Barnabas and Baba

Jonathan Frid as Barnabas Collins
in the 1960s “Dark Shadows.”

In the late 1960s, we lived for a while in a rented house on Adams Circle in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Every afternoon, I walked home from Whittier Elementary and plopped myself down on the living room couch, waiting anxiously for Baba to return home from university.

My father was a brilliant man, a mathematical thinker who has a statistical theorem named after him. But, like all of us, he had his guilty pleasures. One of them was “Dark Shadows,” the vampire soap opera starring Canadian actor Jonathan Frid as Barnabas Collins.

Baba sat on the couch with me and the two of us were mesmerized by the gothic, black and white images flashing before us on our Zenith television screen. Intrigue. Love. Lust. Death and, of course, life after death.

That was the part that I could not stand. Every time Barnabas got ready to sink his fangs into a young maiden’s juicy neck, I’d slither off the couch, get behind it for protection and watch sporadically. Or I’d announce to Baba that I had to go to the bathroom right then.

One time I was so frightened that Baba held me on his lap. “These scenes are not real,” he said. “They’re just make-believe on TV.”

But he’d go right on watching, transfixed on Barnabas’s ghostly white skin and the crimson streaming out of his mouth.

Jonathan Frid died in Hamilton, Ontario, last week. He was 87, a year younger than my father, who died in 2001.

He didn’t live to see his character resurrected in director Tim Burton’s remake of the classic vampire story. This time, Barnabas will appear to us in the handsome form of Johnny Depp.

I wish Baba were still here. I’d take him to the theater to see “Dark Shadows.” And when the lights went dim and no one could see, I’d hold his hand tight and wait for Barnabas to bite.

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