Vincent Price, whose cultivated, lugubrious voice struck terror into mid-20th century American hearts and who would make Hannibal Lecter sound like a pedantic old English teacher who was not getting enough sex, enjoyed a well-turned hot dog.
Especially at L.A Dodger Stadium. “No hot dog ever tastes as good as the ones at the ballpark,” Price once wrote in his Treasure of Great Recipes that he wrote in collaboration with his wife Mary. He even passed out a few at a 1965 game. Imagine that – “The Fly” mad scientist giving you something to eat. At a baseball game!
What a happy discovery! Vincent Price and Hot Dogs!
The recipe for the Price at-home hot dog struck further joy into my heart. It was virtually the same recipe that my sainted, silver-haired mother used for her own frankcheezies.
I could easily say that my love of hot dog stems from those teenage days of hot dog gluttony, unusual for a high-school kid weighing barely 140 lbs. On those frankcheezie days, I would ask for three.
As the recipe calls for, my mother would slit the dogs open and insert a nice slice of hard cheddar. Each dog would be wrapped in raw bacon, which might get crispy in some spots and rubbery in others following the cook (but who cares!) and then she would add the secret weapon: a foil-covered broiler pan, where the dogs were gingerly placed before being blasted with 500-degree-plus heat.
The char on some of the bacon pieces mingled with the dour savor of the cheddar and the smokiness of the dog, bringing a sensation that almost produces tears of joy and loss even now as I think of it. The dogs were invariably Kahn’s, the “Wiener the World Awaited” as the company was fond of advertising, one of the weirdest slogans in history.
What did Vincent Price have to say about our beloved hot dog?
“Here, in all its glory, is the great American hot dog,” Price wrote. “Originally a sausage invented in Frankfurt, the hot dog is now as American as blueberry pie, and under the proper circumstances it can be one of the gourmet treats of the national larder…there is nothing more soul-satisfying than the first succulent bite into the juicy frankfurter. Whether you slather your hot dog with mustard, relish, and onions, or eat it purist style with just a delicate dab of mustard, it is, in that brief time, the perfect food.”
Interesting that he nearly described the classic Chicago style hot dog.
Price was an eccentric figure. My brother Jonny once went to see Price read poetry and story snippets on the stage of the old Palace Theater in Marion, Ohio, still in operation after all these years, which is wonderful to see (https://www.facebook.com/marionpalace/). Jonny went alone, a teenager himself at the time. He was eccentric, too.
I wish I would have gone with him, even if I was only ten years old at the time. I learned to recite Poe later as an English major, and I would always try to evoke the voice of Vincent Price, the one you hear at the beginning of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” video.
You know. The one that came out only forty years ago.