There’s so much fandom political crap going on these days. I don’t bother to post in most of the DS fan groups because one human primate or another has pissed on the borders and staked their claim there. That isn’t most of the fans, just one or two who must feel important and in control — or who listen to the wrong people. Grayson Hall, to those of you too young to remember, played the iconic Dr Julia Hoffman on the original Dark Shadows. She played a lot of other roles on the series, but Julia is the one for which she is most known.
I was inspired to do this by my old friend Nancy Kersey’s wonderful posts about Jonathan Frid. She knew Jonathan much better than I did Grayson, but here are the memories I can share.
I’m just writing this about a lady I knew a little. I had the rare opportunity to know my childhood hero. For a brief period of years, I co-ran a fan club for Grayson Hall. I was the (brave) one who called Grayson on a weekly basis to “check in” and catch up on the news. She was always very kind to me. I think she sensed in me a wounded bird and she was the champion of all wounded birds, having been one as a young girl and grown up to be somewhat stronger. Toward the end, we had words on occasion, because I didn’t understand she was ill and thus pushing me away. I understand her a lot better now that I’m older.
We talked about her parents. Her mother who lived in Pomona. Her father, Joe Grossman, a car dealer who had brought home a series of showgirls after his divorce. Both of her parents were very poor role models. Grayson (then Shirley Grossman) raised herself, I think. She mentioned once that her father was planning to leave town on September 18th. Shirley had replied, “but that’s my birthday.” Joe responded, “It is?” That sort of summed things up.
We talked a lot about my parents. Grayson helped me make one of the most difficult decisions I’ve ever made. My mother died from alcoholism, leaving behind her my little sister, then 15 years old. She had wanted our older sister to raise her, which my sister didn’t want to do. My other sibling was likewise unwilling. Ergo, it was me — trying to deal with a very angry, grief-stricken 15 year old girl who had been largely isolated from society for a few years during the depths of my mother’s drinking — dealing with her. Our father was still alive. Our father, for lots of reasons, was a bad father, but I couldn’t manage my kid sister. The only other place for her to go was to my dad’s. It was that or our stepfather, who was a worse alcoholic than our mother.
Grayson helped me parse through that decision. It was painful, but I eventually determined that I had no choice but to send my sister to live with our father. She played the stand-in mother for me while the rest of my mother surrogates were busy doing other things. She didn’t have to bother to do that, but she did.
She always made me laugh. At the time I first knew her, my husband and I had a problem neighbor — a real psycho. Eventually, he set fire to his apartment and gutted it. Our place was fine and no one was hurt, so I found it funny. When I told her what he’d done, she roared with laughter and said, “Well, of course he did!” It was the only batshit crazy thing he hadn’t done.
I remember when she broke her hip, falling down some stairs at Sam and Grayson’s country home in Rhinebeck, NY. She had a swimming pool prescribed by her doctor. I always thought that was wonderful — he RX’d a swimming pool. When she was questioned by the IRS, she had to get the prescription in writing. “My life is on that paper!” she said to a friend of mine.
Grayson attended the Grayson Gathering, which the fan club threw for her at Tavern on the Green in NYC. A few fans got to talk to her and interact. I couldn’t attend due to a bleeding ulcer, but my dear friend and co-director, Beth Klapper, and Marcy Robin from Shadowgram attended in my place. Grayson entertained everyone and finished the evening by picking up the tab. “Tax deduction,” she told me later.
I would meet her about a year later, during a “lost summer” period in which I cut-off all contact with fandom. I took a road trip with my husband. We had dinner with Grayson at a weird little restaurant near her home. Her son, Matt, had just taken a newspaper job somewhere in the southwest. We talked about that. She showed me a box of photos from “the olden days” — Dark Shadows period. I got to hear stories.
We ended on a good note, for which I’m glad. Losing her was painful, even though there was some acrimony, because I was a dumb kid at the time.
As I said, I didn’t know her well, but I’m very glad I knew her. She will always be my hero.
BTW, if you’re interested in reading more about her, there’s a great biography on her by Rebecca Jamison, based in part on the research of Steven Shutt (I think that was his name).
Originally published at Melody Clark. You can comment here or there.
What a wonderful essay and remembrance of Grayson on her birthday. Thank you for writing this.
Grayson Hall, My Acting Mentor and All Time Favorite Actress
Thank you so much for sharing your wonderful memories of Grayson Hall. I consider myself to be her #1 fan. She was my inspiration. At the tender age of 13, I caught the " acting bug," from her. In my late 30\'s and early 40\'s, I began acting in community plays and church dramas. It has not been much, but it has been so much fun. I\'ve also written a fan fiction story ending the show the way I thought it should have. It is due to Grayson\'s example that I have been encouraged to persue this venue. I adored her and am so sad that I never got to meet and talk with this awesomely talented lady. I would loved to have had her for a surrogate mother. My memories of her on Dark Shadows will live forever in my heart.
susanleabartelt : Grayson Hall, My Acting Mentor and All Time Favorite Actress [+0]