Dennis Parker, Like An Eagle

One of the best birthday presents I received this year didn’t cost a cent – a YouTube link on my Facebook page, posted by DJ Frank Booker, aka Chris Cox, a chap with exceptional musical taste. I haven’t stopped listening to it since and am watching the post for a Discogs delivery any day. (James Murphy – I’m looking at you to pack this for Despacio on Friday.)

You can find various versions of this around the interwebs – the 8.37 12″ version, the rather charming Casablanca promotional video with Dennis awkwardly doing the disco point in a silver jumpsuit and a wonderfully crap eagle, Todd Terje’s re-edit – but after careful consideration I have to say I prefer the version Chris originally shared (ignore the French TV host talking at the start). And there’s something so sweet and sad about Dennis pathetically busting out his disco moves in the big city – he seems so unsuited for the job that it almost makes me want to cry.

And in fact, Dennis’s story is one to bring a tear to the eyes of most right-thinking people. Born Dennis Posa, he changed his name to Wade Nichols (a name Greg Wilson would go on to pinch for some of his production work) and hit the silver screen – as a porn star. Wikipedia lists his first film as the gay porno Boynapped, but he spent most of his porn career performing straight-for-pay. His films included the innocently named Barbara Broadcast, Summer of Laura, Marishino Cherries and Teenage Pajama Party. It was a different time, a Diggler time.

Indeed, you have to wonder if Dennis’s story wasn’t the inspiration for Boogie Nights. Desperate to get out of porn and make his name in the mainstream entertainment world, Dennis somehow made his way onto the Casablanca roster, recording just one album for them in 1978. Like An Eagle was produced by Jacques Morali and, in addition to the title track, included another minor hit, a cheesy homage to the NYC disco scene, New York By Night.

In 1979 he joined the cast of soap opera The Edge of Night and mainstream success seemed assured – but then he left the show and died shortly after. There’s very little information out there about Dennis – no big tribute pages on music history sites, he’s a footnote at best. On the websites he where he merits a small mention, most say he killed himself with a gunshot wound to the head, but the truth is much sadder – he contracted HIV and by 1984 was too ill to work. He died of an AIDS-related illness in January 1985.

Here’s to you, Dennis.

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About missjenferguson

Lover of books, beer, chilli & records. Proud Peckhamite.
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10 Responses to Dennis Parker, Like An Eagle

  1. Jonathan Mitchell says:

    Great post. I can’t take credit for much, but I did tidy up the ‘Wade Nichols’ entry on Wikipedia after bouncing from one remote corner of the Internet to another, looking for scattered references to Dennis Parker in hopes of finding accurate info. I figured it was the least I could do for an interesting public figure whose life has been so poorly documented.
    Soaps were a major source of entertainment at my house when I was a kid, and that’s when I first encountered Dennis Parker. I thought he was one of the coolest dudes on TV. In early 2012 I was looking for episodes of “The Edge of Night” on YouTube and was surprised to discover that Dennis had also enjoyed a (brief) career in music–and had died shortly after the cancellation of “Edge”. That’s when I started poking around for information. Dennis’s real surname was actually one of the first things I found, in a comment made by one of his ex-boyfriends; armed with a few bits of knowledge and a decent flair for writing (I’m the author of one novel), I decided to undertake a book-length biography. As ‘Seeker’, I put out feelers at discomusic.com.
    In retrospect, I was being overly ambitious. A couple of folks were kind enough to leave helpful, informative comments, but in the end I didn’t have sufficient material even for a magazine article, let alone a full-length bio. I was contacted by a film producer who asked if I wanted to collaborate on a biopic (flattering, but I had to be honest with her and admit that I didn’t have tons of useful info to share), as well as the creator of a ’70s porn podcast. This person promised to pass along anything he learned about Dennis Posa and I pledged to do the same–but, demonstrating a lack of class, he never contacted me again. It wasn’t until I listened to a podcast he did about one of Dennis’s porn films that I realized he’d spoken to the late actor’s family.
    Oh, well. Even if I’m not the writer fated to document the life of Dennis Posa, there’s still a fascinating story to be told; I hope it will be told with accuracy and sensitivity. I managed to write a good intro (using a few details which I hadn’t deliberately squirreled away, but rather hadn’t gotten the opportunity to share with other interested parties since our contact was so fleeting) to my proposed biography, and I’ll hang onto it just in case. Based on what I do know, the intriguing thing about Dennis was his Gatsby-esque ambition: he created a character and played it to the hilt.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks so much for getting in touch, Jonathan, and for sharing more fascinating insights into Dennis’s life, which as you say continues to go sadly unsung. I hope you, or someone else, will one day be able to find enough information to document his life properly, without sensationalism. I’ll be looking out for it. x

      Like

      • Jonathan Mitchell says:

        Happy to share! Dennis lives on in his music and in the memories of “Edge of Night” fans, and I’m confident that one day we’ll see the release of a book or film that does him justice.

        Liked by 1 person

    • RIP Dennis says:

      Hi Jonathan. Kudos on your attempts and writing about Dennis Parker’s fascinating story. I know the podcast website you’re referring to. They (especially the male part of the team) want to have exclusives for their website and have been accused of trying to dissuade the more reclusive stars from talking to others and misleading other people who are writers by telling them that certain stars are unwilling to talk about their past when that’s not the case.

      I have Variety’s obituary on Dennis from their February 6, 1985 issue. Not sure if you’ve seen it, but it has some interesting information about him.

      “Dennis Parker, 38, actor, who for the last five years played Police Chief Derek Mallory on the ABCTV soap opera “Edge Of Night,” died Jan. 28 in New York after a brief illness.

      Born in Manhattan, Parker grew up in Freeport, Long Island. He attended the Philadelphia Museum College of Art, where he concentrated on pottery and furniture design and had his first taste of acting when, while still a student, he won a role in a touring company production of “The Trojan Women.” After graduating, he returned to his native New York and studied acting at New York U. and the H. B. Studio.

      Parker was also an accomplished singer and instrumentalist, and several years ago toured Europe on behalf of an album he made for the Casablanca label.

      He was an avid animal lover, and devoted a great deal of time working in their behalf.

      Survivors include his mother and brother.”

      Like

      • Jonathan Mitchell says:

        Thanks so much for the obit! It’s deeply appreciated. And I’m glad to know I’m not the only one who’s had unpleasant dealings with the folks at that particular podcast site. I’ve always felt that a little common courtesy goes a long way, but sadly it’s often neglected.

        Like

  2. skip says:

    was the love of my life, in times sq subway,knew i would catch a women down stairs

    Like

  3. skip says:

    we lived together at 25 east 38th

    Like

  4. skip says:

    joey was a second

    Like

  5. D.S, Jacobs says:

    A chance encounter at a record store downtown is how I met him. The owner introduced us as she knew we both had a love of old time blues and jazz. He had quite a selection of 78RPM records and so did I. He invited me over about half a dozen times to talk play and trade old records. I just knew him as a soap opera star who all the woman I knew wanted to meet him. It was only after his death did I find out what a chamelian he was and how vast his influence had been. Rather surprised he had recorded a disco record and had a hit. I had no idea he was even gay. Just a real nice charming guy who rolled big joints for us and had serious discussions about old records and music. Not sure if anyone knew about this obsession of his. Now you do. RIP Dennis. You didn’t deserve to die so young.

    Like

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