An appreciation: Reva and the red dress

Reva Shayne. Drama queen. Slut of Springfield. “Always.” “I’m comin’, Bud!” Clone Reva. Amish Reva. Proud-Mary-keep-on-burning-Reva. Pushing-Annie-down-the-stairs Reva.

The little lady with the big emotions, wrapped tightly in many of our memories in a sequined red dress.

In Guiding Light’s rich tapestry of characters, no character elicits a strong of a reaction as Reva Shayne Lewis Lewis almost-Sampson Spaulding Lewis Cooper Lewis Lewis O’Neill. (I don’t think I forgot anyone.) Reva’s been played by Emmy-award winner Kim Zimmer since 1983.

She may be a mother of five, grieving widow and, in her own fashion, a matriarch of Springfield, but Reva sure didn’t start out that way.

Let’s talk about those strong reactions for a moment.

On the pro side: Zimmer has been recognized with four Emmys for her work as Reva. Reva’s life, and tumultuous romance with Joshua Lewis, has been a linchpin of the show for years and provided fuel for dozens of stories. The Josh/Reva pairing is, arguably, the most popular supercouple Guiding Light has ever had (or at least the one that’s been sustainably popular for many years).

On the minus side: In the early Reva days, the character was an airtime hog and fans were burned out by “The Reva Shayne Show.”  Reva’s history on the show has made it a challenge to give her a throughline – is she the town slut? The nurturing grandmother? Or somewhere in between? And do fans love Zimmer’s intensely emotional performances – or does a little go a long way?

What’s my take on it all?

The Lewis/Shayne clan are now GL vets; Reva, Billy, and Josh have all been on our screens (on and off) for over 25 years.

But it’s important to remember that Red Dress, Slut of Springfield Reva came on at a time where GL was undergoing some substantial changes. In the year or so after Reva’s introduction, the Bauer family was nearly obliterated and the Reardons left the canvas soon after. Some fans directly blame Reva – or Kim Zimmer – for those changes.

gl0520099_KimZimmer_Reva

As for me? I am first and foremost a Guiding Light fan, and have loved the show (or at least stuck with it) in all its iterations.

But I’m definitely a fan of Reva, and of Kim Zimmer. And I think I can attribute a great deal of my appreciation and respect for Reva as a character not only to Zimmer herself but also to her creator, Pam Long.

Zimmer has been consistently wonderful as Reva throughout the years, but Reva’s motivations were never so strong or so crystal clear as when Pam Long was writing GL. Long’s template for Reva has really helped to define the character through the years.

Long had an incredible knack for writing smart, engaging, captivating female characters, and Reva was one of her greatest creations (Harley and Alexandra are also on that list).

During the Pam Long years, Reva did some crazy things, but you always understood why. Her bravado masked the scared little girl inside – the one who had to grow up way too fast.

There are two Reva scenes that are etched in my memory. One played out in 1987, when Reva was concerned about Marah’s paternity and Josh was about to reunite with Sonni. Reva came back into Alan’s orbit, and he offered to pay her $250,000 to tell him a story.

She shared a painful childhood memory about eating garbage. It may sound corny or ugly, but words don’t do it justice. It was a perfect set of scenes: Kim Zimmer and Christopher Bernau were perfect, and the scenes exquisitely outlined the characters of Reva and Alan.

The other Reva scene played out a year or so earlier. It was the scene where Reva had lost Kyle to Maeve. She had no Josh, no Kyle, no Billy and no H.B. For that Reva, who had always depended on a man, she felt she’d lost everything, and she attempted suicide by jumping off of a bridge.

When she landed in the water, she fought to live and fought back. She ended up being the subject of a story Fletcher wrote for the Springfield Journal. Let’s just say that for personal reasons, Reva’s fight for survival had a big impact on me at a time where I was a struggling high school student, also fighting to survive.

Reva’s changed so much over the years, and sometimes it’s been hard to recognize her. The current GL regime has given Zimmer a mixed bag, I think, in terms of good story.  The Jonathan story was, in my opinion, the best material Zimmer had been given since those Pam Long days.

Her chemistry with Tom Pelphrey was just amazing; I believed every word and every action in every scene they’ve done. It blew the dust off of Reva’s emotional side, and allowed her to come to life again.

The real deal.

The real deal.

I’m confused about what direction GL had in mind for Reva in the last few years, though. The promise of having Reva deal with menopause and cancer were both botched. The focus of those stories SHOULD have been that a woman who defined herself by her sexuality was coping with changes to her body.

Instead, the menopause story was all but forgotten and the first cancer story, which started out wonderfully, turned into a mechanism where Reva sacrificed herself for Josh and Cassie (so wrong for so many characters on so many levels).

And if there was any one character who suffered from the new production model, it was Reva. She’s a larger-than-life character, and the new model was much more suited to quiet, slice-of-life conversations.

There’s something about Zimmer’s performance that I’ve always liked, and I couldn’t define what it was for a long time. I realized what it was a few years ago: I know Reva.

Reva is, in many ways, someone that’s been in my life. She reminds me at times of my sister (who even had her second wedding at a lakeside gazebo that reminded me of Reva and Josh). Reva is so many women I’ve known, women who fought hard and loved hard and lived with the music up to 10 and the lights on high beam (with a bottle of Jim Beam).

Zimmer is able to bring all of that to life because she’s so real, and that authenticity is what fans have always responded to. So here’s to Reva Shayne, and to Kim Zimmer, the real deal.

POSTSCRIPT: I’m glad that Reva’s seeing most of her children as the show comes to an end, and the scenes where Jonathan and Shayne meet were entertaining. But it would have been nice if all of Reva’s children were in town – and being a family together – as the Light goes out. (That means you, Marah Lewis.)

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7 thoughts on “An appreciation: Reva and the red dress

  1. Wow, Patrick, you said it all. Every Reva moment. Every Reva line. Every reason to love Reva. (Did you remember Psychic Reva? No? Well, it’s better that when, ’cause when you’re psychic you ought to sense someone stalking you…)

    I met and interviewed Kim Zimmer at a Celebrity Golf Classic shortly after Reva’s suicide attempt from the bridge. It seems that many fans forget this chapter in Reva’s life. Kim told me that the storyline didn’t really pan out the way it was meant to. She didn’t think Reva would attempt suicide, for one. Then, Cain (Jerry Lanning), who found and saved Reva, was meant to be a sort of male “Nell” that Reva would have taught to speak and read and integrate into society. Ultimately, that concept was discarded, and Cain was just a lil’ crazy. Reva got backburnered for a time after this (believe it or not!), and Kim kept telling me during the interview (when I asked her for scoop about other characters and other stories), “Forget them! I want my own storyline!” (Always followed by a big Kim/Reva laugh!)

    Great job summing up the Force of Nature that is Reva Shayne, Patrick. I relived many of those memories with you as I read this fine column.

  2. Wow, wow, wow!!!!!!!!!!!! How many times can I stand and applaud you on this?! Not nearly enough times! You nailed the true Reva and understand her like I feel I do. It’s been sad to me to see her over the last few years, because they have muted her. Some fans say it’s because she’s matured, but it’s not, Reva Shayne at 25 and Reva Shayne at 85 will be the same, she’s Reva Shayne!!!! That’s what makes us love her so much!

    I agree with you 1000% that Kim Zimmer has made her the best character she can be. IMO, she’s the best character on Daytime and Josh and Reva one of the best couples ever on daytime.

    Again, I applaud you and your Reva/Kim insight, it’s completely SPOT ON!!!!!!

  3. You have summoned up the way most fans feel very well. I believe a little Reva lives in all of us. I as a women in her forties still have walking in a ball room with a red dress on capturing every mans eye on my bucket list. I believe Reva has done and said so many things your average person would love to do and say. She has been in embarrasing situations and accepted the blame for it. When she thought Sonni kidnaaped Marah and she confronted her I cried and my heart ached with her. I just love the fact that Kim Zimmer the actress came to work every day and delivereed regardless if it was written right or not. She is the true professional. And she knows how to dress walk and talk sexy. These younger generations of women should take note. If you wanna know how to get a man ask Reva. Viva Reva.

  4. Patrick,

    You’ve brought up such wonderful memories. Reva is such a part of Springfield now, it’s hard to image that she wasn’t there prior to 1983 and was gone for almost 5 years too (oh, and Winslow would be one of her married names since she was married to Prince Richard during that time away).

    And one of the sexiest scenes that ever aired on GL involved a wheelchair bound Josh on one side of the door and Reva (then married to HB) on the other side fighting their feeling for each ofther while Bruce Springsteen’s “I’m on Fire” played.

    You’re right that Reva has suffered the most by the transition to the new production model. She just seems so constrained by the indoor scenes (although she has the largest set of any on the show). But once she’s outside, Reva’s back to being larger than life, just because she’s got the room that the character demands.

    I’ve never been a fan of Jeffrey O’Neil. There’s someone else who sucked up valuable screen time for years. But I did finally start liking the character when they paired Jeffrey with Reva. Those two have nice chemistry.

    But they’re no Reva and Josh. I was hoping they would remarry Reva and Josh for the finale, but it doesn’t look like they’re moving in that direction.

    Still, I’m glad to have known Reva for as long as I did.

  5. PATRICK, I AGREE WITH WORD FOR WORD WHAT YOU WROTE. THE INFORGETTABLE REVA SHAYNE AND WONDERFUL GREAT ACTRESS KIM ZIMMER. ALWAYS AND FOREVER VIVA REVA AND VIVA KIM ZIMMER

  6. Reva is certainly someone that stays in your mind long after the show is over. Wonderful job on your post and a great summery of a talented actress.

    I agree it would be excellent to see all of her kids on the show before it ends. Also possibly her sibs…like Rusty and Roxie. ;-}

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