Sex and Death in the Afternoon – An Oral History of the American Soap Opera is an uncensored history of the rise and fall of the soaps from some very unique perspectives that is out on newsstands now in the Sept/Oct 2001 issue of Mental Floss Magazine. Written by Los Angeles Times journalist, Lisa Rosen, this piece takes a chronological look at the origin of the soaps through its glory years and heyday, all the way to modern times where each year we have been saying farewell to legacy daytime dramas. Many issues are raised including: who caused the downfall, how soaps affected the culture, and can they bounce back!
And what a cast of characters that participated in interviews for the Mental Floss feature in which some amazing, zany, humorous, shocking and heart-tugging quotes are culled from that take the readers on the journey of all the decades of the soap genre. They include: Days of our Lives, executive producer, Ken Corday, and co-executive producer, Greg Meng, Wendy Riche, (former EP of General Hospital), Don Hastings (Ex- Bob Hughes, ATWT), Chris Goutman (Ex-EP, ATWT), William Reynolds, writer and Edge of Night Superfan , Kimberly McCullough (Robin, GH), Jackie Zeman (Bobbie, GH) , Erika Slezak (Viki, OLTL), Kay Alden (former head writer Y&R, now with B&B), Tina Sloan (Ex-Lillian, GL) Eden Riegel, (Ex-Bianca, AMC, now Heather, Y&R) Julie Hanan Carruthers (EP, AMC), Bill and Susan Seaforth Hayes (Doug and Julie, DAYS), Sam Ford (Co-editor, The Survival of Soap Opera), Roger Newcomb, (WeLoveSoaps.net), Stephanie Sloane (Editorial Director, Soap Opera Digest and Soap Opera Weekly) Tristan Rogers (Ex-Scorpio, GH, now, Colin, Y&R), Genie Francis (Ex- Laura, GH, now Genevieve, Y&R), Suzanne Rogers (Maggie, DAYS), Barbara Bloom (Former CBS Senior Vice President), Frank Valentini (EP, OLTL), and On-Air On-Soaps Michael Fairman.
There are so many delicious quotes from everyone in the soap biz, that you should get your copy of the magazine and/or go to the Mental Floss website for more info. Below are just a few excerpts included in the article to give you a sense of the piece. We will to post more quotes for you in the coming days. But for now you can also take an exclusive look at the first part of the feature “The Addiction Years” by clicking here!
Part 1- The Addiction Years (1932-1963)
Wendy Riche: – “Soaps first came into my consciousness when I moved back in with my parents – pregnant and not married. My mother was watching Days of our Lives, and she said, “Ooh, look Wendy, they’ve got a story on that’s just like you!”
Part II – Leave No Taboo Unbroken (1962-1972)
Michael Fairman – “Erica Kane had daytime TV’s first legal abortion on All My Children (1973). It was like, they’re going to tell an abortion story? And use Erica Kane? But they botched it years later – the storyline, not the abortion – by negating that it was an abortion. Instead it turned out she’d had a demon seed child.”
Kimberly McCullough – (Regarding the ABC Afterschool Spin-off with her and Michael Stone during the GH AIDS storyline called, “Positive: A Journey into AIDS” where in it they visited a hospice) “There was this guy there, Lewis, who I connected with right away. He was going blind, so I was reading to him. I went back for the taping and I found out he had died a few days before. They hadn’t told me because they wanted to get my reaction on camera. I was so pissed off at the producers for putting me in that position that I almost didn’t finish the special. I didn’t want to be used as an actor playing a character to represent something. It became about me at that moment.”
Part III – The Go-Go Glory Years (1973-1999)
Erika Slezak – “I think the writers got bored and they thought, oh Christ, what can we do now? They came up with ridiculous stories. There was one called “Eterna” where we found an underground city, and nine of us fell through a rabbit hole and spent months there. They had a story where I was hypnotized to kill my son. I went to them and said, “This is horrible.
Chris Goutman – “I think Luke and Laura’s wedding was when soap opera took a wrong turn. We started chasing this chimera, instead of trying to be true to our roots.”
Tristan Rogers: “When Elizabeth Taylor came on the show (GH), I had a one-on-one scene with her. She had all the dialogue down. a total pro. She walks on with a drink in her hand, and I’ve got my prop drink. I said, “What did they give you to drink?” She said, “Some of that stuff there.” Piled against one wall was this pink Dom Perignon. She said, “You Want a hit? Drain it!” I drained it, thanks. So we’re having our little fun. Gloria Monty comes out onto the set. Of course, she wasn’t going to chew Elizabeth out, so she said to me, “Tristan, this is a professional show, you’re wasting our time.” And Liz turned to her and said, “Who do you think you’re talking to?” I had close-ups of the back of my shoes for about a month.
PART IV – Daytime Turns to Twilight (2000-Present)
Don Hastings – “CBS didn’t even say goodbye to us after 50 years. There was nothing to anybody on the show who had served on it, any kind of official, “Gee, we’re sorry, and good luck.” The show itself gave the cheapest party I’ve ever been to. Just a very sad end. That’s the part I don’t miss.”
Julie Hanan Carruthers – “I’m a little shell-shocked. I feel part of the cultural fabric of what I’ve grown up with is disintergrating and changing.”
Erika Slezak: “I think that Brian Frons, the head of ABC Daytime, doesn’t believe in the genre. He never believed they could last. My biggest objection is ABC saying people don’t want entertainment anymore, they want information. That’s ridiculous. People always want entertainment.”
Chris Goutman: “We knew that when Guiding Light went off, our days (on As the World Turns) were numbered. I was bawling like a baby when they announced it.”
Soap Opera Moving to the Web
Frank Valentini - “Our Society underestimates the attention span of people on the Internet. It’s a different platform, but it’s still entertainment. I think a longer form will work. It’s obvious where the technology is going, and people aren’t getting tired of looking at nice, large, beautiful screens.”
So as Prospect Park enters the soap arena on the web, and we are left with four network soaps, where do you stand on the future of the American soap opera? Let us know! And make sure to pick up your copy of Mental Floss!