OT; RIP, Jonathan Frid
Yesterday’s news of Dick Clark made me a bit wistful and nostalgic. But today’s news has me flat-out bawling like a baby.
Jonathan Frid, the man who made a daytime Gothic serial vampire into an icon, passed away last Friday, April 13. His family just released the news today.
You all know how I feel about Dark Shadows. And yes, I can step back enough to see how utterly silly it is to weep copiously over the passing of a soap-opera actor. The way I’m carrying on, you’d think John himself had died. But I can’t help it. I knew this day was coming; he was 87, after all. And looked very feeble when I saw him at the Dark Shadows convention in 2010. But I didn’t know it would hurt this much.
There was something so comforting about just knowing he was still out there, even though the show has been off the air since 1971. It still exists on video, in its living actors and in the hearts of its many fans. The passing of the actor who played the character Barnabas Collins feels like the death of a loved one.
Jonathan Frid saved Dark Shadows from cancellation. It floundered in its first year, originally conceived as a Gothic mystery, minus the horror. The vampire Barnabas was brought in as a last-ditch attempt to bump up the ratings; he was intended to be a temporary character, pure evil, who would wreak havoc and then be killed off. But Frid’s portrayal of him was so rich and complex, the fans went insane. And Barnabas remained, becoming an anti-hero of sorts, a reluctant vampire, hating what he was, mourning for his lost love and always hoping for a cure from the curse that befell him in the late 1700s.
Just a sampling of the myriad clips out there, a nice montage of Barnabas’s first appearance, when grave-robber Willie Loomis released him from his chained coffin. I like this one; it really captures the creepy air and tension of the show:
Actress Kathryn Leigh Scott, Maggie Evans/Josette on the series, author of several Dark Shadows books and a regular in the conventions, wrote a beautiful tribute to Frid on her blog, here. She is on Twitter, and a couple of weeks ago, to my utter glee, I discovered she was following me. I tweeted directly to her this morning, expressing condolences for the loss of her friend and colleague. She actually tweeted back to me, saying thank you. What a gracious woman.
Scott and Frid, 1967:
Ugh. Anyway, behind my tears, a small part of me is smiling at the irascible and irreverent Jonathan Frid and his timing. His passing, a scant month before this mockery appears, seems like the ultimate “fuck you.” If the DS fans were going to hate this film before, they’re really going to hate it now.
I know this blog won’t appeal to my usual readers. But please indulge me today. And please, please don’t laugh at me.
RIP, Mr. Frid, the one and only Barnabas Collins.
EDIT: For another lovely Frid tribute blog from “one of us,” please see my dear friend Dave Wolfe’s blog, here.
EDIT #2: Just read this and it made me laugh out loud, which felt good. I do believe this will be my favorite Jonathan Frid quote ever.
In 1991, on the 20th anniversary of the TV show’s demise, Frid told PEOPLE: “I only did the part for some pocket money to go teach on the West Coast. And, of course, because I didn’t particularly want the job, I got it. An audition room full of cadaverous-looking creeps, and I must have really looked the part.”
He added, “I always thought I looked like this damn silly ass. I couldn’t believe people were ever really scared.”