5 December 2010
I blame it on Crystal Chappell…
I remember as a child when Mom would pick us up from school in the afternoon and we’d come home and watch the soaps. Okay, so I’d usually pretend to do homework while watching them. She was an ABC soap fan, so that meant All My Children, One Life to Live, and General Hospital. I have very vague recollections of Loving or Edge of Night, but I don’t remember any details of them.
Earliest All My Children recollections were Dixie (Kari Gibson; Cady McLain) and Melanie (Paige Turco) and Will (Lonnie Quinn/James Patrick Stewart) came to Pine Valley as Palmer Cortlandt’s nieces and nephew (1988-89). This was I think my first girl crush on Paige Turco, though I didn’t realize the attraction at the time for what it was. ) Step ahead a few years to the days when Jeremy Hunter (Jean LeClerc) was in a triangle with Erica Kane (Susan Lucci) and Natalie (Kate Collins), and then Natalie’s twin, Janet came to town, pushed Natalie down a well and tried to take over her life. At the time I was so interested in the story, I’d actually wrote to LeClerc and Collins at AMC and I remember getting a letter back from LeClerc. I think it was the first fan letter I ever wrote.
First recollections of One Life to Live was the storyline of Vicki Buchanan’s (Erika Slezak) daughter Megan (Jessica Tuck) was involved with Jake Harrison (Joe Lando), and Megan developed Lupus and eventually died from complications of the disease [1989-92]. I also clearly remember the story of Billy Douglas (Ryan Phillippe), a young gay boy who had befriended Joey Buchanan and Rev Andrew Carpenter as he debated telling his parents about his sexual orientation (1992-93). In a brilliant story following Marty Saybrooke, who spurned by Andrew’s rejection of her, started a rumour that Andrew was seducing the boy and went to the boys’ parents with that allegation, which then went very public and divided the town. Andrew stood by his convictions in protecting the boy, even to the point where he and his partner, Cassie, were getting hate letters; Andrew was also beaten up by a homophobic bigot, but still held his head high. Andrew went on (much to his father’s disgust) to inform people that his brother, William, was also gay and who had died of AIDS related illness. I remember when they had the Names Project AIDS Memorial Quilt come to Llanview, laid out on a field, and Andrew had a square made for his brother. After a lovely speech at St. James Church, Billy told people he was gay, and got a wonderfully impassioned reply from his mother who told him she’d love him no matter what. Meanwhile his bigoted father refused to accept him. It was an amazingly well told story. Then there was the complicated storyline of Marty’s gang rape college storyline, which remains one of the most memorable storylines for the show.
One of my earliest memories of General Hospital is the introduction of Anna Devane (Finola Hughes), Robert Scorpio (Tristan Rogers) and Robin Scorpio (Kimberly McCullough) in 1985. Kim at the time was six years old when she started the series (she’s a month older than my younger sister, so easy to remember her age). I loved the espionage stories at the time; Robert, Anna, Sean Donnelly – it was great stuff. Then I remember her storyline with Stone when he found out he had HIV and had unknowingly passed it on to Robin in her teens. Brilliant stuff.
Over the course of the years, I’d poked my head in on a couple other soaps, Days of Our Lives, Santa Barbara, and Young and Restless but always came back to the ABC ones off and on. I tuned back in toAMC during the Bianca Montgomery coming out story, and her relationship first with Frankie, Lena and Maggie. By the time Bianca and Maggie left (the first time) I was pretty much done with soaps. Storylines weren’t interesting me and I had focused on other things. I’d occasionally tune back in when Bianca would return only to get more disillusioned as they’d been destroying her character. Also tuned in on and off to One Life to Live and General Hospital. Once again, I’d leave watching soaps for two or three years. Off and on, daytime would have some really great storylines and others which leave the viewer scratching their heads, trying to figure out what the heck is going on. One thing that I’m absolutely LOVING with One Life to Live is the front-burner storylines for so many of the show’s vets, and interweaving the stories through the different characters; there’s really no characters in isolation from others.
Then came Crystal Chappell on Guiding Light as Olivia Spencer, and I was undone. I tuned back in to soaps in December of 2008. I’d heard rumblings online about a friendship/relationship that might be coming something more with the character of Natalia Rivera. Hook. Line. Sinker. I’d only caught bits and pieces of the story initially, not fully tuned in until January. Then WOW. What a storyline that developed between two women, that I’ve not seen on television played out so well, and so gradually. Not before, and not since. There was such an immediacy with the stories that drew me in. Last year, I wrote a more detailed personal introspection on that story and how it affected me, available here. It was a beautiful journey which created a wonderful online community, the Big Purple Dreams Otalia Forum, that in many respects became a family.
So, I blame Crystal Chappell for sucking me back into the addictive nature of soap operas. While she hooked me back into GL with the Otalia storyline, I quickly became interested in many of the other characters as well. So when the show concluded (on air) on September 18th, 2009, it felt like such a loss. I don’t often cry at television or film stories. But Guiding Light had my crying several times in the last several months of the show. Since then, I got interested in shows where some of my favourites ended up. That meant heading back to Days of Our Lives where Crystal went, and to One Life to Live, which now has four former GL cast: Kim Zimmer, Jessica Leccia, Gina Tognoni, and Jerry ver Dorn. I also still catch up on General Hospital on the periphery to see what’s going on.
And then there are the web soaps. There are several web soaps online, but the two that I’ve paid the most attention to are: Venice (Crystal Chappell & Kim Turrisi, creators/writers/executive producers), which stars several of her former GL and OLTL families and some of her current DAYS family; and Empire (Brian Hewson, Greg Turner, creators/writers/executive producers), which has Tina Sloan and Orlagh Cassidy of GL .
At least I’m not alone in my soap addictions. Thank heavens for fellow like-minded fans and family online.