Kathryn Leigh Scott of Dark Shadows on the Gothic Soap’s 50th Anniversary and Her New Memoir

The roster of media mavens, moguls and boldface names spotted today at Michael's.

lunch at michaelsHaving missed my regular Wednesday dine and dish session last week, I was more than a little excited to get back to Michael’s today. Perhaps that’s because I was meeting one of my all-time favorite people, actress and author Kathryn Leigh Scott, for a long overdue catch-up session. It’s been a few years since we last ‘Lunched.’ To a generation of fans who ran home from school a few (ahem) decades ago to watch Dark Shadows, Kathryn will forever be Maggie Evans, the ill-fated love of daytime television’s first vampire, Barnabas Collins. Next Monday marks the 5oth (!) anniversary of the show’s first (live) broadcast on WABC. “It’s also the 50th anniversary of the launch of my acting career,” said the absolutely ageless Kathryn, who will be heading up to Westchester this weekend to celebrate with the show’s faithful fans (yours truly among them) at the annual Dark Shadows Festival in Tarrytown, N.Y. The three-day event starts Friday and includes trips to Lyndhurst and the Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, locations in the cult-favorites House of Dark Shadows and Night of Dark Shadows movies as well as panel discussions and lunch with many of the series stars. More on all this later.

Diane Clehane and Melinda Henneberger
Diane Clehane and Kathryn Leigh Scott

Prolific Kathryn, who has somehow managed to write an impressive array of fiction and non-fiction books including The Bunny Years, a 25-year history of Playboy Clubs told through
 the women (including Kathryn and Gloria Steinem) who worked as Bunnies, which was optioned by Disney for a feature film and acquired by Imagine Entertainment’s Brian Grazer. Her three novels are all terrifically fun page-turners: Jinxed, Down and Out in Beverly Heels and Dark Passages, a sly take on her years on Dark Shadows with a female protagonist who must conceal the fact that she is a vampire while working as an actress on a gothic soap opera. Kathryn launched her own imprint, Pomegranate Press, Ltd. to publish books about the entertainment industry as well as biographies, textbooks and illustrated books. Nine of her books have chronicled the behind-the-scenes stories of Dark Shadows, most recently in Dark Shadows: Return to Collinwood, which coincided with the release of Tim Burton’s reboot feature film starring Johnny Depp in 2012. The film didn’t exactly score with the critics (including this one) but was a “financial success,” noted Kathryn.  “I don’t think people know that.” If you ask me, Return to Collinwood, which had some great anecdotes about the series’ stars experiences while (David Selby, Lara Parker and the late Jonathan Frid) appearing in the film, might have had a little something to do with that.

Today we got together to talk about Kathryn’s latest and most deeply personal book, Last Dance at the Savoy, published last month by Cumberland Press. In it, Kathryn tells the story of how she and her husband, Geoff Miller, the founding editor of Los Angeles Magazine, dealt with his battle with Progressive Supranuclear Palsy (PSP), a neurological disease for which there is no cure. Geoff died from PSP in April 2011. When I told Kathryn I hadn’t heard of the disease prior to her telling me about it, she wasn’t surprised. “So little is known about this prime of life disease but it affects some 20,000 Americans every year — a similar number to those battling Lou Gehrig’s disease (ALS).”

“When Geoff was first diagnosed I wanted someone to take my hand and walk me through everything that I knew was ahead,” she explained between bites of salad Nicoise. “But there was nothing out there.” Kathryn kept a journal on her laptop on the advice of Geoff’s doctor’s to track his reaction to “off label” medications and the progression of the disease. She had no intention of writing about her husband’s illness and its life-changing consequences. After his death, Kathryn found keeping busy with acting (traveling to London to film cameos with the original cast for the Tim Burton movie) and her writing (her novel Dark Passages was about to be published) helped. “I needed that distraction. I felt very raw at the time.”