I’m sitting here wondering what to write that would be adequate enough to pay tribute to Mr. John Karlen, most famous for the many roles he played on DARK SHADOWS, most prominent among these the role of Willie Loomis, the sociopathic grifter who unwittingly frees vampire Barnabas Collins from the latter’s imprisonment in a chained coffin—and ends up discovering his own humanity after he is forced to play Renfield to an originally not very nice vampire. Anyone who has seen any of Karlen’s work on DARK SHADOWS or elsewhere already knows just how talented he was. This is attested to by the fact that out of all the DARK SHADOWS cast, among which were some truly gifted performers, John was the only one to go on to win critical acclaim for outside projects. Or better to say that he won the most acclaim, as he won an Emmy award for his work on the 80s female-led cop show CAGNEY AND LACEY. He deserved the accolades, no question, but he deserved a lot more of them, too.
I never met John Karlen. I got into DARK SHADOWS only a few years ago, and I never made it to any of the conventions. That’s a shame, because I know I would have loved him. I’ve never heard anyone, whether his fellow cast members or the fans, say a bad word about him. So much the opposite. He never forgot the one that brought him to the dance, they say, and never failed to show his appreciation to the fan base.
In my heart you are forever young, John, and you’ll always be Willie to me. I’ll look you up in the next world. Until then, I’ll content myself with voicing my appreciation here.