Monday, March 13, 2017

"Werewolf through a fishbowl," an interview with Don Briscoe

Donald Briscoe doesn't get enough love around here. Sure, Patrick McCray is quick to sing his praises, but the actor's short tenure with DARK SHADOWS couple with his reclusive later years doesn't give us much to talk about here.

Not too long ago, a reader donated a folder of DARK SHADOWS-related magazine clippings to the website. Among those is this story from the March, 1969, issue of After Noon TV. As far as the quality of writing goes, After Noon TV was only marginally better than 16 Magazine. Neither much cared for bylined stories or conflicts that weren't generated in-house. Both publications were relatively benign and are mostly interesting today as curios of their own bizarro editorial standards.
"What would you do if someone gave you a pet lion?" is among the questions Briscoe has to answer without sounding like an asshole. You can read the entire piece below.


March, 1969, After Noon TV

If there is currently one nationwide werewolf who was educated at Columbia University, and who is a handsome New York bachelor may he stand up and take a bow. We doubt, however, that anyone other than Don Briscoe will be bowing, for Don is probably the only person in the USA who possesses these traits. Yet, when Don refers to the individuality of people he says, "I don't think I'm unique any more than anyone else is. Everyone is unique. People are alike and unique simultaneously."

Don has another quality that makes him in real life, completely different than the maniac he is when the full moon appears and he is overtaken by a desire to kill. He  stands (ironically for a person playing the role of a werewolf) for Peace. He has a point of view, and he is involved. And because he is intelligent it is difficult to doubt the validity of what he says. He looks up to Eugene McCarthy and what McCarthy represents, and he very much admired Jack and Bob Kennedy. He loves hippies and what they stand for, and as far as mini-skirts and almost everything that represents the Now generation, he thinks they are just great. It is, however, his fine education (when he was in high school he wanted to be a physicist; he has his masters degree from Columbia University, and if he were not an actor, he would probably be, he thinks, either a lawyer or an English teacher) that has helped him to cope intelligently with What's Happening.

Don calls himself a "health nut" who likes organic food, Indian curry, yogurt, and fruit juice.

He would like, someday, to make films, and his favorite actor is Charles Chaplin. He would like to
live maybe in Ireland or England (although he has never been there), and if he had two wishes they would be for the elimination of war and the legalization of love. The things that make him happy are being a lifeguard (some years ago), being in love... and right now, being a Dark Shadow werewolf.

The absurd can, to Don, be taken seriously. "What would you do if someone gave you a pet lion?" He ponders the question before he answers. "I used to want a leopard. But I dislike animals being cooped up. I hate cages." Another question: "What would you do if you woke up with a mustache?" He answers immediately, "I'd shave it off." And then: "Suppose a lady showed up at your house and said I must stay for a week." And he answers smiling, "It depends on the lady. If I liked her I would say 'why only a week?' "And if you had a million dollars?" Back to his original thought: "I'd make a film about Peace."

Don takes himself seriously in a very pleasant way. In a brown paper bag he carries the smallest television set ever made ... because it is necessary to see himself in one segment of Dark Shadows. By watching and analysing he finds he is better able to understand his performance. He watches intently as he and Carolyn sit in a bar. He knows what will happen soon - the full moon will come out. The scene changes to the bedroom where he chains himself to the floor, and as the light of the moon appears he becomes a hideous hairy werewolf. He rises, breaks the chains, runs out, crashes through the window of the bar, grabs the barmaid and the scene is over. He looks seriously at the blank television. Those with him laugh. "That was great," says a friend. But you're different in real life. For a moment Don looks worried. He thinks. Then he says, "I'm a different character. I try ideally to create a different person - with some of the attributes of Don Briscoe. But the more he is like Chris Jennings the better I feel my work is.... You have to believe in the part you play."

"Yeah," says the friend, "Don believes in the part he plays. Most of the day he is very, very pleasant, but when that full moon comes out ..."

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