Date of Birth
9 May 1938, Passiac, New Jersey, USA
Date of Death
14 April 1997, Los Angeles, California, USA (kidney cancer)
Movies were an escape and inspiration for young Michael Stroka. Forced to move from his hometown of Passiac, New Jersey, to nearby Garfield, with his family when he was in second grade, young Michael relied on his imagination to cope.
"That's when I really started escaping into my own little world, and I think that's what made me decide to be an actor," he told "16" magazine years later, after gaining world-wide fame as one of the bad guys on the supernatural soap opera Dark Shadows in the late 1960s.
Nearly every Saturday, Michael and a small group of friends attended movie matinées. Then they reenact the stories they'd just watched. "I loved horror movies," he said. "I was playing Dracula when I was 9. I guess Dark Shadows was just a natural thing for me to grow into."
Michael attended the Carnegie Institute of Technology then moved to California to further his dream of being a movie star. First using the professional name Mike G. Stroka, he found work on stage and soon in films. His early stage appearances included The Man (in 1964 at the Santa Monica Playhouse), and he was in the movies 36 Hours (1964, starring James Garner and Eva Marie Saint) and King Rat (1965, starring George Segal). He also appeared in several TV classics, including three episodes of The Twilight Zone and Combat! (1965).
After returning to New York, Michael appeared in several off-Broadway plays, then was cast on Dark Shadows in the summer of 1969. He remained on the show for a year and a half, getting teen idol treatment in various magazines including "Flip" and "16".
From 1975 to '76, Michael played Dr. Quentin Henderson on The Edge of Night. His later movie roles included the TV movie Contract on Cherry Street (1977) and Eddie Murphey's Harlem Nights (1991). He guest-starred on some other cult classic TV shows, including Wonder Woman and Buck Rogers.
After a long battle with cancer, Michael died in 1997.
Karen Jensen (? - 14 April 1997) (his death)
Husband of Karen Jensen.
In first draft of the script for the film Night of Dark Shadows, Michael was to play a hippie at the beginning of the film, bringing viewers into the deserted and haunted mansion Collinwood and kicking off a flashback to explain what had happened. In the final version of the script, the hippie was dropped and the film took place without that flashback/framework device.