I’m enjoying a lot of the final days of Guiding Light. (Not all, mind you….more on that later.)
I’m happy that many of the characters are acting in recognizable ways, or have come “full circle” on their journeys.
One of the most important characters, of course, is Vanessa.
Played by the marvelous Maeve Kinkead, Vanessa has had a very multi-layered, multifaceted journey through Springfield. Vanessa started life in Springfield in quite a different place than she is today, of course.
She was Springfield’s answer to Scarlett O’Hara, bewitching the men (Tony Reardon and Ed Bauer among them) and showing up in their offices in a fur coat, heels….and nothing else.
What made us care about a spoiled brat like Vanessa? A few things.
Kinkead’s wonderful portrayal, for one. The fact that the writers showed that Vanessa was hurting and vulnerable underneath all of that gloss and haughty composure. And the fact that her beloved Daddy, Henry Chamberlain, loved her.
Here’s a very different Vanessa at the memorable ball where she and her hated archrival Nola wore the same dress. Vanessa’s meeting someone important in her life for the first time.
Vanessa had quite a number of lives in Springfield. She was wife to Billy and mother to “little Billy” (now Bill). In the late 80s she was shown as a formidable businesswoman who tangled not only with Alan Spaulding but also with her own husband.
In the early 1990s (under Nancy Curlee and Stephen Demorest’s heralded writing team), Vanessa experienced a renaissance. She dealt with a would-be rapist who tried to paint her as a liar. And there were some beautiful scenes I remember that paralleled those earlier party scenes. Instead of being in the midst of a huge drama, this new, assured, mature Vanessa went out feeling very much at the peak of her powers. She had a magnificent evening, and she didn’t need anyone – or any man – to make it happen for her. It was a wonderful thing to watch.
I was not a fan of the Matt/Vanessa storyline, for a number of reasons. The fact that Vanessa faked her death was so NOT Vanessa I simply couldn’t wrap my head around it. But I did like their slow-burn, “Internet” romance, when Vanessa and Matt fell for each other again in a literary-infused storyline.
In recent years, Vanessa has been on the sidelines (as many of our beloved GL vets are). But the Vanessa I remember and recognize has been on our screens in the last few weeks. She said a heartfelt goodbye to her daughter Dinah, who has been a source of great joy and great pain for her. And she had some marvelous scenes this past week as she moves closer to her ex-husband Billy. I loved watching her pull the rug out from Billy’s rash plan to marry her by saying, “You’ve got some courting to do.” THAT, my friends, was and is Henry Chamberlain’s daughter.
Writer and poet Hal Steven Shows has written a memorable poem about Vanessa (and the actress who brings her to life) called “Enter Vanessa Chamberlain.”
Burying the phone in black hair,
strokes her bountiful bottom lip
with the red tip of her bare ringfinger.
She is on the line to the college.
When her victim answers she says “Hello there.
This is Vanessa Chamberlain speaking.
That’s right, I said I’d call.”
Note well the white
crinoline petticoat bursting like bush
out of the black blazer she wears:
vaguest hit of a nun.
Bask in the beautiful pallor of her face!
Vanessa Chamberlain! Joan of Arc!
John of the Cross… Dear God,
for Christmas I would like to see
enter my room one day,
in spiked heels and nothing else,
her body the color of amber and immolations,
the sunlight sizzling around her,
a bottle of very bad bourbon
in her delicate hand.
She will kiss me once and pull away.
Perhaps she will say “I have to run.”
Perhaps she will want to meet me later.
Oh, cyclopean Father of twisted sex,
of all dreams dear to me this is dearest:
to hang around in a velvet bar
far past the appointed hour,
checking my watch,
as the bartender grows circumspect.
Woefully I will wonder what went wrong,
one of millions waiting today,
for her hushed silken entrance.