I set a curse on You Barnabas Collins! You will never rest! And you will never be able to love anyone for whoever loves you will die! That is my curse and you will live with it for all eternity!
Those were the chilling words that Angelique Collins (nee Bouchard) uttered as she lay dying at the hands of her husband, Barnabas Collins. Of course, just moments later a "flying" bat (hanging from a string attached to a pole) breaks through the nearby bay window, attaching itself to his throat and transforms him into a vampire. Emphatically paraphrasing the 18th Century Poet William Congreve: Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned. It is a fact that housewives, school children and gay men of every age sat on the edge of their seats that fateful afternoon in 1967 as Angelique uttered her faithful hex on the cult classic soap opera Dark Shadows. That actress was Lara Parker. She is still going strong and keeping the legacy of Dark Shadows alive. Arguably, and perhaps more aptly in this context, she is keeping it undead.
Long before Susan Lucci, Lara Parker was daytime's first real Bitch Goddess. With respectful tipping of the hat to daytime bitches everywhere I mean that in every good sense of the word. Unlike La Lucci (Erica Kane -- All My Children) Angelique wouldn't try to ruin a person's life by merely taking over their business. No, she would fashion a doll out of clay and throw in a few pins and keep pushing until her enemies were writhing in agony on the floor. Or she would summon off-screen powers and chant breath defying spells. With Ms. Parker's stunning appearance on camera she would not only accomplish the evil deed at hand but also transfix the aforementioned perched viewers.
If some of Angelique's spells seemed less than stellar in appearance, well, the fault laid less with her sorcery and more within the fact that she was casting them live on videotape. The Actress herself recalls casting a spell over a house of flaming tarot cards, that had been dowsed a little too generously with lighter fluid by an over enthusiastic prop man. As Angelique urged the house of cards to "Burn! Burn! Burn!" there was nothing left but a pile of ash and three more pages of incantation to recite. However, that's all a part of the charm of the everlasting appeal of Dark Shadows. Those wonderful little mishaps that crept in but still kept the audience in its spell.
While we the audience was eventually given an explanation as to why Barnabas was a creature of the night, like so many story lines on Dark Shadows, Angelique's background was simply never explained. Thus a seed was planted and so in 1998 Miss Parker, who has degrees in writing and English, published Angelique's Descent the first of three novels, which continue the Dark Shadows legacy. The first of which is very much in the style of Gregory Maguire's Wicked in terms of a literary approach to a subject that fans have a deep connection with. This first novel explains that Angelique was never really truly evil, just more a victim of circumstance. The malevolence that she harbored within her was not without reason. The would-be witch was simply misunderstood.
Like her vampiric leading man, Jonathan Frid (Barnabas Collins), Lara Parker knew that Angelique needed to have a core. Which (initially) with reasonable probability stemmed unwittingly from the fact that she really wanted to be the heroine.
"I wanted to suffer and cry!" Lara Parker would later laugh (not as infamously sinisterly as her TV counterpart) when talking about her early days on the show "But later on I realized that I had the choice role and I really began to relish it!"
While she could scare the pants off of adults and children alike, with her steely hypnotic gaze and bewitching blue eyes, that could just as easily turn into those of a wounded doe thus evoking deep sympathy from the TV audience. As for that trademark witchy laugh, like Margaret Hamilton of Wicked Witch of the West fame who often was stopped on the street by fans for a taste her delicious laugh, there isn't a Dark Shadows Festival that goes by that one or two fans inevitably ask for a delivery of it. Of course always the good sport Lara Parker happily obliges them with her fiendish and maniacal cackle. Which inevitably sends a hotel auditorium filled with hardcore fans of every age into thunderous cheers and applause. Dark Shadows Festivals still occur with great frequency even more than 40 years later, and have been known to attract more than 4,000 people over a weekend.
Parker's Second novel, Dark Shadows: The Salem Branch sent her readers and "Barnabas" back on a thrilling adventure to the legendary Salem Witch Trials In September of 2013 her third novel, Dark Shadows: Wolf Moon Rising turned it's attentions to Quentin Collins and a young raucous and vivacious Elizabeth Collins (Stoddard). Not just a wolf with the ladies, Quentin in cursed by the beams of the full moon. Parker's story finds David Collins on the brink of manhood, now searching desperately for the enchanted portrait that has helped to ward off Quentin's lycanthropy for decades. And true to form, David and his heartthrob, Jacqueline (the reincarnation of Angelique) is sent back in time on a rip roaring adventure to the Collinwood of the 1920's. There are no cobwebs in this Collinwood. No the Collinwood of the 1929 is one decadence, a place, to quote Kander and Ebb "where the gin is cold but the piano is hot!" Of course, vampires, witches and werewolves abound and even the ghosts...wait, those aren't ghosts! Those flowing white robes belong to a different kind of ghoul, a more insidious monster...The Ku Klux Klan. Linked to the Collins family in their obsequious past, they are part of the true curse of Collinwood.
This is, in my opinion, the best of Parker's novels yet; capturing the essence of the original series, as well as shades of the two MGM feature films (1970 and 1971) and a hint of the Johnny Depp film (2012). Which all combine to create a wonderful trifecta providing something for everyone. Ms. Parker also wonderfully captures the vernacular of the dialogue between the characters as if it were right out of one of Sam Hall's Dark Shadows scripts. If you're familiar with the original series you can visually imagine those quick camera cuts when someone (who has been missing in action for several days) turns up, the other camera panning back to the surprised faces of the other actors and capped off with one of Robert Cobert's haunting musical scene stingers.
I must admit I could not stop laughing when one of the female characters is crept up upon in the woods outside of Collinwood by Barnabas prompting the woman to say, "You scared the shit out of me!" WELL, OF COURSE! We all knew that's what Barnabas' bevy of beauties was thinking, they just couldn't say it on daytime TV in 1969!
The show's writers could have benefited greatly from Ms. Parker's creative ingenuity during its run. Sending the story back "through time and space" and into the flapper era was truly an inspired idea and might have given the original series the boost it so desperately needed in what ended up beings its final year (1971). It certainly would have been a marked improvement over the lackluster Wuthering Heights meets Shirley Jackson's The Lottery story line, which sent the show off with a whimper. Much of this wasn't just the writer's fault, as Jonathan Frid no longer wanted to play Barnabas.
Now some 43 years after its cancellation, Angelique is still flying...or rather Lara Parker is flying, trading in her broomstick, for the comfort of jetliners around the country meeting new fans alongside her rival (on the series) Kathryn Leigh Scott who played Maggie Evans, Josette Dupres and several other characters on the show. Recently, the dynamic duo of good and evil have been making the rounds at conventions in North Carolina and Alabama. All this as they gear up for the official Dark Shadows Festival June 28 and 29 at the Lyndhurst mansion in Tarrytown, New York. The mansion was used as Collinwood in both of MGM's feature adaptations of the Dark Shadows saga. The event offers Dark Shadows fans a chance to meet "Angelique," get an autograph, purchase her books and maybe even convince her to "laugh" for them.
And by no means are Lara's acting days over. Lara has teamed up with her DS alumni, Kathryn Leigh Scott and Jerry Lacy for the new chilling and haunting "Dr. Mabuse" films, in which she portrays "Madame Carrozz." She has also agreed to do a few stage appearances including the title role in "Mrs. Scrooge" in New York City, which I wrote for her in 2006. As well as several skits penned by myself, other fans and fellow actors from the original series at the Festivals.
From my own experiences with Lara Parker, both on a personal and professional level, she is anything but a "Wicked Witch." The lady has a fierce sense of humor; she is a dedicated teacher, exceptional Writer and sought after Actress and Lecturer. It is clear that one of her favorite roles is that of Wife, Mother and now Grandmother. Just watching her face light up when talking about her Grandson leaves no trace of her bitchy and witchy counterpart. So, what does she have in common with Angelique? It is a dedicated and unwavering great strength mixed with her own special brand of magical power, which captivates Dark Shadows fans old and new alike through her new novels and appearances.
For those of us who have wished the show had never ended, all three of Lara Parker's books are required reading for a marvelous continuation of the Dark Shadows saga. One of my favorite lines early on in the book is "Many things die, desire is not one of them." 'Tis true, and Dark Shadows fans never stop desiring more stories about the lives of the Collins clan in the grim and foreboding mansion high atop Widows Hill. Dark Shadows: Wolf Moon Rising delivers the goods.
Will we get another Dark Shadows novel? Here's hoping that Angelique...excuse me, Lara Parker will conjure up a fourth installment!
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