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.
Humbert 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.
Christopher 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.
Don 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.
Joel 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.
Louis 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.
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.
Anthony 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.
Gene 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.
Keith 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.
Craig 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.
Brian 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]