When the movie The Lost Boys came out, I was 12 years old. I developed an immediate crush, not on the Coreys, but on Keifer Sutherland who played David, the ultimate bad boy and leader of a band of vampires in Santa Carla, California. With a perfect vampire sneer and contempt for the living, Keifer managed to scare me and send a pleasant little chill down my spine.
Looking back on the movie now, I think David and his vampire gang represented the pitfalls we all must navigate as we're growing up, and so that movie spoke to me on many different levels.
And did I mention the fabulous soundtrack? "People are Strange" still takes me back to that movie and that moment in my life. Junior high is one of the strangest times in a person's life, isn't it? Things change so quickly at that age -- not just our bodies, but our personal tastes as well -- as we start to try on and discard different personas.
My first vampire was Barnabas Collins on the original gothic soap opera Dark Shadows. I was only four or five years old when the show first aired, but Barnabas was the reason I kept watching. The wonderfully talented Jonathon Frid, a Shakespearean actor with a Master's in Drama from Yale, brought a deeply textured performance to a character that very easily could have been campy in the hands of a lesser actor.
I had a major crush on Barnabas even though I was pretty young. Surprisingly, Frid was a middle-aged man with average looks, nothing at all like the leading men of that time such as Paul Newman, Robert Redford, or Rock Hudson. But he brought such heart and pathos to the character that I couldn't help falling in love with him. And neither could the ladies of Dark Shadows such as Josette DuPre, Angelique Bouchard, Roxanne Drew, and Dr. Julia Hoffman.
I believe Barnabas is the first instance of the vampire as a tragic hero in film, TV, or movies. Dracula was portrayed as a villain by Bela Lugosi in the 1930s and Christopher Lee in the 1950s, and Anne Rice's Interview with the Vampire's tragic vampire hero Louis was not published until 1975, four years after Dark Shadows' last episode. The character of Nick Knight from the TV show Forever Knight owes quite a bit to Barnabas Collins, not only in Nick's quest to reclaim his humanity, but also in the character of Dr. Natalie Lambert, a coroner, who like Dr. Julia Hoffman on Dark Shadows, attempts to cure Nick of vampirism with medical science.
Once you discount Bunnicula -- the rabbit who sucked carrots of their fleshy, orange color -- and The Count from Sesame Street who never actually bit anyone in spite of his uber-pointy felt fangs, the first vampire I ever encountered was Nick Knight of the TV show Forever Knight.
Nick, played by Geraint Wyn Davies, was a detective trying to repay humanity for his sins while constantly being tempted back to the dark side by his maker, Lacroix. But I think my favorite character was the sassy-smart doctor, Natalie, doing her best to try and help Nick's medical "affliction" through such non-effective remedies as herbal tea.
The show aired in the middle of the night -- possibly because it was a Canadian show our local station had picked up as filler -- but whatever the reason, my mother would program the VCR to record and then we'd watch the episodes together the following afternoon.
The series ending was tragic and haunts me to this day -- Lacroix telling Nick, "You took too much." In spite of all his efforts, Nick can't overcome his faults -- it's him not his vampire nature that is his undoing -- and that one thing leads to the destruction of everything he loves.
- Margo Bond Collin's Top Five Vampires
- Why Vampires?
- Evolution of the Vampire looks briefly at the cinematic history of the bloodsucking undead.
- Susan Abel Sullivan's Jonathan Frid remembrance.
- Bloody Good Vampires blog also did a Jonathan Frid tribute.
And so we turn this question over to you -- who was your first vampire? Leave us a comment and let us know!