Thursday, April 26, 2012

Saying Good Bye To A True Legend: Jonathan Frid

Saying Good Bye To A True Legend:
Jonathan Frid of Dark Shadows

On April 13th, 2012, a Friday the thirteenth for those wondering, the world quietly lost one of its truly great actors, and one of its truly great people, for you see this was the day the great Jonathan Frid, star of stage and screen, passed away of natural causes in a hospital room in Hamilton Ontario Canada, his hometown, only afew months after filming his last role, a cameo in the soon to be released Dark Shadows, a film ment to be a darkly comedic but still horrific take on the television series in which Frid first came to fame playing the role of vampire, and saver of the series from cancellation, Barnabas Collins, a vampire who was freed from his crypt by a grave robber looking to loot his tomb, this would be the third and final time Frid would do such a cameo as a nod to the original series, Frid appeared in the 1991 Dark Shadows revival series, as well as the failed 2004 pilot for a relaunch series as-well, in all three cases he appears as an old man who converses with one of the key members of the new cast for only afew brief moments. But i'll get more into Dark Shadows and the mark it and Frid left in abit, but first i'd like to give you a short history of the man himself.

Jon grew up in Hamilton Ontario Canada, were he lived until he went to serve in the Royal Canadian Navy during World War 2, after which he returned home to Hamilton and went to university, until he was accepted to the royal academy of dramatic arts in London, England. From there Jon moved to London to study and work, and after graduating from there, he would move to New Haven Conn. where he would continue to learn and study, and eventually get a degree in directing from the Yale School of Drama, it was on his work there, that he started to use the stage name Jonathan Frid instead of his real name John H. Frid. During this time Jon also spent alot of time helping to start the Williamstown Theater in Williamstown Massachusetts, he would stay in the until 1962, when he would move to new york and continue his stage work, in 1966 while doing this, he would get a call, while preparing to move to the west coast to teach acting that Jon would get a call that changed his life, figuring it would be a short gig that would give him the extra money he needed to move and have abit saved up, he was informed he had been picked to play a enigmatic character named Barnabas Collins on a new to the air and struggling day time soap opera called Dark Shadows. This would be the call that changed Jon's life forever. Jon was amazed at how his arrival on the series not only saved it from cancellation but made him a household name almost overnight, Jon scrapped his plans to teach acting and stayed in new york through out the run of Dark Shadows, where he would take stage acting work when he wasn't filming for the series, sometimes juggling both stage and television work if the stage work was good enough.

After his time in the spotlight was over, Jon would travel mostly between both coasts and Hamilton Ontario, doing stage work and one man plays, until he officially retiring in 1994, returning back home to Hamilton for good, where he would entrench himself in the theater scene and produce, direct, and sometimes if he felt the need to do so, star in many a local production or self written one man plays. This is where Jon would spend the rest of his days until his health was to bad for him to continue to preform, though he delighted in being recognized for either his short career in the limelight, or for his acting around Hamilton. He, unlike many "classically trained actors" who took rolls on television, Jon never turned his back on his most noted role, he often would say some of the best time of his life was playing the vampire who defined television vampires until Buffy would redux the archetype in the late 1990s, he never missed the yearly Dark Shadows Festival in his last few years alive, and between 2008 to 2010 he would return to the character of Barnabas Collins in a series of Dark Shadows audio books, which reunited most of the still living original cast, and would keep the living members of the old show's cast closer knit then they were before their return to working together, and they would stay this way even in Frid's death. Frid died of natural causes in a Hamilton hospital on April 14th, 2012, he was surrounded by family and loved ones when he died, he was 87.

Now, this is is sad on its own, when a true legend and a humble man dies, but Jon's passing, much like Jim Henson's or Maila Nurmi's, hits a note with me, you see, among my prized belongings were two letters written by hand from Jon Frid to me personally, along with afew signed bits of memorabilia, all signed to me from Jon himself. Jon was asked to write and sign those things for me by cast member Laura Parker, whom I had the honor of meeting and interviewing about her offshoot of the Dark Shadows books called "The Salem Branch" which starred her iconic character, the beautiful witch Angelique. She and I had become friendly and after hearing my Dark Shadows related stories, and connection to the show, and how I got the nickname of Barnabus Collins, she mentioned she was going to see the soon to be final one man stage show and offered to not only get afew things signed for me from the surviving cast, but also afew things by Frid himself, I was elated beyond words, and afew weeks later, when a package arrived from Hamilton Ontario I was awe stuck to find signed pictures, a script from the show, and of his one man play, and a letter written to me, by Jon himself stating his thanks for being such a devoted fan, and being raised a fan. I wrote him back thanking him for what he had sent and his kind words, and he again wrote me back thanking me once more for being such a lovely and devoted fan, it was a highlight of my life for sure.

I never got to know Jon outside of the two letters he wrote me and the stories told to me by Laura Parker, and by his work I've seen on television, but with him and his ironic role playing a big part in my life, i will miss him, so good bye Jon, may you rest in peace, or rest for another 200 years in your coffin, like we all know you're really doing....

and just for the love of things... the introduction of Barnabas Collins from "Enter The Vampire"