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.
9 thoughts on “Enter Vanessa Chamberlain”
I freaking love Vanessa. I can’t help but think of her as Springfield royalty.
What are your feelings about original recipe Matt and Vanessa? I can see you not liking the faked death and internet phase, but early Matt and Vanessa? It’s maybe my favorite soap romance, ever – just a gorgeous story line, IMO. Those two really brought the pretty….and I found them so very believable – what chemistry they shared!
While Maeve says Matt sleeping with Dinah was the thing that marked the end of the marriage forever, I think the marriage was sadly doomed the minute Vanessa left town and faked her own death. What a betrayal. (Are you listening, Natalia?)
Lana, it wasn’t that I “hated” Matt/Vanessa. I did like their original meeting, and the reveal of their romance during the fire. I think that a number of things made it less of a success than it could have been.
Like many of GL’s romances, it was rushed way too fast, mainly because GL was low on chemistry-filled couples. It didn’t take very long from their initial meeting to their marriage – I think it was maybe 8 months or so?
I didn’t like the faked-death thing. It was just so against what Vanessa was about and who she was in every way, shape and form.
I understood the Matt/Dinah thing back in ’95 when Wendy Moniz was playing Dinah. It was an understandable thing to a degree for Dinah to flirt with Matt, especially since Moniz and Kurt McKinney had such chemistry. I just felt it went too far for Dinah to actually SLEEP with him.
And finally (yeah, I know, I’m rambling) I just think as one of the few popular couples on GL, they were played to D E A T H during that time. As much as I love GL, romance wasn’t always their strong point, and anytime they had a couple that did click, like Danny and Michelle, they played them 5 days a week until you couldn’t stand another scene between those characters.
Sorry, you asked!
I just loved the chemistry she had wiht Krista Tesreau (Mindy). When I watched this clip Vanessa reminded me so much of Mindy. Maeve Kincaid just owned every scene she was in and was so powerful. A different kind of actress than those on the show today.
Vanessa has always been my favorite character on GL. When Vanessa left the canvas, so did I. I actually only started watching again because I happened to see her onscreen. The end of GL is sad and I can’t help but feel that the end of the show is what brought the real Vanessa back. It’s been great to see so much of Vanessa (and Maeve Kinkead) in these last weeks.
FYI Matt and Vanessa met in the summer of 1994 and married in October of 1995. The early stuff with Matt/Vanessa (aka the remote that was taped on Shelter Island) seemed slow to some, but others liked it a lot. To me Vanessa getting away had to everything to do with how both Billy and Ross betrayed her (Billy by shooting Roger due to baby Peter and Ross for using Bridget wanting Peter in her life as a weapon to punish Vanessa about Dinah). Vanessa needed that time outside of time and well most of the male characters got younger love interests so finally it was Vanessa’s turn to get the same thing.
Vanessa faking her death was annoying, but the writing at that time was abysmal and since Maeve wanted a limited schedule (and the show wasn’t sure how limited it would be or for how long they came up with that…) I was more forgiving because the whole show was a mess at that point, and then they fired the head writer during the summer and Vanessa’s death was faked in September/October or thereabouts.
The Jack Kiley plot was the first one I saw with Vanessa and how she handled such an awful situation with grace and dignity. That said I love the character of Vanessa and find Maeve to be an extremely talented performer.
We have to recall that Maeve left GL at the point in time where the “terminally ill” Vanessa left Springfield, disguised as a nun (oh, Lord) with Zachary the Angel.
Yes, GL was bad in the 90’s too.
The actress took a hiatus, and this was the story we got. Because “Mattessa” was so popular, apparently no one would buy Vanessa going on a business trip, or a cruise, or a visit to Quint and Nola. (But why even bother keeping Matt on the show without Vanessa? The actor should’ve been given a mandatory 6-month break, then offered his job back.)
Thank you for recalling Wendy Moniz and Kurt McKinney’s chemistry. Not that she didn’t have it with EVERYTHING, including both Annies… Dinah and Matt was not a new story when Gina Tognoni played it; it was like, FINALLY. We knew it was gonna happen, even though it was never going to go anywhere. But all that repressed sexual tension with TWO actresses had to go somewhere, right?
Classic Vanessa in the fur coat! Tony, Ross, even Ed, skinnydipping in the Bauer pool (I think Ed was still Mart Hulswit at the time, enjoying a post-Rita fling). I was one who didn’t much care for Billy “taming” her, and I quite enjoyed Maeve’s chemistry with Chris Bernau’s Alan. Didn’t like Vanessa-on-drugs either, or how she caused the loss of Reva and HB’s unborn child. But Vanessa was a GREAT mother to Little Bill, and I especially loved Maeve and William Roerick (Henry) during Holiday episodes. After he died, and Vanessa crumbled alone, sobbing, “Daddy… Daddy”…well, there wasn’t a dry eye in MY head.
It really says something that when Lisa Brown (Nola) was asked to return for her upcoming appearance, she inquired if Maeve was still playing Vanessa (like she could’ve been recast! Only Anna Stuart, and only temporarily!), because then it would be “legit.” So true. As long as Maeve Kinkead played Vanessa on GUIDING LIGHT, that show was “legit.”
I love Maeve Kinkead as Vanessa she has a way of being high princess but don’t let the gentle manners and voice fool you she can clash with the titans!
I love Vanessa and I love Maeve Kincaid, the classiest woman is showbiz.
GL might be doing a lot of things wrong but they sure are doing Billy and Vanessa right.
I must say that even though I’m a fullblown Billy and Vanessa fan I love that It is so obvious that Matt is still carrying a torch, how could he not? It’s Vanessa, he will never find another one like her.
I love the character of Vanessa, and Maeve Kinkead as an actress was amazing! The growth of the character was so natural and played so well… and I am so glad that in the end she wound up with Billy! I’ll really miss watching her on GL, but I do hope to see her on something else very soon!
Thanks for noticing the poem–I will miss Vanessa.
Thanks for commenting Hal – it was a great poem. I miss Vanessa, in all her eras and phases.