Oddly enough it didn't hit me at the time whom I was drawing; I simply liked the dramatic intensity, and I got an exceptionally good result from it. Eventually I read the article accompanying the photo. At first, nothing...then in bits and pieces, I started remembering...wait a minute, I watched that show...I know that role...why didn't I remember it before?? I used the (drawn) picture in a brochure version of my resumé for awhile, too. But the photo and the show info started to worm its way into and out of my subconscious, and when I learned it had lasted until the early '70's, I wondered, well what on earth happened? How did the show end? Why didn't I see any of that or remember it? Huhhuhhuh?Of course, I knew few who could answer these bothersome questions. One girl said she remembered something about it all ending in a big fire. I did a few more sketches, wondered more, found a book in the library that turned out to be a DS book (Ross). Hmmm. But it didn't seem to answer much. In the meantime, I was a big Star Trek fan, yup, a Trekker...and my friends and I were in a pre-internet group, well, several really, of penpal/newsletter clubs. My Tucson friends ran one that involved a kind of club organized as a Federation starship, with everyone being a Starfleet human or alien of some kind. For kicks, I organized the opposite, a pirate ship to annoy the Starfleet ship in our make-believe world. The captain happened to be a debonair vampire...but he wasn't evil, just totally amoral. What drove him was boredom...he had lived so very long and done about everything and couldn't die, so he did whatever would entertain him the most. He was tall and like to wear different hats for different occasions and wore a tape cassette player on his belt so there'd be dramatic background music wherever he went (for those memorable entries and dire announcements). R.H. (René Hades) Redgrave. His henchman was Chester (whose middle name was Barnabas), a goofy bat. Chester actually exists, as he is a soft-sculpture (stuffed animal on a wire skeleton frame) bat I made, and he dangles even now, though with a coating of hoarfrost dust, in my room, complete with the blood donor medal my Dad got, lol. At any rate I can't say I didn't have Barnabas on the mind a bit. I would occasionally pine for the opportunity to see the show, just to know what happened. One day I looked up and there was Barnabas' face on the TV screen, with a quick ad about Dark Shadows. I thought I had imagined the whole thing. I didn't know anyone else who even thought about the show. Then there was this Out-of-the-Blue. Naaaaaaa.
But it was True!! DS was returning to TV! OMG! And I was returning to school! Noooo! We barely had a functioning TV set, much less an expensive VCR. But I discovered I could at least see it every-other-day, with my schedule; and eventually I found that many times I could find it on in the student center. So I made sure I took my two 15-minute art studio breaks together at 3pm, and ran over and had an apple and tea and stared at the TV in the student lounge, whenever the couple of us could get control of the set. LOL That lasted a little while, but they changed up schedules and put it on at midnight. While I'd be home at midnight, it was hard to stay up that late, and harder to see without bothering my folks (TV sound went into their room too loud, etc.). Soon I was sleeping and waking up by alarm to catch it at 1am, then 2am, sound off or very low, in a dark room. Then they started to show it or not show it, at whim, sometime in the night. The last episode I saw was Jeremiah's hand jutting out of the earth. Now there's an annoying place to leave a show dangling in one's mind.
These days staying up late is nothing, but with classes at the crack of dawn, and never having stayed up to such hours without some dire need before, and family around, it was difficult then. Once, a student took me aside and whispered, "Your mascara is running!" I blinked at her and said, "I don't wear mascara!" Guess I was a bit of the walking dead myself...So the show ended in San Antonio and I could sleep, but I was only more tormented with fuzzy memories. I visited my friends in Tucson and spent much of it regaling them about the whole plot up to the point I witnessed, and showing them and others 'how to draw Barnabas,' as I'd doodled him so much it was fairly second-nature to me. Start with a star, stick the eyes there, nose, mouth between the lower star legs, circle, bangs, ears, voilà, Barny. It entertained people and it was fun for me.
During this time there was a tradition of penpallers called FBs and Slams. FBs were 'fanbooks' and slams were almost the same thing, but usually had little surveys or questions in them. The point was to slap a tiny booklet together to collect names & addresses of possible penpals, by mailing them from pal to pal until the book filled up and the last person would mail it back to the person who started the game. Usually the booklets either had a page devoted to each penpal--name, address, interests, comments, stickers, whatever; or asked how you felt about certain things, topics of interest, celebrities, whatever, then you added your name & address at the end. I remember one question asked "How much money would it take to get you to eat a cockroach?" Most people wrote in "millions" or "ugh!" or "not any amount!" My cocky [ ;-) ]
It had an art show; I was out of college and diving into anything that might lead somewhere jobwise and selling art did not hurt. This convention stuff/art show thing was new to me but seemed a good "in." I'd never been farther northeast than Chicago (we lived there when I was a tot and all I got for the trouble was a sister), and travelling that direction would take some cojones...a few years back I'd been invited by Harvard to go to school but with my shyness and lack of money, that seemed incredibly wild. But I was trying hard, and cranked out some DSsy art and mailed it up north and took a bus up to New York. Quite lengthy stories in themselves. But this con had Jonathan Frid as the guest of honor, and I wanted to see how other kinds of conventions operated. So the vampire lured me in.Therefore I met Mr. Frid in 1985. Technically speaking, we were in the same elevator going up to our rooms at the first meeting, but he was in the back of the car with his guardians and pal Suzon was behind me and I was up front with a face full of elevator buttons. But I got a nudge and I knew what it meant, though I never turned and we got off the car without saying anything. Too shy...and knowing that, yet also knowing I'd have a chance to say hi in an autograph line that weekend, I wondered what to do. (Didn't help that I'd broken out, ugh) So I drew his picture. It had always been my way of breaking the ice (having moved so often) with new folks...drawing, that is...that it seemed the best thing to do. So I spent the rest of the night drawing in the freezing hotel room (dumb heater didn't work, I remember THAT).
It was a very nice pencil drawing, almost hated to give it away...but that was the point, to offer something more than 'uh, bluh, loved you in Dark Shadows, bluh, thanks'...I can write tomes but stringing words together verbally is always a tang-tongueling matter for me. Not exactly a stutter, but lots of pausing and smidgeons of aphasia. Built-in dramatic pauses, perhaps, lol. My brain runs at a far greater speed than my lips and it loses track and has to double back a lot. Anyway at the appropriate moment I said hello, and followed with something along the lines of, that having appreciated his art, I wanted him to have some of mine, and handed him the picture. I figured he'd smile and say thanks, scribble his name on the program book and be onto the next person in line, as seemed to be the routine, so at least I'd get my thrill and not look too stupid. To my surprise he stopped and looked at it, looked at it good as they say. Looked at me and asked if I did it (why do people always do that?) and whipped out his glasses and looked at it a few minutes more, handed it back; I said it was for him, and he seemed surprised and then said thank you, signed his name slowly, and then I was off. I wasn't quite sure what to make of all that, but there was my minute of glory, heheh.Actually I did well at the con...I got to see a few events/panels with Jonathan answering some questions (which was nice since I really didn't know much, and you know how much of the show I really saw). Didn't get to see/listen to the dawnings of his reader's theatre since I didn't win the chance or whatever; saw him eating with people after the con but in no way would I crash such a group, etc. So basically, I figured that was all very interesting and culminated my entire dealings with Dark Shadows or Mr. Frid. I learned all manner of things on the trip, about NY and horses and travel and some odd folks who thought they really were vampires and people in general, and I won both first place and best of show in the art show and sold quite a few pieces, even some I threw in but didn't expect to sell at all! Quite a trip.
And that was that. Or so I thought.
I got involved in more shows & conventions, met more people. Kathy R. wrote and asked for art for her zine...(even more remarkable since I think she did that before the 1985 con, and I don't know HOW...but I may have that wrong). Anyway I started sending her illos and cartoons, pretty much generic spooky/Addams' style stuff with a few DS names sprinkled in, but it seemed to work. I even sent a package of art the following year to the DSF...I think I won an award again but didn't do as spectacularly as the first time (less stuff & smaller show, too). What floored me was a thank you letter from Jonathan for the drawing I gave him. I mean, I thought it was very polite and delightful, whether he did it himself or had a minion do it for him, but the more I thought about it, the more impressed I was. Because I hadn't signed the art. If I did, I had just started to use Sherlock, and probably hid it somewhere in the work. Either way, I was a total unknown, so somebody had to hunt down who in the hell this person was and where did she live before I could get a thank you note. I did appreciate the effort!
I continued on in my do-it-yourself art career (no, never got around to the medical illustration, that's another story). Did work here and there for places, though none of them stuck long; did ad specialty art (t-shirts, hats, bumperstickers, etc.) and illos & cartoons for small papers, clip art books, etc. Billions of clip art toons for fanzines and other small publications, with occasional covers sprinkled here and there, even a comic book or two. In general there's not a lot of good art jobs in San Antonio for a shy gal with a summa cum laude degree in fine art but little commercial graphic experience. And of course it got worse when computers crept into the equation, with all the job requirements asking for 3-5 years experience with software that had only existed about that long. I did blunder into a graphics job and had to master Corel in a week (watch the hair turn white) to catch up with the month's worth of jobs the previous artist had walked out on, so I started to pick up computerese here and there, but as I'm one of those "magnetic personalities," I couldn't be around such gizmos for long before they'd go bonkers. The self-employment stuff was good but hard to scrape up enough by...but I got to do stuff I likely never would have done, doing anything else. And being this kind of artist also resulted in something I never expected, a modicum of fame in itself. I'd get fan letters. For art!! Who'd-a thunk. Of course I never got anywhere since I'd make friends with everyone, LOL.
I caught up, finally, with the Dark Shadows saga through episode guides. Reading at least gave me some plots to follow, if not images of the actors/actresses who played some of the roles. To my surprise and delight, I ran into Jonathan again through his tour in Arsenic and Old Lace. The Majestic Theatre had been renovated (I think) and was having plays again, and a friend in my Star Trek club said she'd like to see Arsenic and so we planned and plotted and she got matinee tickets, front row center, and it was heaven. I'd not seen a real stage play in years, not since Earl Holliman's Dinner Theatre died out, and while downtown was a foreign place for the most part, to get to see all those celebrity actors in a fabulously fun play was an opportunity not to pass up. I met my friend across the street at the Gunther, which was having a special on Elderberry Wine in honor of the play, and she got a cup as we waited for the theatre to open. I think we found my brick, too...parts of the sidewalk in that area were bricked; that is the area renovations were paid with donations which entitled donees to bricks with their names on them, and one of my employers got me one as a Christmas bonus, so I can be walked over eternally now, heheh. Coincidentally it is across the street from a sign referring to Robert E. Lee, who was godfather of one of my ancestors, whom Dad was partially named after. Anyway the play was wonderful...I think James MacArthur was playing instead of Gary Sandy, (or maybe that was vice versa)...I remember the ads being different from the actual cast; and quite a unique viewpoint (never saw so many shoes, lol). I even brought another giftie for Mr. Frid, but I simply didn't have the guts to go backstage after the show. I tried, but couldn't get the nerve; he wouldn't know me from Adam (so to speak) and would be tired and needing to prepare for the evening show, no doubt, or whatever. Though if I'd been able I'd have loved to have chauffeured him around town or had a coffee (or elderberry wine) with him, or just waited around to see the evening Christmas lights along the Riverwalk. Life's tough for the shy. But at least I made it to the show.
Life went on, I did muchas art, met many people famous and otherwise, had my own stalker, had a gallbladder ripped out, had all kinds of fun, lol. Nancy K. up in NY started writing me now and then. One day, again out-of-the-blue as far as I was concerned, she asked if I'd mind doing some art for Jonathan. Like I'd mind making some art money Regardless. Of course I'd be happy to do that. I don't think she thought I knew what I was in for, but by then I'd met all sorts, so I assured her it was fine to bring it on, lol! So I got a phone call from Jonathan, who always introduces himself in such a way that you want to say, duh, like I can't tell from the voice alone! LOL And he told me all this stuff in a big gush of words. I took notes like crazy but got the gist--I have an assortment of things to whip up. This was great, but it soon became hilarious to me, since whenever he thought up something new, he'd call and add that. I think I spoke about three words back the whole month. But that was fine, too. My parents were happy that I had such an illustrious patron, not to mention a commission.JF was getting his Clunes Associates Reader's Theatres going so the art involved promoting that. Somehow it seemed like I was the only one who didn't know anything about JF's doings, but I lived in my head in my bedroom in my parents' house so what did I know, heheh. At the end I was offered a choice of cash or a paid trip to the DSF that year (1991) as JF's guest, where we might talk about more stuff. Though I definitely could have used the money, the latter was far more adventurous so I went for it. I operated entirely on adrenalin after that. I was pretty thin for having lost weight from pancreatitis (hence the gallbladder removal) and so not quite so self-conscious, which helped. And had jobs to do, pictures to sketch, places to be; helped JF and Nancy when and where I could, got to see Suzon and Manhattan and attend the banquet with JF, visit his apartment and just get a general idea of a world at a different pace. Ended up running (neat trick in knee boots) across JFK to catch my plane back (lord knows how I did that, finding my flight without a stop, first time!) but it was all worth it. Took home his scripts and a gifted art pad and stuff to work on.
But he got into other aspects and I finally sent the scripts back. I drove up to Manhattan in '93 for the DSF; this time I was a dealer, since no one wanted to run art shows for the DSF any more. While the trip was chockful of adventures and stories, in general it seemed to be cursed; anything that could go wrong did. Miscommunications and foul-ups and zany things that no one could have prevented or predicted, regional differences in thinking and doing things, etc. In the end, I met just about everyone except Mr. Frid, for all the effort. My last chance was in the autograph line, which was so very long that I did an illustration as the line moved, scribbling on the program book.
Unfortunately he was so beat by the time I got just before his table, he left. And that was that. And along with it, our cosmic ping-pong game. Or so I thought.
About 8 years later, (when the '91 DSF venue bit the dust, sigh), I'm starting to get online. Nancy K. added me to the Yahoo group even though I wasn't even definitely hooked up at home yet, but soon I began exploring new worlds and got some new kinds of commissions. Forced to learn computerese. And still being low on dough but higher on grey matter, I learned a lot out of necessity. Apparently they were making computers sufficiently shielded enough not to be quite so quirky about my personal magnetic aura, and I could be on them longer than 20 minutes at a thwack. Still learned fast about all the weird things that can happen, lol. Anyway, while this is going on, Mr. Frid has semi-retired and gone back to Canada, and is also playing with the magic calculator box, with a website and everything. And as learning will do to a person, it spawns ideas. So, again via Nancy K., he inquired about art for some of his new hobbies, some Shakespeare-related sketches and what-all. And I started scribbling again. Had no idea what I was doing for quite some time, but I was very busy doing it, lol.
Learned about Richard III real fast, but probably not fast enough. Doing projects via the internet was much better than just phone calls and letters, but still limited since he's not big on typing and I had dial-up. But we learned about technology together, I think. It would have been best to be able to visit and work in person, but we're 2000 miles away from each other (undoubtedly a safety feature) and the commute would be a killer without a transporter beam.
Again out-of-the-blue, a friend of a friend had to give up her ticket to the Worldcon, which was in Toronto (2003). If I could get up there, I could go, the rest was paid for. Problem was, of course, figuring out how to get to another country for an event you had no plans for in less than two weeks. Couldn't be in the show, had nothing and didn't have time to do all the customs stuff; couldn't afford a plane ticket that close to the travel date (at the time the cheapest seats were over a thousand dollars). And I was working part-time at the library. But I had a van and an accomodating boss. So I drove to Lorraine's in Michigan and she drove us the rest of the way, and we visited JF a few times.
I was dazed enough that I'd get to see Canada, much less bring junk to show John. And it was more or less at this point that I began to see how similar I was to him, even to the point I actually said, there but for 35 years, go I...even Lorraine agreed. I mean, on the outside, no, of course not, he's almost twice my age, a tall northern man from a well-off family, speaks well, high-energy, flits from project to project, a long extroverted career, etc.; virtually my direct opposite in many ways. But there's an internal thread, a je ne sais quoi pas...chose, that's almost identical. Nancy calls it being birds of a feather, "free spirits" in essence. Dunno how to put it but I recognize it and find it rather amusing. Part of me sees him as the public does, and part of me sees him as just one of my pals or neighbors. Makes my brain a little cross-eyed sometimes.
There was more work via the net but it tapered off for awhile, due to all kinds of things. I broke down (ok, my baby sis did because I waffle like crazy until I make a decision on something) and got satellite and managed to see much of the parts of Dark Shadows I didn't get to see before (until SciFi canned it, of course). JF brought the project works back up with a new view and we went at it some more. I drove to ShoreLeave in Baltimore to support Lorraine getting her work out in a real book in the real world (lol), as she has often visited me at cons for that kind of thing (actually I drove straight from San Antonio to pick her up at the Baltimore airport and was dead on time...where can you find a friend like that, eh?). Afterward I circled around, visiting Nancy K. and then, finding Canada not quite so mysterious any more and more interesting than Cleveland, I went up that way and visited JF for a few beats. He was too busy dealing with life (a dead car A/C, etc.) but worked in a lunch (which I would hope to repay sometime) and a surprise cheek-peck (which turned into a neck-peck when my hat hit and slid). Then we went on our ways. I had some horrors after that involving the car and sleazy emergency mechanics in Chicago, but I escaped with some very fun memories from the trip, too.
Again things petered down. I had assumed the 2003 trip was the last time I'd ever hear from JF again...he did a Halloween-time reader's theatre soon after that but it was too much to drive right back up the map for it, and Nancy thought she'd get a tape of it but that didn't work out either, as things go, so, oh well. Therefore the 2005 quickie was a nice make-up event, of sorts. After that, Jonathan discovered the digital camera and didn't need my scribbling much, so I went to hover about back in the wings.
Finally one of the many possible projects came to fruition, a DVD of JF's reading theatrics. This would be good to debut in conjunction with Barnabas' 40th Anniversary (as opposed to last year's Dark Shadows' 40th Anniversary), so with some cajoling and wheedling and plotting and twisting, a mini-DSF was scheduled. At the last minute I did a DVD cover...well, several of them, actually, but he liked one enough, and we sprang that on the public. And that part of the story is what the present photos in this blog illustrate, in my terrifically windy and still-experimenting way.
I really regret not having the chance to Really get to know John; he reminds me of my Dad a lot, or perhaps of some fun uncle I never had. There's a lot of commonalities that I know of that I'm sure he doesn't, and if nothing else, I like to simply listen. Be great to work on something in person for once, but I guess we'll have to wait for another lifetime, LOL. Bummer.
And on to the Dark Shadows Festival, 2007.