Monday, April 15, 2019

Jonathan Frid Lives

There was something elegiac about Jonathan Frid's momentary return from the grave this past weekend. Yesterday was the seventh anniversary of the actor's death, and the stars aligned over the weekend in ways that were both predictable and surprising. Saturday saw the premiere of Master of Dark Shadows at the Paley Center For Media in New York City. It not only screened to a sold-out audience, but an overflow room and an additional question and answer session had to be added to accomodate fans. It's a movie the life and carreer of Dark Shadows creator Dan Curtis, but in a case of life imitating art Jonathan Frid upstages the movie's subject at every turn. He unintentionally hijacks the most important arc of the film (the rise of Dark Shadows as a cultural phenomenon) and lingers like a gentlemanly boogeyman over the rest of Curtis' career. When the closing credits roll, they do so over a drawing of Frid by the late Ken Bald, an image taken from the Dark Shadows syndicated newspaper strip.

Facebook was abuzz over the weekend with photos and stories of fans visiting some of Frid's favorite New York City haunts, as well as the apartment building where he lived while working on Dark Shadows. There was even a reunion of the Clunes Associates crew, the people who made up Frid's production company and produced his spoken word tours during the 1980s and '90s. Some of these people hadn't seen each other in decades.

And, as soon as it started, it was over: News began spreading online about Frid's death. Much of this was done to commemorate the anniversary, but links to news stories about the actor's death in 2012 were frequently shared without context. Before long, fans unaware that Frid passed away in Ontario seven years ago were mourning his death for the first time.

"I loved Dark Shadows," one person wrote. "I watched it as a child. Rest in peace, Jonathan Frid."

"RIP Mr Frid," wrote another. "I loved you as (Barnabas) Collins. You gave me great memories of spooky places."

"I was inconsolable when they killed  (Barnabas) on Dark Shadows," someone commented on Twitter. "He was a vampire w the soul of a poet."

Even author C. J. Cherryh was taken in. "One of the oddly sexiest vampires ever, not by looks, but by projecting a weird combination of power and vulnerability," she commented while sharing a link to a 2012 L.A. Times death notice. When someone pointed out the date on the story, she admitted the error with grace and wit: "But to me he was still alive til now ...which is kind of fitting, I suppose."

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