Apr 12, 2015

Dark Shadows: David Collins, the Gay Heir to the Throne

I loved the Gothic soap opera Dark Shadows (1966-71), though in retrospect I didn't see it very much.  It came on just as the school day was ending, so if my friends and I ran fast, we could catch the last 10-15 minutes.  But even after 40 years, I still have fond memories of the gay-subtext romance between Barnabas and Willie, the conflicted, often-shirtless werewolf Chris Jennings, and David Collins, the young heir to the family fortune and ghostly doings.










Although he was a kid, and then a teenager (aged 10-15), he didn't do any of the things I did: he never watched tv, went to school, or got birthday or Christmas presents, and his parents, Elizabeth and Uncle Roger, never pushed him into playing sports or liking girls.


He sometimes had a female companion for adventures, but he never longed for them; they were playmates, nothing more.  Instead, David found his strongest emotional bonds with older men, first Chris Jennings, then Quinten (who had a Dorian Gray portrait in the attic), and then unwitting antichrist Jeb Hawkes.  I didn't know it then, but I saw some strong gay symbolism in David.





David Henesy, who played David Collins, was as popular as the other teen idols of the 1960s, like Bobby Sherman and David Cassidy, and photographed for teen magazines nearly as often.  Oddly, he consented to only one shirtless  shot, but still, I thought he was dreamy, and fantasized about meeting him one day.

In fact, by the time I moved to West Hollywood, he had retired from acting, and moved to Panama, where today he runs a chain of upscale restaurants.

There have been remakes in 1991, 20015, and 2012, but they eliminated the gay symbolism by casting David with little kids: Joseph Gordon-Levitt,  Alexander Gould (top photo), and Gulliver McGrath.

Or maybe it's too late for the magic to return.

See also: Alexander Gould in Weeds.