A little holiday nostalgia

I am repeating myself, I know. But this year I need a little comfort, and so I’m returning to a favorite episode I’ve posted before of Guiding Light.

From December 22, 1989. It’s most notable for the scene at the end – a little Christmas miracle, if you will. Always gives me goosebumps.

But the whole episode is wonderful to see. Pam Long was HW at the time, and the episode had plenty of Pam’s heart filled stories.

And I loved those scenes we’d see at the end with actors and crew singing carols. This one makes me chuckle (a very enthusiastic child is heard quite loudly and after a while, the adults try not to laugh).

I miss those old friends, but it’s a nice time to visit.

Merry Christmas, and please, stay safe.

Keep On Shining: How You Can Help

My readership is in the…..tens of people, but I hope all seventeen of you read this and spread the word.

Sam Ford is a name that’s been mentioned here a number of times – he’s a polymath who has expertise in, quite frankly, an annoyingly high number of things. His wisdom in multiple types of media and publishing is too lengthy to list here, but the essential piece you must know is that he is a fan of both ATWT and WWE wrestling, and if that doesn’t deserve its own show, I don’t know what does.

However, Sam, his family and his neighbors in Western Kentucky have all had a pretty dreadful December. They were all impacted by devastating tornadoes a few weeks ago. More than 70 people were killed by these storms, and hundreds more injured.

And Sam and his family were lucky – they’re all alive and safe, with only damage to their home. (It’s been about 10 days since the storms and I’m not sure if they have power yet; some of the infrastructure may take months to rebuild.)

I want to help because they’re our fellow Americans, and they need our help. But also, Sam’s done a lot for all of us soap nerds and soap fans. If I had the resources of, say, Lucinda Walsh, I’d organize all of Oakdale into a lean, mean fundraising machine and donate a few mil myself. (All while looking fabulous, of course, and rolling my eyes at Lisa Grimaldi.)

But instead, I’m here in my PJs, hoping that I can raise awareness and maybe, if we’re lucky, some of us soap folks can band together and do something to raise awareness and MONEY. Which is what people need.

KEY THINGS TO MENTION AND SHARE ON SOCIAL MEDIA:

The website for the effort to raise money is: https://www.kyshine.com/

The GoFundMe is here: https://gofund.me/5c24596d

If you post on Facebook, Twitter, etc. please use the hashtag #KeepOnShiningKY

Please send me a message or leave a comment if you have some ideas – I’ll be happy to share them or post anything here!

“Keep on Shining,” BTW, was inspired by a lyric from this song, written by Kentucky native Bill Monroe and performed here by a legend…..

Her Stories (and an apology)

I am so woefully overdue in writing a proper post about the book Her Stories by Elana Levine.

First things first – it’s a great book!

While some of the essential bits of the story are well known to soap nerds and soap academics, Levine’s book puts so much into clearer context.

While none of us may ever know or fully explain “Why did P&G do THAT to my SHOWS??!???” I learned so much from what was included.

I don’t want to give too much away – but I’ll say this – it is DENSE with information. Part of my initial challenge in reading the book was that I’d get through 2 or 3 pages and then fall down a rabbit hole because I had to search something that was mentioned!

I was fascinated with Elana’s details about many of the aspects of production in the 1960s and 1970s, and how it all fit in with the larger moneymaking picture at the networks.

I can’t remember if this was discussed or confirmed before, but this book was one place I’ve seen in print that has Paul Rauch on record confirming that the call for the 1998 Guiding Light clone store was CBS – not P&G, and not Rauch himself.

I think many of us assumed it WAS Paul for a long time; after all, he was EP of One Life To Live during its Eterna storyline, and he wasn’t exactly one to shy away from controversial stories. This puts the clone story into context as one of many moves CBS made in a panic after that 1993-1994 seismic shift for GL, when its storytelling strength was zapped, timeslots in some cities shifted to mornings, and cancellation rumors first started to bubble up in earnest.

This is a book that I know I’ll be going back to again and again over the years. I ended up buying it a second time – I got the eBook and it was so much easier for me to balance with a Google search here and there!

I owe Elana Levine an apology for my delayed response (and deep thanks for the mentions). We’re lucky to have someone like Elana who respects the industry – and the people in it. It shows in the research and in the text.

More on Lisa Brown

It feels ridiculous to be shaken up about someone I never had the privilege to meet. But news of Lisa’s sudden passing was so heartbreaking to me.

I still don’t quite know what to say, but am giving it a shot here.

One gift of soap operas is that relationship the audience develops with the actor and the character. It’s weird and lopsided, but not at all one-sided. The actor performs and puts a certain emotional truth out into the universe, and the audience picks up the signal. One person may pick up a slightly different frequency than the next, but all of us respond.

Many actors make memorable characters, but every once in a while, a viewer like me finds a character that is telling THEIR story, their emotional truth. And Lisa captured that with both Nola and Iva.

I loved Nola’s ability to dream up a new reality, one that I dearly wished I was capable of during my traumatic teenage years. She failed to launch those dreams into reality with Kelly, but she and Quint reinvented each other’s lives.

I owe my ATWT fandom to Lisa, because it was her face (with blonde hair!) that I saw on ATWT one day as I flipped through the channels. I think it was the end of the second or third day I watched that I completely forgot that I was watching “Nola” and accepted her as Iva.

ATWT’s stories about the love of a child – both Lucinda and Iva for Lily, and Bob and Kim finding Sabrina – struck a nerve in me, when I wasn’t sure of my own status in my birth family, and hadn’t yet found my chosen one.

While soap operas thrive on the day to day narratives, viewers and creators alike recognize that there are occasionally scenes where the combination of a powerful story being told, and actors delivering that truth with great skill and emotion, can turn into something special, something that really hits us emotionally, something that we all remember.

Karen Wolek on the witness stand. BJ’s heart. Reva splashing around in the fountain. Alexandra scorching the earth at the country club.

It should be noted that Lisa Brown is remembered for TWO of those scenes – the Guiding Light scenes where Kelly calls her out on her betrayal, and the ATWT scenes where Iva reveals to Lily that she is, in fact, her mother.

There are some great scenes that FOLLOW those explosions that show her versatility. The GL clip has been deleted from YouTube, but in the scenes after Kelly rushes to Morgan, Nola confronted her mother and brother, showed little remorse for her actions, and vowed to scheme again.

My favorite scenes after the Iva/Josh/Lily confrontation are in an episode full of action (Craig might be dead! Lily is missing!) and were beautiful scenes between Lisa Brown, Larry Bryggman and Elizabeth Hubbard (Hubbard and Brown had a great chemistry as irritants in each other’s orbit).

You may want to see the whole episode, or the relevant scenes, but the specific scene that got me starts at around 28:00.

Iva was also a perfect choice for the first person that Hank Eliot would choose to come out to in Oakdale. (I think Barbara and Shannon were next, though those scenes are not on YT.)

As versatile as she was, I think Brown’s gifts were not well understood by non-Marland writing regimes. At GL, Marland’s successors seemed to lean heavily into Kooky Nola territory (Nolaerobics was not a story, but whatevs). I’m not sure if post-Marland ATWT couldn’t write for her, or if Iva just got swept away in the changes that came after Doug death in 1993, but Iva – and Brown – were gone the next year.

I know Brown did a lot of behind-the-scenes work in later years, but I missed her on our screens. I hope she knows how much her work meant to many of us.

PS: Lisa was very passionate about animals; her obituary said she’d had a dog at nearly every point of her life. If you’d like to honor Lisa and her love of animals, please make a donation to her local humane society in her memory.

PPS: HOW DID I NOT KNOW (or not remember?) that Lisa was in this video?

Farewell, Lisa Brown

It seems utterly impossible that I am typing these words, but the great Lisa Brown has died. She was 67 years old.

Her work on both As The World Turns and Guiding Light meant so much to me.

I logged into this WordPress account just now, using a password that includes the name of one of her characters.

Logging in and seeing, impossibly, eerily, that my most recent post was to say goodbye to Michael Tylo a few months ago. How can it be that we lost both of them?

I know she had her family, her grandkids, her beloved, beautiful dogs. I hope she was happy, and that she was not filled with pain, or that her passing ended that pain.

Part of me wants to write 4000 words, but I’m just so sad. I don’t know what else to say, but I honor her work and her life. Rest in peace, Lisa.

EDITED TO ADD: Jennifer Kathleen Gibbons has a heartfelt remembrance of Lisa and her work here.

Farewell, Michael Tylo

Very sad news yesterday of Michael Tylo’s death at 73.

He had a career full of great work, including his later work as a theater professor. But there was real magic in Michael’s role on Guiding Light. Quinton was a fascinating, unique character, and at the risk of overusing the term “magic,” it’s one of the few words that seems to accurately describe the work Tylo did with Lisa Brown (Nola).

Their story was beautiful, multilayered in a way that’s hard to describe. Tylo made Quinton a prince fulfilling Nola’s dreams without turning him into a simp or sap. (Well, not during the Marland years….but that’s another post for another day.)

So many beautiful moments of storytelling and acting, but to honor Tylo and his work with Brown, take a moment to click this YouTube link to revisit where that magical story started.

Misty watercolor memories: rediscovering “Family”

I haven’t caught much on daytime for eons. Sometimes a scene or story makes me want to tune in here and there. (Of all shows, GL’s nemesis GH has me the most curious lately, first with Laura’s new family members, and now with the sure-to-be-delicious confrontation between Laura Wright and Cynthia Watros.)

I haven’t really found a soap, day or night, that hits me square in the feels, though “Ted Lasso” has certainly had me in tears too many times to count, and “Hacks” delivers more than just jokes.

But a few months ago, I discovered a show that has been living rent free in my head since the first episode I watched. That show is “Family.”

Home sweet home

Many of my readers will be familiar with Family, but I’ll give you the details anyway: The show ran on ABC for five seasons in the late 1970s. It featured veteran actors Sada Thompson and James Broderick, as Kate and Doug Lawrence. The show also gave Meredith Baxter a higher profile, and launched Kristy McNichol’s career into the stratosphere.

The title was, well, the premise. The reputation of its lead actors, as well as the “A Mike Nichols Production” credit that appeared on screen, gave the show some extra luster – in the T&A TV era that very much was the late 70s, Family appears to have been ABC’s entry in the prestige drama sweepstakes.

It was an episodic series, but it did have some continuing elements. The romantic trials and tribulations of Nancy (played by Baxter, then known as Meredith Baxter Birney) and Willie (Gary Frank) were often the center of a given episode.

I found it interesting that Nancy was often depicted as a selfish princess, disconnected from the needs of other family members. And Willie – I mean, there’s a whole lot of therapy sessions needed to analyze his issues – a high school dropout whose main characteristic seems to be playing the knight in shining armor for women in some kind of trouble – the “injured bird” syndrome.

While some episodes are straightforward for that era, many episodes had nuanced and powerful stories and depictions – for that era, and even for now.

One episode, where Kate serves jury duty, seemed a bit lurid at first (as a soap fan, it screamed “SWEEPS MONTH!” to me.) While some of the language and attitudes in the episode feel outdated now, it made one of the earliest arguments I’ve seen that respectability politics shouldn’t be playing into whether someone gets a fair shake by the police or a fair trial.

The one that really amazed me was an episode from the second season where Willie’s friend is arrested in a gay bar, and forced to come out to Willie. I’ll try to save you some of the story to discover for yourself if you watch it, but the jaw-dropping moment was watching two characters – Willie and his father – talk about times in their own lives where they experienced same-sex crushes.

Like I said, nuanced and powerful.

There’s been no shortage of soap actors on the episodes I’ve viewed so far. The professor chasing after Nancy (clearly pre-MeToo era) was played by David Hedison, later AW’s Spencer Harrison. The shameless hussy who tried to hit on Doug? Pat Crowley (the original Rebecca on Generations).

Some of the writers also have daytime connections – Bethel Leslie, who was one of the Maggies on The Doctors for several years, co-wrote the gay-themed episode mentioned above, and Anne Howard Bailey, who wrote for numerous daytime shows, wrote the episode featuring Crowley. I’m sure I’ll find more connections as I go along.

It’s all new to me – I was too young to watch and too young to stay up late enough to see this the first time around – and some things clearly hit my emotional buttons. The Lawrence’s house reminds me a bit of my neighborhood – well, a much nicer version of it, anyway. The beautiful theme music and set design takes me to a time and place.

I mentioned to my husband how I was responding in such an emotional way to so many episodes. With his customary clarity, he hit the nail on the head.

“Well, I know. Kate is reminding you of your mother.”

Bingo.

Somewhere, I have photos of Mom with this same haircut……

Kate is the glue that holds Family together. She’s calm, cool and collected most of the time, but do NOT mess with Kate, because she WILL cut you. There are so many layers to Kate, and Sada Thompson plays them all perfectly.

Kate reminds me of many women in my life – a few of my friends’ moms, for sure, and yes, even a few daytime moms as well. (hello, Kim Hughes and guten tag, Bert and Maureen Bauer).

Mom wasn’t fond of a house dress, and while she had many talents, cooking was NOT one of them! But some of the other parallels between Kate and my mom are almost eerie.

Mom was the mom that the other kids could talk to and confide in. She was fond of her youngest, understanding and empathetic when that youngest child felt out of place with the others. (Not that I ever had a cool nickname like “Tizzylish.”)

And, like Kate, Mom decided to return to school.

There are many more parallels I could list, but I suppose that was the very point of these characters, that so many of us would find the happenings within these walls to be so universal.

So far, I am glued to the TV (Tubi, to be exact) to see what happens next.

EDITED TO ADD: Many of you know Lynn Liccardo, a fellow fan and P&G scholar. She and I often find ourselves in “great minds think alike” moments.

Lynn wrote about the show in an earlier essay that does a great job of drawing parallels to a soap family. She also reminded me that Family producer Mark Rydell was another soap connection (see her post for details). The connections between ATWT and Family are fascinating.

The storytellers

THIS HAS BEEN……Guiding Light!

Things have been silent here for a while (coping with the heat here in the desert). I’ve been busy with several projects and haven’t paid as much attention to the soap world – I’ve missed a lot of Locher Room episodes.

But of COURSE, I could not pass up the opportunity to watch and talk about two highly anticipated sessions – with Jill Farren Phelps (aka JFP) and with writers Nancy Curlee and Stephen Demorest.

I have notes, people. Grab a refreshment and settle in.

FRIENDS OF JILL

I know this episode was hugely anticipated. JFP has worked at a half dozen shows: AW, GH, GL, OLTL, SB and Y&R. And of course, many of the Locher Room’s fans are fervent P&G watchers.

It was an interesting discussion, but I’ll say upfront that I don’t think Phelps really answered anything that she hadn’t answered before. Her print interview with Michael Logan a few years back covered much of the same territory.

I knew Phelps had been involved as a music producer, and I thought the most interesting comment she made there was how shows used small snippets of music, under the impression that it wasn’t a rights issue (similar to making a “free use” argument today).

She also said that in those days, music labels were HAPPY when soaps featured songs, because it always promoted the music. I agree wholeheartedly and have been saying this for years. The obvious examples were from GH (Herb Alpert’s Rise, Christopher Cross’ Think of Laura and Baby Come To Me, to name a few) but I bet many teenagers bought a copy of Almost Paradise after hearing it as Beth and Lujack’s theme.

GL featured music in a number of scenes over the years: whether it was Barbra Streisand’s version of Somewhere playing as Reva attempted suicide (a scene close to my heart), or Sonni Carrera dancing to Peek-A-Boo by Siouxsie and the Banshees (or was it…..Solita?), I remember them well. (Streisand and Donna Summer’s song Enough is Enough was famously the background for the Roger/Rita Hall of Mirrors.) When Sarah and Reva reunited, I can still see those scenes in my head with the Pretenders’ Hymn to Her playing in the background.

As for other parts of the chat – it was fun to hear about how she cast Mark Derwin on OLTL, and some of her experiences at OLTL and Y&R. She clearly did not have the support she’d had at other shows at Y&R, and it showed.

She repeated much of what she said about the choices leading to Maureen’s death in the Logan interview, but I think she did explain a bit more of the nuances. (She didn’t come out and say it, but reading between the lines and from other interviews, it does sound like the network pushed for that character to be off the canvas.) As for Beverlee’s departure, she had compliments for her work and otherwise sort of pleaded the Fifth!

SOUTHERN CHARM

It’s been years since I’ve read or heard anything from Nancy Curlee and Stephen Demorest – I remember reading an interview in someone’s blog around the time GL ended.

I just went back to read it this morning and…..well, it could virtually be a transcript for the things Nancy and Stephen talked about in their Locher Room session.

If that sounds like a gripe, it’s a small one, because Curlee is a charming storyteller, and it was lovely to hear her voice.

The Curlee/Demorest era (with assorted co-head writers, including James Reilly) is often terribly underappreciated, when their work should be considered in the same context as Marland, Long and others.

Of course, Patrick Mulcahey was also there, and he remains the finest dialogue writer any show has ever had. (I still really need to find out if he wrote Alexandra’s takedown of Roger at the country club.)

No big revelations here, either – they apparently fought for Nia Long as Kat over another choice, and had some pushback on the Bridget/Hart story, but that was the extent of tea poured. And I was surprised to hear that she was at one point in negotiations to write GH (!).

But something Nancy said in that 2009 interview, and again in the Locher Room, made me tear up a little, and I think said beautifully why so many of us were affected by Maureen’s death.

We did care about Maureen of course, but Nancy’s comment about the Bauer porch light being the light of GL hit home. No matter how awful the world is, if you can just make it to that porch, everything will get better.

But what happens when you get to the porch, to that light….and no one is there?

WHAT’S THE WORD?

I wasn’t exactly disappointed by these interviews, but I feel a bit like Charlie Brown vs Lucy with the football with my expectations.

One thing I’ve noticed as we continue through so many of these Locher Room interviews is that while actors are willing to be very forthcoming with issues or grievances about something that happened during their tenure on a show, writers and producers are not.

I’m guessing that most writers and producers have a non-disclosure or non-defamation clause in their contract, and really CAN’T say much.

And the inability to be authentic about the ups and downs isn’t limited to Zoom shows and podcasts. For every EIGHT YEARS IN ANOTHER WORLD, we’ve seen dozens of autobiographies from actors that all seem to stay away from anything that isn’t we’re-one-big-family.

One recent great book is Elana Levine’s HER STORIES. (I’m STILL exploring it – I get through a few pages and have to start researching a tangent and fall down a rabbit hole.)

I’m pretty sure I’ve mentioned this before, but I seriously considered writing a book about GL. My template was Jeff Giles’ Llanview book, which I thought did a wonderful job of just letting the actors speak for themselves (it was more of an oral history, lightly edited to establish a chronological order).

I didn’t pursue it, because while I felt confident that I could manager the research and organization such a project would require, I simply don’t have the type of personality to “sell” the idea to the participants and convince people to participate (a lesson I keep learning in my professional life). I also lack the connections to reach out to those people. But I certainly wish such a book existed.

The OLTL book was great because it did have some authenticity and honesty. Not Pollyanna-ish, nor deliberately tabloid-ish, not to be gossipy for gossip’s sake, but more the approach of “We did this, we made this show. Sometimes it was great, here’s how. Sometimes it was tough, here’s how. Sometimes we got along and sometimes we didn’t, here’s what happened.”

But those books are the exception, not the rule.

It’s perhaps truly a moot point to argue with four shows left, but still, we don’t always take ourselves seriously, or hold up the indistry – for recognition, or for an honest examination. Soaps seem to be forever relegated to the space under the stairs.

FINAL THOUGHTS:

I had to chuckle a few times during both sessions. We all love these stories and some of us (ME ME ME) are as nerdy as a baseball fan is about dates and stats.

But I remembered that yes, the events we’re talking about here are between 30 and 40 years ago, and these fine people don’t always remember dates and details. God knows my memory isn’t what it used to be!

Jill had a few names/dates wrong – but the thing I most obvously heard her say, if I understood her correctly, was that they needed to immediately fill Bev’s shoes and cast Marj Dusay immediately to keep story running. They actually waited a year to bring back Alexandra, because they wanted to give the role some space after Beverlee’s sudden departure.

Nancy confused a few dates just a tiny bit. She had Pam returning for her second stint in 1988 or 1989. Pam actually returned in the fall of 1987. September. The third week, I think. (So I’ve heard…..)

A week that I truly wish was on YouTube or DVD, by the way.

Like I said, I’m a nerd.

The scourge of Cincinnati strikes again

If you thought that the cancellation of the last of our beloved shows meant that P&G….sorry, Telenext, would never confound, anger or confuse you again…..

……well, it’s 2020, folks.

Apparently, P&G or related entities are making copyright claims on YouTube videos.

And so hours of our beloved shows – our last connections to these ignored and forgotten hours – are disappearing.

Deleted. During a freakin’ pandemic, when old memories might be the most comforting thing on the Web.

Pissing the fans off since…..well, forever

I understand that this is intellectual property, and there’s a legitimate claim to be made on this content.

But P&G/Telenext has all but let these archives die on the vine. They’ve shown zero interest in getting this content to us in any monetized way.

It’s not that the framework to do it doesn’t exist, since they managed to get the content playing in China not long after the ax fell.

No one would be happier than me if P&G ended up putting together an online archive, similar to what WatchTheDoctors is doing.

But despite a few smart and hardworking people behind the scenes, the company’s overall decisions regarding these shows has mostly confused or annoyed me, as well as other fans. So I’m not optimistic.

Hoping we learn more soon….before the last of our memories just slip completely away.

Brava for Beverlee

I haven’t had much to say here lately – busy freelance projects plus a somewhat cross-country move in the midst of a pandemic (0 stars out of five, do not recommend).

But the news of the latest Locher Room reunion brought me to (happy) tears this morning, and I’ll be there with bells on.

Edited to add: You can see the entire episode here.

AND….

I’d heard from a source or two that there might be a forthcoming book about Beverlee, and that book was confirmed at the end of that episode.

Patrick Dilley, a professor at Southern Illinois University with an extensive background writing about queer theory and women in education, is the author. I can’t wait to read it!