Thursday, April 26, 2012

Jonathan Frid Dead at 87 / Did Glenn Beck Strike Gold?

Obviously, when I set off for four Air Force years in 1968, an already well-cultivated interest in UFOs couldn't accompany me in the manner to which said interest was accustomed.  But another object of my attention did tag along, at least on certain days, far from home:  The ABC-TV daytime sorta-gothic soap, "Dark Shadows."

Oh, I know what you're thinking, and some among you have dismissed me for less, but you should know that with the passing of so many years, a surprising number of former military members, professional athletes and others affiliated with the Real Men and Real Women club have come forward to confess that they, too, as high school or college students rushed home as fast as they could each weekday afternoon to tune in and watch Dan Curtis' long-running (1966-71) witch/vampire/werewolf/time travel/ghostly love story on TV.  Formerly devoid of bloodsuckers, long-undead vampire Barnabas Collins began fang-ing his way into the show long after its inception -- and ratings soared.

Jonathan Frid was Barnabas, and during an intended brief introduction and stint on the soap, his role took off like, well, like bats out of hell, and the admittedly stunned actor quickly became the most popular member of the series -- and his background as a classically trained Shakespearean actor didn't hurt, either.  In fact, Frid's diction and mannerisms were perfect for ever-altering time periods and melancholia or darkened moods. Yes, vampire Barnabas Collins un-lived for several seasons, and from Frid's first appearance on the show the only thing successfully staked through the heart was the impression that the only people who indulge in afternoon soap operas were bored housewives.

As often as I could in 1968, once finished with daily training,  I rushed off to the Airman's Club at Sheppard Air Force Base in Texas, ready to do verbal battle with others as we argued over watching either game shows or "Dark Shadows."  We DS viewers usually won.

While the Air Force was -- publicly -- giving up on UFO investigations in 1969, the"Dark Shadows" mania also evidenced itself on the base exchange (store) retail level, where suddenly abundant copies of a record album (a.k.a. an LP, or long-play album, a faded, yet re-emerging antiquity played with a needle) featuring music from the show, scored by Robert Cobert, and dramatic readings from Frid and David Selby (who played werewolf Quentin Collins) filled the racks.  I bought one and only later noticed that the reverse side of the jacket, in black and white, was printed as a negative image, perhaps by accident, perhaps by design.  In recent years, much of Cobert's music from the series enjoyed re-release on compact discs, and considering that "Dark Shadows" spiked during the turbulent Vietnam Era, when hard rock music and drug-infested living almost seemed the norm, Cobert's dramatic, morose and non-psychedelic scores hold up remarkably well.

Frid is certain to be remembered primarily as the vampire Barnabas Collins, and his death was preceded by two big screen adaptations (only one with him) of the TV series, a short-lived evening TV revival of "Dark Shadows" with a different cast, and succeeded by Tim Burton's upcoming (almost certainly) ruinous adaptation of everything memorable about the original series, utilizing the talents of Johnny Depp. Unlike slapstick scenes and comedic dialogue advertised in film previews, the original TV series was no laughing matter, relying instead upon suspense, drama and implied instances of utter horror.

Indeed, yes, "Dark Shadows" was a campy, cheaply constructed TV show presented from NY studios without benefit of current-day special effects.  But the actors and actresses were top-notch and eminently able to remember their lines each and every day when, in its early years, the show was aired live, sometimes jinxed by unavoidable bloopers. 

Years later, following the death of veteran actress and prominent "Collins family" matron Joan Bennett, I remember watching an interview with (surprise!) her nephew, the late talk show host Morton Downey, Jr., who, when asked about Ms. Bennett, replied, apparently infused with angry childhood memories, "Aunt Joan?  That cold bitch!"  Yep, there's nothing like family to warm your heart.

Surviving cast members continue to attend "Dark Shadows" festivals and the like, and many years ago when I reviewed books for a newspaper, key series actress Kathryn Leigh Scott kindly sent me a great press kit and book she wrote about the show.

Jonathan Frid tolerated, but never fully appreciated his legacy on the series, probably because he became quickly and forever typecast as Barnabas.  If it's any consolation, though, I think old Will Shakespeare himself would have applauded both the actor and his act.

(Photos by ABC-TV and affiliated photographers for the record album and enclosed poster, 1969)

GLENN BECK AND THE FANTASTIC:  Say what you want, but the guy, his staff and -- most important -- his high-level contacts in the government, military and industry are patriots, and currently in a frenzy.  His latest special, "Rumors of War 3" takes a hard line on members of the Muslim Brotherhood invited into the U.S. government and allowed into its highest levels with predictably serious problems for national security. .  There are members of Congress actively talking about, working on and worrying over this, and Homeland Security is apparently of no help in providing answers.  So what else is new?  If -- if -- the facts in this mess are what they seem to be, we must demand not only that people leave Office and high official positions at once, but that they slide right into prison uniforms.  Extreme Islam is here and its members, dedicated to destroying America, may have penetrated every level of government -- invited in by the perpetually unapologetic and, indeed, hospitable accommodating Obama bunch.  This sounds absolutely nuts, but the evidence appears plausible.  I strive not to be a conspiracy blogger, but this is big stuff, known to Congress, and as both an American and a veteran I am beyond outrage.  Let's clarify the depths of this allegedly dangerous situation and respond appropriately.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Secret No More

Yeah, I know. You're still out there, looking around for a petition to sign, begging for White House approval and submission regarding the UFO issue. This White House. Not going to happen.

Meanwhile, the wheels of government grind on -- and I do mean "grind" on -- with lavish but unnecessary parties in Vegas, and apparently not even members of the Secret Service can avoid occasions such as a festive party atmosphere in Colombia.

As longtime readers of this blog know, I once had my own close encounter with the Secret Service, but ladies of the evening were not in tow that night. Yet, I do wonder just how everything went down in Colombia. What were they thinking?

If I may be so bold as to offer a suggestion to Secret Service personnel -- next time some of you guys want hookers, first try going through the General Services Administration. They apparently have a certain expertise about matters involving extravagant parties.

Oh, and by the way? Following this White House bunch around the world as you do, prettying everything up for photo ops with international thugs, who can blame you for seeking blessings from the world's oldest profession? Or -- is politics the world's oldest profession? I forget. Same neighborhood, though.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Wild About Harry (Very)

Some things are better left unsaid. Some secrets are better left unrevealed. But all too frequently time and the opportunity to complement historical references make updates necessary. Okay.

The thing is, I'm sure that some people already know, and they were aware many years ago about this matter's details, but I didn't stay in touch with events, though they surely must have continued to unfold, so all I can do is add one addendum: A name.

In 2000 the NICAP Web site ( posted my article, "Coral Lorenzen and the Ubatuba UFO Fragments." It's still there, and you might wish to read the piece to know what's under discussion here today.

Yes, the article concerned the famous/infamous alleged fragments from a Brazilian UFO. Detailed articles about Ubatuba, and some very scientific literature, are freely available on the Internet, so there was no point in my retelling the story of how things came to be.

Besides, my involvement with the Ubatuba incident was minimal and, though my role in attempting to retrieve a missing fragment for Coral Lorenzen quickly became futile, the real news was Coral herself -- and, particularly, one other player whose identity I have not revealed until now: The late writer Harry Lebelson, probably best known for his UFO-related articles in OMNI Magazine.

Yes, it was Lebelson to whom Coral's husband Jim loaned a rare Ubatuba fragment years ago because Lebelson had a scientist on tap who was going to conduct an analysis. According to Coral Lorenzen, Lebelson discovered that Coral, Jim and associates were looking for him because they wanted that piece back for their own scientific examination, so he contacted Coral and informed her that, indeed, he had returned the Ubatuba fragment to APRO soon after Jim gave it to him in 1979. However, according to Coral when we spoke in May of 1987, "We know better" because she logged all deliveries in by herself, and Lebelson's loaner never came back.

Coral confronted Harry Lebelson about the fragment in 1979 in San Diego, at Hal Starr's "UFO '79" conference, where she continued to insist that he had not returned the piece. In fact, Coral soon learned that Lebelson's scientist actually HAD possessed the Ubatuba fragment, but supposedly gave it to yet another man who worked for a major corporation in or near a small NY town.

And this is where things became dicey, because not only was this final recipient "big on UFOs," but he was also known to have fallen hook, line and sinker for the Billy Meier UFO stories, possibly evoking a complication for APRO.

All in all, there was disagreement between Coral and Jim about Jim releasing the fragment originally, and she even mentioned the late Wendelle Stevens to me, in no way comfortable about his possible relationship to the man believed to be in possession of the Ubatuba piece.

The search became convoluted and I do not know to this day whether the missing fragment was recovered, though another APRO field investigator, residing closer to the location in question, was summoned following my inability to learn anything substantial.

There had been impressive back-and-forth conversations between Lebelson and the Lorenzens about the situation, but Coral only became more infuriated with him. "I debated with Jim," Coral told me. "I said, don't give (the piece) to Lebelson because I don't think he knows what the hell he's doing. Lebelson has never done a damned thing for us. He's a writer. He wants to make a buck off anybody he can." Yes, those were the words Coral used. I have not embellished her sentiments. She remained furious about the missing Ubatuba specimen, and Harry Lebelson seemed the responsible party.

Of course, the Lorenzens and Mr. Lebelson are long departed, so I thought this the best time to reveal Harry as the article's "mystery man," in Coral's own definitive, frustrated words.

WHAT NEXT? There are those who believe events happen in threes. Hmm. A few days ago, a female airline flight attendant went annoyingly and famously newsworthy-bonkers, last week a male pilot allegedly became dangerously disturbed, and. . .well, it's only a matter of time before Incident Number Three occurs. I surmise that somewhere, right now, there's a flight mechanic standing under a jet engine, chanting under his breath, "If man were meant to fly, God would have given him wings instead of constant visions of killer clowns with machetes telling him -- kill them, I command you, kill them all now." So he starts loosening a bolt here, a bolt there, and before you know it there's an aircraft destined for just one last cruise through majestic clouds of deceptive beauty. Damn those killer clowns.

ANOTHER AUTISM UPDATE: Well, things appear to be even more serious than suspected, at least according to a government study from 2008, which now concludes that one in 88 children are diagnosed as autistic by age eight, and boys are five times more likely to be autistic than girls. The study claims an even more dire situation when zeroing in on blacks and Hispanics, settling on a number of one out of 47 children being autistic. Some. . . experts. . .do admit that what used to be called retardation is now called autism in some cases, and screenings have become more concentrated, resulting in more finds. One suspects the researchers are merely discovering much of what already existed as a part of normal society (those considered "slow," for instance), and the fact that they use the important-sounding term, "autism spectrum" indicates a wide divergence of diagnostic controversy. In any case, early attention to the disorder seems to be of considerable benefit. Maybe a significant part of the problem is parents who fail to engage their young children in adequate communication skills early on -- and if you've seen some clueless parents these days, you know what I mean. One wonders if these statistics also apply internationally because, if they do, our species may well be toast within mere decades. With an alleged increase in autism and an established increase in brain tumors, OCD, Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia, schizophrenia, and a cavalcade of brain-centered diseases and syndromes, it's rather ironic to consider that future wars of mass destruction may come, not from air, land or sea, but literally from our own deteriorating brain tissue. Nevertheless, we should remain both skeptical and curious about the ultimate definition of these newly released numbers, as they continue to rise and fall almost as if by whim. Grant money, grant money, grant money. . .Meantime, I just spent 10 minutes watching two medical/professional apparitions on TV, gushing over their credentials, and after all that trouble neither one could tell us why autism exists. Grant money, grant money, grant money. . .or maybe dramatic brain changes en masse are caused by all those cursed alien visitations. Just KNEW they were up to something. Like those killer clowns, maybe?