John Karlen, the actor who played Willie Loomis in the American Gothic soap opera Dark Shadows, has died, according to a former co-star and Shadowgram, the Dark Shadows newsletter.
The actor David Selby shared news of Karlen’s death on Facebook; the reports of Karlen’s death originated with Shadowgram, which calls itself an “Official Internet Publication of SHADOWGRAM – THE DARK SHADOWS NEWSLETTER.”
Selby played Quentin Collins in the daytime soap opera Dark Shadows. “It is with profound sadness that we pass along the following information,” wrote Selby. A woman wrote on Selby’s comment thread, “I can’t find anything on this on the internet. Sounds like a hoax to me. So until I find proof I will go with hoax.” But Selby responded, “I wish it were a hoax. Unfortunately, it’s not.” Here’s the post on the John Karlen fan page, which filled with tributes from fans memorializing Karlen.
Tributes also flowed into Twitter for Karlen and on Selby’s comment thread as news of his death spread. “So deeply sorry -sad news -RIP John -I have been watching the entire Dark Shadow seasons on my firestick -you will be forever in our thoughts -all of your DS fans ?” wrote one fan, echoing the thoughts of others.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. The Cause of Death Was Congestive Heart Failure, Reports Say
What was the cause of death? The Shadowgram report indicated that “It is with profound personal sadness that ShadowGram reports that beloved friend JOHN KARLEN passed away earlier today at age 86 of congestive heart failure in hospice care in Burbank, California.”
The site continued, “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.”
“We are sad to report the death of #DarkShadows actor John Karlen, who played Willie Loomis, the unforgettable foil to Barnabas Collins. John died on January 22 in hospice care in Burbank, California. He was 86 had suffered a number of health setbacks over the past decade…” wrote Dark Shadows News on Twitter.
The site continued: “As the tortured criminal turned vampire slave Willie Loomis, John Karlen created one of #DarkShadows’ most conflicted, nuanced characters, and the conflict between Barnabas and Willie delivered many powerful scenes…”
Karlen had health issues for some time. In March 2019, Vampires.com reported that he was hospitalized after suffering from a stroke.
2. Karlen Was Born in New York City to Polish Parents
According to Film Reference, Karlen was born John Adam Karlewicz on born May 28, 1933, in New York. He was the son of Adam Marion and Helen-Agnes (Balondowicz) Karlewicz. He married Elizabeth Marie Silicato on January 20, 1963.
Shadowgram recalled, “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.”
Hollywood Horror Museum wrote on Twitter, “We just got the sad news from Shadowgram that actor John Karlen has passed away at 86. He was best known as Willie Loomis in DARK SHADOWS, but also DAUGHTERS OF DARKNESS and tons of TV shows including Cagney & Lacey. He was kind, great sense of humour, loved and greatly missed.”
3. Karlen Described Himself as a Good Team Player Who Knew How to ‘Enjoy the Day’
Karlen also played Harvey Lacey on the CBS series Cagney & Lacey in the 1980s.
“I’m a good team player,” Karlen told the Pittsburgh Press in 1987. “The role of Harvey has brought me recognition and stability. I’m an entity now.”
The newspaper said that Karlen attributed his persistence to his Polish parents and Brooklyn roots.
“My wife and I were used to living month to month. We were still looking for the rent when this series came along,” he told the newspaper. “…As long as I get my two or three scenes, I’m happy. And I always get them…”
For several years, he played Willie Loomis on ABC’s Dark Shadows. He told the newspaper that people still recognized him from that show. “I’m not a worrier,” he told the newspaper. “I think that’s helped me survive in this business. I know how to enjoy the day. I learned that from my mother…Don’t worry about tomorrow. I’ve got no complaints.”
4. Fans Posted Tributes to Karlen in Social Media
Twitter filled with people mourning Karlen’s loss. “R.I.P. John Karlen. In 1983, I was watching first-run episodes of CAGNEY AND LACEY & reruns of DARK SHADOWS practically near-simultaneously. The fact that Barnabas Collins’s henchman and Tyne Daly’s husband were played by the same guy was one that I was slow to put together,” wrote one fan.
“RIP John Karlen. You lived your life with swagger,” wrote another fan. “Oh! wow! John Karlen, who was most known for Willie Loomis on Dark Shadows has passed away. My eyes are full. Just can’t believe it,” wrote another.
“RIP John Karlen. I know there’s a lot of Dark Shadows love, but for me he’ll always be Harvey Lacey. Harvey and Mary Beth are one of my favorite television couples. Salute,” wrote a fan on Twitter.
A fan wrote on Facebook, “Oh John how we will miss you.. You were a wonderful actor.. But now you are well and pain-free. God bless and keep you. See you in the next world.”
5. Karlen Had a Son Named Adam
According to Karlen’s IMDB profile, he was best known for “Cagney & Lacey (1981), Dark Shadows (1966) and House of Dark Shadows (1970).”
A lesser known factoid: he “starred in a movie about the first World Trade Center bombing; then years later was at the WTC Marriott just days before the 2001 terrorist attack — attending a Dark Shadows Festival.”
He leaves behind one son, Adam Karlen, born 1966.