Monday, June 18, 2012

Dark Shadows rises from the grave

(Note: On July 12, 1987, The Aiken Standard published a series of features on Dark Shadows. This is the lead story from that feature package.)

"Dark Shadows" is far from dead 
in the hearts of many devoted fans
Aiken Standard. Aiken. S. C., Sunday. July 12, 1987

Staff Writer

"Dark Shadows" may prove to have as many lives as the vampires, witches and werewolves who stalked the centuries during the gothic soap opera's five-year run. The notion that the series was laid to rest when it went off the air on April 2,1971, is a grave error. Like one of its early characters, the Phoenix, "Dark Shadows" has risen from the ashes of cancellation, and its many supporters are keeping its flame alive and as bright as ever.

To commemorate last summer's 20th anniversary of the show's premier, a former Aiken resident put together a second long-play album of "Dark Shadows" music. Another Aikenite has brushed off her old scrapbooks crammed with pictures, magazine articles and memorabilia from the series.

Emiel Berrie and Deirdre Tice were students at Aiken Junior High when "Dark Shadows" premiered June 27 1966, on ABC television. Every afternoon, they would race home from school to watch the show at 4 p.m. on WJBF Channel 6 in Augusta.

"Lord help the person who tried to talk to me between 4 and 4:30," said Ms. Tice, remembering her devotion to the show and its actors. While Ms. Tice, who has since appeared in a number of plays at USCAiken and the Aiken Community Playhouse, watched the acting, Berrie loved the music. He was so interested in the music that he sent its composer, Robert Cobert, a tape he compiled of the show's eerie themes and began corresponding with him. In the early 1970s, Berrie flew to Los Angeles to visit the composer.

Cobert has written many television themes and recently wrote the music for the ABC mini-series, "The Winds of War." He is currently working on the music for its sequel, "War and Remembrance."

After "Dark Shadows" was cancelled, Berne's interests shifted, and he lost touch with Cobert. Berrie completed his degree in music at the University of South Carolina and eventually became a banker in Columbia.

In 1981, Berrie, a son of Mr. and Mrs. Marvin E. Berrie, moved to Los Angeles where he continued his banking career. He said he never thought about "Dark Shadows" until he received a call last year from Jim Pierson, chairman of the Dark Shadows Festival, a national fan group.

Pierson knew that Berrie had once corresponded with Cobert and asked him if he would be interested in putting together a second album of music from "Dark Shadows." The first album, featuring "Josette's Theme" and monologues by Barnabas and Quentin, was a hit at the height of the show's popularity in 1970.

Berne learned that Cobert lived only 20 minutes away from him and gave him a call. After thinking about the album project for just a short time, Cobert turned all of his music from "Dark Shadows" over to Berrie, who spent last summer listening to more than 400 music cues.

"There were a number of outstanding pieces, lots of nice pieces," said Berrie recently during a telephone interview from his home in Los Angeles. "The first album focused on the ambiance of the show. For the second album, I deliberately chose character themes. All the characters had their own themes.
"Cobert gave me complete creative control as to what to put on the album."

The album premiered appropriately at a Dark Shadows Festival convention in Newark, N.J., last Halloween, and, in a few weeks, fans bought almost 2,500 copies. Cassette recordings are selling well, too, although they've received little national exposure.

"Everyone in the cast (at the convention) loved it. They loved the idea and were flattered that people were interested 20 years later — that a sound track album came out 14 years after the show had gone off the air," Berrie said.

The new "Dark Shadows" album is music to the ears of the soap opera's fans, but the melody may get sweeter. Berrie has enough music to put together a third album, and a reunion movie featuring original cast members is possible. During its four-and-a-half year run, "Dark Shadows" spawned two feature films, "House of Dark Shadows" and "Night of Dark Shadows."

"They are thinking of a possible reunion movie. Dan Curtis, the producer of the show, is tied up with 'War and Remembrance.' Maybe he'll do it after that. Most of the cast is still around," Berne said.

If the movie is produced, Berrie said there is a 100 percent chance that he will be directly involved with the music.

To produce the album, Berrie and executive producer, Debbie Kruder, formed Media Sound Records in Beverly Hills, Calif., in July, 1986. Three months later, the company's first full-length record was completed.

The company's next project is to produce the soundtrack for "Winds of War" and "War and Remembrance." Because Cobert is busy with his other projects, Berrie handles any requests the composer receives to use the music.

"There are people who call Cobert and want the sheet music to themes on the show, many of them who are seeing the show (in syndication) for the first time. Cobert now refers them to me," Berrie said. 

"People from all walks of life — bankers, lawyers, dentists, a priest — are interested. It's incredible. The interest is spread out all over.

"Cobert can't believe it. There are still people, young people, who are interested in the show."
Ms. Tice agreed, saying she couldn't believe that so many people are still interested in a television show that should have died almost 20 years ago. The Dark Shadows Festival she attended in Dallas last summer attracted about 1,200 fans.

"It floored me," she said. "I had long ago put away those memories."

 Ms. Tice said she never missed "Dark Shadows" during its original run. 

"It was an obsession. I lived and breathed 'Dark Shadows.' I had to run home to watch it every day," she said. "I even taped it on the old reel-to-reels. That was before VCRs."

One of those tapes was for a skit Ms. Tice and Berrie performed at Aiken Junior High. Ms. Tice played Angelique, a witch whose curse turned Barnabas into a vampire. Berrie recorded the background
music. The skit proved to be very popular with their classmates.

"They loved it. Emiel has a wonderful feel for creating moods with music," Ms. Tice said. "I was hounded on the playground by everyone saying, 'Do your Angelique imitation. Do your Angelique imitation."

Ms. Tice recently rediscovered the two scrapbooks of articles about and pictures of Angelique and other cast members from Sixteen magazine. She also found the goldcolored paperback books and rare comic books that the series inspired. She still has a replica of Josette's music box that her mother gave her as a birthday gift.

Today, those books that originally sold for 50 and 60 cents cost $4 and $5. A vintage Josette music box sells for about $25, five times its original price, Ms. Tice said.

Other items available at the festivals include T-shirts, vintage "Dark Shadows" board games, tapes from the series and blooper tapes, showing cardboard tombstones that sway in the breeze and bats suspended by thin wires. Fangs and Barnabas rings made by Sarah Coventry jewelry in the late '60s are also for sale.
Ms. Tice said it is the fans that make the festivals interesting. Many of them dress as their favorite characters, and the Collinsport Players, a group of fans from different states, present skits and one-act plays based on the series.

Their ages range from as young as her son, Victor, 10, who has also become a fan, to people in their 60s.
"I would love to write a play about the people who come to the festivals," she said.
Meeting the "Dark Shadows" actors, many with whom she had corresponded 20 years ago, is also a highlight of the festivals, Ms. Tice said.

"To me it was a lot of fun to get to meet the people I grew up with, especially to meet them as people, not actors," she said.

Ms. Tice will get a chance to meet many of those actors at the fall festival in Los Angeles. Last fall, she attended the festival in Newark and plans to attend another festival in Newark this summer. Ms. Tice and Berrie agreed that those actors and the way they played their parts have kept the show alive and made it a classic.

"Dark Shadows was supposed to have died a normal death. To have it resurrected 20 years later is certainly a compliment," Ms. Tice said.

"It had the correct formula for interest," Berrie added. "The characters were like a troupe. They played three or four different characters. It had the spirit of a company of performing actors."
It shouldn't take one of "Dark Shadows's" famous seances to keep that spirit alive another 20 years or longer.

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