Allow me a trip down Memory Lane. Grade school days.
It was 2:58 pm.
It was always 2:58 pm.
Didn’t matter if it was Monday.
It was always 2:58 pm.
Grad school was to let out in exactly two minutes.
Inevitably, every kid in my class was standing dutifully in line for dismissal.
Would the teacher let us go one minute, 30 seconds, 10 seconds earlier?
Every now and then, one of two simpletons would act up in line.
That’s when Ms. Impatience would threaten and then impose a punishment. We’d have to stand in line for another five minutes or as long as it took until things settled down.
Wonderful. Punish the entire class because of two idiots.
Meanwhile at home, the TV was turned on to one of only a handful of options. In this case, it was the ABC network.
At precisely 3:00, the Gothic daily soap opera “Dark Shadows” would be broadcast, complete with its array of vampires, werewolves, witches, ghosts and various supernatural beings. Since it was a daily show, the previous day’s program ended leaving viewers with a cliffhanger. It was imperative to not miss, or miss very little, of the start of the next day’s show.
The 3:00 bell would ring.
Studious Catholic school kids would walk orderly to the exit doors. Then the ones who made a mad dash down the street were definitely “Dark Shadows” fans, rushing to see what happened to Barnabas or Quentin or any other of the characters who lived in a gloomy mansion in a gloomy town where it always seemed to evening, raining, thundering, and foreboding.
It never failed.
I burst into the Fischer household. Mom, who was also a fan, had the set properly tuned.
I never seemed to catch the critical beginning. Instead, it was the opening theme music or commercials.
Like any good mom, and mine was the best, she’d often immediately relax me by informing the first few minutes simply re-ran the ending of yesterday’s cliffhanger.
For me, “Dark Shadows” was a natural progression in TV viewing. Years before, after school viewing was predominantly the “Mickey Mouse Club.”
Late night viewing on Saturdays (Thanks, Mom for letting me stay up and watch with you) was Shock Theater on Channel 18. Nothing cheesy. Just the classic Universal Studio monster classics.
By the late 60’s, “Dark Shadows” was not only cool. It was a must.
The history of pop culture says kids ran like wildfire to get home to watch “Dark Shadows.” It’s true.
Popularity of the program really zoomed when Jonathan Frid joined the cast as ancient vampire from the past, Barnabas Collins.
Barnabas was a beloved, sympathetic character because deep down he despised his nocturnal thirst and need for blood.
Almost as popular on the show was David Selby who played another Collins from the 1800’s, Quentin.
Originally Quentin died, shot by lover Beth Chavez in the Tower room in the massive Collins estate in 1897. His body was moved to his room and it was sealed off.
But in 1968 the children living at the estate, Amy Jennings and David Collins released his spirit. For weeks and weeks, the tall, dark, intimidating Quentin (sometimes with Beth) would appear to the children, taking them under his control, never speaking, just staring with a very evil look.
Soon he began haunting the family members in the house.
On their getaways to forgotten areas of the house the children would always know Quentin was close by when they’d hear eerie music coming from his Victrola.
In one episode of the series Quentin tells Magda a gypsy woman why he likes the song so much. “I read somewhere where every person has a theme of music, well this is mine, when I’m alone depressed I can play this and suddenly I’m not in this room or this house, I’m free somewhere, somewhere exciting.” The instrumental was played on more than a dozen programs.
Popular music during the 1960’s was extremely diverse. It was only natural Quentin’s 1800’s Victrola would find its way onto the Billboard charts in 1969. Composer Charles Randolph Grean released his version that year where it peaked at #13.
Robert Cobert composed all the music for the TV series, including “Quentin’s Theme” that was nominated for a Grammy as Best Instrumental Theme and earned a special BMI citation for more than 100 million radio broadcasts. Cobert died of pneumonia last month in Palm Desert, Calif. He was 95.
Cobert also did the music for the hit TV move “The Night Stalker” (1972).