Before there was Edward Cullen, Bella Swan’s bloodsucking object of affection, there was the original vampire hunk: Jonathan Frid, of “Dark Shadows.” Frid, who played the brooding vampire hunk Barnabas Collins on the popular show, died at the age of 87, weeks before a Johnny Depp remake of “Dark Shadows” is due in theaters.
Like Robert Pattinson, who plays Cullen in the “Twilight” saga, Frid had to endure the affection of thousands of women, who would mob him for autographs on his press tours. He described what it’s like for every American housewife to have a crush on him in this Washington Post interview in 1968.
He Shadows Women by Day
by Meryle Secrest
May 27, 1968
In the weird world of daytime soap opera, housewives are gaga about ghouls.
Jonathan Frid doesn’t quite understand it, but he’s not knocking it either.
He seems to be thoroughly enjoying the sudden fame he has acquired as Barnabas Collins, vampire hero of “Dark Shadows,” on WMAL-TV.
The only time he gets slightly ruffled is when his viewers do not seem to be able to distinguish between Barnabas, the vampire, and Frid, the man.
“I get letters saying ‘Don’t you be so cruel to Willy. You don’t know it but I overheard him saying nice things about you.’ And they vote, these people.”
Frid, 43, a handsome six-footer, is on a promotional tour (nine cities in 10 days), traveling by a six-seater jet, renamed Vampire in his honor.
With him is Phil Kriegler of ABC-TV, a short amiable man: “I play the heavy on this trip. I’m the one who has to pull him away from all the women who want autographs. The last time I did it one woman gave me a punch in the back that nearly crippled me.”
Kriegler said that 12,000 women, children and teenagers were waiting for them at a shopping center in Fort Wayne, Ind.
“The screaming was unbelievable. Eleven women fainted, there were 58 lost children, one broken arm, a broken leg, and $1,500 damage to trees and shrubs.”
However, he defends the adulation of housewives, teenagers and children that has brought him sudden fame after 20 years of hard-working anonymity as a Shakespearean actor.
“I have acted in so many theaters where there were snob audiences. The kind who go into the lobby and say to each other, ‘What do you think of this play?’ before it’s even gotten off the ground. I hate that scene.”
He also said, “I take it very seriously, in spite of the kidding. An actor is not noted for his intelligence. He’s interested in creating around a situation. I’ve played in dozens of Shakespearean plays and some of the characters are utter bores when you take away the language.
“In Barnabas I get a whole range of characters to play. I play the man’s loneliness and yearnings and feelings of guilt. It’s really a Jekyll and Hyde role.”