Boomers Watched the Original Dark Shadows

Recently Mister Boomer went to see Dark Shadows, the Tim Burton movie starring Johnny Depp. He thought the movie was OK as a campy romp, but came away no more of a fan of Dark Shadows than when he entered.

Long before there were Twilight movies for tweens, boomers enjoyed the Dark Shadows TV show. Having been indoctrinated with the classic movie monsters of the 1930s and ’40s — namely, Dracula, Frankenstein and the Werewolf — boomer minds were ready for a TV show that tapped into the supernatural.

In April of 1966, ABC tossed Dark Shadows into the mix of daytime TV as a gothic soap opera. Created by Dan Curtis, the show originally was not pitched or intended to feature supernatural elements, but six months in, a ghost made its way into the script. Over the next five years werewolves, zombies, witches, warlocks, time travel and a parallel universe became part of the storylines. Yet contrary to some boomers’ memories, it wasn’t until episode 210 that Dark Shadows writers introduced the most famous character of its franchise, the vampire Barnabas Collins (played by Jonathan Frid).

Something about the character attracted boomers — especially teen girls. Perhaps they latched onto the romantic leanings of the character as much as the supernatural elements. Barnabas was hopelessly in love with Josette, but Angelique, a witch, had designs on the young man. When her love goes unrequited she casts a spell on Josette, causing her to leap to her death at Widow’s Hill. Unsatisfied that Barnabas still would not return her affection, she turns him into a vampire which forces him to stay away from everyone he loves. Throughout the series Barnabus remains a reluctant vampire, agonizing over his need for blood and the killing he had to do to maintain himself. Angelique then turns the townspeople against him and his family. Barnabas is arrested and, as a vampire, is sentenced to a locked-coffin prison.

After two hundred years, Barnabas is unknowingly freed by a would-be grave robber. He immediately sets out to seek his revenge on Angelique. Returning to the family estate, Collinwood, he disguises his true identity to the current Collins family and tells them he is a cousin from England, there to assist in restoring his family’s prominence in the town that bears his family’s name. While at the mansion, a young governess named Victoria Winters catches Barnabas’ eye for her uncanny resemblance to Josette. Thus was the basis for complex storylines involving the characters, monsters and ghosts of Dark Shadows from 1966 to 1971.

ABC placed the show at 4 p.m. Eastern time. Mister B’s sister was a big fan, and would hurry home from school in order to catch each episode. Mister B’s spouse recalls the same scenario at her house, where she and her sisters watched the show after school. The original black and white filming lent a scarier atmosphere to the drama, but the show switched to color broadcasts in 1967. Meanwhile, as soon as the spooky strains of the theremin signaled the show’s distinctive opening, Mister B was out of the living room and into his bedroom to study and do homework before dinner. Melodrama — with vampires or not — was not Mister B’s cup of tea.

At its peak, the show was the most-watched TV series for the age demographic of 18-35. As 1971 arrived advertisers backed out, not because of the waning ratings — which were still high for daytime TV — but because the audience for the show was too young to afford to buy their products. Dark Shadows was cancelled in April of 1971. There was a movie made, and an attempt at reviving the show in the 1990s, but neither caught the imagination of boomers like the original.

Were you or your siblings fans of Dark Shadows on TV, boomers?

Boomer Proms: A White Sport Coat and A Pink Carnation

The list of things that are different between our boomer years and today’s youth is long and growing all the time. A case in point is that age-old rite of passage, the prom. It’s that season again, and it got Mister Boomer thinking about the contrasts between the generations.

For starters, more often than not, boomers drove themselves to the dance. Two or three couples would travel together. Either one of the guys had their own car by then, or a parental vehicle was procured. In a worst case scenario, the parent of one of the troupe would act as chauffeur. Today’s kids? While they still travel in groups, they prefer riding in limousines.

Our mode of dress also exhibited contrasts. For most of us, the prom was our introduction to formal wear. Boys wore tuxedos while the girls could either take a page out of the fashionably stylish looks of Peggy Sue Got Married or the traditional excess of Gone With the Wind. Today it seems practically anything goes. The ultra-casual manner of daily school dress is supplanted by “dressier” styles for the prom, but guys often wear suits instead of formal wear, with regular shirts and ties. In some ways, girls embrace the late sixties in that skin is in and practically no style is verboten, as long as it passes school rules.

Prom fashions from advertising in 1961.

Music was another category that illustrates our differences. Depending on how prohibitive the school district was in our respective region, the music played at our proms could be everything from “grown-up” orchestral arrangements to rock ‘n roll. No matter what it was, however, it would be played by a live band. Unlike sock-hops, though, proms were occasions when boys looked forward to the slow numbers, so they had a reason to dance close. Then it was time to break out the Twist, Pony or Frug. Today’s kids have DJs playing the stuff they listen to. Despite the fidelity advances of today’s sound systems, they are missing the experience of live music. And it is unclear to Mister B how boys and girls can dance to rap at all, let alone get close.

Marty Robbins had a hit with A White Sport Coat and a Pink Carnation in 1957.

Mister Boomer went to two proms: the first one he was asked to attend by a friend. (How’s that for the beginnings of Women’s Liberation?) The second was his own school’s prom. For both proms, Mister B borrowed his father’s car and drove with his date.

For prom number one, Mister B’s date told him about the yellow dress her mother was making for her, so suggested a brown color. He picked up a sporty double-breasted, dark chocolate tux and paired it with a ruffled yellow shirt and bow tie. The couple had an era-appropriate Polynesian dinner before the dance — complete with drinks in pineapples (non-alcoholic, of course), and all in all, shared a good evening.

A few weeks later, he attended his own prom. This time his date wore light blue, so Mister B opted for a white brocade tuxedo jacket with black lapels, black tux pants, a light blue ruffled shirt and black bow tie. Unfortunately, color rules dictated that he had to settle for a white carnation instead of pink.

What was your prom experience like, boomers? Did you make your children come back to your house with their respective dates so you could photograph them in their sartorial splendor? Have they seen your prom pictures?