Remembering John Karlen, Our Willie 1933-2020

Well, 2020 is off to a bangin’ start when your own sister does not even bother to share the noteworthy, albeit sobering news that John Karlen, beloved actor of Dark Shadows, died peacefully of congestive heart failure on January 22. May this be a reminder to the Countess to always heed those promptings to watch Dark Shadows.

John Karlen brought Willie Loomis–con man turned slave of a vampire to eventual devoted friend and protector of Barnabas Collins–to life, for which I am grateful.

While the Countess hasn’t binged Dark Shadows in awhile, I’m resorting to my memory and YouTube to share some of my favorite Willie moments in memoriam. (I am going to refrain from posting the fan video set to music from Titanic…yes, really.) Here we go:

1. The coffin isn’t empty…surprise! 

Willie’s greed and lust for the legendary Collins jewels bit him in the butt–er, neck–when he went a-huntin’ in the Collins mausoleum. But of course. A new era begins.

2. “You’re a bad liar, Willie. You told them. You must have told them. You must have betrayed me. You shouldn’t have done that, Willie. That means I’m going to have to punish you. I must teach you your lesson, Willie. You’ll never betray me again!”

Classic. Unforgettable. Possibly nightmare-inducing.

3. You should have just done Uber Eats, Adam. 

Willie is charged with feeding Adam and cruelly taunts him with a chicken leg. Adam retaliates, and Barnabas is forced to intervene with his superb parenting skills: he raises his wolf-head cane and orders Adam to “LET WILLIE GO!” Adam whimpers like an abused dog, and Willie runs off like one–literally. Poor Adam. Poor Willie. Life at the Old House is rough.

4. Ooooh….pretty! 

Simpler, happier times when Adam and Willie got along and marveled at the beauty of Josette’s jewelry. They had so much more in common than they ever realized.

5. “Look at me. Look into my eyes!” “I don’t want to!” 

Angelique, operating under the alias Cassandra, extracts information from Willie about her number one obsession (pssst, Barnabas) the only way she knows how: witchcraft. Female empowerment, baby. No exposed butt cheeks required. Heck, she doesn’t even need a roaring fire in this scene.

And, my all-time favorite…. 

Willie and Julia have quarantined Barnabas for his own good, but Barnabas really wants some water — and Willie falls for it. Absolute classic.

Of course, John Karlen portrayed other characters on Dark Shadows–renowned Barnabas Collins biographer Willie Loomis (Parallel Time), practical joker Carl Collins (Quentin Collin’s loony brother), decapitated head collector Desmond Collins (1840), and nosy lawyer Kendrick Young (1840/1841 Parallel Time)–but it was the voice of Willie that a blind woman at the race track recognized, an occurrence that amazed John Karlen. Fellow Dark Shadows cast members Kathryn Leigh Scott (Maggie, Willie’s one true love) and David Selby (Quentin, tsssss) referred to Karlen as a “force of nature” who of course will be sorely missed. We love ya, Willie.

JFrid, KLS, & John Karlen

“There’s a lot of things we deserve but never get. And there’s things we get but don’t deserve.”
— Willie Loomis, S A G E