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Joel Crothers

Spencer Karter’s sketch of Joel Crothers as Joe Haskell on Dark Shadows
Born Joel Anthony Crothers
January 28, 1941(1941-01-28)
Cincinnati, Ohio, United States
Died November 6, 1985 (aged 44)
Los Angeles, California, United States
Occupation Actor

Joel Anthony Crothers (January 28, 1941 – November 6, 1985) was an American actor. He was a soap-opera actor who, in 1981, was noted by columnist Liz Smith to so strongly resemble Tom Selleck that they could be twin brothers.


Early life and career

Born in Cincinnati, Ohio and raised in New York, Crothers graduated from Birch Wathen School in 1958. His passion for performing emerged at the early age of nine. Crothers auditioned and won a role on the religious television show Lamp Unto My Feet. At the time, his father was a production supervisor on the show. Unbeknownst to him, his son auditioned for the show under a different name, apparently done as a practical joke. Nevertheless, by the age of twelve, he was taking Broadway bows alongside Burgess Meredith for his stage debut in The Remarkable Mr. Pennypacker.

During the 1950s and 1960s, Crothers made guest appearances on numerous primetime shows, including Alfred Hitchcock Presents, The Defenders, Have Gun – Will Travel, Death Valley Days, Rescue 8, The Investigators, Zane Grey Theater, Studio One, Playhouse 90, Kraft Television Theatre, and Goodyear Playhouse. His later daytime television credits included First Ladies Diaries: Martha Washington.

He graduated Harvard University a Phi Beta Kappa in 1962. In 1966, Crothers returned to Broadway in a starring role opposite Joan Van Ark in Barefoot in the Park, which he worked on simultaneously with his stint on Dark Shadows. From 1966-1969, he played Joe Haskell, boyfriend of Carolyn Stoddard (Nancy Barrett) and later boyfriend of Maggie Evans (Kathryn Leigh Scott). During the 1795 storyline, he played Lt. Nathan Forbes. After Nathan Forbes was killed off, Crothers' main character, Joe, affected by Barnabas' spell, fell into a traumatic state and was sent to a mental hospital by Maggie. He was never seen again and was mentioned only once in a later episode.

From 1969-1971, he played twice-married cheat and liar Ken Stevens #2 on the CBS serial The Secret Storm. Several of his 1971 episodes have been preserved by UCLA's TV Archives, though the magnetic VHS tapes are awaiting digital transfer and are not available for viewing by the public. From 1972-1976, he played concert pianist-turned-newspaper editor Julian Cannell on Somerset. From 1977-1984, he made it big with another soap opera role: Dr. Miles Cavanaugh on ABC'sThe Edge of Night, for which he was twice nominated as Best Actor at the Daytime Emmy Awards in 1982 and 1983. He played that role until the series went off the air on December 28, 1984. In 1985, his final role was on Santa Barbara as Jerry Cooper, who was killed off quickly, and then his twin brother Jack Lee.

Crothers' soap opera fame helped draw attention to the ground-breaking off-Broadway play Torch Song Trilogy. The play made major stars of its writer (and lead performer) Harvey Fierstein and castmates Estelle Getty and Matthew Broderick -- but when it premiered, Crothers was better known than any of them and received star billing on posters, playbills, and even the tickets. Fierstein played Arnold, a world-weary, homosexual drag queen; Crothers played Arnold's bisexual lover, Ed. He left the cast when Torch Song transferred to Broadway.[1]

Personal life

Though Crothers was gay,[1] a fact he chose to share with his friends and co-workers, he remained in the closet publicly. He was engaged to actress Veleka Gray at the time of his death.


Crothers died from AIDS-related complications on November 6, 1985.[2] His remains were cremated and scattered in Lake George, New York.


  1. ^ a b Picano, Felice (2007), Art and Sex in Greenwich village: Gay Literarary Life After Stonewall, Carroll & Graf, p. 98, ISBN 0786718137  
  2. ^ Hamrick, Craig (2003). Barnabas & Company: The Cast of the TV Classic Dark Shadows. iUniverse. p. 46. ISBN 0-595-29029-9.  

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