[Actress Veronica Carlson died February 27, 2022 at the age of 77.]
By Steve Vertlieb:What follows is truly one of the most personally heartfelt, poignant, and heartbreaking remembrances that I’ve ever felt compelled to write.
Veronica Carlson was a dear, close, cherished friend for over thirty years. I learned just now that this dear sweet soul passed away today. I am shocked and saddened beyond words. May God rest her beautiful soul.
I first encountered my beautiful Veronica at a Fanex convention in 1990. Now, I had been deeply in love with Veronica since I first saw her on screen at the Regal Theater in Philadelphia in 1968 when I went to see the opening performance of “Dracula Has Risen From The Grave” with the wonderful Christopher Lee. When Veronica appeared on camera, however, I thought that my heart would melt.
I thought that she was the most exquisite creature whom I had ever seen. I was hooked from that moment on, and never lost an opportunity to watch the lovely Ms Carlson on screen. It was at a joyous Fanex convention in 1990 that I first met this sweet, gentle creature. I was walking by a gathering of fans in the hotel corridor, and I noticed that Veronica was standing there with them. I turned to look in her direction, too afraid actually to make eye contact, when she simply turned my way as though I had been a part of the conversation from the beginning, and asked what I thought.
I felt as though I had known her forever. She made this complete stranger feel welcome and completely at ease. As a writer and, of course, a poet I asked her if she’d like to read the new poem that I’d written and had brought along with me to the conference. She said that she loved poetry, and would sincerely like to read it. So, I gave her a copy of the poem, and went on my way, never expecting to hear any more of it. The poem, incidentally, was called “Orphan Of The Night,” and concerned a little homeless girl in tattered clothing, seeking comfort and solace from the shadows and menace lurking in the encroaching darkness.
Several hours later, while wandering the hotel hallways, I noticed Veronica walking toward me. As we made eye contact once again, I smiled and said hello. She took my arm in her hands, extended her finger nails and pinched me as hard as she possibly could. Startled, I asked “What was that for?” She replied, rather sweetly I thought, “You made me cry.”
And that, dear reader, was the beginning of a cherished friendship that continued, happily, from that memorable day until now. When I saw Veronica seated at her “Guest” table at The Monster Bash in Pittsburgh during the Summer of 2011, she asked me to sit next to her as she went along signing autographs for the afternoon. We sat and talked for some four hours and, as she conversed with her many admirers, she asked repeatedly “And do you know my friend Steve Vertlieb, the famous writer?”
I chuckled and replied “Veronica, I’m only famous to my mother and to you.”
Later we went out to dinner, and had a lovely time…as we have had every time that I’ve seen her over these past thirty two years. At one particular Fanex convention she asked me quite caringly when I was going to find a girl friend. I looked at her, without the slightest trace of a smile, and said “I’m waiting for you, Veronica.”
There was a moment of awkward silence after that, and then she began to laugh as only Veronica can. What she probably didn’t realize and, perhaps, only partially suspected, was that I wasn’t entirely joking.
During the production of “Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed” in England there was a now notorious sequence in which Dr. Frankenstein (Peter Cushing) viciously rapes Veronica’s character. Peter Cushing objected to its filming, and director Terence Fisher was mortified by its inclusion in the film, threatening to walk out of the production. The scene was never meant to be sexual, but merely an example of Dr. Frankenstein’s intimidation of, and power over, his servants.
The scene was excluded from the film’s original release, but it left its psychological scar upon Veronica who decided to leave the industry, rather than participate in a business that was becoming ever more lurid and suggestive.
It was on the day that Hurricane Sandy hit the Eastern Coast of the United States that I returned home from work to find a message awaiting my response on my answer machine. As I listened, I heard the voice of a beautiful woman with a delightful British accent, inquiring as to my safety and concerned about whether I had weathered the storm. She left no name or telephone number, but I thought that it must have been Veronica.
I called her back on her cell phone, and simply said “You never identified yourself.” She began to laugh in that unmistakable, mischievous, full throated laugh that I had come to love, and said that in all of the craziness of the moment, and in her concern for my welfare, that she had forgotten to leave her name. We chuckled and talked for some twenty minutes after that. I cherished our relationship, for she was a beautiful soul, both within and without.
A few years back when Craig Ellis Jamison was in the process of shooting a feature length documentary about my own life and career, I shyly asked Veronica if she might be receptive to appearing on camera to talk about our long friendship. To my utter delight, she said “Yes, of course,” and sat down before the cameras for some thirty minutes to discuss her career, her relationships with Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee and her long personal friendship with me. While the film was never completed or released, it remains a very special memory of a woman I’d grown to love, admire, and respect.
On one particular visit to the East Coast and a guest appearance at a Philadelphia convention, Veronica had asked everyone she spoke with if they knew me, while wondering aloud if I was coming to the event. I arrived on Saturday of the weekend long convention and, as I meekly peered my head around the corner and into her range of vision, she smiled broadly and proclaimed ever so sweetly “There’s My Steve.”
I last heard from Veronica several months ago when, despite her own significant health problems, she telephoned me at home to express her concerns about my heart issues, recent seizures, and hospitalization. We had a lovely conversation which meant a great deal to me.
I was blessed by the precious gift of her friendship, and the sweet memory of our love … not in a romantic sense, but in the joy and admiration of two dear, cherished friends who somehow found and adored one another. She was, indeed, my very special sister and friend. I miss her already. May God Rest Her Sweet, artistic, and most gracious, sensitive soul.