Thursday, December 1, 2011

World AIDS Day Tribute: Joel Crothers (1941-1985), Dennis Parker (1946-1984), Irving Allen Lee (1948-1992) -- EDGE OF NIGHT, DARK SHADOWS, SOMERSET, RYAN'S HOPE

On World AIDS Day we pay tribute to some of the actors from the soap opera community who lost their lives to the disease.

Joel Crothers was born in Concord, Calif. on January 28, 1941. He died of complications due to AIDS on November 6, 1985 in New York City at age 44.

Crothers first developed an interest in acting at the age of 9. By the age of 12 he was appearing on Broadway in "The Remarkable Mr. Penny Packer" opposite Burgess Meredith.

Crothers took on many television roles throughout the 1950s and 60s while also managing to graduate Phi Betta Kappa from Harvard in 1962. He returned to Broadway opposite Joan Van Ark in "Barefoot in the Park" in 1966, at the same time taking on the role of fisherman Joe Haskell on the new ABC soap opera DARK SHADOWS.

He continued on DARK SHADOWS in the roles of Joe and Lt. Nathan Forbes until 1969. After both characters had been written out, he moved on to a role on THE SECRET STORM until 1971, and then a nearly 5-year stint on SOMERSET.

In 1977 Joel took on his longest running role as Dr. Miles Cavanaugh on THE EDGE OF NIGHT. He would continue the role until the finale of the series in 1984 and was twice nominated for Daytime Emmy awards.

In the early 1980s Joel had taken the part of Ed in the ground-breaking off-Broadway show "Torch Song Trilogy." He was, at the time, the best known member of the cast, though his co-stars Harvey Fierstein, Estelle Getty, and Matthew Broderick would all go on to great acclaim. Joel left before the show transferred to Broadway.

In 1985 Crothers played his last roles, as Jerry Cooper and Jack Lee, on SANTA BARBARA. He was by then growing very ill and, at the age of 44, he succumbed to AIDS-related complications.

Though he had been openly gay among co-stars and others in the entertainment industry, Crothers was closeted publicly and was even engaged to his good friend, actress Veleka Gray, at the time of his death.

Crothers' longtime EDGE OF NIGHT co-star, Dennis Parker (who also went by the name Wade Nichols in some porn flicks), died eight months earlier. He was diagnosed in 1984 and committed suicide on January 28, 1985, at age 38.

Parker, who was born on October 28, 1946 in Freeport, New York, played Police Chief Derek Mallory on EDGE from 1979 to 1984.

Parker had one album, on Casablanca, produced by Jacques Morali, released in 1978. Noted songs were "New York By Night" and "I'm A Dancer."

He sang the title track "Like an Eagle" on The Merv Griffin Show in a 1979 episode that also featured Grace Jones .

Watch a clip featuring Crothers and Parker from THE EDGE OF NIGHT below.

Another EDGE co-star, Irving Allen Lee, was struck down by AIDS-related lymphoma at the age of 43.

Born on November 21, 1948, Lee played Det. Calvin Stoner from 1977 to 1984. He would go on to play Dr. Evan Cooper on RYAN'S HOPE in the late '80s and also had a role on AS THE WORLD TURNS.

He was born in New York City and received a bachelor of fine arts degree in theater from Boston University. After college, he joined the Olatunji African Dance Company and became the associate artistic director of its newly formed theater company.

Lee appeared in several musicals, including "Ride the Winds," "Rock-a-Bye Hamlet" and "A Broadway Musical." He replaced Ben Vereen in "Pippin," was the original understudy for the two male roles in "Ain't Misbehavin' " and recreated the role of Big Daddy in the revival of Bob Fosse's "Sweet Charity." As a director, Mr. Lee staged productions at the Manhattan Theater Club, the Henry Street Settlement and the Boston Summer Arts Theater Festival.

He died on September 5, 1992, much too soon, with his companion, John Uehlein, by his side.

Watch Crothers and Lee work together in the scene below.

Lee was part of the EDGE versus GENERAL HOSPITAL episode of FAMILY FEUD in 1982. Watch him below.

Finally, enjoy Parker's "Like an Eagle" video.

Amanda Blake, GUNSMOKE's Miss Kitty played Dr. Julianna Stanhower on EDGE in 1984, also died due to AIDS-related complications in 1989. Blake's death certificate listed the immediate cause of death as cardiopulmonary arrest due to liver failure and cytomegalo virus (CMV) hepatitis. CMV hepatitis is AIDS-related according to Sacramento internist Dr. Lou Nishimura. The AIDS virus was thought to have been contracted from her last husband, Mark Spaeth, a member of the city council of Austin, Texas. The openly bisexual Spaeth (1939-1985), also died of complications of the disease.


  1. Thanks for this post. 3 talented men for sure.

  2. LOVED the show....I knew all 3 were struck down by AIDS but I didn't realize Dennis committed suicide. So sad....

  3. What a moving tribute to all three. Thank you.

  4. I so very much loved watching Edge in the 1970s & 1980s because of the fine performances of Joel, Dennis, & Irving.

    I enjoyed seeing Irving perform the role of Big Daddy Johann Sebastian Brubeck in the 1986 Broadway revival of Sweet Charity at the Minskoff Theatre in NYC opposite Debbie Allen as Charity & Bebe Neuwirth as Nickie.

    RIP Joel, Dennis, & Irving. We all miss you tremendously!

    Brian :-)

  5. OH MY GOD...I just realize who Dennis is because a friend of mine loved that song Like An Eagle. He was screaming disco fanatic queen, I wasn't but he started watching EON because of him when I told him was on the show & he wasn't a fan of soaps. The main reason was he fan of his porn. oh I miss my friend Billy. We were best friends through HS and until he passed from complications in '91. RIP all.

  6. omg, i DIDn't know 3 of my Edge Faves died of AIDS. I wonder if htere was any action of the 3 on the set?

  7. Thanks for acknowledging that Joel Crothers was gay and died of AIDS.

    IMBD acknowledges neither fact. Wikipedia says he was gay but not that he died of AIDS.

    So upsetting that our history is so easily erased.

  8. As "DiDi Bannister-Stoner," I had the great good fortune of working with Joel, Dennis....and of course, the fabulous Irving. Wonderful actors...and wonderful human beings!

  9. Lovely tribute to three fine actors, Joel, Dennis and Irving. I remember them so well. So sad they have all passed. All three were wonderful in Edge but my love for Joel Crothers goes back much farther. He played a great Joe Haskell and Nathan Forbes in the classic Dark Shadows which I am now enjoying immensely on DVD. It is wonderful to see him in his handsome youth but bittersweet knowing he is gone. It still breaks my heart. Such talent. He truly was a master at his craft. I wish I'd have written him to show my appreciation all those years ago. It seems I have apparently and quite accidentally followed him in his three long-term roles. Somerset, Edge and Dark Shadow are my longtime favorite soaps that I will never forget. It breaks my heart to know the tragedy of losing these three great men while still in the prime of their lives. RIP dear friends.

  10. i recently purchased the complete dark shadows tv series, & an extra was a kathryn leigh scott interview. she mentioned that joel crothers had died. what a shame. a fine & talented actor, whose sexual preference has nothing to do with how sad it was for him to have died so young

  11. Irving Allen Lee was the love of my life. We shared wonderful times together. It still hurts that his life was cut short. His spirit and great love of life, his exuberance, will be with me forever. RIP fella.

  12. Was Joel Crothers on friendly terms with all three of his leading ladies on Edge of night when he passed?