Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Burn, baby, burn: Dark Shadows goes to the disco, 1969

Halloween was a busy time for the cast of Dark Shadows. You could make the argument that every day was Halloween at the ABC studios on West 66th Street in New York City, but the rest of the world caught up to Collinsport for a few days in October, making the goings on there seems slightly less weird.

On Oct. 29 (and likely into the wee hours of Oct. 30) in 1969, the cast of Dark Shadows gathered at the Cheetah Club discotheque, located at 53rd Street and Broadway. The Cheetah Club was considered the first modern disco, attracting the likes of everyone from the Velvet Underground and Tiny Tim during the 1960s. Here's what Joel Lobenthal’s "Radical Rags: Fashions of the Sixties" had to say about the club:
"By the time Cheetah opened near Times Square in April 1966, the discotheque had become a self-contained Aladdin’s Cave, in which the visitor surrendered his or her everyday identity in search of Dionysian transport. Cheetah employed many conspiring elements to bedazzle its switched-on congregation. Banks of colored lights shone on its patrons. Suspended high above the writhing crowds, huge sheets of chrome—a giant mobile created by industrial designer Michael Lax—undulated rhythmically, while at the club’s opening night the customers echoed the mise en scene: “each girl was more electric than the next,” Eugenia Sheppard reported. “The swinging hair. The wild colors. The mini-mini-skirts.”...Cheetah initiated a trend by selling earmarked discotheque attire in a boutique included in a multi-level complex consisting of dance floor, underground-film screening room, and hot dog stand. The proprietor of Cheetah’s boutique noticed that many customers were purchasing clothes to exchange for those they had arrived in, so the checkrooms were specially expanded."
ABC's promotional party was held at the Cheetah in 1969, with cast members of Dark Shadows and One Life to Live making appearances. Naturally, the Collinsport gang shows up in costume. Attending were Jonathan Frid, David Selby, Joan Bennett, Grayson and Sam Hall, Kathryn Leigh Scott, Donald Briscoe and Michael Stroka.

The day was harder on some cast members than others. Frid and Scott had spent the day working, taping episode 886 of Dark Shadows on Oct. 29, with Frid and Hall returning to work the next morning to tape episode 887. To make things more challenging, Frid was scheduled to attend the annual Halloween party at the White House on Oct. 31. The guy was a workhorse.

Below are some photos from the Cheetah Club party. Peter DeAnda from One Life to Live appears in one of the pics.

Special thanks to Howie Pyro at Dangerous Minds and the late blog It’s All The Streets You Crossed Not So Long Ago for helping fill in the blanks on the history of the Cheetah Club.

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