Eleven ‘Dark Shadows’ Actors You Probably Didn’t Know Were Gay


Dark Shadows, an American Gothic soap opera premiered on ABCTV on June 27, 1966. For the next five years, it ruled daytime TV and became one of the most watched and talked about soap operas in history — presenting vampires, ghosts, werewolves, man-made monsters, zombies, witches and warlocks (something for everyone) to a horror-hungry daytime audience. The series maintains a cult following to this day, and is available on DVD. The show employed numerous gay actors including those listed below.

 oHumbert Allen Astredo was born on April 4, 1929 in Pasadena. After a series of odd jobs, he enrolled in the Pasadena Playhouse acting program in 1950. He first appeared on TV in 1951 on Love of Life. He was a member of the entertainment unit of the US Army during the Korean War. In 1957, he co-founded the Hollywood Center Theatre, and later managed the Los Angeles Repertory Theater Company from 1962 until 1963. He made his Broadway debut in Othello in 1964. He studied at the Actors Studio, and performed Off-Broadway and in Joseph Papp’s Shakespeare in the Park. He performed in regional theater productions. He was cast as the warlock Nicholas Blair in Dark Shadows in 1968. He also played the roles of Charles Dawson and Evan Hanley before leaving the show in 1971. He appeared in the 1970 feature film, House of Dark Shadows. He appeared on Broadway in Les Blancs (1970), Murderous Angels (1971-72), An Evening With Richard Nixon (1972), and The Little Foxes with Elizabeth Taylor in 1981. Astredo was a successful commercial actor, and played various roles on many soap operas including Another World, The Edge of Night, The Guiding Light, Love of Life, and Loving. In 1982 he played in The Little Foxes in London, and in 1985 was in the national touring company of Dracula. Humbert Allen Astredo was bisexual. He had a short marriage in the late 1950s and had one daughter. Astredo retired in 1990. He died at his home in Guilford, Connecticut on February 19, 2016. He was 86 years old.

 nChristopher Bernau (Herbert Augustine Bernau) was born on June 2, 1940 in Santa Barbara. He studied drama at the University of California, and appeared in the 1962 New York Shakespeare Festival’s Antony and Cleopatra. He toured in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? in 1964. He worked Off-Broadway, in regional theater productions and performed at Canada’s Stratford Festival. He was cast Philip Todd in Dark Shadows and played the role on and off from 1969 through 1970. His most famous role was that of the villainous Alan Spaulding on the soap opera Guiding Light from 1977 to 1984, and again in 1986 and 1989. Christopher Bernau was gay. He was one of the few soap opera actors to be publicly out with the soap opera press. He was diagnosed with HIV in the 1980s, but continued to work on Guiding Light until he was too ill and frail to work. He died of AIDS related diseases and heart failure on June 14, 1989 in Santa Barbara. Christopher Bernau was 49 years old.

 nDon Briscoe (Cecil Donald Briscoe) was born in Yalobusha County, MIssissippi on March 20, 1940. He appeared in several minor roles on television before being cast as Chris Collins/Chris Jennings/Tom Jennings/Timothy Shaw in Dark Shadows in 1968. He played the roles until 1970. Don also starred in the 1970 film, House of Dark Shadows. Don Briscoe was gay. In 1970 he suffered a traumatizing assault, and subsequent nervous breakdown from which he never recovered. He never appeared on screen again, and died at his home in Memphis on October 31, 2004 from heart disease. He was 64 years old.

 nJoel Crothers was born on January 28, 1941 in Cincinnati, Ohio. He was raised in NYC and attended the Birch Wathen School. He made his Broadway debut at the age of 12 in The Remarkable Mr. Pennypacker in 1954. He appeared in dozens of TV shows during the later 1950s and early 1960s. He graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Harvard in 1962. He appeared again on Broadway in A Case of Libel (1963-64) and Barefoot in the Park (1966-67). In 1966 he was cast as Joe Haskell (and Lt. Nathan Forbes) in Dark Shadows, and stayed with the show until 1969. Joel worked Off-Broadway and in regional theater. He starred in many soap operas including The Secret Storm (1969-71), Somerset (1972-76), The Edge of Night (1977-84), and Santa Barbara in 1985. He was nominated for two Daytime Emmy Awards in 1982 and 1983. Joel starred in the Off-Broadway premiere production of Torch Song Trilogy, playing the bi-sexual lover of the author/star Harvey Fierstein. He left the production before it moved to Broadway. Joel Crothers was gay. Although his friends and co-workers knew his sexual orientation, he remained closeted in his public life. He was publicly “engaged” to actress Veleka Gray (his costar from Somerset) at the time of his death. He contracted HIV in the early 1980s, and desperately hid his failing health. He died on AIDS-related lymphoma in Los Angeles on November 6, 1985. Joel Crothers was 44 years old.

 nLouis Edmonds (Louis Sterlin Edmonds) was born on September 24, 1923 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. He began his acting career Off Broadway in the 1950s. He appeared in Ernest in Love, and on Broadway, in Candide (1956-57), The Taming of the Shrew (1957), The Duchess of Malfi (1957), Maybe Tuesday (1958), A Passage to India (1962), and Fire! (1969). Edmonds made his TV debut in 1950 in Studio One. He earned more than 20 minor acting credits on TV and in film before being cast as the patriarch, Roger Collins, in Dark Shadows. He starred in the role (and that of Joshua Collins and Brutus Collins) from 1966 until the show’s finale in 1971. He also starred in the 1970 film, House of Dark Shadows. From 1979 until 1992, he played the role of Langley Wallingford on All My Children. He earned three Daytime Emmy nominations for that role. Louis Edmonds was gay. He never hid his sexuality from this friends or co-workers, and publicly came out in this biography, Big Lou. Edmonds had a home in the Pines, and entertained lavishly. He was close friends with his Dark Shadows co-star, Jonathan Frid. Louis Edmonds died of respiratory failure in Port Jefferson, New York on March 3, 2001. He was 77 years old.

 n Jonathan Frid (John Herbert Frid) was born in Ontario, Canada on December 2, 1924. He served in the Royal Canadian Navy in WWII. He graduated from McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario in 1948. In 1949, he began studies at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in London. He moved to the US in 1954 and earned a MFA in Directing from the Yale School of Drama in 1957. While still a Yale student, he starred in A True And Special Friend, and starred in several productions at the now renowned Williamstown Theater. He worked Off-Broadway, and starred in stage productions in Canada, England, and regional theaters in the US. He made his Broadway debut in 1964 in Roar Like A Dove. Frid starred in numerous productions for the CBC, but his life changed when he was cast as the vampire leading man – Barnabas Collins – in Dark Shadows in 1967. He starred in the 1970 feature film, House of Dark Shadows, and made a cameo appearance in Tim Burton’s 2012 film-reboot, Dark Shadows (his final film appearance). His life and career would be eclipsed by the role of Barnabas until his death. After Dark Shadows, he appeared in the TV movie The Devil’s Daughter, and Oliver Stone’s feature, Seizure. He returned to Broadway to star in Murder in the Cathedral, and Wait Until Dark. In 1978, he moved back to Canada, but returned to NYC to star in Arsenic and Old Lace on Broadway in 1986-87. In 1994, he retired to Canada. He made occasional stage appearances in a one-man show, and starred in the play Mass Appeal in 2000 in Hamilton, Canada. Jonathan Frid was gay. He led a very private life, but did spend a lot of time with his good friend, and fellow Dark Shadows gay actor, Louis Edmonds, at his beach home in the Pines. Frid also secured jobs on the show for a couple of men he was involved with. Jonathan Frid died of pneumonia in hospital in Hamilton, Ontario on April 14, 2012. He was 87 years old.

 nAnthony George (Ottavio Gabriel George) was born in Endicott, New York on January 29, 1921. After serving in WWII, he moved to Hollywood. He made his acting debut in the 1950 film, Black Hand. He played dozens of roles in television and film, and costarred in The Untouchables (1960), and costarred in the TV series, Checkmate (1960-62). In 1967, he was cast as Jeremiah Collins in Dark Shadows. He had a successful career in soap operas in Search for Tomorrow, and One Life to Live. He was a longtime, close friend of actor Earl Holliman. Anthony George was gay. He retired to Newport Beach, California where he died of emphysema in hospital on March 16, 2005. He was 83.

GeneGene Lindsey was born in Beaumont, Texas on October 26, 1936. He first appeared on TV in 1963 on the show, The Doctors. He had small roles in the films Santa Claus Conquers the Martians (1964) and Cotton Comes to Harlem (1970). In 1970, he was cast in the role of Randal Drew in Dark Shadows. He later appeared in the film, All The President’s Men. His final acting role was in the TV movie, Drop Out Father, in 1982. Gene Lindsey was gay. He died of AIDS-related illnesses on April 1, 1988. He was 51 years old.


 nKeith Prentice was born on February 21, 1940 in Dayton, Ohio. He studied in NYC at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. His Broadway credits include The Sound of Music (1959-62), and Sail Away (1961-62). His musical theater credits include Paint Your Wagon and The King and I. In 1968, he starred in the controversial, Off-Broadway production of The Boys in the Band. He starred in the 1970 feature film adaption of the play. Keith Prentice was gay. He was a close friend of actor Jonathan Frid, who helped him get the role of Morgan Collins in Dark Shadows. Prentice played the role in 1971. He appeared in the films The legend of Nigger Charley (1972) and Cruising (1980). In 1982, he co-founded the Kettering Theatre Under the Stars, and directed summer shows there until his death. Keith Prentice contracted HIV and died of AIDS-related cancer on September 27, 1992 in Kettering, Ohio. He was 52 years old.

 nCraig Slocum (Warren Stanley Slocum) was born on November 14, 1934 in New York City. He first appeared on Broadway in End as a Man in 1953-54. In the late 1950s he had small roles in several films including Is This Love?, Unwed Mother, The Young Captives, Riot in Juvenile Prison, and A Private’s Affair. In 1968-69, he played the roles of Noah Gifford and Harry Johnson on Dark Shadows. Craig Slocum was gay. He had type 2 diabetes, and died from insulin shock in New York City on September 12, 1978. He was 43 years old.

 nBrian Sturdivant was a close friend of actor Jonathan Frid. Frid helped him get the role of Claude North on Dark Shadows. He played the role in 1970. He had minor roles in the films Diary of a Mad Housewife, The Coming Asunder of Jimmy Bright, and Von Richthofen and Brown. Sturdivant disappeared from the acting scene in 1971.

[These bios were written by Hollywood historian Michael Michaud, who is the author of Sal Mineo, A Biography, Famous Enough, A Hollywood Memoir, and Alan Sues, A Funny Man]

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5 Responses to “Eleven ‘Dark Shadows’ Actors You Probably Didn’t Know Were Gay”

  1. David-Elijah Nahmod

    Thank you for telling the truth about these fine actors. Let’s not forget Clarice Blackburn, who played Collinwood housekeeper Mrs. Johnson–Blackburn was a lesbian. Her 1995 New York Times obituary named her only survivor as a “friend”, another woman.


  2. This Old Bat

    Here we go again. It is so very easy to say that someone is gay ‘after’ they have passed on and too base the info. on rumors and decades of old gossip and stories, many of which are fabricated. There are many Women who are prudish and do not marry.and have female best friends when they get old that does not make them all Lesbians. Ms. Blackburn would have told you to mind your damned business as she was a hard nose. With no family,of he own, Ms. Blackburn gave legal rights to her friend to manage her affairs when she took ill. That is what you do when you become ill. when Clarice took ill. Many older women esp widows have and need female friends. Women are more social than are older men.
    Ohhhhh plzzz, SMH Don Briscoe was NOT gay nor was he assaulted. THAT is yet another fabricated gay gossip story that gets bigger and bigger with each telling. Louis Edmonds was attracted to him briefly and found that he was not gay. They got together and only smoked joints. It was ‘drugs’ that messed up poor Mr. Briscoe as he was trying to cope with what would later be called Bi polar Disorder Many people not diagnosed self medicate, many times out of desperation. This was before Dr.s could diagnose it, this happened as well with actress Carrie Fisher. Mr. Briscoe moved back home to live with his parents. Just because someone appears in a gay themed play ie ‘Boys in The Band’, does ‘not’ make him gay. SMH Gay people don’t like to be labeled nor stereotyped by straight people, usually bullies, haters and bigots but yet gay bars are just full of people who just love, love, love to gossip and tell Hollywood stories where they think that ‘every’ actor is gay. Mr. Jonathan Frid was gay but never publicly came out and that was the way he wanted it. and Mr. Edmonds spoke about this at two different conventions at his autograph table to a small intimate group of gay fans and yes, that is just my say so and no proof. Edmonds was a proud man with a tell it like it is
    personality. However, from his generation many, many older gay actors lived a private life. Mr. Frid would have been thee first to have told YOU that his personal life and sexual orientation is no one’s business and that his fans have no right to it. Mr. Frid could have done many things to raise money and awareness with his celebrity. He had plenty of opportunities to Come Out to fans and too donate convention and one man show charity money to AIDS foundations/charities and to even give lectures about the parallels between Barnabas and being a closeted gay person. Now that would have been cool. However he did not because he was not a political activist nor involved with the LGBT community nor did he even want that kid of attention. He was not the type to be a spokesperson for the LGBT community. That was not whom he was. He was ‘out’ to family and friends and was not ashamed of being gay but did not discuss it. Mr. Frid grew up in an older generation where gay people were taught to feel shame and guilt and it was illegal to be Homosexual and it was still considered to be equated with Pedophilia and mental illness.. Mr. Frid did not have that extroverted ‘out’ personality like Mr. Louis Edmond’s did. Being gay was a very, very small part of Mr. Frid’s life esp later in life where he just enjoyed his retirement back in Canada with his relatives. Financially, I don’t know how many DVDs and autographs and personal appearances he would have made money off from had he told the hundreds of love sick older Women fans that he was gay. One of thee main reasons for all the arguing, debates and denial over Mr. Frid’s sexuality for decades is because all these older women used to be love sick teenage girls in love with Frid’s character and just like the Beatles and The Monkees, the teenage girl fans back then could not and can not accept the fact that their teen idols that they love are not the exact same in real life. These older Women can not see Mr. Frid beyond having portrayed Barnabas or associate all of Barnabas’ qualities as being that of Frid’s as well. The sensitive deeply troubled compassionate tortured soul that women were attracted to.
    Mr. Frid did not publicly come out to any of his fans at the years n years of conventions nor at any of his One Man Shows, because he felt it was no one’s business Soooo, let all these older lonely Cat Ladies have and hold onto their heart throb image of the perfect guy they wanted to date or marry or even have as a father figure. Their hearts still belong to Mr. Frid or Barnabas. Some you gay ‘activists’ and younger out n proud gays need to seriously realize that while there is no shame ‘now’ in being gay, you don’t understand the mindset of gay people from previous generations. Just because they might live to a time when it’s suddenly okay to come out of the closet does not mean that after a life tie of being private that every gay person ‘must’ do this. It is up to each person to make that decision.
    R I P Mr. Jonathan Frid. May your soul be comforted by the knowledge that your fans still love and remember you all these years later.


    • Johnny'sBoy

      This Old Bat. What an appropriate name.

      Methinks thou doest protest too much. You also might ask any random seven year old if he could teach you how to spell and use proper grammar, then perhaps, just perhaps, someone would take you seriously.

      These articles were written by Michael Michaud, who thoroughly researches any and all subjects he writes about. You might check out his books on Amazon, that is if your jealousy doesn’t stop you.


      • This Old Bat

        Just because someone writes a book does not make it the unshakable truth.
        I am very much aware of the 40 years of gossip and long stories told by gay fans on this subject and many of them were ‘never’ verified. The people i hung around with at the conventions would most certainly have verified it as they knew the actors personally.
        Gay people hate it when they are stereotyped by Straight people. However, when I walk into any gay bar, that is all I hear, gay people gossiping and stereotyping actors and public figures about their personal lives, mannerisms, looks and assumptions about sexual orientation . Too many people both gay and straight assume that just because someone did not marry or remarry that it makes them gay. I was one of the teenagers that hung out outside the ABC studio and I watched the actors all come n go. I’d listen to their conversations and heard their stories among themselves and at 35 years of the DS conventions. I knew some of the sources of the rumors and gossip stories. Fan whores trying desperately to make the whole DS cast gay so that they can feel better about themselves. SMH
        Just because a person is not good at sentence structure/grammar does not make their view point and knowledge any less valid. My previous comment was written in anger non stop writing because i was Pissed at the stereotyping and assumptions. Funny how the author with all of his research happened to have left out that the Make Up artist on the show was ‘confirmed’ gay as well as one of the show’s writers ‘confirmed’ gay after his death when it talked of his long time domestic partner, but I guess that did not come up in google searches.
        No sweetie, I am not jealous of people who like to print gossip and assumptions about people that are no longer with us. If those late actors had told us in life that they were gay or Bi then I would have been more than supportive, but several of these actors chose to keep their personal lives private. Sadly Mr. Frid chose NOT to come out publicly to his fans. However we all saw both Frid and Edmonds frequent the posh gay Nightclubs and bars but that is just my say so as I can not prove it.
        With Respect to Mr. Donald Briscoe RIP
        With Respect to Ms. Clarice Blackburn RIP
        With Respect to Mr. Anthony George RIP
        With Respect to Mr. Thayer David RIP
        With Respect to Mrs. Grayson Hall RIP
        All of these actors’ sexual orientation have been gossiped about and debated about for decades from fans, mostly from gay fans. If these actors had wished for their private lives to be a matter of public record then they would mentioned it to the fans publicly at the conventions and in fan interviews but they did not.
        Shall we believe that two of the DS actors were vicious enough to have sexually assaulted Mr. Donald Briscoe?
        Bullshite, that was yet another piece of shite gossip story that was told and retold for decades and it was always changing in detail.
        Yes, ‘anyone’ can write a tell all book based on google searches and gossip and stories and from IMDB
        A writer can say anything they want about people who have passed on and claim it’s true.


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