Friday, April 20, 2012

Dark Shadows fans have been fortunate

I didn’t bother with the usual obituary yesterday. The notion of  summarizing Jonathan Frid’s stage and screen roles, his importance to Dark Shadows fans and his indelible (if unintentional) contribution to horror tropes seemed a little beside the point here.  I know my audience and guessed, with the possible exception of those who find this place by Googling the words “johnny depp as barnabus,” that you know all of that stuff already. 

It was my plan to bypass the usual fan eulogy and to stay the course with my scheduled content, celebrating Frid’s life and work by merely discussing it. Celebrating it. Remembering it. I feel like that is the healthiest way to deal with loss. And many of you have expressed yourselves much better than I could.

But Frid’s death isn’t my loss. Not really. As much as I admired Jonathan Frid, I didn’t know him on any real level. I’m still taken aback when I see video interviews of him because his natural body language and voice are nothing like Barnabas Collins. Despite what some would have you believe, the vampire was not a collection of personality tics that accidentally gelled into a character. It was a fully realized performance, and that only put more distance between Frid and his audience.

Most of us wouldn’t get on Facebook and participate in dozens of threads to talk about the death of a friend or loved one. The loss is too material for us to share with people who are virtually strangers. But we do just that when a celebrity dies, even one who has been as personable and reclusive as Jonathan Frid.

His death is not our loss. But then again, it is, only not in a way that’s easily identifiable. It’s a communal loss, which is why we’re so prone to discuss it with strangers. Because, all other differences aside, we loved Jonathan Frid in our own way. No matter what else sets us apart, we’ve got that much in common.

Last night, as I watched a handful of Dark Shadows episodes with the lights out and drank a beer (it was a honey brown lager, if you must know,) it occurred to me how very fortunate we are as fans. The cast of Dark Shadows has been willing to interact with us on a level unheard of in fandom. If you doubt me, try to give William Shatner a compliment and see how far you get.

I’ve sensed no anger or resentment from Kathryn Leigh Scott, David Selby, Lara Parker or Jim Pierson since the announcement of Frid’s death. Not only have they been respectful of our feelings, many of the public statements they’ve released have been entirely for our benefit. 

So I’d like to tell them “thank you” for being so kind. Your loss has been much more tangible than ours, yet you still took the time join in our celebration.

And thank you, Jonathan Frid, for the gifts you’ve given us.


Erica said...

You did it again. Outclassed yourself. Thank you.

Kathryn Leigh Scott has been the most gracious presence on Twitter. To everyone who has tweeted condolences to her, she replies. She has kept her blog updated for us to read. And the fans have been writing beautiful tributes. There's a community feel of shared sadness, of camaraderie, a closeness in the common experience of Dark Shadows and what it meant to us.

And you're right, we are lucky. I watched DS last night as well -- I'm currently in the middle of 1897, my favorite storyline. For a while, time was frozen, I was younger and everyone was alive and well. Those respites make reality a little more bearable.

Julie said...

Well said, Erica. I had put my deep feelings for this man into song almost 14 years ago. Yet, I'm not sure I've grieved the loss, partly because I have been consoling several distraught fans, who were not connected to active fandom for one reason or another, from the second I heard the news. I have only been able to play the video of my song once since learning of Jonathan's passing; perhaps I fear the tears that must eventually come for this man who reached through the TV screen and grabbed my heart with the words, "Burn -- BURN!! That is the only way you will die!" I was only 7 and in second grade, but I thought he was the most handsome man I'd ever seen in my life. I thought so then, and only in the past couple of years, it seemed, did the ravages of age catch up to him.

It has been a bittersweet experience remembering. We are blessed to have had such a talent and man in all of our lives.

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