This past Thursday night at the Paley Center for Media in Beverly Hills, the who’s who of Salem’s past and present, and other legendary creative soap notables, came out in droves to celebrate the launch of Days of our Lives executive producer Ken Corday’s new memoirs: The Days of our Lives: The True Story of One Family’s Dream and the Untold History of Days of our Lives.
DAYS current cast members including; Lauren Koslow, Alison Sweeney, Joseph Mascolo, Galen Gering, Crystal Chappell, Peggy McKay, Kristian Alfonso, Casey Deidrick, Molly Burnett, James Reynolds, Renee Jones, Arlene Sorkin, Leann Hunley, Arianne Zuker, James Scott, Louise Sorel, Chandler Massey, Gabriella Rodriguez, Judi Evans, Wally Kurth, Josh Taylor, Nadia Bjorlin with boyfriend, B&B’s Brandon Beemer, Shelley Hennig, Suzanne Rogers, and Josh Taylor were on hand to support their boss’s new foray into the publishing world. But that’s not all. B&B’s exec producer, Brad Bell and his mom, Lee Phillip Bell, also were on hand, as well as NBC SR VP Current Series, Bruce Evans, DAYS head writer, Dena Higley, and co-executive producer, Gary Tomlin, and actress, Mary Beth Evans. However, the arrival of the man who everyone was so thrilled to see was Drake Hogestyn (Ex-John) along with his lovely wife, Victoria. I will get to that in a minute.
It has always been nice for me to be part of the extended Days of our Lives family. In 1997, I was asked by Sony Digital Entertainment to come up with a website that reflected Days of our Lives. It was my goal to make the site an extension of Ken’s vision of the show. Back then, I did work more closely with Ken and his team in the early days of www.dool.com. I think I even was responsible for the URL name… DOOL!
This night, prior to the start of the festivities, I had a chance to chat with Ken about portions and moments in his book that stood out to me. Sitting alongside Ken was Sourcebook Senior Editor and Publisher, Peter Lynch. I let Ken know that I had received a copy of the book, which I had read, and he let me know that there was a major difference in the final hardcover edition! “That was an advanced copy that went out a month before the final draft, and obviously Frances Reid (Alice) had passed away since that copy. So we had to go back to finesse some things in the hardcover edition, and deal with some things involving Frances in the past tense. I did not deal with her passing in the book, because the book really comes to a conclusion at our 44th anniversary, which was in November. Frances passed this February. And the next book will either pick up from the time of her passing and this evening, or be more of a tell-all. There were a hundred pages like that, that did not make it into the final book. They were left out because Peter felt that it may not be pertinent or relevant to the overall arc of the story, and they were at times too personal. I had to get a better idea of who was going to read this book from a global perspective. Just to write it for myself or to titillate the viewers would be a different book.”
Ken’s memoirs detail the Corday family struggles in creating, getting on the air, and continuing the Days of our Lives legacy. It also deals with very personal struggles of Ken’s family, including his brother Christopher’s suicide, and his mother Betty Corday’s battle with the bottle. Ken shared his experience in coming to terms with recalling difficult times for inclusion in the book. “At first, I was a bit reticent to talk about my brother’s suicide, and to let people know how much my mother Betty had suffered after the show’s 20th anniversary. She never really enjoyed herself again. But once I made the commitment to tell it, it was therapy times ten. I was able to deal with my pain, and how I was able to translate it to discussions with other head writers on the show at the time. In life there is pain and happiness, and for us to think it’s all a soap opera that is lovely and great… no, no, no… you have to have the balance.”
Corday believes the success of Days of our Lives is immeasurable, and some of its achievements or missteps needed to be called out in his book. Ken was strong in his viewpoint when talking about the dos and don’ts of daytime dramas. “DAYS has been a show about firsts in a lot of ways. I am not going to put it above the soon to be six soaps, but not only were we the first soap in color, but we were the first soap to deal with interracial romance, and the network nipped that in the bud. It was a volatile time! We were the first show to deal with abortion, and again, very volatile, and it still is, and then spousal abuse, and child abuse. There are all areas that you learn from. There are certain no-nos. Don’t kill babies if you don’t have to. Don’t do stories of mental illness if you don’t have to. And the third is don’t do child abuse. It’s not part of the genre. I have never seen it work successfully on other soaps. That material is the evening news; it’s not soap opera.” One of my favorite moments in the book is when Corday recalls Edward Mallory’s (Ex-Bill Horton) work ethic and personality. Who knew? He apparently was quite the rascal, but a brilliant man who could foresee Ken’s future in taking over the reigns of the series from his mother, Betty. “Ed was Peck’s Bad Boy. He played Bill Horton, the ne’r-do-well rapist, whose rape victim fell in love with him. He was a mentor to me. He said to me, ‘Oh, the once and future king’, which is the literary name for a young King Arthur, and it totally went over my head. He would say, ‘I see your mother and your father in you,’ and he was very encouraging. I guess he knew I would end up taking over the show.”
The book ends in 2009 with Corday addressing all the inner-workings of how DAYS survived getting its renewal and staying on the air, when cancellation seemed imminent just a few years ago, “That is without a doubt the most gratifying thing that has happened to me on this show since we began. We were inches away from getting our heads cut off, and the edict from NBC was, ‘Take it or leave it. Make the show for half as much, or see ya later.’ So, I said, ‘OK, but we get to run the show. So please do not second guess us.’ So here we are, and that was a little more than two years ago. The show has the highest ratings it has had for years and ten percent up from last year. It is the only show that has grown in ratings on NBC. And not to speak ill or to bite the hand that feeds me, I don’t think they ever in their wild dreams expected this to happen. It shows; correct and brilliant writers, right cast melding together with a producer who works so efficiently, and with characters that are more appealing and compelling. Bill Bell had a great quote. He said, ‘You take two actors, and a wonderful script, and a waterfall,’ and he would go on to say, ‘Who the heck needs the waterfall?’ The waterfalls are gone in daytime. We don’t do these lavish remotes anymore. It’s much more the internal struggling soap opera. It is extremely gratifying that we have come so far from where we were a couple years ago.”
So who is this book trying to reach? The DAYS fanatics who have followed the show from the beginning, or the newbie’s? Not actually, according to Peter Lynch. “Obviously, the book will be a spot on appeal for DAYS fans, and in one sense it’s a story about family, and the other, it’s a story about what it is like to be part of a creative process, having a dream, and seeing it come true. I think that behind every dream that comes true, there is family behind it that is loving, supporting, and nurturing that dream. So really, I think it’s for mothers, children, and for anybody who ever had a dream to act, write, perform, and how that can happen.”
After giving Ken a hug and well wishes on his success, I moved to the arrivals area to chat with some of Salem’s finest. First up: Crystal Chappell (Carly). I wanted to know how she is digging the Chloe/Daniel/Carly debacle. “I am loving DAYS, and I love Daniel and Chloe and Carly. Carly is just all up in their business. And I am going to accept that about her. (Laughs) Daniel’s hot, and Chloe’s hot, and so they are good people to hang out with.” (Laughs) I had to remind Crystal that it always seems that no matter what Dr. Carly does it messes up a lot of people’s lives! “I don’t mind if Carly is flawed. I am very comfortable playing people who are screwed up. And after ten years of Guiding Light, I am use to that (Laughs). You know to me, it’s the happily ever after that scare the hell out of me! I would like to see what is happening with her and Bo. Is this really right? Or, is it a stop gap?” With the Daytime Emmy nominations just around the corner, Chappell confirms she did submit the graveyard scene from Guiding Light where Olivia professes her love for Natalia. “I like the reel and we will see how it goes. We will all be in Vegas and drinking and gambling. If I don’t win, I will get drunk enough and pretend like I won. And, I do not want a boycott from the fans if I don’t win. Let’s just rein that in right now. I would be happy just to be participating. And you just have to keep moving forward. And getting to go to the Actress Nominee lunch is the greatest part. You know, great women and champagne, and you know what happens!” (Laughs) But being part of tonight’s celebration for Ken was important to Crystal. “Ken is genuinely one of the nicest people I have ever met. He is who he is with you. He has always tried to make me feel comfortable. Not everyone does that. They don’t. I respect him for that, and bringing back an actress who left 16 years ago under not so great circumstances, is extremely open-minded and lovely of him.”
Suzanne Rogers (Maggie) echoes more of Chappell’s sentiments on Corday and their unique bond. “What Ken always says is, ‘I am the sister he never had,’ and truly he is the brother I never had. If it weren’t for him, I do not know if I would still be on the show. I know many have tried over the years to get my character off the canvas. I would not have much to do. I know it was hard. Now we have a producer (Gary Tomlin) who said to me the first day he saw me, ‘Why aren’t you working?’ And I said, ‘I don’t know.’ And he shook his head and walked away. Then, all of a sudden scripts started coming into my room. I love Ken very much, and he is my best friend, and it’s nice he is also my executive producer. You can’t ask for more than that.” With Rogers having a soap opera renaissance as Maggie Horton, I wanted her to set the record straight about the show’s decision to readdress Maggie’s Myasthenia Gravis. It is something that Rogers has suffered with, on and off throughout her adult life. “Maggie is in remission now, and they brought it up. I said, ‘Please put me back in remission because this is awfully close to home. I would not like to revisit this again. I don’t mind being informative and letting the audience know about it, but I just as soon not play it.’ Everyone was worried for me.” But now that Maggie is going in remission, could a romance be just around the corner? “Victor is using her as a confidant. Peggy McKay (Caroline) is all upset with me! (Laughs) She goes, “You are going to get married to Victor!” And I go, “No, I am not. I bet Vivian is.” And she goes, “That is not what I hear.” And I go, “Peggy it’s a script.” I get into trouble and I don’t have to do a thing. (Laughs)
Soap stalwart, Wally Kurth (Justin), let me in on his thoughts on having Judi Evans back for a moment as Adrienne, and working as a potential love interest for Kristian Alfonso’s flipped out Hope! “I love working with Judi again. We have not had that many scenes together. We had a run there and you will not see her for a while. It’s been great having her back, and the audience digs it, too. It’s kind of wacky being gone for 19 years and then here we are! The best part from a character standpoint is; here is this couple that raised these four boys, and now they are at age where the four boys are gone. They look at each other and go, ‘What do we have? We were parents and we sort of forgot we were husband and wife.’ Now they are divorced, and what is going to happen next in their lives? However, I think Justin has fallen in love with Hope, tragically. It’s not where her head is at, but I do think he had moved on from Adrienne, and he has to confront this. Hope already conked me over the head with a pistol! I was her second victim, and we still haven’t found out it’s her, yet. We are still figuring it out, and we are two months ahead of air!” (Laughs)
Galen Gering (Rafe), with his beautiful wife Jenna by his side, told me to look for Rafe to come back strong to vie for Sami’s love, even though EJ’s got his evil hooks into her! “Sami is blowin’ it. So it does not leave me with anything good at the moment. I will be coming back full force with big news that will shake the place up. It won’t happen tomorrow, but it will be in the near future. There is a very strong chance Sami and Rafe can be together, if she ever stops lying to him, that would help. As far as EJ being in the way, I hope clearly that will not be an obstacle for long.” But what of the just recently revealed prison break scenes that will air in June between returning DAYS vet Charles Shaughnessy, as ISA Agent Shane Donovan, and Gering? Galen was astounded. “So this guy comes in and has a three page monologue. He says to me, ‘I haven’t been here for 20 years, man.’ And he goes in and knocks this scene out. I am sitting there as an actor watching this guy going, ‘Wow this dude is amazing! Whatever he is doing is great.’ Then he walks out and says, ‘Oh, man, I sucked. I blew up.’ But I am telling you he is great. As far as the prison material; we have these grand plans to break out of this prison, and then we break back in, and then we break back out, and then we break back in. We are like, ‘What are we doing?’ Once we are out, shouldn’t we just stay out?” (Laughs)
After the arrivals were concluded, and the hors’d’oeuvres were passed during the cocktail reception, Ken addressed the crowd and made special mentions of Wes Kenny, Gary Tomlin, and Bill Bell. He then read aloud some excerpts from his memoirs. I was standing next to Lauren Koslow (Kate) and Alison Sweeney (Sami) who could not help but be touched by seeing out of the corner of their eyes, Drake Hogestyn reaching over and giving his former on-screen nemesis and good buddy, Joseph Mascolo (Stefano) a giant hug. You see, this was the first time Drake had come out to a DAYS event with so many of his former colleagues since he was let-go from the show. After Ken had finished his reading, and we all mingled, I went up to Drake to let him know how much everyone was so happy to see him, and me, too.
As I moved through the crowd, I came upon a jovial Mary Beth Evans (Kayla), who we all just learned hours before, was heading back to As the World Turns to reprise her role as Sierra for a short stint, hot on the heels of her return to DAYS for Alice’s memorial in June. The two of us were joking how when it rains it pours. And it all sort of came out of the blue … two shows at once, but she could not be happier. Mary Beth was on her way home that night to pack her bags for New York!
As the event wound down, the people in attendance lined-up to get Ken to personalize the inside of the hardbound edition of his memoirs. I waited my turn alongside Joe Mascolo’s wife, former NBC executive Pat Schultz, and Kristian Alfonso. And, when it was my turn Ken wrote a humorous and thoughtful inscription. And, as I turned to leave, I just had to revisit the dessert table and grab some red velvet mini-cupcakes for the road. It was a great night, and time to go. I was “Dayzed” out!