Friday, March 31, 2017

Ain't no party like a Collinwood party (UPDATE)

There were two kinds of parties in the 1960s. The first tended to involve a lot of herbal essence and the opportunity for surprise nudity. The other: nicotine, scotch and a lot of Half Windsor knots. You can probably guess which kind took place at ABC studios at Halloween in 1968, but leave it to the cast of DARK SHADOWS to still make things a little weird.

On Oct. 31, 1968, ABC executives gathered with cast members from some of its daytime programming at Manhattan's West 53rd Street, where its hit daytime serial DARK SHADOWS was taped. While episode 614 had been broadcast that day (in which Joel Haskell famously tried to strangle Barnabas Collins), the crew had just finished taping 619, an otherwise unremarkable episode. Standing that day were the sets for Nicholas Blair's "house by the sea," the woods around Collinwood, and a hospital bed for poor, doomed Joe.

Some of the actors apparently weren't left with enough time to shed their costumes. Robert Rodan can be seen in photos from the party in full Adam-drag, scars and all. Jonathan Frid is, as usual, in costume as Barnabas Collins, perhaps because of time constraints, or maybe studio pressure to always be "in character" for these kinds of events.

Also attending the party were Peter De Anda of ONE LIFE TO LIVE, Mike Darrow of DREAM HOUSE, Robert Morse of THAT'S LIFE. (Morse would later appear on MAD MEN.) If those were the only guests for the event, though, the party was headed straight for Dullsville. Not even Don Briscoe and his penchant for marijuana-infused werewolf transformations could liven up this joint.

Fortunately, someone had the idea of inviting in some of the fans waiting outside the set. In those days, vigilant groups of teens could be found hanging around outside the Hell's Kitchen studio in hopes of meeting one of the cast members of DARK SHADOWS. These kids generally behaved themselves, and were rewarded on Halloween that year by being invited to the party.

Despite having worked that day, cast members Alexandra Moltke, Grayson Hall and Humbert Allen Astredo are conspicuously absent from the photos. It doesn't necessarily mean that they weren't there ... it's possible they had other obligations that evening. But it might also mean that the photos, for whatever reason, weren't deemed suitable. Moltke, for example, was winding down her tenure on DARK SHADOWS and would take just five more episodes before departing. She was almost certainly gone by the time these photos were published. Heck, even the director of the day's episode, the mysterious Sean Dhu Sullivan, was on the way out and would helm only four more installments of the series.

Briscoe's presence here is a real head-scratcher, though. I'm guessing he'd already ironed out the details about his return to DARK SHADOWS, because he was essentially "between roles" at the time of the party. His first character, Tom Jennings, had been killed off in an episode taped the previous August, and he would not return to the set again until Nov. 12. when Chris Jennings in introduced.

Joel Crothers and Lara Parker.

Robert Rodan, Robert Morse, Lara Parker and Donald Briscoe.

Peter De Anda, Mike Darrow, Lara Parker and Jonathan Frid. 
Jonathan Frid prepares to pounce on an unidentified young fan.
In the comments section below, reader Alan Gallant provided a few more photos from the Halloween party. I've seen many of these before, but it's nice to finally have some context for them. You'll see Lara Parker, Grayson Hall, her son Matthew Hall, and Humbert Allen Astredo in the new images.

Grayson and Matthew Hall. 
Grayson Hall and Jonathan Frid. 

Lara Parker signs a few autographs.

Humbert Allen Astredo meets his fans.

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