Friday, February 22, 2019

Jonathan Frid's "hair" apparent

I'm going to begin this story at the end, because linear narratives are overrated.

In my living room is a small, plastic red and yellow table that my son has been using for several years for meals, play and other activities. It's actually a pretty neat design. If you remove the yellow tabletop lid, inside is a tiled board you can use with Lego blocks. There's also space to store Lego blocks, which is nice because we all know what it feels like to step on one of those little bastards.

Last September I used this table to take a few photos of items that had arrived by mail from the United Kingdon to my home in South Carolina. Inside the package was a letter signed by Kathryn Leigh Scott from 1996, and business envelope with the Dan Curtis Productions logo with its original address from the 1960s. The words "Barnabas Hair" were written in pencil on the outside.

Inside, as you probably guessed, was a rather large cutting of human hair. After taking the photos and reassembling the items safely back into their envelopes, I had to ... sweep tiny pieces of Jonathan Frid's hair from my child's table. Because that is the place this website has taken me.

How this package arrived at my doorstep is an interesting one. A few months earlier I'd received an e-mail from a reader named James in the United Kingdom about an oddity found in a book they'd recently purchased. He's bought a hardback edition of Dark Shadows Almanac and found the letter from Scott and the hair clipping inside.

"Pictures attached," he wrote. "Any chance this is genuine? The timeline date would surely be late 67 not 66. So maybe just weirdly committed hoax," noting that the envelope "still has someone's hair in it."

I reached out to Kathryn, who confirmed that the items were genuine. According to the letter found in the book (dated 1996 with Kathryn's Beverly Hills, California business address) Frid had just begun to receive his first wave of fan mail, which was beginning to accumulate in his dressing room. She went to see him in the makeup room, where Frid was having his hair cut, and told him "I could make a fortune selling your hair clippings!"

There are a few details in the story that appear to be wrong, though. She remembers the date of the event as 1966 (Frid didn't join the cast until 1967) and says the hairdresser wrote "Barnabas hair" on the envelope. Several people who have seen photos of the handwriting on the envelope believe it's actually Frid's handwriting. But that's memory for you.

Kathryn tucked the envelope into the pages of the script they'd taped that day and forgot about it. From there, the envelope traveled around the world. Kathryn would later spend time in France, England and California. It was in London in 1996 that she found the script and the envelope, and put them up for auction to benefit the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation. The winner was a Dark Shadows fan from Toms River, New Jersey. How the envelope found its way to the United Kingdom is anybody's guess, but I suspect eBay was involved.

Which brings me back to this last September. Once we confirmed that the envelope and hair were the real deals, James let me know his wife "was not keen on this particular piece of memorabilia lingering." He asked if I knew anyone who'd like to have it. I offered to take it off his hands, if for no other reason to make sure it didn't continue making the rounds on eBay in perpetuity.

And then it arrived and I understood why James' wife was a little put off by it. After sweeping bits of Jonathan Frid's DNA off my kid's table and sharing the photos with friends, I put the envelope on my mantle ... where it remained until this past week. It took a while to wrap my brain around it, to be honest. It was clearly an interesting collectible, but it was also a little ... creepy? I'm glad to have it and eternally grateful to James for sending it my way and hope he understands why it took so long to publicly say thanks. Thanks!

It's a weird world, isn't it?

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