Skip to main content Skip to footer site map

John Karlen Dies at Age 86

John Karlen Dies at Age 86

BroadwayWorld is saddened to report that actor John Karlen passed away earlier today at age 86 of congestive heart failure in hospice care in Burbank, California.

Of course, John is best-known among "Dark Shadows" fans as the scheming drifter Willie Loomis, who becomes an unwitting servant to vampire Barnabas Collins, eventually becoming a confidant as well as a character with empathy and a moral compass.

John also was a longtime, generous supporter of DS fan efforts, readily helping the show enjoy a cult-classic afterlife by attending numerous DS Festivals as well as earlier DS-themed events, dating back to 1971 with John's participation in the "Miss American Ghost" contest to promote the release of the film "Night of Dark Shadows."

Indeed, John continued to be a lively, willing, and warm presence across nearly 50 years of the original DS series' afterlife.

When KHJ Television in Los Angeles began airing DS reruns in the mid-1970s, John joined a promotional blood drive. In 1977 he appeared as the first - and only - DS guest for the first-ever DS fan convention gathering, ShadowCon I, as part of the overall Science fiction / fantasy / horror fan programming at StarCon in San Diego.

This soon was followed by annual DS-focused ShadowCon fan conventions held in Los Angeles through 1984. Along with other original DS cast members, John was a regular guest.

Subsequently, John participated in the annual Dark Shadows Festivals on the west coast starting in 1987 and he began attending the New York area DS Fests a decade later. At every DS event he attended, John was always a delight to be with, very open, outspoken, often teasing and yet also interested in individual people and shared experiences and ideas.

Despite escalating health issues, John last traveled to New York to reunite with DS cast members in celebration of the show's 50th Anniversary in Tarrytown, NY in 2016. He also entertained fans at the DS Halloween Party in Hollywood, CA that same year. He made his last public appearance at the October 2018 Los Angeles sneak-preview of "Master of Dark Shadows" documentary in which he was interviewed.

John always enjoyed the camaraderie of his fellow cast/crew members and interacting with fans of all ages from across the U.S, and beyond, including Canada, England, Australia, Mexico, and elsewhere.

John loved acting and telling stories of his early days growing up in Brooklyn, his Polish ancestry, his early work on the stage, favorite actors and movies, and his love of sports, the race track, and a good meal.

A veteran of the Korean war, John was a passionate man with a long life of adventures and accomplishments. His contributions both in front of and behind the camera will long be remembered by the countless friends and fans he touched along the way.

We thank you, John, for bringing so much into our lives.

Born John Adam Karlewicz on May 28, 1933, in Brooklyn, New York, actor John Karlen attended the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York.

He is best-known for portraying Willie Loomis on the original 1966-71 ABC-TV daytime drama Dark Shadows. As part of the show's repertory company approach, he also played Carl Collins, William H. Loomis, Desmond Collins and Kendrick Collins.

From 1982-1988, Karlen portrayed Harvey Lacey, husband of actress Tyne Daly's female police officer Mary Beth Lacey, earning him a Best Supporting Actor Emmy Award in 1986. He reprised the role in a series of 1990s Cagney & Lacey television movies.

Karlen appeared as a guest actor in dozens of television series and movies from the 1950s through the 1990s including Kraft Television Theatre, Naked City, N.Y.P.D., Kojak, Trapper John M.D., Fame, Hill Street Blues and Murder She Wrote.

John made his motion picture debut in House Of Dark Shadows in 1970, followed by Night Of Dark Shadows, Daughters Of Darkness, A Small Town In Texas, Pennies from Heaven, Impulse, Native Son and Dark Wind.

His stage career began in 1959 with the Broadway production of Tennessee Williams' Sweet Bird Of Youth followed by Invitation To A March and The Milk Train Doesn't Stop Here Anymore. Other stage credits include Marat/Sade, Caligula, and Prometheus Bound.

Survivors include son Adam and ex-wife Betty Karlen.

Related Stories View MoreTV Stories

From This Author - Sarah Jae Leiber

Development Halts On Disney+ BEAUTY AND THE BEAST Prequel SeriesDevelopment Halts On Disney+ BEAUTY AND THE BEAST Prequel Series
February 10, 2022

A planned Beauty and the Beast musical prequel series will not move forward at Disney+.

Tony & Grammy Winner Michael Cerveris' Loose Cattle to Stream Live Performance TonightTony & Grammy Winner Michael Cerveris' Loose Cattle to Stream Live Performance Tonight
January 5, 2022

Loose Cattle, fronted by two-time Tony Award & Grammy winner Michael Cerveris and Kimberly Kaye, will stream a performance live from New Orleans tonight!

Bertie Carvel Joins THE CROWN Season Five As Tony BlairBertie Carvel Joins THE CROWN Season Five As Tony Blair
October 28, 2021

The acclaimed Netflix series, 'The Crown' has added Tony Award-winning actor Bertie Carvel to its cast in the role of British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

September 17, 2021

Inspired by true events, Everybody's Talking About Jamie follows Jamie New (Harwood), a teenager from Sheffield, who dreams of life on stage.

VIDEO: Ryan Reynolds and Will Ferrell Duet on the Set of SPIRITEDVIDEO: Ryan Reynolds and Will Ferrell Duet on the Set of SPIRITED
September 13, 2021

Spirited, a new holiday musical adventure starring Ryan Reynolds and Will Ferrell has officially begun filming, and it looks like the film's stars are bonding through music on camera and behind the scenes.