ROLE IN VAMPIRE MOVIE IS PAIN IN SHIP'S NECK

Published: Sunday, March 20 1994 12:00 a.m. MST

Long after the vampire Lestat disappeared from its decks, the Alexandria remains moored in New Orleans, its blood-red sails furled, its black hull creaking with the rise and fall of the tide.

After service as a movie backdrop for the upcoming "Interview With the Vampire," the tall ship can't seem to shake the grip of the cinema bloodsucker who lured it far from its home port."We thought being in the film would be great," said Pete Hall, executive director of the Alexandria Seaport Foundation. "Turns out we'll get about 50 seconds on the film and the ship had to spend the winter in New Orleans."

The schooner Alexandria, a Scandinavian cargo vessel built in Sweden in 1929, belongs to the Alexandria Seaport Foundation, dedicated to preserving the Virginia city's seafaring heritage.

Naturally, upkeep for the 125-foot-long wooden ship, with more than 7,000 square feet of red sails, is very expensive.

Enter the unnatural.

The movie makers thought the old ship would be a great backdrop for the story set partly in New Orleans. They offered the money-starved foundation $10,000 for the appearance.

"We had finished our season of sailing and the movie offer came through when we had time," said foundation director Chip Reynolds. "And of course we always need money. The ship requires constant repair."

The ship sailed to New Orleans and docked along the Mississippi River as cameras rolled during various scenes. Foundation officials and volunteers hobnobbed with the stars and enjoyed the city.

Then on Dec. 1, the ship, with a volunteer crew of 15, set sail down the river, planning to cross the Gulf of Mexico, round the tip of Florida and head north to home.

"It got rough before we hit the mouth of the river and the crew got seasick before that," said volunteer Jan Lord. "I was never afraid we'd sink, but I was afraid I might die. It was the worst I ever felt on a boat."

When the main pump went down, the Coast Guard was unable to sail out with a replacement because of the rough seas and had to send it by helicopter. The ship returned to the mouth of the river.

Rechecking the time the trip would take, and worried about winter storms, Hall decided to wait until spring to return the ship to its home port. He will try again in late April.

"Our volunteers couldn't spend unlimited time, so we thought it would be better to wait until the weather was better and just start over," he said.

Meanwhile, Lord reports no ghost, vampires or other unearthly hauntings.

"No more than normal for a boat like this," she said.

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