Friday, July 19, 2013

Jonathan Frid visits Charleston, S.C., 1968

I've got a minor obsession with the promotional tour taken by JONATHAN FRID in 1968. Frid visited nine (or ten, depending on your source) cities in as many days, meeting fans and speaking to the press. And by "press," I mean he also took the time to be interviewed by high school newspaper reporters, which is pretty cool. Frid likely hated the experience of wading through mobs (and of having to stay "in character" for many of these appearances) but it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for fans in places like Little Rock, Atlanta and Fort Wayne. They might have went a little Beatlemania at times, but their hearts were in the right places.

A few months after the national tour, Frid discussed the experience on an episode of THE DICK CAVETT SHOW, saying:

"All of my life I have wanted to go to Charleston. Well, I did and all I saw was the airport and a supermarket and the station. And I said where’s this beautiful Charleston that I’ve always heard about - well, look over there about five miles and you’ll see a steeple or something. Well, I never really get to see these towns. You just sort of - you’re on display all the time. But it’s you know, I enjoy it."
Cathy Robbins also sent me this excerpt from MALIA HOWARD's out-of-print book, JONATHAN FRID: AN ACTOR'S CURIOUS JOURNEY, in which he discusses the trip to Charleston.

I should mention that THE CURSE OF COLLINWOOD might have Barnabas Collins on its cover, but he doesn't appear in the actual story. Anyhoo, enough with that. Here's the newspaper coverage of Frid's visit to Charleston. Be warned: There are probably a few factual errors in the story, which was published more than 40 years ago.

Dream Launches Actor's Career
The News and Courier, Charleston, S.C.
May 22, 1968

By Mary Ellen Zeigler, staff reporter

A New York producer had a dream two years ago concerning a governess who came to live with a family and discovered that she had served the family many years back.

From this dream, a daytime television program was born, launching the career of Jonathan Frid. Frid plays the role of Barnabas Collins, the sympathetic vampire on ABC-TV’s daytime series “Dark Shadows.”

Though Dan Curtis, the executive producer of the show, did not dream about the role of Barnabas, it seemed to work its way into the script.Originally, however, the part only called for  a pallid-looking actor to play the role of the vampire for a three-week stint.

Frid had recently returned from a tour with Ray Milland in “Hostile Witness,” when he auditioned for the part. He now has a two-year contract and has become one of the central character’s in the story’s plot.

The attractive six-foot actor visited the Port City Monday in conjunction with a promotional tour. While here, he met with reporters and discussed his career.

On his first trip to Charleston, Frid received a tumultuous welcome, beginning when he was met at the municipal airport by a group of youngsters carrying signs, “We love you, Barnabas.”

From there, his motorcade, with police escort, continued to Pinehaven Shopping Center, where he was met by a group of shrieking, shoving teenagers who mobbed his car and tugged his suit. “I guess I really egged them on,” Frid commented later, while dining in a Mount Pleasant restaurant, on local seafood. “I held up my cane, which I use on the show, and that only made them scream louder,” he quipped.

“But, then,” he continued philosophically, “we’re all kind of like that. We all love a parade. I did mad things when I was a kid in Canada.”

Traveling on his rented lear jet with his press agent, Phil Kriegler, Frid was dressed in a navy suit and vest, and dark red tie held in place by a sterling silver tie tax of his lear jet.

He spoke of his ling desire to visit Charleston, and of not being able to see the town while here, but promised to return when he had more time. Among the particular items which interested him were the shrimp boats and shrimping industry in Mount Pleasant.

The actor describes himself as unmarried and fancy free, adding that most actors who try to maintain a home and have children find it difficult.

The Canadian-born actor attended McMaster University, served in the Canadian Navy during World War II, studied at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts and toured with repertory companies in Kent and Cornwall.

He has acted in several Shakespearean festivals in the U.S. and Canada and appeared in several off-Broadway productions.

From Charleston, he traveled to Little Rock, Ark., on his 10-city tour.

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