Susan Lilley is a poet and a Florida native. She is author of the chapbook Night Windows (Yellow Jacket Press) and her work can be found in Poet Lore, The Florida Review, Passager, and The Southern Review.
Undying Vampire Love By Susan Lilley
I won’t be shelling out my entertainment dollars for New Moon, the latest in the Twilight films based on novels that females around the country are sucking down like Bloody Marys on New Year’s Day.
First of all, I’m terrified I might love it. I already indulge in enough ridiculous age-inappropriate obsessions, like Mad Libs, Pee-wee’s Playhouse reruns, and rock bands for which I may well be the oldest fan. As much as I love the sound of Vampire Weekend, I am holding out for something even better, the return of Dark Shadows.
In my youth, I secretly loved vampire Barnabas Collins, the menacing centrifuge of the gloriously gothic late-60s TV soap that aired every day after school. I never missed an episode.
My best friend, Kate, and I would dash to my house in her four-on-the-floor black Chevy, with Cat Stevens or Sly and the Family Stone blaring on the eight-track. As the maudlin strains of the ending-credits theme of The Guiding Light played, we hurriedly prepared our refreshments: a gallon of Tab and a jumbo bag of taco-flavored Doritos, which our boyfriends said turned our breath to battery acid. We didn’t care – we were on our way to Collinwood, the moody estate where Barnabas lurked as a tormented, lonely, forever-old but ageless, blood-sucking anti-hero.
Barnabas was played by a borderline unattractive actor named Jonathan Frid, and although I never admitted it, even to Kate, I had a monster crush on him. It was cool to love Dark Shadows, but I instinctively knew it was not cool to love Jonathan Frid. So as my semi-erotic dreams began to form around him at night, I kept it to myself.
Girls my age swooned over Jim Morrison, Warren Beatty, Mick Jagger or Paul McCartney, my first love. I had already broken from the pack once under the spell of Burt Bacharach, but Jonathan Frid was my first experience with vampire love. Who knew it was possible to be repulsed and attracted at the same time?
I felt something of the same jolt for Frank Langella’s on-screen version of the big daddy of them all, Dracula. It was more a twinge than a spasm, but it certainly would make a more respectable infatuation. Langella’s Count was charming; Jonathan was sullen and creepy. I had been thoroughly imprinted: Jonathan Frid was my idea of a vampire. Like my own lovable hound of hell, he haunted my imagination for years and was the vision that appeared when the subject turned, as it inevitably does, to vampires. It was Barnabas, not some updated Vampire Lestat, whom I pictured in grad school while listening to a fellow scholar present a paper titled “Going Down for the Count: Sexuality in Dracula.”
Rumor has it that Tim Burton and Johnny Depp, apparently longtime fans of the show, are teaming up for a remake. My spine is tingling already. In my yearning for a dose of original Dark, I found a rerun on cable TV’s Chiller channel. The low-budget production values and evocative dialogue, the scenes full of women with big hairdos wandering the spooky Collins manse subconsciously looking for trouble—these deliciously familiar elements thrilled as I waited for Barnabas’ next entrance. I could almost taste the taco-flavored Doritos.
There he came, from the shadows of the show’s title, shoulders a little hunched, eyes dimmed with lust – or maybe, now that I think about it, boredom. No matter. There may be more appealing vampires around these days, but for me, no undead man can bring on the heart-fluttery heebie-jeebies like Barnabas Collins.
end~~ photo credits;Twilight: neoseeker.com; Dark Shadows: collider.com