It was a fan encounter most 16-year-old girls could only dream of.
It was 1969, and Elena Nacanther was a teenager living in Brooklyn. She saw Dark Shadows on TV and became enamoured with Jonathan Frid, the Hamilton-born actor who played vampire Barnabas Collins.
She went down to the studio on West 53rd St. in Manhattan for an autograph. The second time she went, she took a scrapbook of Frid and Dark Shadows-related material.
Frid hired her to help answer some of the 6,000 fan letters he received per week. And they became lifelong friends.
Frid died in 2012, but Nacanther is still honouring that friendship. She is one of the organizers of an ongoing campaign to see Frid added to Canada’s Walk of Fame.
She has a Facebook page called “Nominate Jonathan Frid to Canada’s Walk of Fame.” She regularly posts memorabilia and anecdotes from their long-time friendship and urges people to nominate him daily.
She’s not going to drop it. Recognition from his home country was way more important to him than any recognition from Hollywood, she said.
“His Canadian identity was very important to him, and I think this would be the most important thing for him as a legacy,” she said. “He lived in New York for 40 years and he never got his American citizenship because he was so loyal to Canada.”
While he was most known for Dark Shadows, Frid had a long career on stage and screen.
Born in Hamilton and educated at McMaster University, he served in the navy during the Second World War. He studied at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in London and received a masters degree from Yale.
Early roles included Julius Caesar and The Picture of Dorian Gray for the CBC. His Broadway performances included Murder in the Cathedral and Arsenic and Old Lace. He also performed one-man shows to benefit charities. His final role was a cameo in the 2011 remake of Dark Shadows, which starred Johnny Depp.
After Frid died on April 14, 2012 , Depp paid tribute to him. In a statement Depp said "“Jonathan Frid was the reason I used to run home from school to watch Dark Shadows. When I had the honor to finally meet him, as he so generously passed the torch of Barnabas to me, he was as elegant and magical as I had always imagined.”
Frid lived in Ancaster in his later years. He died at Juravinski Hospital and donated the bulk of his estate to the Hamilton Community Foundation.
For his mark on popular culture, and for his charitable spirit, he deserves recognition, Nacanther said. And his friends and fans are determined to get it for him.
“I want people to know what a wonderful man he truly was,” she said.
Nacanther still remembers some of the overwhelming fan letters the actor received. There were so many that Nacanther employed the help of her friends, and they had “fan mail parties” with Frid to answer all of it.
“I remember letter in particular. It was on black paper,” she said. “The lettering was done in blood red. It was from a 31-year-old housewife who really and truly believed he was a vampire.”
Officials from Canada’s Walk of Fame wouldn’t comment on their selection criteria or be interviewed for this story.
Other campaigns have worked
But the Frid campaign isn’t the only time people have lobbied to get people recognition.
Comedian Phil Hartman’s brother rallied for three years before he got the honour in 2012.
As of 2013, there were 151 inductees. Last year, officials inducted Terry Fox, Victor Garber, Oscar Peterson, Christine Sinclair, Alan Thicke, Craig and Marc Kielburger and Bob Ezrin.
Nominations are accepted year round. The deadline for people to be considered for 2014 is April 30.
The Walk of Fame stars are located along parts of King Street West and Simcoe Street in Toronto.