At the eve of the ascension of Barnabas Collins, I’ve come to view Dark Shadows is one of the queerest television series in history. Now I’m beginning to better understand why I was obsessed by this morose soap opera at age four: I bore the imprint of what I saw on the screen. I was drawn to something I was incapable of recognizing or articulating –
– like Willie with Barnabas’s ring.
Smooth-talking extortionist Jason McGuire arrives in Collinsport looking to shake down Elizabeth Collins Stoddard for The Secret in the Basement, which has been alluded to since the series’ inception.
But wait, the seafaring Irishman has brought “a friend” along for the scheme, though it’s never clear why, at least not explicitly.
Hot-headed, horny Willie Loomis is the ne’er-do-well companion whose presence makes no sense – other than as the much younger rough-trade lover of the roguish McGuire.
Willie, in his original incarnation portrayed by James Hall, is introduced as a semi-Southern, James Dean-flavored catch of sea trash whose central appeal may well lie in his recklessness/lawlessness. Jean Genet would have been smitten, and so is Jason McGuire, charmingly played by Dennis Patrick.
Down at the Blue Whale, their sexual chemistry is melting the barstools:
Later, after Willie storms Collinwood and demands accommodation, with Jason sweet-talking Mrs. Johnson into setting him up in a room right next to his, the two appear borderline jubilant at spending the night together, with Jason’s Daddy role spelled right out for us by an eager Willie:
The coded relationship between seedy sailors Jason and Willie reveals another facet of queerness about Dark Shadows, this one rather sweet, though like so much of Dark Shadows and queer lore, destined for tragedy.
But on this Saint Patrick’s Day, I will remember only the love.