Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Eight Years in Another World

I have written before about my introduction to soap opera. Like many kids growing up in the eighties, each day I would get home from school, make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and join my mother in the rec room. By 3:30pm she was about half way through her stories (and about half way through a deck of smokes). My mothers shows were those on NBC, Days Of Our Lives, Another World and for a brief time Texas.

By the time I got home from School Days was over and by the time Texas began, I was usually bored and left the rec room to do something else. But, for a few years the 60, then 90 minutes of Another World were a bit part of my childhood. By the time I started watching, it's glory days were already starting to wane. Mac and Rachel were still on the show, but many of the shows biggest draws; Iris, Steve, Alice and Pat were gone.

I starting watching at about the age of seven or eight, but it was a few years later when I was about 11 or so that I became really drawn to Another World. The main reason was the addition of the incredible Anne Heche. When I was watching, Anne pretty much was the show, playing twins Vicky and Marley Love. Some of the hunks that roled through Another World while I watched were Richard Burgi, Paul Michael Valley, Russell Todd, Robert Kelker-Kelly, Hank Cheyne, David Forsyth and my favorite, Matt Crane (who I could not find a decent image of). I am not sure I have ever seen an actress so dynamic, and her dual roles, bad Marley wig and all, were compelling viewing. I am not sure I have enjoyed Heche in anything as much since and when she departed the soap in 1992, I stopped watching as well. I never again turned on the show, not even the finale episode.

Douglas Watson, Victoria Wyndham and Beverlee McKinsey

Posting about today's birthday boy Christopher Knight reminded me of a post I have been meaning to write for awhile. Christopher spent a bit of time in Bay City himself in the early 80's. I had heard a lot about a book, Eight Years In Another World written by writer Harding Lemay. I had read a review which stated Lemay's account of his time with the show was the predominate book to read about television writing and about the behind the scenes drama of working on a daytime soap. I had hunted for Lemay's book for awhile, but it was hard to find. Online editions of the book were going for as high as $150. This summer, while vacationing on the beach, the crew I was with spent a Sunday morning hitting all the flea markets of the town we were staying in. Then, there on a table, between hard cover editions (who buys those anymore...) of John Grisham and James Patterson was the book. The jacket cover was stained and yellow, but the book in great shape. For two dollars, I had found a bargain.

Anne Heche & Paul Michael Valley

I have always had dreams of being a writer. I have several novels saved on disks and many story ideas all saved in a folder. I have always dreamed what it might be like to create a television drama with a family like The Ewing's or The Sopranos. Daytime television also fascinates me, there is something so interesting about it as depicted in movies, especially Tootsie. The attention and pressure it must take to juggle 30 or so characters to create five, one hours shows a week seems almost overwhelming. Something the former playwright Lemay all too quickly found out. Born and raised in Maine, Lemay's childhood has been described as 'beset by dire poverty, domestic strife, and overcrowding.' This led Lemay to leave Maine shortly after graduation and head to New York to become an actor.

Christopher Rich

'The year was 1939, the year of the Worlds' Fair in New York City, a year which was still reeling from the effects of the Great Depression, and a year that saw war raging in Europe. With few qualifications for employment, he managed to find lodging at the Brace Memorial Home For Vagrant Boys, an institution dating from the Civil War when orphaned boys roamed the streets. Without strong guidance, these boys became a menace to respectable citizens. The Brace Home gave them a roof, food, and even provided them with job placement so they could earn a salary and improve their lot in life. He worked in a library, returning books to the shelves, and met a librarian who assigned him a classic book a week to read. She would discuss the book with him. This was like having a private tutor.'

Tom Eplin

'As luck would have it, he was invited to attend a party where he met the brilliant Broadway star, Pauline Lord, who just happened to be a Trustee of the Neighborhood Playhouse. Through her recommendation he received a full scholarship without an audition. After three months at the Playhouse he was drafted and served the next four years in the army, eventually in Germany. When he returned, he completed his training at the Playhouse on the G. I. Bill. His classmates included wonderful actresses like Marian Seldes, Barbara Baxley, and Anne Meacham (whom he later cast as Louise Goddard in ANOTHER WORLD). It was while he was on a forty week tour as Jack in "The Importance of Being Earnest" that he realized he wasn't a very good actor and began writing plays. That was his true calling. Since that time, he has had many plays produced both here and abroad and is currently working on a new one.'

Russell Todd

In 1971, Lemay wrote his autobiography, 'Inside, Looking Out: A Personal Memoir'. Impressed with his writing, Proctor and Gamble who sponsored Another World quickly began to court Lemay to join their show. This is where the story gets interesting, and this is where I should stop and let the book pick up. I will tell you that Lemay does not hold back, speaking honestly about the business, the network and the actors. I especially love reading how he pushed out actors he felt could not act (even huge fan favorites) while trying to focus on story with actors who knew how take the words off the page and bring them to life.

Hank Cheyne

I especially loved reading about how the family's and characters of Bay City became so apart of his life, sometimes obsessively, and often making it impossible to focus on his real family. If you love television, are interesting in the writing process, I encourage you to try to find the book!

Diego Serrano, Chris Bruno & Robert Kelker-Kelly


Anonymous said...

I loved Another World! I used to rush home to watch it but was only able to catch the last 15 minutes. That was until I got a VCR and started recording it everyday along with Days of Our Lives. If you stopped watching after 1992 then you missed out on so much. That's probably around the time I started watching and it was really good in it's last years. It' awful that we have lost most of our soaps. If only they would have progressed the way the international soaps have.


Bobby F said...

A while back, I remember you asked us to share our favorite soap hunks and I mentioned how much I was crazy for Matt Crane when he was on "Another World". Here is a page with some great pics of him. Do you remember when he would swim in the Cory pool (it always seemed far away from the house) and he would wear a Speedo! He was so yummy. He ended up marrying the actress who played Lorna Devon (Felicia's daughter...wow, what is Linda Dano up to, these days?) and a while back, he was on "General Hospital" for a little while.

One of the things I loved so much about "AW" was that it was real and honest. It didn't fall into devil possession ("Days of Our Lives") and it didn't have bizarre, outrageous storylines. In addition to Anne Heche and Matt Crane, there was the town gossip (Liz Matthews), the strong matriarch (Rachel Cory and her mother Ada), the hunky hero (Jake McKinnon), and the guy always trying to make things right (Cass Winthrop), and the little guy who stole everyone's heart (Wallingford). Then there were Sharleen, Michael Hudson, John Hudson, Josie Watts, and so many others.

Do you remember when Liberace was on as a friend of Felicia's? And when Cass was in trouble, so Felicia dressed him up as Crystal Lake.

Anyway, here is a page with some GREAT pics of Matt Crane

Anonymous said...

Bobby F, thanks for mentioning Cass Winthrop. I think that was the first older guy that I ever had a crush on.