Postscripts and followups

Who doesn't love a good hat?

Who doesn’t love a good hat?

Just wanted to make a quick post to say that I really appreciate the comments people have shared with me on my Beverlee McKinsey tribute from earlier this month.

I’ve always been so in awe of her work, but I’ve been amazed in the last year or so how many people are still mentioning her and her work on GL and AW.

The PS here is that I also wanted to give a mention to Marj Dusay. My adoration of McKinsey’s flawless work isn’t in any way diminishing Dusay’s work as Alexandra.

I’m a big fan of Marj’s body of work, as well (in so many roles – her soap roles alone are amazing) and I thought she really “got” Alex in her initial stints on the show.

In later years, the character went off the rails in subsequent returns, but that was more about some really dumb writing choices for the character.

Marj’s Alex became comic at times, tapping into Marj’s improv beginnings, but where else can you go when everything about the character is contradicted in a storyline?

Alexandra keeping Alan’s son Gus from him after the very cornerstone of her introduction was about Brandon being kept from her? Oh, HELL, no.

There were some things at the end (Alexandra and Cyrus) that humanized her again, and at last she got to go off with Fletcher, around the world.

As for Dusay, she was also one of the GL actors I met during my trip to NYC in 2008, and I’ll always remember spending a crisp, sunny winter afternoon listening to Marj tell me some wonderful stories, as if I was an old friend. It was GLORIOUS.

Hank Eliot and Oakdale

I hadn’t thought about Hank Eliot for years. He was part of the first gay storyline on As The World Turns (indeed, the first openly gay man on ANY soap).

I was reminded (as I often am) by a mention on We Love Soaps.

Oh, my. This was even better than I remembered in my memory! And the scene at the end gets me, in the Snyder kitchen. I really miss those people.

I remember Hank (Brian Starcher) coming out to Barbara and Shannon as well. (I wish I could see THOSE scenes!)

The beginning of the story was wonderful. There was some very realistic reactions from Paul and Andy.

It got weird at some point, with Hank’s path somehow crossing James Stenbeck, if I recall.

Hank’s arc on ATWT was one that defines the word “abrupt ending.” It was all very CLICK BOOM BYE. He was gone, quick as a flash, and almost never mentioned again….after nearly 18 months of us seeing him onscreen nearly every day.

Here’s a link to an interview with the late Douglas Marland and his writing team about this story.

The Miseducation of Julius Avant

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That’s one of the subtitles I could come up with for yesterday’s amazing Bold and the Beautiful episode.

Maybe Maya’s Hope?

My initial reservations about the initial rollout of the Maya story have been documented here, but B&B has done a great job since the “reveal” of Maya’s status as a transgender woman.

Yesterday’s scenes, focusing on  Maya (Karla Mosley) and her parents Julian  (Obba Babatundé) and Vivienne (Anna Maria Horsford), were quite stunning.  My eyes were puffy after watching that episode!

If B&B submits those scenes to the Emmy committee, they’ll undoubtedly win several awards.

And I’m so happy for Karla Mosley. I could see that she had something special when she appeared on Guiding Light during its final days, and I’m glad B&B has given her a chance to strut her stuff, first with Maya-as-a-bitch, and then with this surprising turn of events, which gives Mosley many more shades to play.

Meanwhile, all the characters attending the wedding are all like: 

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Straight outta….soaps?

There’s a new movie, “Straight Outta Compton,” that tells the story of rap group N.W.A., a story that includes an album that share’s the film’s name.

The film has an iconic, well, icon, and they’ve shared it on social media. Predictably, that logo has been added to thousands of photos. If you have a Facebook or Twitter feed, this is not news to you.

Not that I was sucked into this or anything.

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Because I hadn’t exhausted the depths of silliness, I had to dig deeper. Of course.

StraightOuttaAndorra

StraightOuttaKim

StraightOuttaCompton (3)

StraightOuttaCompton (4)

If you have any good suggestions — or any creations — share them here!

Remembering Beverlee McKinsey

On point, and in charge .

On point, and in charge 

I’ve written about many stories and many shows, and especially about my two personal favorites, As The World Turns and Guiding Light.

Soaps to me were never the over the top, hair tossing, adulterous carnivals described by mainstream journalists who took snapshot of the genre out of context. For many of us, they were like a storybook come to life, with people you could visit for a half an hour, an hour a day.

I learned about those moving storybooks as a kid, on many days when rotten allergies meant I was cooped up inside, unable to go out and play. So there I’d be, on our hideously flowered 70s couch, right beside my mom, watching her shows.

I remember the names of the shows she’d watch: there was Search for Tomorrow and Jo, who reminded me of the women who worked at the doctors’ office, and then Another World, with Rachel, and, oh yes, the lady with the dazzling blond hair and raspy voice.

Iris reminded me of the mean, bitchy neighbor that lived across the street from us, the one that always acted like she couldn’t be bothered to talk to my mother.

But on TV, at least sometimes, Rachel would one-up Iris.

And yet….unlike our mean neighbor, I liked Iris. I rooted for her.

Beverlee McKinsey made such an enormous impact playing both Iris on AW and then Alexandra Spaulding on GL.

I’m remembering her in this post because she would have been 80 years old this month (August 9).

Her death, in 2008, came as the last of the P&G soaps were starting to reach their final destinations. There was, astonishingly, no tribute at the Daytime Emmys for her exemplary work.

Her last performance on-screen as Alexandra came 23 years ago this summer. But it’s safe for me to say that her performances are still etched in my memory.

They were also remembered by many of the writers who participated in the We Love Soaps poll of daytime’s greatest actresses a few years back. Despite being away from our screens for nearly 20 years at that point, McKinsey was number four on the list.

Over the last few months, I’ve watched and re-watched episodes of GL on YouTube, and I am always fascinated by the choices McKinsey made in those scenes. She was committed, engaged and stunning, whether she is in the background or the forefront.

A shot of Beverlee from one of her appearances as a guest on episodic TV.

A shot of Beverlee from one of her appearances as a guest on episodic TV.

I ‘d originally planned to make a big fuss for this tribute. I was hoping to talk to a few of her colleagues, maybe get a few quotes from those who worked with her, and try to paint a picture of who she was, both on-screen and off.

But from everything I’ve read, she cherished her privacy. Michael Logan once referred to her as the Garbo of daytime. She quite famously avoided the spotlight, and her private life was just that – private.

So I decided to focus on the work — and on saluting her singular performances.

And by doing so, it’s also a salute to the New York-based performers, the ones who traveled so easily between theater and television, the ones who filled the industry with great performances and one-of-a-kind characters.

McKinsey gave us thrilling performances daily for over twenty years. She headlined two shows, all while pursuing theater and sharpening her craft.

We can say that the fall of the New York based shows was a necessary evolution of an industry — the ‘daypart’ — that was past its profitable age. And perhaps this is so.

Perhaps in this age of streaming video, of narrowcasting versus broadcasting, there’s millions of opportunities for us to see great performances across all sorts of media platforms.

The West Coast shows have their own long histories and their own strengths. But there was something unique and special lost when we lost all the NYC soaps.

We lost the chance to see a Larry Bryggman, a Kathleen Widdoes, a Helen Gallagher. And the amazing power of a performance from Beverlee McKinsey.

Another World writer Harding Lemay on McKinsey: “Beverlee became Iris, or Iris became Beverlee, and dominated the screen with unerring camera presence from her first sweetly malicious encounter with Alice. Her alabaster stillness, complemented by a wardrobe of chiffon pastels, created tension in a scene before she spoke a word….I quickly realized we had found [our] future antagonist.”

There are so many great McKinsey performances to choose from; she had so many great moments as Iris, but there are only a handful of scenes with McKinsey as Iris from Another World and Texas online.

There is a wealth of Guiding Light clips on YouTube, and so many great Alexandra moments: the story with her beloved son Brandon aka Lujack, and later with Nick, the delicious love/hate dance between McKinsey and Christopher Bernau’s Alan; and the wonderful relationships Alexandra had with her family, and with characters like Ross, Vanessa, Holly, H.B. and India.

But as part of this tribute, I chose the 1991 scenes where Alexandra brings down Roger at the country club.

GL was, quite simply, ON FIRE in 1991. In the wake of several cast departures, including the loss of the characters of Josh, Reva, Rick and Phillip, other stories moved to the forefront, and it was at one of those moments, those junctions of story and performance, where a show just SHINES.

The twisted web of Roger, Alex and Mindy as Roger’s mistress was the stuff that makes great soap.

I am still in awe of these scenes, because McKinsey hits every moment, and every note. And she shows the fullness of Alexandra as a character here. We see not only Alex’s rage and anger, but her vulnerability and sorrow as well. It is a bravura performance, and it seems unthinkable that McKinsey did not win an Emmy for it.

So here’s to McKinsey and her body of work. May they both be remembered for a long time to come.

Bittersweet symphony

geary gh

Yesterday was Anthony Geary’s last episode (at least, for now) as General Hospital’s Luke Spencer.

I have to give the man credit for spending a majority of the last 37 years playing the same role, and for an obvious desire to practice his craft and bring Luke to life.

I have mixed feelings in general about all that the Luke-and-Laura era represented for soaps. I think my thoughts (and the thoughts of fellow soap analyst Lynn Liccardo)  have been well represented in a number of our posts.

Geary and late GH executive producer Gloria Monty went on record with their dislike of traditional soap opera. I still believe that for all of the short term wins — in ratings, in audience, in growth — for these shows, the over-reliance on action/adventure was what started the dismantling of these shows. The transition to incessant darkness, and unrepentant antiheroes, has just added weight to a sinking anchor.

GH did become a more exciting show during those Luke and Laura days, and it was certainly the era for romantic action/adventure. We saw it in film, too, a la Romancing The Stone. GH and DAYS were among the shows that hit the right notes with their audience using the format.

But it also set in motion the first wave of what I’ve come to call “the Moldavian Massacre Conundrum.” Once you’ve shot everyone in the head and blown up the institutions in your story, what’s left? Where’s the tension? Where’s the novelty? It just becomes a game of shoot-’em-up cowboys.

We’re seeing this in primetime, too (my previous post on this was about Scandal), but its emergence in daytime was on GH.

Many of the established shows, including the P&G shows, attempted to mimic the GH formula. Search For Tomorrow wasn’t even subtle about it, giving Travis Sentell a Luke Spencer perm. Guiding Light initially stayed strong with the classic soap of Douglas Marland, but soon was overcome by The Dreaming Death.

I feel like what should have been the takeaway message from GH’s Monty-era success for all the shows was missed: Hey, you can try new things, and the audience will like them!

What most writers and producers heard was: Hey, GH tried something new, and it worked, so let’s all do exactly the same thing to copy them.

Geary’s goodbye interviews have been laced with disdain. I find it curious that an actor who was given near-carte-blanche over storyline and the words coming from his character’s mouth could still be so disappointed in his experience.

Last week’s news of GH head writer Ron Carlivati’s departure was a surprise. I hope that the new HW’s will give Laura — the other half of that famous pairing — a chance to explore her life as deeply as Luke was explored on the show. Laura….you know, the character who actually has even deeper roots in Port Charles?

PC will always be a place with antiheroes, bad guys and waterfront docks. But I hope that the show finds some balance in its remaining years. It might just do so, away from the long shadow of Lucas Lorenzo Spencer.

REFRESH: Thoroughly Modern Kim

REFRESH NOTE: This weekend is Kathryn Hays’ 82nd birthday. I thought it was a great time to repost this piece from 2010

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Few characters on daytime have a more fascinating history (on screen and behind the scenes) than Kimberly Sullivan Reynolds Dixon Stewart Andropoulous Hughes, played for 38 years by Kathryn Hays.

Her onscreen history speaks for itself – a passionate woman who slept with her sister’s husband – a man who became her soulmate. Bob and Kim tormented each other for 12 years and married several others before finally getting together. (Take that, CarJack!)

But the creative story behind Kim is equally fascinating. Kim was, perhaps, the last great, grand invention of the iconic soap writer and creator Irna Phillips. Kim may have also been closest to who Irna really was – or at least, how Irna wanted to see herself.

Writer Martha Nochimson wrote a phenomenal academic study of female soap opera characters, No End To Her. Kim is one of the characters she writes about, and she says it so much better than I could. It mentions Kitty Foyle, a character that was featured in movies, TV and books and was an early example of the “career woman.”

[Phillips] had begun to develop a narrative for As The World Turns about a new character, Kim Reynolds, an independent and aggressive young woman. All was going well until Reynolds went Kitty Foyle a few better. Whereas [Foyle]….had been wooed by a philandering suitor, Reynolds herself seduced Dr. Bob Hughes, one of the serial’s “ideal” husbands.

Phillips was determined that the liason remain intact and that Reynolds be given the life denied Kitty Foyle – that is, sole possession of the man she wanted, and on her own terms. Proctor & Gamble viewed Phillips’ story as public sanction for immorality. Reynolds, they said, must be punished and the affair terminated. Phillips refused to accommodate the demand, and she was fired.

Phillips would die just a few months after she was fired. But Kim was the beginning of a changing face for women on soaps.

As for Kim’s onscreen life, there’s something about Kim, and the way that the magnificent Hays portrays her, that suggests so much context when I see her.

Kim reminds me of so many women I’ve known – the well dressed, suburban mom and wife, a woman who seems calm on the exterior but is sharp and contentious and passionate and whip-smart underneath.

Anyone assuming Kim was “just” a doctor’s wife or a powder puff did so at their peril. That person also might get a snarky “toots” or “kiddo” from Kim. Believe me, you lived for the scenes when Kim let loose with one of those. Classic.

Like her niece Barbara, you couldn’t quite place the “nice” label on Kim. She wasn’t a 100% ingenue nor the kindly matriarch that mother-in-law Nancy had been. There was always, as with Barbara, that fighting spirit and prickly persona that would show up from time to time.

I was a teenager and young man during most of Douglas Marland’s reign, but I still remember most of his stories as if it they just aired. I think his genius shone brightly with the ideas he had for Kim.

He came up with three phenomenal stories for her and Bob. One was the discovery that the baby of Bob’s she’d lost (see above) was still a live – a happy full-circle moment for Bob, Kim and Irna Phillips. (Twice as much Julianne Moore was just a bonus….seriously!)

The second was when Bob and Susan had a one-night stand. Watching Bob and Kim’s explosive scenes after Kim found out was must-see TV. It was so intensely real that you occasionally had to look away – not because it was violent or lurid, but because these were, in essence, your parents. Or your friend’s parents. Or the people next door.

But the most genius story was when Douglas Marland gave the audience what they wanted – Bob and Kim marrying – and then used that to launch the Douglas Cummings story, which was one of the finest mysteries ever told in daytime. Another amazing use of ATWT history, a tightly woven story from beginning to end, and the amazing John Wesley Shipp as the troubled Doug. It may have involved many others (and it was a star-making turn for Julianne Moore), but it was Hays’ moment to shine all the way.

It was Hays and her remarkable skills that kept us interested in Kim, even when the writers and producers didn’t get who Kim was or what her life had been. Kim never needed a brain chip or supernatural experience to make her interesting. She just was. She survived Douglas Cummings, that hussy Susan Stewart and Johnny D….and don’t you forget it, kiddo!