Monday, October 16, 2023

My Memories of Lara Parker (R.I.P. October 12, 2023)

I just learned via actress Kathryn Leigh Scott that Lara Parker (née Mary Lamar Rickey), best known as Angelique from Dark Shadows has passed away at age 84 years old (October 27, 1938–October 12, 2023). Lara and Kathryn have been good friends since the days of Dark Shadows, so my heart goes out particularly to Kathryn for her personal loss.

I remember the first time I saw Lara as Angelique on Dark Shadows, and I fell in love with her right there on the spot. She was beautiful, powerful, menacing, passionate... everything a nine-year-old boy could possibly desire, apparently. Back then, I adored everything about Dark Shadows, especially Jonathan Frid as Barnabas, but it was when Angelique appeared on the screen that I melted into a mass of lovestruck goo.

After Dark Shadows went off the air, Lara appeared in numerous television series, such as Baretta, KojakKolchak: The Night Stalker, Kung Fu, Remington Steele, The Six-Million-Dollar Man, and Switch, and a few theatrical films, such as Hi, Mom, Race with the Devil, and Save the Tiger. I made a point of watching most of these, and my youthful heart remained smitten, but it took a long time for me to get over my resentment over the cancellation of Dark Shadows... and thus Angelique.

Many moons later, Lara wrote a series of Dark Shadows novels, the first being Angelique's Descent, which HarperCollins released in 1998. At the time, Harper was planning a full series of Dark Shadows novels, and Elizabeth Massie and I secured a contract to write the second book — Dreams of the Dark, which was released in 1999. To my profound excitement, Lara wrote the introduction to our book, and to this day, I remain ridiculously geeked about this. Unfortunately, it wasn't long after Dreams of the Dark's release that Harper shuttered its media tie-in division, and this put the kibosh on Ms. Massie and I writing any further Dark Shadows novels for Harper. In the early 2000s, Tor Books contracted several more Dark Shadows novels from Lara.

Over the years, I attended a number of Dark Shadows events, but none was more memorable than my first — the 1999 Dark Shadows Festival at the World Trade Center in New York City. Most of the show's surviving stars were slated to appear and, more than anything, I looked forward to meeting Lara. And, in fact, she was literally the first familiar face I ran into at the festival. She greeted me cordially but had pressing obligations that prevented her from carrying on a lengthy conversation. Happily, several times, she and I were able to talk at greater length. However, the clincher for me was that she and I appeared together for a presentation on our respective Dark Shadows novels in front of the entire convention group. I had started out with a few butterflies in the old gut, but once things got under way, I managed to carry on without (much) embarrassing gushing.

I met numerous other Dark Shadows cast members at that and other gatherings, but that was the first and only time I ever got to spend any appreciable quality time with Lara Parker. And, of course, that was also the last Dark Shadows event at NYC's World Trade Center. I absolutely cherish the fact that I was able to spend some happy, memorable time there before it was gone forever.

To all Lara's friends and loved ones, I send all my sympathies and respect. She truly played a pivotal role in my childhood, and to me as an adult and an author, she added special meaning and nuance to my career. R.I.P., Lara.

Here are a couple of links to articles featuring some of Lara's thoughts on her acting and writing careers:

The Collinsport Historical Society — Out of the Shadows: Lara Parker
Tor/Forge Blog — Researching the Back Story by Lara Parker

On stage with Lara Parker at the 1999 Dark Shadows Festival at the NYC World Trade Center

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