mr. Frankenstein as their teacher.
As an introduction to the class, he simply says with a straight face, “Hi, I’m Mr. Frankenstein.” No explanation or elaboration.
“I try to be as normal with it as possible because I want to set a good tone for the year,” said Jeff Frankenstein, 37.
His colleagues sometimes pronounce his name FRAHN-ken-steen, like in the Mel Brooks movie “Young Frankenstein,” as a goof.
When he was a kid, Jeff Frankenstein got teased a lot by kids who called him a monster or Franken Berry, a cartoon mascot for the monster cereal. But he soon grew to adore his name.
“I’m very thick-skinned; it really takes a lot to bother me,” said Jeff Frankenstein, who dressed up as his namesake for Halloween one year in grade school.
He and his wife — Hillary, also a music teacher — have always embraced the humor of their name. At their 2008 wedding reception, the bridal party came out to the song “Monster Mash,” and the new Mr. and Mrs. Frankenstein made their grand entrance to the song “Frankenstein” by the Edgar Winter Group.
“We figured we might as well just live it up,” said Hillary Frankenstein, 35. After the wedding, they got T-shirts that said “Frankenstein” and “Bride of Frankenstein.”
The couple met in college at Slippery Rock University in Pennsylvania, where most of Jeff Frankenstein’s friends called him Frankie; his girlfriend, though, just called him Jeff. She happily dropped her maiden name of Williams and changed her last name when they got married.
When Hillary Frankenstein makes a first introduction to new students, she points to a stuffed Frankenstein toy in the classroom and says, “My name is Mrs. Frankenstein — the stuffed toy, that’s Frankenstein.”
Hillary and Jeff Frankenstein — who have two kids, Hannah, 7, and Isaac, 4 — have Frankenstein paraphernalia around the house, including a sign in the kitchen with a picture of the monster that says, “Frankly, Halloween doesn’t scare me.” They have a ghost figurine wearing a Frankenstein mask and even a personalized Frankenstein doormat.
The Frankensteins say they roll with the inevitable quips. They’ve heard them all.
“There were times when people would jokingly ask me, “Are you related to Dracula?’” Jeff Frankenstein said. “I still find it funny. At times, it does get pretty old, but I don’t take it personally.”
Daniel Frankenstein of New York City enjoys joking around with people about his name. The co-founder and partner of the venture fund Janvest Capital Partners introduces himself as “Daniel Frankenstein, like the monster.” He ran for student government in college at the University of California at Berkeley with the slogan “Vote Frankenstein. He’s not a monster.” It turned out to be a winning slogan.
When he was a kid, his family got a lot of “Is this the house of Frankenstein?” calls around Halloween.
Before his first day of kindergarten, his father sat him down and said, “Listen, tomorrow starts the rest of your life when people are going to give you crap for your name. Never let anybody laugh at you; laugh with them.” George Frankenstein gave young Daniel some lines he could use as comebacks. If someone said he had a funny name, he could reply with, “What’s wrong with Daniel?”
Now his name is a business asset because nobody ever forgets Daniel Frankenstein, even months after meeting him — though it can be awkward because he doesn’t always remember everyone who remembers him.
His new son’s birth announcement proclaimed: Little Monster.
“Life hands you a few gifts here and there,” he said.
But not all Frankensteins have a lifelong appreciation for their name. Childhood was rough for Guy Frankenstein, 54, who got bullied for both his first and last name. Kids would imitate the stiff Frankenstein walk, ask if the bolts in his head needed tightening and make off-color jokes.
“You’re looking rather green today,” kids would say.
Despite the ribbing, Guy Frankenstein, of Germantown, Ohio, eventually grew into his name. It’s a great conversation piece.
“When I was younger, it was a pain,” said Guy Frankenstein, who met Forrest Frankenstein two years ago through their daughters on Facebook and thinks they might be distant cousins. “People ride you and that kind of stuff.”
But these days Guy Frankenstein’s kids — Jacob, 26; Johanna, 25; Makenna, 21; Tristen, 19; and Alivia, 13 — don’t get teased about their name, he thinks probably because Frankenstein as a character isn’t as popular as it once was.
Shelley’s book introduced him in 1818, and the movie “Frankenstein” starring Boris Karloff came out in 1931. The TV show “The Munsters,” featuring Herman Munster as a Frankenstein-like character, ran in the 1960s, and the comedy “Young Frankenstein” — a favorite of the real Frankensteins — came out in 1974.
Halloween has always been a funny yet annoying time for Guy Frankenstein. In the days before cellphones, his family would get crank calls, with jokesters asking for Dracula.
Now, Guy Frankenstein finds delight in Halloween, and wisecracks with cashiers at places like Party City when he buys holiday decorations and other supplies.
He loves beating them to a joke.
His favorite? “Do I get some kind of discount this time of year?”
Groan if you like. He doesn’t care.
After putting up with it all year, this is payback.
“It’s my time of year,” he says.
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