Barnabas Collins is dead! Long live Barnabas Collins!

Dick Clark, Levon Helm, and now… Jonathan Frid.


Long before Twilight, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, True Blood, White Fang (sorry, just had to slip Soupy Sales in there), there was a 1960s TV show called Dark Shadows.

Depp as Barnabas/Warner Bros. Pictures

You might have heard of it because of the movie remake that’s coming out next month starring Johnny Depp.

Depp plays cursed vampire heartthrob Barnabas Collins.

Frid, who has a cameo, played the original, and best, IMO, Barnabas. (Though there were other remakes over the years, they never seemed to gain traction.)

Frid died this week at 87.

Depp looks adequate, and the new flick looks like fun, but Frid was sexier.

But then, when you’re a kid, you always remember people being hunkier and larger than life than they actually were, of course.

I used to rush home from school and turn on the big Motorola color TV, and sit back and lose myself in the over-the-top production.  The music was as campy as the acting. There were canned notes for normal, slightly scary and goose-bump terrifying. Never changed.

Frid as Barnabas/Dan Curtis Productions

Looking back, Frid had a craggy intelligence. Even then he always looked like he was on the verge of a smile. Not because he was so menacing, but because the show was cheesier than the best mac-and-cheese binge.

All the players looked that way. In retrospect, it was probably all they could do to keep from giggling. How could they not?

Frid didn’t believe the gig would last so long.

I was afraid of him, just like I was afraid of the Wicked Witch of the West before my mom told me she was a nice woman who had a daughter in college.

But oddly attracted to him. So take-charge, yet so wounded. Who would he put the bite on next? If only it could be me.

Barnabas and Josette/Dan Curtis Productions

And not his one true love, Josette du Pres. (Can’t believe there’s a Facebook page devoted to her after all this time.)

Not quite the same.

If I couldn’t have him, I could at least copy his style: Wore my one gaudy ring (a scarf ring) on my index finger. I’ve never been the bling type (finally got my ears pierced in my late 30s.).

And — true confession — because Josette was supposedly from Martinique in the Caribbean, I went there the first chance I could, as a young adult. It was one of the first trips I ever took. That’s right went there, just because of that show.

Sad to say all I remember was a pretty French-Creole isle — certainly a nice enough introduction to that part of the world. With some topless folks walking along the beach from the nearby Club Med. No Barnabas and Josette, unless that was Frid and actress Kathryn Leigh Scott (Josette) at the beach.

And a visit to a rum factory that’s amazingly still around. Charming, but not interested in the least in the product. I think I took one sip and used the rest to clean my oven.

I was woefully ignorant at the time, to say the least. Didn’t even realize Martinique was also home to Napoleon’s Josephine. Wish I’d had more time. Must return.

Anyway, sorry to see the original Barnabas go. May even see the new version. Looks like a scream.

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4 Responses to Barnabas Collins is dead! Long live Barnabas Collins!

  1. I was right along with you Laura, running home after school, to watch Dark Shadows. I LOVED the music and a vampire soap opera..doesn’t get any better!! Cliff hangers everyday!!!

  2. Letty Kenneas says:

    “…and used the rest to clean my oven.” Love that–exactly how I feel about rum and other “intoxicants” (as Barnabas might phrase the word)–since I have no taste for the stuff. Regardless, this was a well-written and amusing piece; your homage to Frid’s take on the immortal one was satisfying. He was, indeed, sexy, and stirred many a youthful hormone with his “craggy intelligence” and “so take-charge, yet so wounded” demeanor. And, I thought that I was being the boldest of travelers in search of the Unholy Grail… In the 1980’s, I went to California, Texas, and New York to attend conventions honoring Frid and his fellow “DS” co-horts in macabre mayhem. I’m impressed that you went all the way to Martinique, the island paradise at the root of Barnabas’ misfortune. Funny about how “Josette” sounds remotely like “Josephine” and that Barnabas had that Napoleonic look, what with the hair and high collars–so late 18th century, pre-Regency era. As for Depp, thank goodness he has maintained “the look” and “tone” of his idol, Mr. Frid–the actor who may have influenced young Mr. Depp, firstly, and who inspired him to recreate a semblance of the haunted and ever-haunting Mr. Collins.

  3. morlock13 says:

    Ah… once upon a time when people still talked to each other online… in ways that made sense. 😦

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