Jonathan Frid died of natural causes in Ontario, Canada, the home of his birth, on Friday the 13th. The news of his death was reported yesterday evening. He was 87.
Frid played Barnabas Collins on the gothic soap opera Dark Shadows that ran on ABC from 1966 to 1971. The show has a fervent cult following to this day. So much so that a Tim Burton-directed big screen adaption starring Johnny Depp is scheduled to be released next month.
Dark Shadows, along with Hammer movies, were obsessions for proto-goth kids in training. For many of us who felt like outsiders, the vampire was the perfect fantasy figure for our anti-social yearnings. Vampires didn’t take shit from anybody and they liked to stay out late and sleep-in. I could relate.
The clip that follows features Frid seductively intoning “I Barnabas” from the album The Original Music from Dark Shadows which was released in 1969.
In June 2004, Dave Davies suffered a stroke as he was exiting a lift, in BBC’s Broadcasting House.
Suddenly the right hand side of my body seized up and I couldn’t move my arm or leg. Although I didn’t lose consciousness, I couldn’t speak. Luckily my son Christian and my publicist were there, so they carried me outside and called an ambulance.
Though he had warnings signs - waking up one morning to find he couldn’t move his right hand or speak when he opened his mouth - and was examined by a doctor, nothing indicated the imminence of his stroke. As Dave later wrote in the Daily Mail in 2006:
I was told I’d had a stroke - or, in medical terms, a cerebral infraction. An ‘infarct’ is an area of dead tissue and there was a patch of it on the left side of my brain - the bit that controls movement on the right side.
The doctors told me I had high blood pressure and that this was what had caused the stroke. They thought I’d probably had high blood pressure for at least ten years….
...Two weeks after my stroke, I finally plucked the courage to pick up my guitar. I held it across my lap, pressing on the strings. I could feel everything but the hand itself was virtually immobile.
I knew I was going to have to work very hard if I was to get better, and I started using meditation and visualisation. I thought if I could visualise myself running, walking and playing the guitar, it might prompt my brain to remember how I used to be.
It took Dave 18 months of physio, determination and hard work, to get “about 85 per cent back to normal”.
I believe my stroke was meant to happen to slow me down. I’d like to write and male films and start a foundation where I can help people be more spiritual…
...For now I appreciate my slower pace of life. I feel I have discovered an inner strength which I know will see me through any adversity.
Made in 2011, Julien Temple’s pastoral documentary Kinkdom Come is a touching portrait of the other half of The Kinks, Dave Davies.
Opening with Davies in the wilds of Exmoor, where he revels in the desolation and the quiet, Temple’s film moves through Dave’s life story, examining key moments in his childhood, his career as guitarist with The Kinks, his openness about sexuality, his (some would say torturous) relationship with his brother Ray, and the damagingly high cost of that all of his fame, success and position as “iconic Sixties figure” has cost him.
Throughout, Dave comes across as an honest, gentle soul, slightly lost, beautifully innocent, almost ethereal, as if he is a visitor from some other galaxy.
Philip K. Dick wrote an excited letter to Jeff Walker, at the Ladd Company, after watching a television preview of Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner, the film version of his novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
October 11, 1981
Mr. Jeff Walker,
The Ladd Company,
4000 Warner Boulevard,
I happened to see the Channel 7 TV program “Hooray For Hollywood” tonight with the segment on BLADE RUNNER. (Well, to be honest, I didn’t happen to see it; someone tipped me off that BLADE RUNNER was going to be a part of the show, and to be sure to watch.) Jeff, after looking—and especially after listening to Harrison Ford discuss the film—I came to the conclusion that this indeed is not science fiction; it is not fantasy; it is exactly what Harrison said: futurism. The impact of BLADE RUNNER is simply going to be overwhelming, both on the public and on creative people—and, I believe, on science fiction as a field. Since I have been writing and selling science fiction works for thirty years, this is a matter of some importance to me. In all candor I must say that our field has gradually and steadily been deteriorating for the last few years. Nothing that we have done, individually or collectively, matches BLADE RUNNER. This is not escapism; it is super realism, so gritty and detailed and authentic and goddam convincing that, well, after the segment I found my normal present-day “reality” pallid by comparison. What I am saying is that all of you collectively may have created a unique new form of graphic, artistic expression, never before seen. And, I think, BLADE RUNNER is going to revolutionize our conceptions of what science fiction is and, more, can be.
Let me sum it up this way. Science fiction has slowly and ineluctably settled into a monotonous death: it has become inbred, derivative, stale. Suddenly you people have come in, some of the greatest talents currently in existence, and now we have a new life, a new start. As for my own role in the BLADE RUNNER project, I can only say that I did not know that a work of mine or a set of ideas of mine could be escalated into such stunning dimensions. My life and creative work are justified and completed by BLADE RUNNER. Thank you..and it is going to be one hell of a commercial success. It will prove invincible.
Philip K. Dick
The tragedy is PKD never saw the finished version of the classic science fiction film, as he died 5 months later, on March 2, 1982, just months before Blade Runner was given its cinematic release.
On the surface Dick Clark looked about as hip as Dick Nixon and as a kid I thought Clark was somewhat dubious as a purveyor of youth culture, but over the years I’ve come to appreciate his massive contribution to rock history, particularly when he went out on the limb and booked edgy acts on American bandstand, including Pink Floyd Public Image, Captain Beefheart, Bubble Puppy, Love, and X.
Here’s something I’d never seen before and I think it demonstrates just how on top of the rock scene Clark could be. Pink Floyd on American Bandstand
While no one will mistake this for a historic meeting of the minds, it does have its odd charm. The Marshall McLuhan of punk Billy Idol chats with Timothy Leary about rock n’ roll, cyberspace and computers. “Pretty deep,” Joey Ramone observes while Television (the band) let old skool technologies like drums and guitars do the talking.
A retrospective of the work of film-maker Peter Watkins will take place at the Office for Contemporary Art Norway (OCA), in Oslo, between the 7th and 14th May.
Watkins is a great and important film-maker, whose career spans over 5 decades and includes such works of brilliance as Culloden (1964), the story of an English massacre of the Scots, retold as an analogy to the Vietnam War; The War Game (1965), the essential banned drama of the after-affects of a nuclear war; Punishment Park (1970), a harrowing imagining of the National Guard pursuing members of the counter-culture; Edvard Munch (1973), Watkins’ personal take on the life of the artist; and La Commune (de Paris, 1871) (1999), an examination into the cause and effects of political interpretations of historical events, through the re-telling of revolution in France.
The retrospective will include screenings of Watkins’ key films, with a discussion of his work.
Peter Watkins: A Retrospective will start with the screening of Edvard Munch, Watkins’s film on three decades of the life of the artist, and will be followed by a public discussion in which the director will address, together with members of the cast and the technical team, the meaning of the film, both at the time it was released and today. Edvard Munch, considered by Watkins the most personal film he has ever made, dramatises three decades of the life of the artist and provides a raw and haunting portrait of the creative process as embedded within the spirit and the social relations of its time.
This will be followed by screenings of Watkins’s other Scandinavian projects, The Gladiators (1968), Evening Land (1976), and The Freethinker (1992–94), a biography of August Strindberg with four different timelines and a spiral structure that will be shown on the 100th anniversary of the artist, writer, and playwright’s death in 1912. Additional screenings will include The War Game (1965), Punishment Park (1970), and La Commune (de Paris, 1871) (1999), films in which the dramatisation of historical past or the present results in revealing political assessments that are at the same time critical reflections on filmic language, distribution networks, and media in general.
Central to much Watkins work is the role of mass media within society and its insidious effects. Here, in an interview from 2001, Watkins discusses the damaging role of mass media, in particular the misunderstanding in the role of mass communication, and how the contemporary media landscape allows little space for independent and critical thought. Though Watkins may sound like a man with bad indigestion, his thinking and analysis is clear and still hugely relevant.
Star Maidens, the long forgotten UK/German sci-fi/comedy TV series from 1975 takes place on the “highly advanced” retro-futuristic planet Medusa, where women live a life of luxury and the males are their subservient slaves. Two grunts steal a spaceship from one of their mistresses and set off for Earth, a planet where the equality of the sexes is—hey—a way of life!
Star Maidens was campy and cheap—the sets were reused from Space 1999 and incorporated tennis balls and air fresheners. The security guards all wore hot pants and platform shoes… How is it possible that Star Maidens was all but forgotten about until it was released on DVD in 2005?
Eagle-eyed otaku-types will recognize Gareth Thomas, who would soon go on to fame on Blake’s 7 and Judy Geeson, first seen as a teenager in From Sir to Love and later as the annoying British neighbor in Mad About You, as Fulvia, the Supreme Councilor. Dawn Addams as Clara, President of the Grand Council of Medusa, is recalled by fanboys for her roles in Hammer’s The Vampire Lovers, the Amicus portmanteau Vault of Horror and as the female lead in Charlie Chaplin’s last film, A King in New York.
After thirteen episodes, Star Maidens was toast, but the show aired sporadically in other parts of the world until the early 1980s. I think Star Maidens, like Baywatch, would translate pretty easily, don’t you? Someone should revive it!
I was late to the Kenny Powers party, but I’m catching up. Thanks Richard.
HBO’s Eastbound & Down starring Danny McBride as former star baseball player Kenny Powers is filled with some of the most insanely funny, politically-incorrect humor on TV. Powers is a lovable asshole with visions of grandeur and a gift for fucking up on an epic scale. McBride describes him as…
[...] having all the qualities that an epic hero should, but they’re only the worst qualities. It’s completely ass backwards. He’s sort of the current state of the modern American hero.”
But don’t underestimate Powers. On the surface, he can be a clueless, mean-spirited narcissist, but deep down he’s Tony Robbins with a mullet. In this open letter to Tim Tebow, Powers lays some inspirational words on the Jesus-freak football player.
As Yogi Berra famously said, “it’s like Deja Vu came all over itself again.”
The more I read about Tim Tebow, the more I see similarities to my own life story. Our story begins with a young mother- to-be who wants an abortion. Instead, she mans up and has the baby, giving birth to a son-child.
This special son-child makes a life out of bucking the odds. Though neither the strongest nor the fastest, he excels at sports. Many experts doubt the remarkable lad. They tell him he throws funny, and that he doesn’t have the right physique for the game. It’s science, they say. He’ll only go so far.
But the Gifted Young Athlete refuses to let the doubters shit in his Wheaties. To hell with science. The Gifted Young Athlete knows that he has something stronger. He has God on his side. So he presses on and keeps a good attitude, and every time he beats the odds in life he proves the experts wrong.
Next thing you know, there are folks calling it a miracle. Maybe the Gifted Young Athlete is blessed by the Almighty, they say. Perhaps he really does have a fucking angel on his shoulder.
And suddenly the experts don’t look like experts anymore. By now, our hero has upset a whole lot of people. There are those who simply don’t like the idea of a man being favored by God. They feel his special relationship with Jesus diminishes their own somehow. If Jesus loves the Gifted Young Athlete, what does he think of the rest of us? Bunch of assholes?
So the haters multiply, and soon the resentment reaches a boiling point. And that’s when the torches and pitchforks and long knives come out. Yes, the world is given a savior but they choose to crucify him instead. Who’d a thunk it? The same old fuckin’ story.
Maybe that’s why Jesus likes us so much to begin with. He sees a little of himself in there.
You see, Gifted Young Athlete, people look at us and they see all they don’t have. It’s like, “homeboy’s over there gettin’ ‘er done! And Jesus loves him too! Fuck that guy.”
But can you really blame them? Wouldn’t you be pissed? Jesus helps us win at sports games, yet he’s nowhere to be found when poor people need important medicine for their kid’s infection, or when they’re late on a mortgage payment. Think about it. There are folks in Africa who get AIDS without even being gay. Yet here Jesus is, helping me & Tebow out in sports, just because we’re maybe a little bit cooler in his eyes. It’s a raw deal, plain and simple. Even though he’s hooking me up, I still see it’s kind of a cocksucker move on Jesus’s part.
But my advice to you, Mr. Tebow, from one Gifted Young Athlete to another: don’t kill yourself trying to make sense of all the madness. Just hold on to your dick and have a good time. Believe me, it’s all you can do. Make no apologies, either. Those are for weak people, and the haters will hate you anyway. It’s not our fault we’re awesome, playboy. It’s Jesus’s. As the gorgeous bitches in the makeup commercials used to say, “Don’t hate me because I’m beautiful.”
Here’s a taste of Powers and the art of the insult. There’s a certain cracked poetry in the way this knucklehead slings words. For more check out Kenny Powers’ Powerisms
It was the French thriller Pépé le Moko, with its infamous gangster hiding out in the casbah of Algiers, that inspired Graham Greene towards writing his classic treatment for The Third Man. When he reviewed the Jean Gabin film in 1937, Greene wrote that it:
“...raised the thriller to the level of poetry…
It would take his collaboration with Carol Reed, firstly on an adaption of his story “The Basement Room”, filmed as The Fallen Idol in 1948, with Ralph Richardson and Michèle Morgan, and then on The Third Man for Greene to equal and better his original influence.
In Frederick Baker’s masterful documentary Shadowing The Third Man from 2004, we learn this and a host of other facts, as Baker delves into the making of one of cinema’s greatest films. I’m a great fan of Greene and adore The Third Man and can assure you there is much to treasure in this near perfect documentary.