“Maybe nobody took it! Maybe wherever it is — it wants to be there!”
When Aristede reaches the rendezvous point, his supervillain boss is already waiting for him.
“Why are you late, Aristede?” Victor grumbles. “You know that waiting always makes me fretful.”
This is something of an understatement. When Aristede admits that he doesn’t have the magical artifact he was sent for, Victor lashes out, smacking him across the face three times. “You are stupid! And incompetent! And clumsy!”
Aristede cowers, and makes excuses. Quentin was supposed to bring Aristede the Legendary Hand of Count Petofi in exchange for a cure for lycanthropy, but Quentin said that he lost it.
Victor thunders, “And you believed him?”
“Yes!” Aristede squeaks, as his boss pulls him close and glares at him. “Well, there’s no reason for him not to give me the Hand!”
“Yes, there is,” Victor sighs. “He has a brain in his head — something which you, who have nothing behind that lovely face of yours, can not possibly understand.”
So… hold on. Did he just say that Aristede is lovely?
So I’m just going to admit this straight up: there is a super obvious gay subtext with Victor and Aristede that I absolutely one hundred percent missed.
Now, I’ve done lots of posts before about how gay I think Dark Shadows is (answer: a lot gay). I’ve invented specious lit-crit jargon off the top of my head just to explain why I have feelings about the way that Chris and Joe are looking at each other in that one scene. And yet for the last two weeks, Victor and Aristede have been blatantly sitting in a tree, and I didn’t even know it was happening. All I can do is apologize.
Because this isn’t an isolated incident. Aristede orders drinks for Victor, and eagerly lights his cigarettes. Victor calls him “my boy,” and says “I’m aware of your charms, my dear Aristede.” Victor claims that he’s a collector, looking for the unique and the beautiful — and it’s pretty obvious that he considers Aristede one of the beautiful things that he’s collected.
And I watched all of those episodes. Took notes, too. Escaped me entirely.
In fact, the only reason I’m talking about it now is that I read the comments people left on the episode 794 post, where they were discussing it as a super obvious fact that everybody already knows. So now I know things.
Wayne, Carose59, Adriana and Richard: You are awesome, and I like the way you watch TV. I will now devote the rest of the post to expanding on what you said and adding quotes and pictures, because if I just link to your comments then I have to come up with something else to talk about.
So let’s go back to last week, for Victor’s introduction. The first thing we find out about their relationship is that there’s a huge power imbalance, and it’s physically abusive.
When Victor enters the scene, Aristede has already claimed the Hand, and then lost it again to the mad witch Angelique. Victor finds Aristede unconscious on the Collinsport docks, choked out by Angelique’s voodoo. He basically kicks Aristede awake, and then smacks him in the face, shouting, “You didn’t get the Hand, did you?” There’s a lot of slapping in this relationship.
But that’s not a strike against reading this as gay — unfortunately, it’s the opposite. Until approximately fifteen minutes ago, the portrayal of gay and lesbian relationships in popular culture was generally on the slappy side. As an apparently wealthy, powerful man, Victor is well within his rights to smack his pretty boy-toy around.
Victor backs Aristede up against a wall, and demands answers. “Which was it, Aristede? Liquor? A woman? An assailant? Or a combination of all three?” When Aristede admits that it was a woman, Victor gets even more angry.
Aristede: She was no ordinary woman, Victor. She possessed powers! She almost killed me!
Victor: She SHOULD have killed you, and spared me your ineptitude!
As the scene ends, Victor is moving on to the next stage of his plan. “I will go to Collinwood at once, as soon as you answer a few questions, particularly about –” and here, his voice is dripping with bitter sarcasm — “the WOMAN you met.”
Victor’s concern about Aristede and the women appear to be well-founded. He’s had three seduction scenes so far, with Angelique, Julianka and — in a weird, hard to interpret Blue Whale scene — Tim Shaw. The Julianka scene is a business assignment; he’s trying to get information for Victor. But his interest in Angelique is entirely freelance, and that’s the one where he attempts to get physical.
Again, that heterosexual interest doesn’t rule out the gay subtext; it just makes things more interesting. There’s a complicated dance going on between Victor’s desires and Aristede’s, and it doesn’t lend itself to a simple definition.
But, as I said, I missed the whole thing, especially the Kitchener reference. This comes up when Victor presents himself at Collinwood, wangling an invite by pretending to know Edward’s friend, the Earl of Hampshire. The English aristocracy connection is completely counterfeit, so Victor throws in some details for local color.
Victor: By the way, there’s something that I should explain. My voice. I can barely speak above a whisper. I served with Kitchener in the Sudan. The knife of a tribesman caught me just above the shoulder blade. The tip pierced my throat. Almost gave me up for dead.
Edward: Good heavens.
Victor: Splendid man, Kitchener. Integrity. Pride. A bit too much pride, perhaps, but still — a man among men, if you know what I mean.
In my post, I admitted that I didn’t know what he meant, but in the comments, Wayne explained it: “As for the Kitchener business, many historians believe that Kitchener was a deeply repressed Victorian homosexual of the military variety, so having Victor mention him by name may be code-speak to the well-informed.”
Now, as the well-informed know and the rest of us look up on Wikipedia, Field Marshal Horatio Herbert Kitchener was a well-decorated British Army officer who led campaigns in the 1880s and ’90s to establish British rule in Africa. He was also apparently extremely busy in the boy-liking area. I’m going to quote from the “Debate on Kitchener’s sexuality” section from his Wikipedia page, because it is hilarious.
The proponents of the case point to Kitchener’s friend Captain Oswald Fitzgerald, his “constant and inseparable companion”, whom he appointed his aide-de-camp. They remained close until they met a common death on their voyage to Russia.
From his time in Egypt in 1892, he gathered around him a cadre of eager young and unmarried officers nicknamed “Kitchener’s band of boys”. He also avoided interviews with women, took a great deal of interest in the Boy Scout movement, and decorated his rose garden with four pairs of sculptured bronze boys. According to Hyam, “there is no evidence that he ever loved a woman”.
Patrick Barkham, a contemporary journalist, remarked that Kitchener “has the failing acquired by most of the Egyptian officers, a taste for buggery.”
Four pairs of sculptured bronze boys! That’s the telling detail as far as I’m concerned. Anybody could have one or two pairs, but it does take a buggery-minded person to invest in four.
Okay, back to Aristede, who’s obediently lighting Victor’s thin, suspicious cigarette.
Aristede: You went to Collinwood?
Victor: Yes. I found your young lady.
Aristede: Did you get the Hand from her?
Victor: No. But I can almost forgive your blunder. She is a beautiful creature.
(Aristede’s face lights up.)
Victor: I said, I can ALMOST forgive you.
Desperate to win back Victor’s favor, Aristede insists that he can get the Hand back from Angelique, but Victor asserts his dominance.
Aristede: Let me try to get it back from her. Now that I know what she is…
Victor: No, my boy. This is a job that calls for careful planning, finesse… You will remain here, in the village.
Victor: It’s to our advantage that no one know of our relationship. You will do nothing until you hear from me. Is that quite clear?
Yeah, it sure is. Let’s jump ahead to their secret tryst at the gazebo, where Victor and Aristede are having an extremely intense conversation.
Aristede: The fact that you killed Julianka has nothing to do with me.
Victor: I would not have had that emotional reaction if you had gotten the Hand and kept it.
(Victor grabs Aristede by the lapels, and holds him.)
Victor: We should have been out of here by now!
Aristede: Julianka must have had the Hand somewhere — why didn’t you get it from her?
Victor: Are you criticizing me?
Aristede: No, no, no!
(Victor releases him, petulantly.)
Victor: See that you don’t.
Then Victor whispers a threat that should be on the list of all-time most perplexing threats.
Victor: Can you imagine what it’s like to go to bed at night, and fall into the deepest sleep you’ve ever known? When you awake, the first thing you see is blood on your pillow. You rush to the mirror, and what do you see? Not that face you love so well, Aristede — but another face. A gift from the unicorn!
So there we are again, with the face. Then more of this.
Aristede: I just want to get out of this place — get out alive!
Victor: So you shall, as soon as you’ve talked to Quentin Collins.
Aristede: I don’t know how to begin!
Victor: I will tell you. I wouldn’t have it otherwise. I’m aware of your charms, Aristede, but I know only too well that conversation is not among them.
After he gives Aristede his instructions, Victor has one more request.
Victor: Aristede, smile. Before you go — do smile. Think of the day when we get the Hand. Think of the power we will have!
Aristede: (sulking) You will have.
Victor: Yes… and I will be extremely greedy.
Aristede turns to face Victor, and the conversation takes an unbelievable turn.
Aristede: And me?
Victor: You? My dear Aristede, you will be the most elegant gentleman in the world. Even the pockets of your suits will be lined with the finest silk!
Victor leans in, very close.
Victor: Where shall we have your clothes made, Aristede? London? Paris? I think — London. Think of London, when you talk to Quentin Collins.
And I bet he will. We all will, I think. We might have trouble thinking of anything else for weeks.
So the particular brand of super gay that we’re looking at here is the Oscar Wilde aesthete, who values beauty above all things, and finds that beauty in the sight of a handsome young man in a silk-lined suit.
Later on, Victor reveals his true intentions to Quentin.
Quentin: You want the Hand.
Victor: Very much so, Mr. Collins. I have wanted it for a long time.
Victor: Because it is unique in the entire world. Because I am a collector of the unique. Because I pursue anything that meets the standards I’ve set myself. That is why I am the one person in the world who should have it.
This is the aesthete’s creed, that there’s no such thing as morality — the only things that matter are sensation and appetite. Victor believes that he deserves the Hand because his tastes are so refined, and because he wants it so much.
Victor wants the Hand because it will give him the power to whisk Aristede off to Bond Street and buy him more handkerchiefs. Aristede is one of the unique and beautiful things that Victor collects.
So the question “Do Victor and Aristede have a sexual relationship” is actually not very interesting. The pleasure that Victor takes is a visual pleasure, and always expressed in terms of ownership. He doesn’t value Aristede for conversation or competence. He likes watching Aristede — his vain and elegant young man, looking at himself in the mirror. He may also have a taste for buggery; it’s hard to say.
Oh, and also it turns out he’s Count Petofi. Damn it, I miss everything!
Monday: Time Travel, part 6: One Giant Leap.
Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:
In the teaser, when Tim finds the Hand on the floor in the Old House, you can see the studio lights.
Magda moans, “I knew that Hand was evil, but I did not know how evil! Oh, if I only knew what it would do for me! What it would take from me!”
Tim asks Evan, “You must admit this Hand is unique, isn’t it?” Evan says, “I don’t know,” and Tim smiles. “You don’t know,” he grins. Then he looks at the teleprompter, and says, “You do know.”
At the start of Victor and Aristede’s scene in the woods, the camera moves too far to the right, and you can see Aristede waiting for his cue.
Monday: Time Travel, part 6: One Giant Leap.
— Danny Horn
80 thoughts on “Episode 800: Sitting in a Tree”
There’s a scene later (in another great Violet Welles script) when Tim Shaw offers Petofi money for his assistance, and Petofi dismisses both it and his “beautiful young lady — neither of which are of the slightest interest to me at the moment.”
Petofi demonstrates no real romantic or sexual interest in women with the exception of a period when he’s not quite himself.
I totally loved Victor/Petofi as a kid…. now I know why!
How refreshing to have this sort of brilliant spot-on analysis and not have everyone going “but but but but….” Thanks Danny.
Thanks for the shout-out, Danny! I’m glad to help.
The writers clearly had Oscar Wilde in mind from the get-go for this 1897 storyline. How do I know that? Because back in the present day, when they were first setting up the background story to Quentin’s haunting of Collinwood, they initially cited “Oscar” as the name of Jameson’s father rather than what they eventually settled on, “Edward.” (I guess they figured the name of Queen Victoria’s oldest son was more apt.) And now that we’re in 1897, Wilde’s “The Picture of Dorian Gray” will soon become the inspiration for a major ongoing plot-line.
I’ve long felt that Petofi is the writers’ vision of what Oscar Wilde may have been like if he were an extremely powerful 150-year-old sorcerer (not a warlock, as some have described him, but a sorcerer — there’s a difference). Not only do we have his aesthetic sensibilities, but consider also that “thin, suspicious cigarette” you’ve already pointed out; Wilde was known for his fondness for cigarettes at a time when “manly men” were more inclined to pipes and cigars. And look at those tight curls on Petofi’s head; Oscar famously once had his hair tightly curled, which caused all sorts of scandalized talk in London.
At any rate, these are just some of the reasons why Petofi is my all-time favorite Shadows character. I don’t think they had more fun with any other character in the entire run of the show.
The Oscar Wilde connection is so clear the more you read about Wilde and his work. Petofi has the “build” of Oscar but he plays out very much like Lord Henry — especially in his scenes with Charles Delaware Tate. Petofi even tells Quentin at one point that he ‘likes’ him when he wants to “expand” his talents for “pure evil.” There is much of Lord Henry Wotton in Petofi (who of course is a Count).
“Well, what kind of man wants to own a unicorn, anyway?”
Hey Danny, thanks for the honorable mention, being awesome totally rules. But really, it was Wayne that did the heavy lifting. Thank you, Wayne, I wish I had done that much research. Several viewings back, I did Google Kitchner, after Petofi mentioned him, but it was just to check the dates of when he was in the Sudan. I should have read the whole article.
I see Aristede as a sexual “whatever”. I’m guessing bi-sexual, I get the feeling he doesn’t differentiate. He’s that way with a lot of things, everything about him is outside the law. He’s a live fast, die young kinda guy.
With Petofi, maybe gay, maybe bi? At first, I dismissed his “thing” for Angelique as him being like a fan of a great diva, but then I wondered, what if he really does have a thing for Angelique?
They’re insinuating all kinds of things, left and right. I think, if you suspect it, good chance you are right.
It might be more fun to wonder, than to know.
Yeah, I surprised myself by the end of that post, not really being interested in the specific labels. Usually, I see that kind of thing as a passively homophobic cop-out.
There’s a discussion in the comments on my “Win a Date with Jonathan Frid” post about whether Jonathan Frid was gay or bi or whatever nonsense labels that people say when they like somebody, and they wish he wasn’t gay. I have basically no patience for that.
But with fictional characters, it can be fuzzy, because all we know is what they choose to show us. The character literally doesn’t exist when we’re not looking at them, so what you imagine happens off-screen can be wildly different from what somebody else imagines, but they can both be legitimate interpretations. Sometimes the only difference between my interpretation and yours is personal taste.
So who the hell knows with Petofi. I find it hard to picture that he ever actually touches anyone. I know he takes off the gloves eventually, but he doesn’t seem like a super tactile guy.
I agree that Aristede does whatever the hell he wants.
I can see Petofi as someone who eventually decided he was too intellectual to actually have sex. And he’s 150.
Wouldn’t it be funny if the real motivation for getting the hand back was because he’s been impotent for the 100 years it’s been away, and that’ll all be over as soon as he gets it back.
In a magical place like Dark shadows, maybe the Magic Hand gives him a Magic Johnson.
Taking this back to Wilde and PICTURE OF DORIAN GRAY, the three gay characters (Basil, Lord Henry, and Dorian himself) all have relationships of a sort — well, arguably Basil doesn’t — with women. I agree with you about “labels.” Gayness in real life is complex, just as it is complex in art. I don’t know if you’ve read/seen THE CELLULOID CLOSET but the nuances and coded references in film/media are fascinating and entertaining to watch in movies/TV once you’re aware of them.
The way Petofi is written and his destructive relationships with male characters (again very much like DORIAN GRAY) is unique in the series. It’s not there with Barnabas and Willie (clearly simply master and servant), and Nicholas’s corruption of a young man (Adam) just doesn’t buzz the way Petofi’s corruption of Aristede, Tate, and Quentin does.
I never made the romantic connection between Petofi and Aristede, and I must admit that even after the point-by-point analysis in this post I still would never have made the connection of a certain homoerotic relationship between Petofi and Aristede. If anything, Aristede is a sort of right-hand man, one who represents muscle, who operates without a conscience and will do the dirty work that is necessary so that Petofi will not need to make himself too visible in certain matters, such as getting “The Hand” from Quentin for instance. Such a subtext would have been lost on the mainstream, mainly jejune, television viewers of 1969, and furthermore would have done little if anything to serve the movement of plot and story. Such a long-standing in-joke among the writers would have had to have been approved of from on high; was this really what Dan Curtis, the main man behind the story and the show, would have wanted to have conveyed? I mean, Dan Curtis is about as homoerotic as a pair of golf balls.
Danny, I do hope that my comments in your ““Win a Date with Jonathan Frid” post did not cause you to be impatient. I haven’t looked again at the comments from that post, but I remember that despite what was posted, I did not actually not want Jonathan Frid to be gay, but mentioned that I just did not believe that he was so inclined, mainly because there is no actual evidence to indicate that he was. Now, Joel Crothers was open about his own orientation, so the other cast members knew about it, as was Louis Edmonds, which is why in Barnabas & Co. we have the name of someone that Louis went home to in those days, and as well Anthony George; when Lara Parker mentioned that she had a crush on him, Grayson Hall pulled her aside to inform her that he was gay. But Jonathan Frid? We know nothing definite, it is all supposition. He never admitted anything himself, no Dark Shadows cast members have ever spoken or written anything about it, and in the book Remembering Jonathan Frid, neither any of his friends nor family members ever even hinted at any such thing in their recollections one way or the other. So I feel it is unfair to proclaim, one way or the other, what Frid’s leanings were. We just don’t know. In terms of intimate relations, whether connected to men or women or both, Jonathan Frid, as a public figure, is simply a blank slate. There is not one single person who can be intimately connected with the man. And, for better or worse, that is how he preferred it. We simply have to leave it at that. For many, publicly he was Barnabas, and privately he was neither homo- nor heterosexual, but asexual. Now this may or may not have been the case; but because no issue or mention was ever made of it, either by the man or anyone who knew him, it just doesn’t matter. Ultimately, sex doesn’t matter. Not when a man is to be defined by the body of his work, rather than the work of his body.
For what it’s worth, Kathryn Leigh Scott has said that of all the male cast members on Dark Shadows, Jonathan Frid was the best kisser.
However, for me, “gay” doesn’t always equal “sex.” If you’d tried to find evidence of my romantic life during a certain period, you would have come up dry but that didn’t mean I was “asexual.” I was rather shy, retiring, reserved… all the things we’ve heard said about Mr. Frid.
Forgive the pun, but there still seems to be an orgy of evidence about Frid’s likely orientation (and Danny went into great detail about it, I thought). The “advantage” Frid had over Joel Crothers, for example, back in the 1960s was that as a middle-aged man, he could more easily fit into the “confirmed bachelor” role (“never met the right person” and “enjoy my privacy”). Crothers was just too young and handsome for that to work.
I don’t think it’s “unfair” to speculate about Frid’s personal life, as I don’t think “gayness” is a bad habit or anything. Also, I do think it’s somewhat key to understanding the performance and characterization of Barnabas Collins, especially on a longrunning TV series (rather than a movie) where the actor’s persona starts to influence the character’s. It also helps to put in perspective why the most intense chemistry is between Barnabas and Julia or Barnabas and Angelique.
Everybody agreeing to keep somebody’s secret doesn’t mean that the thing you’re keeping secret isn’t true. Very few people in the 1960s willingly let people know that they were gay, because it was considered a mental illness and it was illegal. And yet there were lots of gay people then, just like there are now.
There is a tiresome double standard when discussing the sexual orientation of someone –celebrity or historical future — who never made any public declaration one way or another. The argument usually goes there is no “evidence” hence we cannot presume anything. But we presume heterosexuality all the time — it is only homosexuality we seem to demand evidence for.
Yes, exactly. And the fact is that if there is no evidence of any romantic attachments, then that is very good evidence that the person was secretly gay, especially if the alternative is that we have discovered a new kind of human that can survive without feelings.
If you are hinting at Jonathan Frid- he wasn’t gay- his family stated that he wasn’t gay, and he even made mention to his painful experiences of being stood up many times by women (though why anyone would do that to him puzzles me), that in the 1960s he felt women only were interested in Barnabas and not him, that an actor’s life made having a successful marriage difficult (which is true), and that he was a loner. He also got bullied as a child and had low self esteem and couldn’t see why women found him attractive. All those things led to him being a singleton.
You can see one of these interviews here:
And if you think this is some kind of cover up- well for him to reveal such personal and painful experiences and feelings, well this is honest of him and heartfelt. He was an honest person and detested lying. If he was going to make something up he wouldn’t have admitted such painful things but something easy like he hadn’t met the right woman yet, that he was working long hours and that this made it difficult to go dating (that last one is often true of most actors).
“Barnabas has decision and authority. He’s always making declarations: ‘This must be done! I must this! I must that!” I think the word ‘must’ is probably half the reason for his success. Well, Jonathan Frid never says ‘must.’ I’m some kind of eccchh. I’m sort of this way and that way and all over the place. I’m always running off at the end of a sentence into a dot-dot-dot. People don’t dislike my indecision — they’re just indifferent.”
“Women, especially, like strong men who make pronouncements. I suppose it’s what they call a ‘father image.’ I’ve never been a lady killer. I’ve been stood up I don’t know how many times. Actually, I have no social life at all. I go home at night and work two or three hours on the script, get up at 6:30 and work for an hour over breakfast before going to the studio. Girls may have fun with me for ten minutes or so, but something deep within them loses interest. I guess they really want someone who waves a cane and says, ‘I must!'”
The interview that you link to is from 1969, when homosexuality was illegal and considered a mental illness. This isn’t a cover-up — it’s the perfectly normal things that gay/bi people say and do when they’re in the closet.
As far as I know, Joel Crothers did not come out publicly. We know that he was gay because he died of AIDS in 1985, and we made the appropriate inferences.
This is clearly something where we will simply disagree.
I know that it was from 1969- but he wasn’t even asked about a girlfriend, he brought the subject of difficulties with dating himself. He didn’t even have to, he was being honest. He wasn’t lying as he had no need to mention it as he was not asked anything about women.
There is absolutely no evidence at all that he was gay. I don’t know why you can’t accept that.
Some people are asexual, have low libidos, like their own company- we are all different. Being a life long bachelor doesn’t automatically= gay.
It seems that celibacy and asexuality is held with great suspicion these days- they are the “new gay” if you ask me- that there is something “wrong” with someone who isn’t having regular sexual relations.
That 1969 article was also in Ingenue magazine, which was a teen pop magazine like 16 and Tiger Beat. (The tag line was “The Magazine for Today’s Teen Agers”.) Teen magazine interviews from the 1960s are almost always completely fabricated, with no involvement from the actor at all.
In that article, he also supposedly says, “I was never a villain—I mean, Barnabas was never really evil. He’s very much like Macbeth.”
That is not a sentence that a Shakespearean actor would ever say. Macbeth is generally regarded as one of the most complex characters in drama; there’s no way that Frid would refer to Macbeth as “never really evil.”
Any information that you have about the stars from 1960s teen magazines is not true. That stuff was made up to give young women a reason to sigh, and pine for the charming and sensitive man that they imagine he was. I would suggest that you are one of those young women.
Oh, also: “Lifelong bachelor” is not the new gay. That was the old gay.
You can’t prove one way or the other that the article was fabricated and I doubt Jonathan would have been up for fake interviews.
That aside it doesn’t prove he was gay. All the “evidence” is just gossip and gossip is not to be trusted- all comments on the internet by anonymous people making comments online who say he was gay with no evidence at all- no names of supposed lovers, no man has come forward and said “yes we dated.” None.
I don’t understand why you have to keep defending him against speculations that he might have been gay–unless you find the idea offensive. Of course there are other possibilities, but to keep going on and on and on about it certainly makes it seem like you have a real problem with someone you admire maybe being gay. If that’s not the case, you might want to reconsider the way you’re handling this.
Not at all! I have gay friends and have defended them against homophobia. If you have seen all my posts you will see that my stance is that Mr Frid and his family never stated that he was gay that all the “evidence” are just rumours, nothing concrete and that there are many reasons why someone doesn’t marry. That’s all!
You’re exactly right Carose. “TheOldHouse” certainly spends an ENORMOUS amount of time on this. Wonder why it matters so much? You’d think they’d say hmm, maybe he was, maybe not, I don’t think so…. But instead they’re saying no, no, no, absolutely no cuz he never said so and his “family” never said so (as if families are the ones who know these things) — it’s like trying to prove a negative. Then comes the old “oh I have gay friends” line as a defense. Look. It’s 2016. If you’re gay you can read the code. And we can read that Frid was gay. No, we don’t know for sure. But neither are we writing paragraph after paragraph trying to prove it the way “TOH” is trying to prove the opposite. Get over it. Its 2016 not 1969 anymore. Maybe Frid was gay. And that’s ok.
I always thought of Petoffi’s sway over Aristede and Charles Tate as more of a Faustian bargain. Aristede wants to remain youthful and handsome and Charles Tate wants to be famous. They made a bargain to serve Petoffi – a powerful apparently supernatural enity – to further their goals.
I always thought Petoffi wanted Quentin to make the same bargain and become a Petoffi slave.
Yes, but Petofi wants to “enslave” men almost exclusively. He also apparently destroyed the Earl of Hampshire (and had little interest in Kitty herself). Angelique as both Cassandra and as a vampire was Nicholas’s “slave” but their relationship, even when living in the same house, never felt “domestic” but always that of boss and subordinate.
Interesting point because there’s a scene coming up where the Count will say to Tim Shaw something to this effect-“You have a great deal of money and a beautiful woman-none of which is the least bit interesting to me!”
In the earlier discussion of Aristede and Petofi, in addition to Wilde, Maltese Falcon was brought back up. Apart from Petofi being a Sydney Greenstreet type (in scripting and performance, including the love of words), in the source novel, remember his “righthand man” who does the muscle work is Wilmer, his “gunsel” (Hammet actually substituted the word for the original, catamite). Apparently Warners didn’t realize gunsel did not mean gunman when they kept the word in the Bogart film. In the book, the Fatman, Wilmer, and Joel Cairo (with the perfume and “effete” manners) are all clearly gay. In the first screenplay, in fact, the Production Code office objected to elements of Cairo recognizing the code for “pansy” (apparently the word they used) in behavior and actions (including a scene where he tries to put his arm around Wilmer).
So there’s precedent to that on the film noir model level as much as Wilde.(I rather liked a 1982 movie, “Hammett,” which was basically a pastiche using Hammett in his ex-Pinkerton days, and had Roy Kinnear as the Fat Man counterpart, who was explicitly in love with his trigger man), A lot of what Dashiell Hammett included in his books didn’t make it to the movies. The Thin Man, film, has the victim’s stepson, a strange obnoxious intellectual who spouts psychological theories. In the book, the character is explicitly Oedipal (as in it’s left evident he really does fantasize sexually about his mother). A weird gag Hammett wrote in for one of the sequels, not expecting it to stick, has mother and son showing up at a baby party for Nick Charles’ son… with the adult son in a diaper. (Not related, Hammett also specifies a few characters in his Thin Man screen treatments, recently published, as being black or mixed race of various types, and they either become white or just vaguely Spanish in the films.)
Same book has a “hophead” character who shoots at Nick and later admits he didn’t know what he was doing because he was high. In the movie, he’s your standard 1930s mug gangster type, no drugs. (Excessive drinking and tobacco use was of course encouraged.)
It never once occurred to me that Johnathan Frid might be gay, until I met him. Since then, I can’t see him as anything else. Somewhere, between the handshake, and the big wink he gave me…..
How interesting that shaking hands and winking means a chap is gay. He shook hands with and winked at women too!
Is that what happened when you met him?
I’m British so never met him, but I’ve read accounts by women who did and describe his wink and hand shake. That was one of the ways he showed his sense of humour- especially when he was meeting DS fans or making tongue in cheek vampire/Barnabas jokes. He even winks many times on the ads he did to promote DS, and making jokes I just mentioned.
I have winked at men and women alike myself, and many people do. 😉 It isn’t usually seen as a come on…
Jonathan winked at me when I met him at a Dark Shadows festival. But I didn’t get the kind of vibe coming from him that I got when Roger Davis winked at me at the same festival. Just saying ….
Did he get handsy? I had no idea until I read this blog that Davis was like that!
It’s funny that I never noticed until reading this blog. Now it’s all I see whenever I see Roger Davis acting! 😀
I am sure I’ll be the same once I get to the later episodes, Ubiquitous. Oh no! Jeff Clark is creepin’ like a creep again!
Wait until you see him on other shows, like The Bionic Woman! 😀
But Jaime Sommers should shut that right down!
If you somehow mistakenly think I said it was the handshake or the wink, you should re-read the post.
But you are probably right, after having lived in San Francisco and Los Angeles, near West Hollywood, since 1979, I probably have absolutely no idea when I’ve met a gay man. I met Freddy Mercury, I met David Geffen cause he was my boss, cause I was signed to his label. I’ve been around, but I think your theory that I have no idea when I’ve met a gay man makes perfect sense.
I think this is one of those things that we’re just going to have to agree to disagree about.
I also disagree when you state that Dark Shadows is a gay show, because first and foremost it is a Dan Curtis show. In many areas, Dark Shadows is too old school chauvinistic to be a gay show.
It appears my above comment set off a bit of a deluge here, and I’ve kept out of it because I made my point above and have nothing to add to it apart from what I’ve mentioned here.
But I’d really like to reiterate something you mentioned in a previous post that I think we can all agree on, that this blog has the best comments section on the Internet. Where else in any other online blog or forum can we go back and forth in complete disagreement over something that is, for many, a very sensitive topic and yet remain civil and still be friends?
I don’t see it as a gay show either- not one character is gay. The chauvinism I can see though- Trask in 1897 is appalling- the way he slapped Judith and is treating her like his property now they are married. And Quentin wasn’t that much better when he was haranguing Beth asking if she was seeing anyone else and then slapping her (bit rich coming from him who flirts with any attractive young woman he meets!)
In terms of chauvinism, it isn’t just 1897, but also the present day Dark Shadows of the 1966 to 1967 era. For instance, the scene at the Blue Whale where Carolyn is dancing with other men and finally Joe starts a fight, but Burke Devlin steps in to break it up. Then he orders Carolyn to let her date Joe Haskell take her home, and when she objects, Burke tells her, “You go home with him Miss Stoddard, before I take you over my knee and paddle you right here in the middle of the dance floor.”
Then there’s the scene with Julia and Barnabas in the Old House drawing room, where Barnabas is finding Julia to be difficult and finally tells her to “start thinking like a doctor, and stop thinking like a woman.”
Another aspect is all the age-inappropriate romantic pairings, where 22-year-old Nancy Barrett, whose character Carolyn isn’t yet 18, and 20-year-old Alexandra Moltke, whose character isn’t yet 19, are paired up with 38-year-old Mitch Ryan, then Moltke’s character with Ryan’s replacement, 46-year-old Anthony George. And then along comes 42-year-old Jonathan Frid, pairing up, in terms of bloodlust at least, with 24-year-old Kathryn Leigh Scott, whose character is a bit younger. It isn’t until Barnabas and Angelique (played by 30-year-old Lara Parker) that things start looking a bit right on the show in that respect, even though there’s still a bit of an age gap.
Behind the scenes, it wasn’t much different. Director Lela swift relates the story of how someone said that they didn’t want to work with a woman, but in her defense Dan Curtis had told the person in question, “I like that broad!”
“Then there’s the scene with Julia and Barnabas in the Old House drawing room, where Barnabas is finding Julia to be difficult and finally tells her to “start thinking like a doctor, and stop thinking like a woman.””
I remember that too, though I think he was trying to rile her as in 1795 he was gallant until he was turned into a vampire. Also I think he found Julia’s crush on him an obstacle to his plans (whatever he was planning at the time)! Post vampire (1968) he is very old school gentleman towards women.
It IS a gay show. Like All About Eve or the Wizard of Oz are gay movies. That doesn’t mean the intent was there necessarily by the film makers (or Dan Curtis). But a gay sensibility can be recognized by gay people (and those straight people enlightened enough and open minded enough to key into it as well). This doesn’t make DS (or Eve or Oz) any less significant to non-gay people. You don’t have to see the gay sensibility if you don’t want (though it’s fun–you should try it). It’s the same with movies or TV shows that have a feminist “read” to them—even when the filmmakers did not realize or intend to make such a statement. But in fact a woman might read a film differently than a man –and her perspective is no less valid than his, and vice versa. So lighten up — enjoy it — straight people (like white people–like men) too often react when they feel others (gays — people of color — women) claim something as “theirs.” Nobody’s taking anything away from anybody just because we call it a gay show. It IS a gay show. It can also be any kind of show you want it to be, There’s plenty there for everybody.
But why should I have to “lighten up”? All I did was disagree with a point of view. That’s the great thing about open-minded discussion, which is what this blog encourages. We can share differing points of view and explain why we disagree. No harm in that. Live and let live.
If Jonathan Frid was indeed inclined toward men, then fine. He is still a favorite actor from a favorite show; it changes nothing. But to proclaim that he was, just because you can “read the signs” can be just as offensive as a so-called “straight” person assigning someone with a label because they think that they can likewise read the signs. Facts are facts, and facts are supported by evidence. A statement made without definitive evidence to back it up is just an opinion, nothing more.
Oh, and if Dark Shadows is such a “gay show”, then how come they had Barnabas biting Willie on the wrist?
Despite my hesitancy to do so, I’m going to weigh in on this.
What a lot of people don’t understand is that what’s often referred to as a “gay sensibility” — as in saying something is a “gay show” — very often (in fact, more often than not) has little if anything to do with sexuality per se. It has more to do with a style, an approach, a worldview that many gay people seem to appreciate at a level that’s often lost on many if not most non-gay people. The very fact that Dark Shadows fandom appears to be dominated by women and gay men as opposed to heterosexual men (which isn’t to say there aren’t any heterosexual male DS fans — of course there are — but they seem to be a distinct minority) suggests that this “gay sensibility” of the show is real.
This also isn’t to say that this gay sensibility was intentional on the part of the writers and/or producers of the show. In fact, I believe that, in most cases, artworks and cultural artifacts embraced by gay people in this way were NOT intentionally created with this in mind. In fact, it’s the apparent unintentionality of it that is so appealing and often very amusing.
In what ways, then, is DS a “gay show”? Here are just a few examples:
— the over-the-top, flamboyant acting style adopted by some of the actors (Grayson Hall being the most magnificent case in point), which, as has well been attested to by those who worked on the show, was actively encouraged by the directors;
— the probably unintentional running symbolism of having characters (Barnabas being the most noteworthy example) who must conceal their true nature from not only the public at large but from their very own family members;
— the fact that, yes, there were indeed a number of gay actors on the show (and I’m going to leave Jonathan Frid out of the equation because I don’t know one way or the other about his sexuality), which is commonly picked up on by other gay people (“gaydar” being a very real thing);
— the “gayish” interactions between certain male pairs, such as Barnabas and Willie (there are some hilarious YouTube videos that make this point) — which was probably quite unintentional — and Petofi and Aristede — which, in that particular case, I believe was quite possibly intentional but “coded,” although even if it wasn’t doesn’t change the fact that, yes, it’s still “gayish.”
These things, as I’ve said, have little if anything to do with sex. In fact, I would argue that the very fact that the producers of the show felt the need to have Barnabas bite Willie on the wrist rather than on the neck was such a blatantly obvious attempt to avoid implications of sexuality and homoeroticism in 1966 that it ironically takes on camp overtones from a post-Stonewall perspective. To put it another way, that was a situation in which the show tried so hard not to be “gay” that it made itself even “gayer” in hindsight by calling attention to its own strange 1966 form of “gay panic.” It’s amusing in an terribly ironic way that gay people can often appreciate.
So that’s what we mean when we say that DS is a “gay show.” It’s not about sex, which is what many non-gay people automatically think of when they think of something as being “gay.” And it’s not about intentions (re: the intentional fallacy). But it is about the fact that many gay people find things in DS that are especially appealing to them from a “gay perspective,” things that are missing from other artworks and cultural artifacts that aren’t embraced by gay fans in the same way. It certainly doesn’t preclude non-gay people from embracing the show as well for perhaps very different reasons.
Thanks for letting me ramble on about this.
Yes, I know about the Big Finish audio dramas. I will be listening to those in the near future- some of them look excellent! You are right about Mitch’s Burke- he certainly has charisma and was my fave character in the 1966 episodes.
I just started watching the early episodes of DS, and all I thought after Burke’s comment to Carolyn was “what a f***ing dirtbag.” I still haven’t warmed up to him, but mostly because his storyline is ungodly dull.
Nope. The whole point of this post is how the blatantly gay relationship between Petofi and Aristede escaped our notice as young children watching in the 1960s. It’s just so obvious now. As a woman who likes men, I felt a bit disappointed at first when I learned that so many of these actors weren’t interested in women sexually. But things make a lot more sense now and I feel happy they had such camaraderie and privacy during that time.
Yeah, absolutely. This is an argument, not a fight. Still friends for sure.
It was either late ’82, or early ’83, at The Mother Lode.
Their hey dey I think!
Yeah, I second Wayne’s explanation of the “gay sensibility”. I’ve written about some of this stuff before, in posts tagged as “gay” or “camp”. The gay tag is more about people or characters being (or seeming) attracted to the same sex; the camp tag is more about the “gay perspective” as per Wayne.
“Camp” is a very complex thing to explain to people who don’t naturally get it. The first time I wrote about it was a post called “Notes on Camp”:
I would say that the characters that are the most “camp” so far on Dark Shadows are: Julia, Eve, Madame Findley, Professor Stokes, Suki, Magda, Angelique (especially in PT), Roger (especially in PT), Nicholas (occasionally) and (almost but not quite) Laura. They’re not written as gay or necessarily intended to be seen that way, but the New York thater people who wrote and acted in Dark Shadows absolutely understood the nature and value of camp. You do not put Grayson Hall in brown makeup and tell her that she’s a gypsy and not understand camp.
That’s actually kind of a litmus test, I think, to see if you understand camp. Take these characters — Julia (especially before 1795), Eve, Madame Findley and Professor Stokes walking into Barnabas’ house and turning over his end table to see who made it. If you understand what those four characters have in common, then you understand the gay/camp sensibility.
Also, a response to PrisoneroftheNight about saying that Frid is obviously gay without “evidence”. This may also be something that people who have lived in the closet understand that people who haven’t don’t. Basically: assertions are not the only kind of evidence, there is also evidence in absences and denials. Gay people know this because we’ve lived in the closet, and wev’e had to use that knowledge to figure out who else is gay around us.
The things that Frid said, and the things that have been said about him, are so familiar to people who know the closet. “I’m shy around girls” plus “I don’t have time for a relationship” plus works in the theater plus no wife or girlfriend ever for your entire life equals gay. And pretty much everything that people have said to disagree with that inference sound exactly like the things that I used to say in high school when I was closeted.
I’m not saying that the absence of information about a celebrity’s personal life automatically means that he or she is gay. It’s the specific shape of this kind of absence.
Oh, and Count Petofi being sad about his dead unicorn is possibly the gayest thing in all of human history.
I understand all that Danny, thanks for that. However, there are other reasons that people stay single, as I have mentioned before- fear of a broken heart, low libido, being asexual. I have been accused of being gay many times as I am a heterosexual romantic asexual and have a very low ( to often non existent) libido, which makes having a full on relationship difficult- therefore I prefer being single. There are various forms of asexuality, and it is still being studied. Not many people acknowledge it or even know it exists.
Yes, you’ve said that before, several times. I don’t find it compelling.
The comment up above talks about people quibbling about labels in a way that might be “passively homophobic” or reflect wishful thinking. I think some things I wrote were probably part of what was referred to. So I’d just like to clear up where I’m coming from. On my very first day in this fandom, I found articles that said bluntly that Jonathan Frid was gay. I thought it was no big deal. I was initially supportive of efforts like the page “Jonathan Frid Was Gay and That’s OK,” because I assumed people had gotten the information from the man himself and that that kind of statement would accord with his wishes. I only jumped off of that bandwagon when I found out that actually, we were dealing with mere gossip and conjecture, and that he was an intensely private person who would no doubt have preferred for people to mind their own business. I know for a fact that I’m not the only Frid fan who’s followed that trajectory.
As for the point about wishful thinking, if that was in reference to my comments, perhaps the implication is that I hope Jonathan Frid was straight or bi, so then I might have a shot with him in my fantasy life. But although I cheerfully comment frequently that Barnabas is hot, my admiration for Frid is of a very different nature. To borrow a phrase from a commenter on another blog, it doesn’t matter to me whether he slept with men, women, both, or his teddy bear. I just don’t think of him in romantic terms.
So then why do I care enough to say “We just don’t know”? It’s because I’ve developed great respect and appreciation for Jonathan Frid. By all reports, he was unusually private and liked to keep the various parts of his life separate. (When he moved back to his home town, he didn’t even want people to know that he had once been a famous actor.) I have the impression that he had some old-fashioned ideas about privacy and propriety. He once commented in a disapproving tone, “the 20th century has gone crazy with breaking the rules of everything.” He was born in 1924, after all. Miss Manners has pointed out that older generations weren’t as prudish as we imagine about private matters, but that they liked to say “There’s a time and a place for that sort of thing,” with the implication, “…and this isn’t it.” I suspect Frid would have agreed with that sentiment.
Jonathan Frid was a unique and charismatic individual who made his own choices about what to share and with whom.
People’s determination to slap a label on Jonathan Frid that he didn’t publicly embrace for himself seems to come from the belief that he was simply incapable of speaking for himself. After all, it was the 1960s. But he lived well into the modern era of gay rights and same-sex marriage. For the first decade of the 2000s, he had a webpage where he posted essays expressing his views directly. If he had wanted to issue a statement on this question, he would have. Anyone who thinks he was afraid to speak his mind obviously never read his website. And if anyone cares to argue that if he wasn’t gay, he would’ve just said so — well, that’s like saying that only people with something to hide object to invasions of their privacy. It isn’t reasonable to expect such a private person to discuss rumors about his love life to satisfy the curiosity of the public.
I’d also like to respond to the idea that my comments were quibbling about “whatever nonsense labels that people say when they like somebody, and they wish he wasn’t gay.” My actual point was that there’s a natural limit on people’s ability to strip away another person’s privacy and speak for them. Even if we had a lot of objective evidence on the matter — though in reality, solid evidence seems to be in remarkably short supply — there would still be an unbreakable limit to anyone else’s ability to speak for Jonathan Frid. There’s a myriad of ways of experiencing and thinking about questions of preference, orientation and personal identity, and no one can take away another individual’s right to his or her own views. An individual’s perspective on his or her own life actually matters. It can’t be replaced by some sort of majority vote among onlookers.
I don’t expect that I’ve changed many minds here, but at least I’ve made clear where I stand, and perhaps it will help other Frid fans who feel upset or confused — thinking as I did, “I’ve searched my heart and I know that if he had come out as gay it would’ve been fine by me, so why do I object when people declare as fact that he was gay without his say-so?” It’s because no matter what anyone says about his biography or the impressions they got upon meeting him (and it’s clear that different people got vastly different impressions), we still don’t know the perspective of the one person who was entitled to have the final say. The only person who had the right or even the ability to make definitive statements on these kinds of personal questions was Jonathan Frid.
I appreciate you sharing your thoughts. This is obviously something that we’re going to disagree about, and that’s fine.
But I would like to say something about letting gay people talk about gay stuff.
There’s something that I”ve learned over the last year or so, when I’ve had conversations about Ferguson and about police targeting of black people, which is: as a white person, sometimes it’s good for me to step back and just let black people talk.
When black people talk about black experience, they don’t need me as a white person signing off on everything that they say, either approving or disapproving of it. It’s okay for me to listen and support in helpful ways, without inserting myself into it and taking over the conversation.
At a certain point, you just let the people who really know what they’re talking about and who have had that experience say what they need to say.
Talking about being in the closet vs coming out — it’s a thing that LGBT people understand, in a way that most straight people just don’t. It is actually okay to take a step back, and let me and the other LGBT people on this page talk about the things that we think and feel, without posting a long essay telling us that we need to shut up.
Danny, your words are right on target. It’s really tiring hearing straight people — and usually well-meaning, not intentionally homophobic straight people — try to tamp down discussions about sexuality because somehow they think it’s disrespectful to the person being discussed, or because they think gayness is not something that can ever be known without a public admission of such. Here’s the truth: It’s not disrespectful to someone’s memory to discuss the possibility that they might have been gay, because there is nothing wrong with being gay. Now, maybe the person lived in another era and he himself felt some shame around it. So does that mean because someone like Cary Grant, for example, felt some shame and some fear of what his secret might do to his career, that we continue the secrecy in 2016? How long are we supposed to collude with the shame?
Frid fits the historical profile of a closeted gay man. There are any number of “between the lines” readings in interviews he gave, and gay people can pick those up in ways straight people can ‘t. And enough gay people on this blog and elsewhere have written about their “gaydar” going off when they met Frid. Now I’ll add my own story.
I’ve hesitated telling this story because it sounds immodest. But at a mid 1990s DS convention in New York, I met Frid. I was, I guess, sort of a hunk back then. Muscles and shoulders and all that. I arrived wearing a white ribbed tank top, tanned and apparently worth looking at it. Now, whether you’re gay or straight, you know when you’re being checked out, and the moment Frid saw me, he was majorly checking me out. When I told him how excited I was to meet him, he winked and said “well, likewise” in a very obvious sort of way, and then commented on my blue eyes. He kept smiling at me, winked, and held eye contact with me way, way longer than necessary. As I said, one knows, gay or straight, when one is being flirted with, and boy, was Frid flirting with me. A straight man would not have acted that way. So look. The man was gay. And as the FB page says, that’s ok.
Interpret this as you will …. I was at a Dark Shadows Festival in the mid-1980s which included a Q&A session with the stars; both Jonathan and Louis were there, sitting together on the stage. A fan asked Louis if he had any children. Louis looked at Jonathan and they both started to laugh. Then Louis said something about being so busy with his career that he didn’t have time to settle down and start a family. (This was before Louis came out, btw.)
I was right the first time.
It is a show for EVERYONE.
Look at all this passion.
People with totally opposite viewpoints.
All in love with The Same Show.
The avante-garde comments section, and Danny’s caretaking of Our Obsession,
Are things to be so grateful for.
And we are.
I read and reread this posting, and (if only for the sake of making it lengthier) will throw my 2¢ in.
Agreed, one’s orientation does not make one ‘evil’ or ‘wrong’.
Sadly, there (still, even in 2016) are many who feel that it does.
Even more sadly, many people think that orientation solely defines a person. And that is their only measure of ‘good’ or ‘bad’. Straight is good, gay is bad. Nothing else matters.
I’ve dealt with this. With people who’ve changed toward me on finding I was one of ‘those’.
The ‘friends’ who suddenly just don’t have the time anymore.
The well-meaning ones who treat you like a kind of social accessory, start preambling introductions, ‘…and this is my GAY friend…’
The ‘real’ guys who somehow feel that beating you up will fix things.
And yes, it is still that way. Anyone who tells you it isn’t is deluded.
Maybe Jonathan Frid just didn’t want to be labeled. Maybe he knew that no matter what he said, there would be those who wouldn’t believe him because he was an adult male without a relationship, which (obviously) equals gay. Because he liked antiques, which also equals gay. Because he had gay friends, which SO equals gay. And because he was an actor, gay, gay, gay, gay, GAY!
My parents are contemporaries of Jonathan Frid, born in the late 20s. If they are any indicators of the attitudes he dealt with in his life, I’m not surprised that he didn’t want to be labeled as gay. But he probably knew it would happen. I respect that he chose not to address his orientation. Just as I respect those that do choose to address theirs.
So for the record, I’m going with ‘presumed gay’. Not that it really changes things; I’ll still have the time for Dark Shadows, still love that vampire who can’t get his lines right, or put his fangs in the right way…
This episode is heaps gay, the commentary here is exactly what I was thinking when I watched it, and is fantastic (the only disappointing thing was hearing that you didn’t notice it in prior viewings – maybe you were just too young and inexperienced or something). The show is heaps gay. So many characters are camp. AND THAT IS WHAT IS SO FUCKING GREAT. It doesn’t necessarily take a gay person to appreciate the hell out of it. I love this show more every day. Was Jonathan Frid gay? Well he is never going to tell us. He probably was – and what I find incredibly depressing, is the thought that he was probably gay and felt the need to hide it for his entire life. How awful. That shouldn’t have to happen. It shouldn’t even be a thing. Why do people need to know other people’s sexual orientation? Or give two shits when they do? Maybe one day we’ll reach a point where it truly won’t matter. Meanwhile, camp is great. Camp should still survive even when no-one cares about sexual orientation anymore. I’m not sure why many people are uncomfortable with Jonathan Frid being claimed as a gay icon…I mean Grayson Hall is a gay icon and nobody gives a shit about that, including Grayson Hall and her husband Sam and her son Matthew.
I remember wondering about things Ptoffi said but assumed he was a fop of a dandy, not gay — or is that what they used to call gay men?
Fop and dandy describe a different thing — somebody who’s only concerned about fashion, appearance and luxuries. That concept overlaps with gay in some cases, but isn’t the same thing. Aristede is definitely foppish.
Gosh, maybe I’ll be current for discussions by the time you get to 1841 PT. So my year-late, dollar-short observation on this is I really don’t have anything to say on whether this or that actor was gay, but as for what we’re seeing on-screen:
The various early scenes with Aristede and Victor — to my mind — are the first deliberate attempt on the part of the writers and actors and directors and the show in general to hint at bisexuality, homosexuality or at least some kind of sexual ambiguity.
I think other things we saw before this were just some gay sensibilities leaking into the show once a blue moon, perhaps even on a subconscious level.
But some of the dialogue and acting choices with Aristede, Victor (and that scene with Aristede and Tim Shaw) seem to me to deliberately trying to push as close to the line as they could in 1969 and get away with it.
Things were changing at a very rapid pace in the late ’60s. Just think, a couple of years ago on the show, they took great pains to make sure the viewer knew Willie was bitten on the wrist and Maggie on the neck.
I think by 1969, the many gay or gay-friendly people on the show were probably ready to throw in a truly deliberate wink and nod to a world they knew quite well off-screen but keep most of America still in the dark.
I agree – I think it’s fairly clear that Petofi sees Aristede as his slave, and expects Aristede to perform any and all services for him, regardless of Aristede’s own sexual orientation/interests. Aristede in his turn seems not to really care what he has to do, as long as he gets amply remunerated for it.
There’s an interesting moment in Episode 854 where Petofi says he first found Aristede one evening shivering on London’s Embankment. When you consider the type of person Barnabas finds on Collinsport’s Docks…
I wish someone would explain the whole unicorn/face mushing/hand connection. Petofi seems to be making a threat but also describing something that happened to himself. Did he cure himself with his own hand, which I guess was still attached to him? Did the hand then acquire the power to mush other people’s faces? Petofi doesn’t even know where the hand is at this point. Does Petofi ever explain anything clearly? Is Thayer David making up half his dialogue?
Petofi was supposedly cured of lycanthropy by Julianka’s great grandmother – or her grandmother, if Julianka was confused – in exchange for the hand.
Time travelling today. Here’s the thing: Barnabas isn’t gay. That’s what matters to us girls who crushed on him in 1968 and are crushing on him all over again, all these years later .
Yeah, agreed. Barnabas probably would have been a little better off if he hadn’t been so eager to fall in love with the prettiest girl in the room.
All of this puts me in mind of my reading of Lothar Machtan’s “The Hidden Hitler” in which he argues that Hitler was gay. Because he went through Hitler’s life in chronological order, the best evidence he had (which is still arguably ambiguous) comes later in the book. Aside from the fact that Hitler’s life after World War I is better documented than was his life before, also, people pre-World War I were loath to speak of “such matters” directly; whereas, something happened during and after the war, and particularly in Weimar Germany, to change the degree of openness about homosexuality. It was still a crime, but we can see, for example, known gay men confiding to their diaries and even in their letters that they were sure some of the men in Hitler’s inner circle were gay. (Someone went so far as to opine that Goering and Goebbels were the only heterosexual men in Hitler’s inner circle.) Whether or not Hitler was gay, as Machtan believes – though many other historians do not, I am convinced that his relationship to his own sexuality was conflicted and perverse. (His attraction to S/M seems better attested than gayness, for example.)
Does this entry hold the record for largest number of comments? All of them interesting, too.
I want to add my thoughts, practically random, though obviously quite late coming to the party here. I’ll add the proviso that I’ve read none of the several books about DS that have been published.
DS confuses me to this day. The characters often stand about two inches apart. Even upon first meeting, the introductory dialogue between two characters can take place at a distance reserved for lovers IRL. Why is this? I haven’t seen (m)any other daytime soaps. Is it just to keep both actors in the same frame? To up the drama quotient? Do they still do this on the surviving soaps? Imagine going through your routine day, but adhering to DS rules: all your conversations would take place either two inches from nose to nose, or with your back turned to the other person.
What’s the deal with Tim Shaw? I thought he was supposed to be a relatively bland but decent guy. Now, after the last few scenes, he seems to be a different kind of Tim. Potentially more evil and self-interested than we’ve been led to believe. Also, didn’t that scene in the Blue Whale with Aristede seem pretty much like a pick-up?
Also, DS does seem to be a pretty “gay” show. Roger Collins. Come on. Now, I think Louis Edmonds was great, love the guy, but did he ever read as heterosexual in those eps? Yet, Edward does seem believably hetero. What was the reason some performances and characters do seem more camp than others? Was Louis just being more “himself” as Roger than he was as Edward? Yet, to me at least, Joel Crothers never “read” as gay at all. Did people in 1968 read him that way? Did gay people read him that way at the time? I’d like to know.
Jonathan Frid is a hard man to get a grasp on. I watched the interview someone here mentioned that contains his dismissive opinion of Grayson Hall. I was surprised by that, as I always thought he and Grayson had great chemistry together; not romantic chemistry, but some kind of deep connection. I assumed, not knowing better, that they were buddies off-stage. I even thought the softening of the Barnabas/Magda relationship was occurring simply due to the friendship these two actors shared. No.
Also, Frid says he isn’t a “literary” person in the same interview. What? If anyone would be “Literary”, wouldn’t it be him? I always pictured him in his NYC apartment reading Shakespeare in his free time. So, obviously this guy isn’t much like I thought he was. But even though my track record on second-guessing him isn’t great, I’d still bet on him having been gay. I just can’t picture him with a woman, even though I’ve seen plenty of scenes of Barnabas and women.
As for Aristede and Petofi, we know the DS m.o. is that old books and movies serve as sources, and “Maltese Falcon” and “Picture of Dorian Gray” are obvious sources for 1897. I don’t think a man can refer to another man’s face as “lovely” as often as Petofi has and still come out on the other side as “not gay”.
Gayness, if that’s a word, permeated DS, though not to the extent that you can’t watch it without picking up on it; they still had to get by the censors. If you are 10 years old in 1968 like I was, I give you (and me) a pass. But I would have to worry a bit about an adult today who can’t see it or claims not to.
JRM – I believe Tim Shaw was corrupted by the hand of Count Petofi. The deal in fantasy/horror literature with talismans like that is that they tend to corrupt those who possess it. The classic/extreme form of this is seen in how the “one ring” corrupted Gollum in the Tolkien universe of Middle Earth.
I don’t think many DS characters “read as gay” in the mid- and late-sixties, but a number of them do today since “gayness” (and, yes, that’s a word) is far more visible and well-known now. For instance, the relationship between Petofi and Aristede didn’t strike me as “gay” when DS first aired, but I was too young and innocent to know any better. Now it seems inescapable. Same is true with Louis Edmonds and Joel Crothers. Neither seemed “gay” to me then, but they both do now — especially Louis. By the way, I think Edward comes across as more “hetero” than Roger because of the character-types Louis was portraying. Roger was a bit of a rake, whereas Edward was anything but. On the contrary, he was an archetypical Victorian gentleman of the American variety — very, very proper and straight-laced. Edmonds was a good enough actor to convey that in the demeanor of the two characters. This was especially true of his portrayal of Joshua Collins in the 1795 flashback. He seemed very much a uptight, rigid, unloving, old (or at least upper-middle-aged) man then, like a completely different person.
And I completely agree that Jonathan Frid is very difficult to get a grasp on, as you put it.
Thanks for your enlightening comments! I agree about the Edward character, and as you said, Joshua also comes across as a completely different persona than Roger Collins.
Unlike many of the fine people who make this site what it is, I was uninvolved in the various DS revivals of the cable tv and VHS era. I was a huge (obsessive even) fan of the show in 1968-1971. I was 10 years old when I started watching in 1968.
I started watching these again in 2017 on Amazon. Picked up with the séance that sparked the 1795 flashback, and have been watching forward from there in bits and starts. So it has effectively been ca.50 years between viewings. Both the world and myself have changed much since then. So, at some level, re-watching these has been an ongoing dialogue between my young and old selves.
Thanks again for shedding some light on the mysteries of DS.
Aha! Everyone thinks it’s the Hand that has power, the Hand that corrupts. But it’s actually the ring on the Hand! The Hand of Count Petofi itself has no magic, but it bears one of the Nine Rings that was gifted to Kings of Men by the Dark Lord Sauron. After the Witch-king of Angmar’s demise, the Ring of Power he wore was found by young Andreas Petofi of the enchanted forest of Osden in the mystical land of Rhûn, who used it to become a great Sorcerer, and eventually, to obtain his very own pet unicorn. Of course, it is in Count Petofi’s best interest to keep everyone in the dark about the true source of the Hand’s power…
Of course! Who leaves a giant ruby ring on a severed hand unless the ring WILLS it?
All I can add to the Jonathan Frid discussion is that he cruised me in Manhattan on two different occasions, both in very gay environments, in the 1980s. Having watched Dark Shadows as a teenager, I couldn’t imagine going home with Barnabas Collins. The first time was in a, shall we say, bookstore on East 13th Street. The second time, he was coming out of a fog on the far West Side in the high teens. His emergence from the fog made me struggle not to laugh.
I’m not the sex police, so I just let people pick their own labels. But come on, how can anyone not think that Jonathan Frid was gay? If he’d gone on record saying he wanted to be referred to as bi, or ace, or genderqueer, or whatever, fine. But he never did, and cruising a guy in an adult bookshop in the Village is practically the least gay-coded thing anyone has mentioned about him.
I find it very apropos that this discussion should have taken place here, when the opening narration of the very next episode begins with: “A night of revelations on the great estate of Collinwood, of secret lives and relationships unmasked.”
This went over my head when I first saw it. I just saw Petofi as a villain and Aristede as his henchman. It’s almost like watching a different show now.
I think the wonderful thing about Dark Shadows is that it can appeal to anyone from a kid who is watching a monster show to an adult who likes to watch guys with their clothes in tatters. Like a fairy tale, you can view it superficially at face value or you can search for something else, something that has meaning for you. Yes, it can be just a campy, melodramatic horror soap opera. Or it can be a tragic, melodramatic time-traveling romance. Or a dive into something scary, dark and forbidden. Or a refuge against feeling different, lost and alone. Or whatever it was that spoke to you, grabbed you and got its hooks seriously deep down into you and implanted there. There are characters you love, hate, identify with. Played by actors you love, hate, feel like you know. It keeps on giving and we keep finding new things to take away.