The mainstream press has been buzzing in the last week over the fact that Madonna and Michael Jackson turned 50. Prince turned the big 5-0 in June, so this is something of a cultural milestone, especially for those of us who came of age in the mid-to-kate 1980s.
We complain a great deal about the lack of balance when it comes to veterans and older actors in daytime, and there are some shows that are guiltier of this than others. (Jill Farren Phelps hasn’t met a middle-aged or older character she didn’t want to push down a metaphorical staircase to his or her death. For the “impact”, of course.)
But I was kind of astonished, in a good way, about a few actors who are still visible in our daytime world, and I wanted to celebrate them here.
A few weeks back, in late July, I was reading Roger Newcomb’s We Love Soaps website and saw that Kathryn Hays (Kim on As The World Turns) was having a birthday. She was turning seventy-five. Seventy-five!
Hays looks fantastic, and if you have any impressions that Kim’s sitting around knitting and pouring coffee, think otherwise. Kim runs WOAK, executive produces Oakdale Now, and for sport, bares her claws and fans to longtime foe Susan Stewart.
That scene also includes Don Hastings, who is turning seventy-five next year and is celebrating one of the longest runs in any acting role as Bob Hughes, as well as the divine Marie Masters, who at sixty-seven looks easily a decade or more younger. (Not featured in this clip but still actively seen on the show is Helen Wagner as matriarch Nancy Hughes. Wagner celebrates her 90th birthday next year!)
Whatever you think of the current ATWT (I find it schizophrenic – sometimes great and sometimes awful) I have to give kudos to the writing team for including the Bob/Kim/Susan history. In fact, most of the writing teams since Doug Marland have done at least a serviceable job of remembering the history for Bob and Kim (and Susan).
Sister P&G show Guiding Light hasn’t retained as much of its history (to the detriment of the show) and their most senior contract player is 60-year-old Justin Deas (Buzz). But I have been very glad to see more of Maeve Kinkead, who looks fantastic at sixty-two and still brings a much-needed grace and balance to GL any time she’s on screen.
The ABC shows may have trimmed many of the vets from their ranks (especially at GH), but One Life to Live still features Erika Slezak, front and center at 60, and Robin Strasser, still a force of nature at 61 as Dorian. And All My Children has the sixty-two year old Susan Lucci as Erica Kane, and has brought Adam Chandler back to the front-burner, played by David Canary, who at 72 looks much as he did when he joined the show. (We miss seeing James Mitchell as Palmer, and Eileen Herlie as Myrtle; both actors are 88.)
Of course, the most front-burner veteran character is undoubtedly Katherine Chancellor, played by Jeanne Cooper. Cooper turns 80 in October, and her portrayal of Katherine just won her an Emmy (her first), so clearly, she just gets better with age.
I’m sure I’ve missed a few of your favorites – let me know who!