This interview was supplied by Dino DiOssi.
Jonathan Frid’s Second Visit to the Dick Cavett Show
August 2, 1968
Guests included: The Association, Abby Lincoln
Dick Cavett: May we have the house lights dimmed. I should like to introduce my next guest now who is best seen in a dim light. It’s hard to think of him as a creature without sunlight. You all know my dear friend Barnabas, don’t you? We’ll see – go man? (Jonathan Frid comes down the center of the aisle out in the audience towards the stage. He is wearing a little flashlight around his neck.)
Jonathan Frid: How’s this for neckwear?
JF: Thank you. May I make myself at home?
DC: Yes you may. I don’t think we can stop him.
Audience: Bite Dick Cavett!
JF: Outside, later.
DC: Bite my neck! Hi Barney .. eh, Jonathan. I think you’ve created a monster. This is Jonathan Frid. I know you don’t want to believe that because you want to think it’s Barnabas. Jonathan, welcome!
JF: Thank you, Dick and before I go any further, may I take out my teeth? Would you mind? There they are …
DC: Would you mind turning your back?
JF: No, I certainly would not. What’s that denture wash that they advertise on television. I think they need it.
DC: We have a little plastic cup. You can drop them in here.
JF: I’ll put them in my pocket.
DC: Welcome, sir!
JF: Thank you, Dick. It’s nice to be back.
DC: Yes, you were here one other time. Oh, I got a nasty letter about you from . .. here’s what it was. You came on in the first half hour of the show, you know, and there was some lady in a section of the country who sees – does not get the first half hour of the show and she took me up one side and down the other for bringing you on then and said, “I waited for him for weeks!”
JF: Oh, it was a nasty letter to you then.
DC: To me, not about you, yes. She’s absolutely waiting for you outside now.
DC: What’s the latest development now in Barnabas’ life? I know you can speak for him.
JF: Well, I know at this point I’m not a vampire, strangely enough.
DC: Get him out!! (audience laughter)
JF: I have been cured but don’t worry because we’ve got two more vampires coming on the show.
DC: It’s only a temporary thing though isn’t it? I mean, the spell is not necessarily, totally . .
JF: Well, you see it all depends on the monster, Adam. As long as he lives, I will be all right. Somehow or other, don’t ask me why or how it happened, but some of my life force is in him and I think this show has more medical quackery than any other soap opera. So anyway, that’s the state I’m in right now and some people say, oh, why aren’t you back as a vampire biting and so forth and personally I’m sort of enjoying this being the nearest thing in my life to being what my family always wanted me to be and that is the kind of guy next door type of actor and I’ve never been that. So now I’m being, well the guy in the next mansion or something.
DC: Your mother didn’t raise you to bite people’s necks?
DC: What is the reaction of close relatives to your persona?
JF: Well, I think they’re glad I’m working and I am too. I’m very happy about that. I say I think that they would have liked me to play something a little bit more close to everyday life, shall we say, but I think as long as an actor is working I think – I’m glad to play anything, and as a matter of fact, I think I’ve said this before. I’ve enjoyed this role because it has had many manifestations. Actually, I’ve spent about 2 or 3 minutes in the year and a half I’ve been on the show – I’ve spent about 2 or 3 minutes actually “biting”. I mean you can’t – that gets a little tedious after a while.
DC: But 2 or 3 minutes of “biting” is more than normal in most people’s cases. You will admit that.
JF: You caught me there!
DC: We have a message and we’ll be back. Stay with us.
DC: Jonathan, someone handed me the Grand Rapids Times just before I came on and I didn’t get time to read this but there is a picture of you atop a black limousine, and there’s a crowd, police and there’s a headline . .TV VAMPIRE CAUSES GRAND RAPIDS AIRPORT RIOT. What . . what were you doing?
JF: Well, in this tour that I took about – this is a little while back – and I took a ten city tour in five days while was kind of rough going and . .but the thing about it was that no one really expected a turnout that we would get in all these airports and shopping centers and things like that – so that there was no kind of organized control of crowds. So we got to, well, we had been in Ft. Wayne that afternoon and there was rather an uncontrolled crowd at the supermarket and the supermarket sent a $2,000 bill for injury to shrubbery and things like that to the local station, and we were held up there so we were late getting into Grand Rapids and I would like to apologize – I hope this show goes to Grand Rapids because I would like to make an apology to the people out there. They had this thing arranged at the airport where I was to judge a contest of ghouls and . ..
DC: Pretty ghouls, huh?
JF: This is what you get into when you . ..
DC: A former Shakespearean actor and they’re playing a pretty ghoul is like a melody. Then what happened?
JF: Well, they had a crowd where our plane landed and the thing got out of hand that we all got kind of nervous, including the officer who ran the airport and more or less ordered us off the place. Well, I don’t blame them because everything . . and there was no one to blame up there, it was just that there was so much uncontrolled chaos and so we got this hearse, and, oh yes, the poor chap who was running the whole show was on top of the hearse as we were leaving and we . ..it was ordered down the road into town and there was the poor guy who was running the whole show was way down the countryside when we finally got the hearse to stop and had to walk or run back or whatever about half a mile back to the airport to try to take over control of the thing. But I remember as it turned out we never got to take control of the thing. But I remember as it turned out we never got to this contest around the front of the airport and I’m only very sorry that I was never able to make that. But while we were, while I was getting on top of this hearse myself – I must say I was rather, if you’ll pardon the expression – mortified, and so anyway we were sort of circling around in front of the thousands of teenagers and so forth and a regular commercial airliner was unloading at that point and I . .suddenly I was trying to think of their point of view – here they were with these thousands of kids andthis idiot on top of this hearse with fangs, and what was going on, you know, what’s happened to America? So I pretended to be waving at the crowd and the only reason I did that was because the tape hid me from the people getting off the plane. I didn’t want them to see who it was, so they couldn’t see. I must say it was rather .. it was a fun thing to do in a way, but it was . . I thought that was kind of stretching a point.
DC: Yes, I think an artist has to be treated with more respect. Do you have any fun on the tours, though? Can you meet people?
JF: Oh, yes. As I say, it was pretty hectic. I never got to see any of these tours. All of my life I have wanted to go to Charleston. Well, I did and all I saw was the airport and a supermarket and the station. And I said where’s this beautiful Charleston that I’ve always heard about – well, look over there about five miles and you’ll see a steeple or something. Well, I never really get to see these towns. You just sort of – you’re on display all the time. But it’s you know, I enjoy it.
DC: I can see that it’s really become a problem for you to anywhere as a regular person.
JF: Well, it’s a – oddly enough, it’s a …once you get away from the crowd you – I disappear in my own neighborhood. If you keep walking fast enough and mind your own business, you’re all right, but you can easily get a crowd, you know, if you’re that kind of a person who wants a spectacular riot going around you all of the time, but if you mind your own business, people will leave you alone if you walk fast enough and I think I’m lucky living in Manhattan because I think 90% of the people in Manhattan are working people during the daytime and I don’t think they get a chance to watch the soap operas as much, somehow or other, as people in the outlying cities.
DC: I read in the “TV Guide” article about you that you’re so busy now that you hardly ever have time to get your laundry taken to the Laundromat.
JF: That’s quite true. As a matter of fact, I just picked up some last night which I was sorely in need of but as a matter of fact I went to this laundromat about a week ago and they were in the state of re-doing the whole place. I went to pick it up and they were fixing some blowers or something and some of the soot from the old blowers had gotten all over my laundry so they had to do it all over again, so I’ve been kind of stuck again this week for laundry.
DC: Send this man some laundry. When we come back maybe the audience would like to ask you some questions . .
DC: I’m sitting here with Jonathan Frid and my whole left side just went numb. Try not to ask if he opens tomato juice cans with his teeth and things like that. What would you like to know from Jonathan? Yes, sir, gentleman in the cape.
JF: Hello, brother!
DC: I was wondering if you’ve done any research on the vampire legend and if you believe in any of the material about it yourself?
JF: I began to do a certain amount of research. I did, but then I sort of cooled it because we kind of tend to make up our own rules anyway, you know, a little bit and if . . I’ve found in the past that in doing too much research, if the producers haven’t gone along with it and the writers haven’t gone along with it, you just become frustrated. I’ve done that with – I talked about this on another show recently – I was researching Richard III when I was playing it an if you try to research that play which is a sheer exercise in villainy, you’re in big trouble. I mean, if you actually research the historical documents on Richard, he wasn’t all that bad, so you might as well forget it and just take the play for what it is. I think in this case too, I think . . I don’t really believe too much in all of this if I tell the truth, but you know, I play the moment that is given to me by the writers and so forth and so on, and I let it go pretty much at that. I’ve done some research on it, yes. I know a lot more about vampires than I ever did before. I’ll say that much!
DC: Yes, the lady on the aisle.
Lady: Do you enjoy playing a vampire?
JF: Yes, I enjoy playing the role of Barnabas Collins. The vampire part is fine, you know, but it’s – there’s a lot more to it than just vampire. I mean, it’s not a gimmick role really. It’s has an awful lot to play when you take the whole character over the period of a year. There have been many emotions to play, many situations, many problems that are not just biting people.
DC: It would be hard to think of you as anything else for awhile. I can’t see you as Tom Sawyer for a long time. The gentleman on the isle there.
Man: How do you feel about your fans. Do you read all of your fan mail?
JF: Well, I love the fans. They’ve made me what I am. Indeed they really have as far as the story is concerned because – we watch the mail very carefully. The producers watch the mail for that reason to take ideas. They still think about ideas all the time. Our going into the past was strongly influenced by the fact that people wanted to know where I came from.
DC: So the fan mail could influence the plot?
JF: They can influence the plot. But I enjoy the mail. I must say that, you know, when you get a great quantity of mail it’s pretty hard to keep up with it. So again, I want to publically apologize to people who may not have heard from me. It’s because there is so much.
DC: I feel sorry for this gentleman because we can’t get a mike to him – so yell it out and I’ll repeat it.
Man: Grayson Hall is the woman doctor and that kept you going for awhile. Is it Grayson Hall?
JF: She’s still keeping me going!
Man: There always seems to be a great rapport between the two of you when you are acting, at least I feel this way. Is there such a thing?
JF: Yes, oh yes! I’m very fond of Grayson and we kid a lot. We kid around an awful lot, you know, before we do these scenes endlessly together, and so we have a lot of fun together and she’s a ball. She makes working at that studio a party every day. I get all my entertainment at the studio.
DC: You were asking is there anything going on between them, didn’t you? The young lady on the isle.
JF: Now please! Her husband writes the show. I’d better watch myself.
DC: There’s your answer. Yes, yes ma’am, I mean.
Lady: Would you rather play a romantic scene with a beautiful girl?
JF: Yes, I enjoy them very much. But again, I like the variety in the role. I mean, one of the scenes I often play I have a kinney [kinescope?] film of one of the shows of a love scene I was having with Josette with Angelique that I’m very proud of.
DC: Oh, we’re being swept away. We’ll all have to come back.
-End of Interview-