Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Guiding Light: 1937-2009???

Yes, friends, that is me doing my Alan Spaulding impression, a character portrayed by Ron Raines on the soap opera, "Guiding Light". I found out a few hours ago that CBS is canceling this soap opera. Now, today being April fool's day, I wasn't certain if it was a true story or a rumor that was generated. I've searched all over the internet and all of the news items appear to be reporting the same story that this coming September 2009, CBS will no longer air "Guiding Light". There are a few unanswered questions surrounding the news. There was no indication that the show was "done, finished, over" because there were several idea's that it would go on as a cyber-soap or it would move to another network. I'd be curious to know what network?

So, because the news stories do not give any specifics about the aftermath, I have labeled this blog entry with a series of question marks because it's hard to tell if the show will in fact be over with come September. P&G associates say that they plan on continuing the it leaves a lot of questions as to how...and of course it leaves uncertainty. You don't want to keep the fans on a leash and have them filled with optimism about the show possibly continuing on at another network and then once September rolls around the show actually leaves the air for good...never to return...on any network.

Is this a done deal? Apparently so...CBS has made the decision that it plans to cancel the show in September and that's the month it's contract is up. You can look up all of the news about this story on-line and get the information. Could we all wake up on April 2 and see CBS release a statement saying "April fool's!!" and this all be a sick joke? It's hard to tell. I was thinking about the reasons for CBS to pull a joke like this and the thought crossed my mind that CBS may have intentionally released this story just to get attention aimed at the show and see just how well-liked the soap truly is. I also feel that should this be a joke, CBS would then counter with: "if so many people hate to see the show go away, why doesn't the ratings reflect this?". Anyway, we shall see on April 2 and the days afterward if this is one big joke for media attention. Given that the contract for the show is up this September I don't count on this being a joke.

And so...with the news almost unanimous that the program will end in September...a little bit of character history is in a few more pictures of me. I went through some of my Soap Opera Digest's and I pulled out several from the 1980's that promoted the show. I couldn't find the issue from 1997 when the show was celebrating it's 60th year in broadcasting. I'll be posting pictures of myself showing off some of my "Guiding Light" related items in my collection...but first...

April Fool's Day 1971 holds a distinct memory for fans of the show. This was the day a certain character by the name of Roger Thorpe was introduced...played by Michael Zaslow. The character would eventually become one of the biggest draws of daytime television. In fact, it was the story line involving the characters of Roger, Holly and Ed that many fans and critics say helped the show win the Daytime Emmy as Best Soap in 1980. Ironically, it was April Fools Day 1980 that the Roger character was written off the show...falling off a cliff in Santo Domingo after the classic chase scene involving Roger, Holly, Ed, and Mike. Roger was brought back to life in 1989 and would remain a part of the show until 1998. Michael Zaslow defined the Roger character so well that nobody could play the role in the eye's of millions of fans. When Michael became ill and was eventually diagnosed with ALS, he was unable to perform the character the way that the writers felt it should be played and so he was replaced by Dennis Parlato, a soap veteran. It is also important to note that Zaslow had a distinct voice and a lot of the story lines made good use of his speaking voice...the rage and anger that filled a lot of Roger's memorable stories could have only been portrayed in the eye's of the fans by Zaslow. Dennis Parlato didn't have that unique/distinct that was one difference. Also, no other actor had ever played Roger except Zaslow...and he had played the role since 1971 and for several generations of fans, Zaslow WAS Roger. So, Parlato had a steep mountain to climb stepping into that role...and he didn't reach that peak...the character was written off the show, along with Amanda Spaulding soon after, amidst thousands of complaints from fans not wanting to see anyone but Michael Zaslow in the role.

Did you know that Joan Collins was a member of the show for awhile? She played the role of Alexandra Spaulding for a short period of time in the early part of this decade...2002 to be exact. She was in the role between Marj Dussay's on-again/off-again portrayals. Marj played the role during 1993-1997 and she returned to the program briefly in 1998-1999 and then made another return in 2002 replacing Joan Collins...remaining with the show until 2005...afterward she appeared sporadically.

James Lipton was a cast-member of the show in the 1960's. Kevin Bacon was a cast-member in the early 1980's.

Jerry verDorn was introduced on the soap in 1979 as lawyer, Ross Marler. There are only a few performers on the soap to boast considerable longevity...consecutive longevity even a more rare accomplishment. Jerry verDorn goes down in GL history for logging 26 years on the show, 1979-2005. He immediately was picked up for another soap opera, "One Life to Live", playing the role of Clint Buchanan, which he still portrays. The Ross character was evil at first...playing a lawyer for criminals, notably Roger Thorpe. Ross' brother, Justin Marler, had been a fixture on the program for several years prior to Ross' arrival. Over the course of time Ross had become a nice guy and eventually took on the role of father-figure to nearly every younger character on the show. Well, uncle-figure, to be interviews verDorn often remarked at how his role had gone from "bad guy to recovering bad guy to nice guy to Uncle Ross, helping other character's out of jams using legal knowledge". Toward the end of Ross' tenure on the program the character shown some signs of evil Ross emerging, due to the arrival of his half-brother, Ben Warren. It seems that Ben brought out the evil in Ross...showing many younger fans a side of "lovable Uncle Ross" that they weren't used to. It was also in this era that Ross did the unthinkable in the eye's of fans...he had an affair with a much younger woman named Tory Grainger. Although these kinds of stories gave the character a lot of mileage they weren't necessarily in-step with the image that the character had become written into being. Amidst budget cuts, Jerry verDorn was let go and his character was written off the show having died in an accident while away on a trip.

Longevity...consecutive or otherwise...
Charita Bauer holds the record for consecutive years on contract with the show. Her association goes back to network radio when she stepped into the role of Bertha Bauer. Her real last name, Bauer, was only a coincidence, since the Bauer family had been a feature on the program for about two years prior to Charita joining the show. She played the matriarch of the Bauer family...she was rarely called Bertha on the show...friends and family choosing to shorten it to Bert instead. Charita portrayed the role of Bert Bauer for 35 consecutive years, 1949-1984. She is the actress with the most longevity, obviously, on the show. Jerry verDorn's 26 consecutive years as Ross Marler comes in second. Following verDorn is Tina Sloan. She has played the role of Lillian Raines since 1983...2009 marking the 26th year of the character's association with the program. However, her appearances and lack of major storyline's for a period of years ranks her at #3. She is typically in group scenes that take place at parties...or behind the counter at Cedars Hospital...her character, when given some dialogue, is usually depressed or on the brink of some kind of crisis due to her never really having a stable domestic life. Her worries and concerns over her daughter, Beth, and grand-children typically cause her to have bittersweet scenes with the rest of the characters. If the character had been more of a major presence during the 1990's she would certainly out-rank Jerry verDorn but because the Ross character had way more possibilities he comes in at #2 for consecutive longevity. Theo Goetz played the role of German immigrant, Frederich Bauer. He was known as Papa Bauer...rarely called by his name. Papa is the father of Bill, Meta, and Trudy...and the Papa character never had any major stories...but like Lillian, Papa became a fixture on the show through association with the front-burner characters. Goetz portrayed the role of Papa for 23 years, 1949-1972.

The only other actor associated with the show to approach those kinds of longevity numbers is Robert Newman...he's portrayed the character of Josh Lewis on and off since 1981. He took a few breaks from the show, though...a couple of times in the early 1980's, then he returned in 1986 and remained a part of the show until 1991. The character was written off in search of Reva and returned in 1993 and has been a part of the show since then. Anyway, it isn't a consecutive run...unless you count the last 16 years, 1993-2009...but as far as character portrayal, Robert Newman comes in third...and like the Ross character, no other actor has ever portrayed Josh Lewis. So, if you were to count the years since his character's debut, Robert's portrayal of Josh has been a part of this program off and on for 28 years, 1981-2009, more than Ross and Lillian...but it's not a consecutive 28 years...if it were, he'd rate #2 behind Charita Bauer, and Jerry verDorn would rank #3.

Kim Zimmer came aboard the show in 1983 playing the role of Reva Shayne. Her character became a thorn in the side of the Lewis she had been the former wife of Billy Lewis and former lover of his brother, Josh Lewis. Trish Lewis had been a character on the show for a certain period of time. Alan brought Reva to town in the attempt of using her to come between Billy and Vanessa. Alan wanted Vanessa and her family fortune for himself but she wanted Billy instead. Lewis Oil became a fixture on the show around this same time and soon the Lewis patriarch, H.B, arrived in town. Reva and Billy, as well as Reva and Josh, became popular entertainment for fans during the mid 1980's. Reva and Josh are written as soul-mates...and love each other so much that they can't stand being together because their ego's get in the way of their happiness. In my opinion, based on the various stories I've seen, Josh prefers Reva to be a stay-at-home type of woman while Reva wishes that Josh would be as wild and carefree as Billy. Josh, also, becomes annoyed and rather angry if he feels that Reva creates drama...for he feels it's some sort of signal from her telling him that she thinks he's boring. So, a lot of the time when the two got together they'd end up breaking apart...but they always find their way back...until something else comes along to keep them separated. Reva, in addition to Billy and Josh, became involved with H.B Lewis and then Kyle Sampson, who turned out to be Billy's half-brother. Reva re-united with Josh but then he left her and she fell for Alan Spaulding...and he married her while she was in a coma...only for Josh to return and become a monkey wrench in Alan's schemes as Josh found his way back to Reva once again...only for Josh's presumed dead wife, Sonny, to show up in town and given that Josh was still legally married to her he couldn't hook up with Reva...yet again...driving the two apart. Throughout the 1980's, Reva was the quintessential "soap heroine", going through a plate of emotional and physical stress, but never reaching the overly exaggerated story lines that a lot of GL's competition was churning out in that era. Kim originally portrayed the Reva character for seven years, 1983-1990. She returned to the show in 1995 and has never left the her a total of 14 additional years in the role.

Don Stewart...I know some will ask about him...he was part of the show for quite a long time as well. He portrayed Mike Bauer, a lawyer, son of Bert and Bill. Mike had been portrayed as a kid and a teenager throughout the late '50s and early '60s but by the late '60s he was aged into early adult-hood. Don Stewart is the only actor to play the role as an adult. He joined the show in 1968 and remained a part of the show in a myriad of stories from front-burner to back-burner and all points in between until 1984. His stay on the show was 16 consecutive years...tied with Robert Newman. Stefan Schnabel is also on the longevity list...he portrayed Stephen Jackson for 16 years, 1965-1981. Stephen was a doctor and the father of Leslie, a woman who became involved with both Ed and Mike Bauer. Leslie is the mother of Rick Bauer. Fran Myers, an actress who became a writer for the show, appeared on the program for 15 years, 1964-1979, as Peggy Scott. Peggy would become the wife of Roger Thorpe in the early 1970's...a lot of her earlier roles were centered around her relationship with her parent's, Ben and Maggie Scott, who were tangled up in a not so happy marriage with Bill Bauer being the other man in Maggie's life. Mike in later years was written as a fatherly type...given that he had a daughter, Hope, who would end up marrying Alan Spaulding. Mike joined the ranks of Adam Thorpe and Sara McIntyre in the early 1980's. These characters were no longer in major storyline's but their characters remained focal points on the show. Mike was eventually written as an amateur detective by the time he left the show...teaming up with Ross and various legal figures in bringing down crime. The character, played again by Don Stewart, made one last appearance in 1997 during the show's 60th anniversary in a few episodes that took place at the Cedars Hospital celebration which doubled as the on-air celebration of the soap opera itself. Don Stewart passed away in January 2006, the month GL celebrated it's 69th year in broadcasting, 1937-2006.

The character of Ed Bauer came into major prominence in the mid 1960's. Robert Gentry portrayed the character as a young adult, 1966-1969. Ed's mentor was Stephen Jackson...and it was through Stephen that Ed found a wife, Leslie. Their marriage produced a child, Frederick, later called Rick. Ed and Leslie were a doomed couple and the marriage didn't last long. She fell for his brother, Mike. Martin Hulswit took over the role of Ed in 1969 and he remained with the show for 12 years...vacating the role in 1981. Hulswit's portrayal of Ed is noted for the character being one part up-standing citizen and doctor and one part self-loathing alcoholic. Hulswit played the role during the character's more adventurous times...playing an alcoholic and being one of the pillars of society at the same time. Ed's father, Bill Bauer, was an alcoholic too. Hulswit was replaced by Peter Simon. This actor would become the definitive Ed Bauer to many millions of fans who discovered the show in the 1980' spite of Hulswit's 12 years of service. In Peter Simon's hands, the character was toned down considerably. He was rarely intoxicated or seen under the influence...and he met and married a character named Maureen Reardon shortly afterward. Simon left the show in 1984...replaced by Richard Van Vleet. During the years Van Vleet portrayed the character, Ed started drinking again. A lot of this stemmed from the aftermath of the Beirut story that took place during much of 1985 which featured Ed, Maureen, Fletcher, and Claire surrounded by intrigue and adventure at every turn. Ed also had to deal with a gossipy nurse who eventually turned up dead, making him one of the suspects in her murder...on top of all of this, Claire became pregnant and the baby was revealed to belong to Ed. Peter Simon returned to the character in the latter part of 1986 and remained in the role for ten more years. Ed was written off...joining a medical staff in Africa. Robert Gentry returned to the role in 1997 and remained on the program until 1998. Ed was then talked into returning to Africa to continue his work and he was written off the show once more. Several years later, Rick was engaged to a woman named Melanie Beaudreux and then he started having heart problems. He began to wonder why his father, Ed, had virtually dropped out of sight when he went to Africa for the second time and had made no attempt to contact the family. As Rick and Mel's wedding day approached, Rick was becoming more and more ill with his heart ailment. Michelle's husband, Danny Santos, had been on a secret mission: He was in Africa searching for Ed! On the day of the wedding, as the preacher announced the familiar phrase: "does anyone object these two people joining in marriage...speak now..." and just at that instant Ed walked in and said: "I object!" and everyone the role of Ed was none other than Peter Simon...back after a 6 year hiatus. Rick and Mel and just about everyone didn't know what to think until Ed calmed the nerves of all involved by explaining that he objected simply because he hadn't had a chance to say hello to Rick's bride. Afterward, Rick and Mel were married and later Ed was mysterious about his long-hidden absence until he explained that he had been taken prisoner and forced to live a life without TV, radio, telephones, running water, and other necessities of everyday life in America...and if it hadn't been for Danny rescuing him, he never thought he'd ever see his family again. Ed remained in town for period of years but after Peter Simon's contract was up, he left the show once more...upset at the direction the show/his character was being written...since then, Ed hadn't been a part of the landscape in town. He is scheduled to make an appearance in the coming months as the show nears it's final episode...played by Peter Simon once again.

Frank Dicopoulos arrived on the show in 1987 playing the role of Frank Cooper. He and his sister, Harley, were the first of the Cooper family to arrive in town. Harley became tied up with Alan-Michael Spaulding as well as Dylan Lewis...while Frank became occupied with a succession of women. Eleni, a newcomer to the scene, became tangled up with Frank and Alan-Michael...she marrying Alan-Michael but would eventually marry Frank. Frank's consistent portrayal of Frank Cooper, since 1987, ranks him with 22 consecutive years associated with the series, 1987-2009, ranking below Jerry verDorn in terms of consecutive longevity. Frank's front-burner storylines began to erode in the mid 1990's when the story began to focus more on the return of Alan, then Reva, and the emergence of Annie Dutton's schemes when it was clear Josh and Reva were finding their way back together. Frank was often on hand as the policeman investigating whatever criminal activity was going on. In a lot of ways, in later years, Frank became similar to Larry Wyatt, a detective who was often paired with Mike Bauer in the late '70s and early '80s during stake-outs. Frank would not be seen for weeks on end but then suddenly show up if there was a mystery or murder that needed solved...he'd be on the case. His role in the Springfield police department ensured him that he'd be featured in any story that required prolonged police work.

Alan of my favorites...
Alan Spaulding and his family were introduced in 1977 and have been a presence on the show ever since, via various family members. The main character, Alan, was portrayed originally by Chris Bernau. The actor was no stranger to soap opera's when he joined the show but it was this character and the way he portrayed the role that connected with fans. The character was written off the show in 1984 and thousands complained. In the character's absence the family was represented by his adopted son, Phillip, and Alan's sister, Alexandra. The out-pouring of complaints never let-up over Bernau's disappearance from the show and someone behind the scenes finally dreamed up a story that would ultimately lead to Alan's return in 1986. Back in 1984, in San Rios, there was a rescue mission at play involving Fletcher Reader, Jim Reardon, and Alan...they were trying to find Hillary Bauer. The FBI tracked Alan and company to San Rios and as they were preparing to arrest Alan, he distracted them as Jim, Hillary, and Fletcher boarded the plane...taking off...leaving Alan behind. As the plane flew away, amidst the commotion, Alan ran from the FBI agents and disappeared into the jungle...with gun shots being fired in the background. The last anyone knew of Alan, he had been shot by the FBI...but two years later Alan, via a flashback, thought back on the day in San Rios and how he managed to escape and survive the gun shot wounds in his leg.

Alan made his return to the town of Springfield with the help of India von Halkein, the woman who married Phillip, although he really didn't love her. Alan had been living in the von Halkein castle, secretly plotting his return, and using India as his spy. Alan's early appearance after his return shown him walking with a cane, a reference to having been shot in the leg by the FBI. After Bernau returned to the show as Alan he remained a constant presence, including playing a part in the disappearance of Beth Raines...and the subsequent cover-up and falsehood of her death. He also dabbled in art smuggling with the Valere couple and using Johnny Bauer as his pilot to fly the stolen paintings. Johnny was clueless about the merchandise he was flying for Alan. Other dastardly deeds after his return included taunting a host of women, which included Vanessa, who he had always had a fantasy of marrying her and merging his company with her father's wealth. Alan also tried to throw Ed and Maureen Bauer out of Cedars Hospital, just for spite. Bernau became too ill to work barely two years later, 1988. Daniel Pilon was called in to take over the role.

Did you know that when Chris Bernau became ill in 1988, the producers contacted Michael Zaslow and asked if he'd want to come on and replace Bernau? Michael declined because his portrayal of Roger and Bernau's portrayal of Alan were too identified with the fans for such a thing to be accepted...and it was during these talks that they dreamed up the story that brought Roger back from the dead, for what could have been the hundredth time or more, given the character's history.

Alan was written off the show in 1989...being sent to prison for the shooting of Roger Thorpe, who had returned from the dead, and for accidentally shooting Phillip minutes earlier while aiming at Thorpe. When Alan returned in 1994 he was portrayed by Ron Raines...who continues in the role 15 years later...and he, too, is among the consecutive longevity elite.

Okay...I know i've skipped over a TON of things but when you have a program that's been on the air 72 years it's impossible to touch everything. Here are the pictures I was making reference to many paragraphs ago...

This issue features the characters of Claire Ramsey and Fletcher Reade on the cover. Susan Pratt and Charles Jay Hammer. The issue is from 1985. I bought a lot of 1980's issues of Soap Opera Digest during the late 1990's when they had them for sale...they still might have back-issue's for sale still? I hadn't bought any for years. The major storyline that was taking place on the show at the time of this issue was the Beirut story. Fletcher and Claire had both gone off to Beirut, a war-torn country filled with terrorists. Ed and Maureen followed them over. As the story went on, a bombing raid soon separated the four friends. Ed and Claire were separated from Fletcher and Maureen. Each couple feared the other had died. Fletcher and Maureen remained platonic toward each other but the same couldn't be said for Ed and Claire...Ed became delirious and feverish and envisioned Maureen. Actually it was Claire but Ed mistook her for Maureen during his dazed condition and he slept with her...days later they became reunited with Fletcher and Maureen...and soon Claire became pregnant and the truth was revealed. Claire and Ed's daughter, Michelle, eventually became one of the top characters of the show in the late 1990's and into the next millennium.

This issue was on the shelves in 2002, the year the show celebrated it's 50th year as a TV soap and it's 65th year on the air. The show moved to TV in June 1952. The show itself debuted on radio in January 1937. Interestingly, the cast of "Young and the Restless" appeared on the cover. Inside the issue there's a generic time-line depicting the action and pictures of cast-members past and present. There's a section called "In Memoriam" where it lists several cast-members who had passed away.

This particular issue features Chris Bernau and Mary Kay Adams on the cover as Alan Spaulding and India von Halkein. This issue was in the stores in July 1986 right around the time of the character's return to Springfield. India was revealed to have been a spy for Alan...she and Alan, along with her Baron father, were in cahoots. Alexandra, Alan's sister, had been married to India's father at one time...and so Alan was using the von Halkein's in his bizarre scheme to gain control of his company from Phillip.

I have the 60th anniversary book that was released in 1997. It's a hardcover book filled with a year by year synopsis and several the back there's family albums chronicling the various families of the show. There's a cast-list showing all cast-members of the radio and TV versions. Jerry verDorn wrote the forward. I also have the softcover 50th anniversary book from 1987...and here it is...

There was also a Soap Opera Digest issue promoting the show's 50th year in broadcasting in 1987...on the cover of that issue were the two popular characters at the time, Johnny Bauer and Roxie Shayne. Johnny had been introduced as a Bauer cousin but his side of the family was never explored. Jack and Laine Bauer were said to be the character's parent's and so Jack must be the son of another branch of Bauer's since he was never part of the core Bauer family. Roxie was brought on as Reva's sister. The two performers were Kristi Ferrell and James Goodwin. Reva and Roxie's brother, Rusty, as well as their mother and father, Sarah and Hawk, were major players on the show in the mid to late '80s. Hawk became the bartender of the Reardon establishment, known simply as "Company". Rusty became wrapped up with a woman named Rose and later became embroiled in the Will Jeffries storyline in addition to becoming romantically linked to Mindy Lewis.

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