Highlighting the Acting and Editing Career of Kathryn Leigh Scott

by David Block

People well versed with the ABC gothic soap opera Dark Shadows (1966-1971) would know

the name Kathryn Leigh Scott. She portrayed Maggie Evans, a waitress who was the first victim of vampire Barnabas Collins (Jonathan Frid).

Growing up in Minnesota, Kathryn Leigh Scott always wanted to be an actress.

“It’s the same reason anyone wants to do anything, fly an airplane, become a farmer or fireman. I love performing,” said Scott. Scott received a scholarship to attend the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York City in 1962, however, she still needed money to live on. Scott, like so many actors, took a job outside her field to support her love of performing. Her first job was working in Bloomingdale’s Customer Service department. Later, she landed a more exciting, better paying job working as a Bunny waitress at the recently established Playboy Club. “That was a very good bread and butter job,” said Scott. Her work schedule was flexible enough so it would not interfere with school or auditions.

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“I had some great memories of getting to know the women I worked with,” said Scott. “They came from all over the world to pursue careers as models, dancers, and actresses. I enjoyed serving famous people like Woody Allen. I used to see Johnny Carson at the club. There was this excitement that you were in one of the trendiest places in New York. It was where everything happened.” In 1966, Scott was hired to be on a brand new soap opera, Dark Shadows. “The fact that I worked as a waitress at the Playboy Club helped me play a waitress on Dark Shadows,” said Scott. Scott took her mother’s advice and kept her job at the club, due to the uncertainty of how Dark Shadows would fare. After a month, two women customers asked her what Maggie Evans was doing working at the Playboy Club. “I knew it was time to quit,” said Scott. Being recognized assured her that Dark Shadows was going to be a success. Scott made a name for herself on Dark Shadows, and after she left the show, continued to entertain her fans, guest starring in episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation, Police Squad and

Chandlertown. One of her fondest memories was working with George C. Scott in the television movie, Last Days of Patton. In 2012, Scott made a cameo appearance in the Dark Shadows movie starring Johnny Depp. She can occasionally be seen today on The Goldbergs where she portrays George Segal’s girlfriend, Miriam. “I auditioned for the part and was thrilled to get to work with George,” said Scott.

Her Book Publishing Career

In 1986, Scott launched her publishing company Pomegranate Press LTD. “I wrote ‘My Scrap Book Memories of Dark Shadows,’” said Scott. “I knew how to reach Dark Shadows fans. I wanted that book to be on the shelves for a long time, so I decided to start my own company.” Her company has published over 40 nonfiction entertainment books. “The Bunny Years” (1998), one of her most noteworthy books, took five years to research and write. “I wrote ‘The Bunny Years’ because I wanted to give voice to all of the women who worked as Bunnies whose stories hadn’t been told,” said Scott. “The only one who wrote anything was Gloria Steinem, who was in Bunny training with me.” After several days on the job, Steinem, who posed as Bunny Marie, quit. She then wrote the article, “A Bunny’s Tale” for Show Magazine, in which she claimed that working as a Bunny she felt less honest than a hooker she passed on the street.

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Many of the Bunnies that read the piece felt betrayed and offended. Scott wrote in The

Bunny Years that Steinem’s article portrayed virtually all the Bunnies as hapless, malleable victims. “Her view was sour. I felt it was an inaccurate, dismissive portrait of the women I knew and worked with.”

In Scott’s view, Playboy Bunnies worked in a safer environment than waitresses in other establishments. Key holders (Playboy Club members) were forbidden to touch the

Bunnies. Dating the Bunnies was not allowed, and flirting was frowned upon.

Prior to the Playboy Clubs, women had very few opportunities to earn a substantial income. Working at the Playboy Clubs, enabled them to start careers, pay their own college tuition, bankroll their own businesses, and get off to a better financial start in their lives. According to Scott,

Playboy Bunnies broke color barriers working in Playboy Clubs in the segregated

South, and were in the vanguard of women finding empowerment in the work place.

Among the people interviewed in Scott’s book were supermodel Lauren Hutton, rocker Debbie Harry, and actress Susan Sullivan, who currently appears in Castle. Scott also interviewed a former nun who resigned and became a Playboy Bunny. After her book was published, the Arts and Entertainment Network produced a two-hour documentary based on The Bunny Years and Scott worked as Co-Executive Producer.

Because I am currently earning my Masters in Journalism at Temple University (Philadelphia, PA), I interviewed Kathryn Leigh Scott for my editing class. She shared her experiences of being an editor.

What follows is a partial transcript of the interview:

David Block (DB): How long have you been interested in acting and editing?

Kathryn Leigh Scott (KS): I’ve been interested in both writing and acting since second grade when I wrote my first play. It was about Martha Washington, and I played Martha Washington. My writing is influenced by my acting; my acting work is influenced by my writing. I write in scenes, I think in terms of character motivation, and, as actors do, I incorporate all the senses.

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DB: Wow, I’ve known you for years; I never knew that you wrote a play in second grade.

KS: Yes, it was about George and Martha Washington, but I gave all the good lines to Martha and then played Martha.

DB: How do you come up with ideas for projects, and how do they change as they evolve?

KS: I just finished writing a novel called September Girl, which I’ve sent to my agent. The story came out of having lunch with a girlfriend. She said something to me and I thought, “oh my Gosh!” And from that, I wrote a full novel. It has nothing to do with the girlfriend that I was having lunch with. She just said a couple of words and I thought, “oh, wouldn’t that be interesting! What if!” Everything that I’ve written begins with “what if.” Everything I’ve ever acted in has to do with “what if.” What if my character did this? What if this happened, how would I behave? It all has to do with what if.

DB: Why did you choose books as opposed to some other art form?

KS: I’ve always written books, but I’ve also written magazine articles. I wrote a 13-page article for Opera News. And I’ve also written stage and screen plays; so far nothing produced. I think it depends upon the story and how you choose to tell it.

DB: Are there certain things that every book has to contain that fans expect and how do you feel about that?

KS: What’s interesting is that in almost all cases, I never tell a linear story. I go back and forth in time. That’s the way my mind works. I’ve worked with directors who tell a film that way. And for me, that’s the way to tell a story.

DB: Regardless of whether it’s fiction or nonfiction or a memoir?

KS: That is correct. If you take a look at The Bunny Years, Dark Passages, Return to Collinwood, or anything that I’ve written about Dark Shadows, I go back and forth in time and tend not to unfold the story in a linear way. In other words, it’s not, this happened, and that happened and that happened. No. I tend to tell something and then say, “and it came about because …” I go back and forth.

DB: Obviously, you studied theatre. I remember reading that you were also interested in journalism. How much journalism did you study?

KS: I was on the school newspaper. I applied for scholarships in journalism and in acting. My scholarships always came in acting. Therefore, acting took precedence. If I hadn’t acted, I’d be a journalist.

DB: When you wrote the Bunny Years and interviewed other former bunnies who worked in the field, how did you use your journalism skills and experience of publishing books to find these women?

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DB: When you ask other actors from Dark Shadows to write their experiences of working on the show, how much do you have to edit their pieces? Do they mind that you step in?

KS: David, you cannot – you cannot publish something without editing it. I never publish my own work without having an outside editor. You have to have an editor. (I asked her to talk about times when she truly had to make another Dark Shadows actor’s work presentable.) (Kathryn said) It depends upon the condition in which it comes to you. There was one person who had a wonderful experience to share, but that person was not a writer. So I just said, “tell it in your own words.” And so I worked with that person, using that person’s voice. And it was the truth, the story that person wanted to tell. In other cases, there are people who are wonderful writers, but the lead to their story is buried somewhere in the 4th paragraph. You might shift their text around, but you never do that without the explicit understanding with the person

who contributed the material that this is what you’re going to do. It’s understood.

DB: You have an easy time selling your Dark Shadows books. Some of the fans would buy anything that says Dark Shadows. Still, to what degree does artistry and creativity play a part in making sales?

KS: Well, first of all it’s the subject matter. I don’t fool myself that they’re buying the books because of the writing, necessarily, but the subject matter {Dark Shadows}. I think that they also appreciate that from the beginning, I’ve included all of my colleagues {fellow dark shadows’ actors}. So I encouraged Lara {Parker}, David {Selby}, Marie {Wallace} . . . I’ve encouraged everybody to write, and to be a part of what I was doing. And the results are clear. We have some really wonderful work by lots of different Dark Shadows actors and the material is selling. People really appreciate that my books aren’t just fan books.

They’re well produced, well edited, well published books that can stand in a bookstore next to anything published by any big commercial publisher.

DB: Describe how the DS set from the Johnny Depp movie differed from Dan Curtis’s DS sets.

KS: There was a difference in budgets. We did House of Dark Shadows (a 1969 Dark Shadows movie). The budget for that film would have only paid for 4 or 5 days of shooting on the Tim Burton Johnny Depp Film. (Kathryn had a small role in the Johnny Depp movie, playing one of the guests in a party scene.)

Dan Curtis’s production was a gothic romance and horror film. Johnny Depp’s version was more campy – the difference between an Austin Powers and James Bond film.”

When the Johnny Depp movie came out in 2012, Kathryn released her book “Return to Collinwood,” about five decades of the series in advance of the upcoming 50th anniversary of Dark Shadows.

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