Actor Jonathon Frid, best known for playing reluctant vampire Barnabas Collins on the 1960s gothic soap opera Dark Shadows, died yesterday at the age of 87. I am deeply saddened by his passing. Another icon has left us.
Dark Shadows aired from 1966-1971 and I watched the show religiously between 1967 until its final demise. I was four or five years old when I discovered it. Every afternoon at 3PM, I'd glue myself to the black and white TV in our den for another mesmorizing episode of vampires, ghosts, warlocks, werewolves, mad scientists, reanimants, and witches. I loved this show so much I wanted my mom to name my baby brother Barnabas when he was born in 1969. She didn't. She named him Rob after the main character on the Dick Van Dyke Show.
Barnabas Collins was my first vampire crush long before Frank Langella's Dracula (1979) or Brad Pitt's Louis in Anne Rice's Interview With the Vampire or Gary Oldman's Dracula in Francis Ford Coppala's Bram Stoker's Dracula (1992) or the character of Nick Knight on Forever Knight. Surpringinly, Frid did not look like the object of a typical school girl crush. He was not all like the teenie bopper heart throbs of that time such as Donny Osmond, David Cassidy, and Bobby Sherman. And he didn't even have a leading man look like Rock Hudson, Paul Newman Robert Redford. But he brought such heart and pathos to the character of Barnabas that I couldn't help falling in love with him.
With the advent of Tim Burton's forthcoming remake of Dark Shadows, I've read many reviews stating that the original show was campy. Actually, it only *looks* campy by today's standards. The show at that time took itself very seriously and played the supernatural stuff straight. Which is why it worked. Otherwise, it just would have been another Munsters or Addam's Family and it was nothing like those shows other than sharing a gothic element/storyline. Frid was a Shakespearean actor with a Master's degree in drama from Yale. He brought great depth to the character of Barnabas that a lesser actor would have made silly much like George Hamilton's intentional camp in Love at First Bight.
Jonathon Frid might be gone but he has been immortalized forever on videotape and film. And you can now acquire the original series on DVD. A pretty good TV movie was made after the series ended: House of Dark Shadows. Check it out sometime. And experience the world's first TV vampire. And the object of a little girl's crush. A little girl all grown up now who writes about werewolves, witches, ghosts and zombies.