The Phoenix at rest

A tribute to the Phoenix - in flight, and at rest.

A tribute to the Phoenix – in flight, and at rest. (Internet image) 

2016 has been a brutal year in the arts community, and in the soap community. We’ve lost many artists, all with work that resonated deeply for us.

Earlier today, we learned of the death of actor Joseph Mascolo, who was best known as the invincible Stefano DiMera on Days of Our Lives. 

Mascolo, who died at 87, had a long and varied career in nighttime and film. He proved his versatility with the role of Massimo on B&B – where he was a welcome alternative to the wall of Forresters (and where his departure was a total mystery for many fans).

But it was Stefano that most people remember. I can’t tell you how many Tweets and Facebook blurbs I’ve seen today that said something like: I didn’t really watch or know soaps, but I know THIS guy. I know THIS name. 

As readers know, I’m more of a P&G fan, but Days was among the first shows I ever saw – it was, along with Another World, my mother’s “story.”

I remember when the DiMeras came to town. I would have never guessed that the family would still have a foothold almost 40 years later.

The twists, turns, deaths and resurrections of “The Phoenix” are too numerous to list here, but Mascolo tackled them with bravado. He made a lot of really crazy stories fly, because he believed and he made you believe.

He walked an INCREDIBLY fine line in his performances. He had a twinkle in his eye, an Easter egg of sorts to the audience letting them know this was all crazy. And yet, he didn’t play scenes for camp (well, unless it involved Susan Banks, of course). It’s easy for actors to descend into camp when all else fails, but he had a strong sense of his character.

Like As The World Turns‘ James Stenbeck, Days used – or misused – a compelling, complicated villain and piled on a plethora of fake deaths and new children until the plot twists no longer packed a punch.

And like Anthony Herrera’s Stenbeck, Mascolo’s Stefano was a renaissance man. Both were men with sharp intellects and a sense of the dramatic; both were lovers of fine art, fine wine and fine women. Both men used those brains for manipulation and havoc, instead of being  positive forces.

Mascolo, who’s been described as the polar opposite of his character in real life, will be missed by many Days and B&B fans – as well as that casual viewer, the one with the wandering attention. Mascolo made quite an impression on those viewers, a special talent in any era.

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