Monday, April 24, 2017

The Dark Shadows Daybook: April 24


Taped on this date in 1970: Episode 1001

Angelique finally confronts Alexis and saps her of her life energy, returning to Collinwood as her own twin. Meanwhile, Quentin continues to sense the presence of Daemon Edwards’ ghost. Chris visits Cyrus, who assures the lawyer that he is freely choosing to establish a $5,000 bank account for a “John Yaeger.” Cyrus later joins Quentin to destroy the body of “Angelique” (actually Alexis). Afterwards, he asks a reluctant Cyrus to wait in the drawing room while he fetches Alexis to make introductions. As she demurs, Cyrus transforms into Yaeger without the aid of the formula.

You never would have guessed it. He’s cogent, relaxed, sharp with his cues. Nevertheless, he’s also in his last episode because of unchecked drug use. Who? Don Briscoe, and his exit from the show is perhaps its quietest, darkest moment. There were two DS actors notorious for substance abuse. The other was Mitch Ryan. But while Ryan was able to address and conquer his alcoholism within a few years, restoring his career with a vengeance, Don was not so lucky. His experimentation with harder drugs included, I believe, hallucinogens. Stories abound of him coming into work and sitting in one wastepaper basket too many, and that was it. I look at the bright, wry, ironic, tortured souls he would play. Then I read reports of how intellectual he was. I consider the age. Yeah, he was a sitting duck, much like Brian Wilson. You take a bright, sensitive, intellectual man in the fine arts in the late 1960’s, give him an opportunity to expand his mind with experimental chemicals, and things like this are going to happen. Other DARK SHADOWS actors, Chris Pennock and Michael Stroka, engaged in similar experimentation common for the period and were fine. (More-or-less-and-kids-don’t-do-this-at-home.) Their comparable survival might be attributed to a different or lesser cocktail… or the fact that Don may have had a delicate psyche in the first place. His was an incredible loss as he moved back in with his parents in a mentally precarious state and, like the aforementioned Brian Wilson, gained an impressive amount of weight over the years. Diehard fans of Don Briscoe (of which I am one) might bristle that his CV gets overshadowed by the way he went out, but it is a cautionary image. Cautionary not only in the obvious warnings of drug use, but in the implied and arguable implications that decriminalization and regulation might have saved his life and career. Who knows what might have happened had he experimented under the care of a doctor, as did Cary Grant?

On this day in 1970, the People’s Republic of China launched its first satellite. Good thing it wasn’t a hawkish, brutal dictatorship. Nope, nothing to be concerned about. Move along. Move along. 

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