Thursday, June 30, 2016

Daylight and Dark Shadows

Upper East Side side street. 7:10 PM. Photo: JH.
Thursday, June 29, 2016. A warm, slightly humid, sometimes cloudy day, yesterday in New York. I went down to Michael’s for the Wednesday lunch. It was quieter but to be expected as this is the moment when those can begin to leave town for the long holiday weekend. So the sidewalks on Fifth Avenue in midtown weren’t the crush they often can be midweek, and the traffic was lighter (and less frustrating).

Among those at table: Glenn Horowitz; House Beautiful’s Kate Kelly Smith and Cathie Black; Marie Claire’s Nancy Cardone and Susan Duffy.’s Bonnie Fuller and Penske Media’s Gerry Byrne with Donna Dees, Carol Evans, Alexandra Wilkis Wilson, Robyn Santiago, Jessica Abo, Jane Friedman, Julie La’Bassiere; Patrick Harrison, Dr Betty Spence, Ashley Williams, Lina Plath and Clare Anne Darragh; Walter O’Hara; Cathy Leonhardt; Tom Rogers; Gena Smith; Tom Goodman; Chris Sparkman of Sparkman Winery out there in Washington State; Owen Grover; Jack Kliger; Joan Jakobson with Rikki Klieman; Marty Peretz with Alana Newhouse; Andrew Stein; Fishbowl New York’s Diane Clehane with Robert Zimmerman, Joan Gelman; Michael Wolff; Herb Siegel with son Bill SiegelQuest’s Chris Meigher with Elizabeth Stribling-Kivian; John Tinker, Elizabeth Belfer; Beverly Camhe with Asanka Pathyiraja; Harry Benson; screenwriter Tracey Jackson; Ted Hathaway; Robert Marston.

Kathryn Leigh Scott with a copy of her new book, "Last Dance at the Savoy." Click to order.
Which, speaking of Michael’s – last week’s Wednesday brought out Katherine Leigh Scott who for many years starred in the daytime soap Dark Shadows. The 50th anniversary celebration of Dark Shadows took place at the Doubletree Hotel in Tarrytown last weekend.

Kathryn has just published “Last Dance at the Savoy,” which is a personal story about her husband Geoff Miller, the founding editor of Los Angeles Magazine. The Millers, whom I met through a mutual friend a number of years ago, were a devoted couple (and in Hollywood). Several years ago Geoff was diagnosed with progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP), a neurological diseases for which there is no known cure at this time, and similar to ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease).

Geoff Miller was a man with a temperament not unlike the brave Lou Gehrig. He and Kathryn lived life fully despite his terminal illness. “Last Dance at the Savoy” is Kathryn’s story about Geoff’s pluck and bravery as well as her insights on dealing with the day-to-day issues of caring for someone with a progressive neurological condition. It also includes a resource guide that provides facts about prime-of-life diseases, contact information for support organizations, research studies and clinical treials; where to find handicap products and equipment and recommended caregiving publications and family conferences.

Kathryn, who lives here and in Beverly Hills, was at Michael’s because she was giving an interview to Diane Clehane about her book and also about the 50th anniversary of Dark Shadows which marked the launch of her long acting career when, straight out of drama school, she appeared as wise-cracking waitress Maggie Evans in the very first episode of the Gothic soap broadcast “live” in black-and-white on ABC June 27, 1966.
Kathryn recounted that experience on the first day: "I was scared to death that day as the camera light blinked red and I spoke my first lines. Come hell or high water, there were no edits, no retakes in live television.

"During our run of 1,225 episodes, we grappled with plenty of hell, high water and worse, thanks to complex special effects, a maze of elaborate sets and time-tripping plotlines requiring actors to change costumes, switching from modern dress to pantaloons and bustles, during commercial breaks.

“One of my favorite stage directions was, ‘when the hand comes out of the grave, turn to camera three and scream.’ We became famous for boom shadows, dropped lines, shaky scenery and, yes, fangs snapping in half and dead bodies moving. After a particularly disastrous show, Dark Shadows creator/producer Dan Curtis would assure us, ‘Don’t worry, it’ll only be seen once by a bunch of housewives.’ Fifty years later, the “blooper” reel is the best-selling Dark Shadows DVD."
Kathryn as wise-cracking waitress Maggie Evans.
She was the first of the Dark Shadows actors to assume multiple roles when Dan Curtis insisted she play both Barnabas’ fiancé, Josette DuPrés, in 1790s ringlets and corsets, and present-day Maggie, who began as a waitress before taking over governess duties at Collinwood. Were viewers confused? Apparently not, because she went on to play Rachel Drummond and Lady Kitty Hampshire in 1800s plotlines.

Jonathan Frid, a middle-aged Shakespearean actor, was on the verge of chucking his career until he got the role of Barnabas Collins, a vampire character Dan Curtis dreamed up as a last-ditch effort to save the failing show. Ratings soared, attracting some 20 million viewers at its peak. Dark Shadows became a cult classic and sexy Barnabas Collins the granddaddy of today’s romantic and reluctant vampires.

The five episodes a week were produced on a budget of $70,000, which accounts for such primitive special effects as cameraman Stu Goodman using plastic wrap and Vaseline smeared on the edges of the lens for dream sequences. An electric fan and a bucket of dry ice created fog and a paper bat dangling from a fishing pole once signaled the sinister arrival of the vampire.
Kathryn Leigh Scott as Josette DuPres, the ill-fated heroine and beloved vampire bride of Barnabas Collins, played by Jonathan Frid.
Dark Shadows is the first daily network soap to go into syndication, and the cast still gets residuals 50 years later!

Dark Shadows was the first soap opera to be shot in color on ABC, and the first soap opera to spawn three films: House of Dark Shadows (1970), Night of Dark Shadows (1971) and the Johnny Depp/Tim Burton Dark Shadows (2012), in which Jonathan Frid, David Selby, Lara Parker and Kathryn appear in cameos during a party scene.

The show also spawned a series of novels, cookbooks, comics, bubble gum cards, phonograph records, games and generations of fans so devoted that thousands show up to attend annual cast-reunion Festivals.
The 1966 cast of "Dark Shadows."
The 'Feel Good' story for the day: Mother Goose Calls 911

Police Officer Sgt. James Givens has served on the Cincinnati Police Department for over 26 years, but in all that time he's never had an experience that compares to this one.

Givens was sitting in his patrol car in a parking lot when he was accosted by one very unexpected visitor who seemed dead set on getting his attention.

"This goose came up and started pecking on the side of the car," Givens told The Dodo. "I threw some food out for her, but she didn't take it. She just kept pecking and quacking. Then she walked away, stopped and looked back. Then came over again and pecked some more."

When the goose walked away a second time, and again looked back, Givens decided to follow her. And it's a good thing that he did.

"She led me about 100 yards away to this grassy area near a creek. That's when I saw one of her babies all tangled up in some string from a balloon. His little feet were kicking," said Givens. "She led me straight to him."

Though stunned by what just happened, Givens was wary of approaching the trapped gosling, fearing that the goose might attack if he did. So instead he radioed the SPCA, but no wildlife rescuers were immediately available.

Givens' colleague, Officer Cecilia Charron, heard the call and volunteered to help.

"She showed up on her own," he said. "I told her to be careful, but she just walked over and untangled the baby. The mother goose just watched, like she knew. It was amazing."

Once the baby was untangled, Givens and Charron looked on as he rejoined his mom and swam away safely. Not surprisingly, the officers were in disbelief about how it all played out from start to finish.

Charron even started to tear up, telling Givens it was the highlight of her 24 years on the force.

"It seems like something made up. It was just incredible," said Givens. "I honestly don't know why I decided to follow her, but I did. It makes me wonder — do they know to turn to humans when they need help?"

Though we'll never be sure if the desperate mother goose did indeed approach the officer knowing he would help, what is certain is that he did — and that's what made the difference.

"I don't know what it all means," Givens said, "but I hope it might inspire more compassion in other people."

Contact DPC here.