I can’t let As The World Turns end without dedicating a post to Miss Eileen – Eileen Fulton, that is.
If you’ve watched ATWT for any length of time, you know that Lisa was THE original BITCH of daytime. Lisa stirred the pot and made all kinds of trouble – with a smile on her face, a wink of her eye and a lilt in that honey-accented voice.
Fulton was as captivating as her alter ego, giving quip-filled interviews and courting controversy, first with Lisa’s bitchery (for a time, she had to have bodyguards protecting her because Lisa was so hated) and then with the infamous “granny clause” which prevented Lisa from having grandchildren.
(The clause would be in the news again in late 1986 when, on the night James Stenbeck returned, Tom and Margo lost their baby. Fulton insisted she had not had the clause in her contract by that time, and that the story was solely the idea of Douglas Marland.)
Newer fans, however, would be forgiven for not knowing or not understanding who Lisa was and what she meant. Other than an occasional visit from friend Barbara, a scene with the now-departed Nancy, or a rare family scene with grandson Casey, son Tom or ex Bob, Lisa was seldom seen at ATWT.
I didn’t see Fulton in high bitch mode in the 60s and 70s, but I did see Douglas Marland’s ATWT create some interesting stories for Lisa.
Lisa was always part of some of my favorite scenes on the show with Shannon O’Hara (and her friend Harriet). Marland wrote a lot of lighthearted Hart-to-Hart kind of intrigue for Shannon and often included Lisa (and Barbara) in those escapades.
Another really interesting story was Lisa’s reaction to Duncan McKechnie’s marriage to Jessica Griffin. She’d been friends with both, but had a negative reaction to their interracial marriage. It was subtle and beautifully done, and didn’t paint Lisa as a demonic racist, but as someone who was feeling a very emotional reaction and being human. (She eventually added her blessing to the union.)
In the 90s, there was an interesting pairing of Lisa with John Dixon, two veteran characters who hadn’t had a lot of story with each other.
Lisa had blamed John for the death of Eduardo Grimaldi, her husband, and sued John for malpractice. John turned the tables on Lisa and “romanced” her. It was an interesting story, though it went to an ugly place and seemed to make Lisa look like a complete fool.
But the most interesting story, to me, was the one that had the most wasted potential. Marland was phenomenal at mining existing history (the reason Sabrina was created) and when he learned more about Lisa’s past and how the stories she’d had earlier played out, he wrote a story where Lisa had a son with ex-husbamd John Eldridge.
That son, Scott, was played by Joseph Breen, who had just played Guiding Light’s Will Jeffries a few years before, and the revelation was mesmerizing.
Unfortunately, Breen’s health status became a matter of tabloid speculation, and ATWT did something that would NEVER (or SHOULD never) happen today – they fired him.
That fantastic story, with all its potential, came to a complete stop. They brought the character of Scott back a few years later, but the character was badly written and badly cast and was shuffled off screen soon after.
The disconnect regarding Lisa is, I think, one of the clearest examples of why the fabric of this show got weaker and weaker in the last few years. Fulton recently told TV Guide that she’d asked for the character to be killed off, and I can’t say I blame her.
Lisa Miller Hughes Eldridge Shea Colman McColl Mitchell Grimaldi Chedwyn was a force of nature and a vibrant woman well into her 70s. Lisa was NEVER the crocheting granny that ATWT has allowed her to become. Maybe that’s the “granny clause” Fulton should have had written into her contract!