Let’s see if we can get to the bottom of this, shall we? Knowledgeable Dracula fans know that the character has never uttered the phrase “bleh, bleh, bleh.” Not ever, not once. Not in any of the movies. Not in the book, certainly. Not in the plays. From whence, then, does this cliché originate? As the Count Dracula character from HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA lamented, “Where does that even come from?” Indirectly it comes from Bela Lugosi. More specifically, it comes from bad impersonations of Bela Lugosi.
Almost everything we think of when we think of Count Dracula comes not from Stoker’s novel but from Lugosi. The cape, the widow’s peak, the way he dresses and for sure the way he speaks. All that comes from Lugosi. (The aforementioned Dracula from HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA was also based on Lugosi’s personification. Just sayin’.) Ask people anywhere what Dracula looks like or sounds like and they will describe Lugosi, even if they’ve never heard Lugosi’s name or seen any of his movies. From cartoon depictions to Count Chocula breakfast cereal, Bela Lugosi cemented the image of the character in the public consciousness forevermore. But he never went “bleh bleh bleh.” Dracula never uttered the phrase “I vant to drink your blood!” either, nor did he ever laugh in the manner of the clichéd “ah, ah, ah!” (That would be the Count from SESAME STREET—who is also inspired by Lugosi.) But Gabe Dell reportedly did all those things. Who the hell is that, you ask? Dell was a stock performer on the Steve Allen TV show, and he performed a deliberately affected impersonation of Lugosi as the character. According to midnight movie host Svengoolie, Dell is the originator of “bleh, bleh, bleh!” But comedian Lenny Bruce also did a parody of Lugosi as Count Dracula, and Dracula historian David Skal put him forward as the source. Which one was it? Both? Neither? Whoever did it first, he was definitely riffing on Lugosi. Badly.