By Marlena De Lacroix
About 1984 or so, when the primetime world was at the height of Dynasty-mania, all the daytime soaps were hustling to introduce characters, all costumed in big-brimmed hats, who were supposed to be the “Alexis of Daytime.” Elizabeth Hubbard, new as Lucinda on As the World Turns, was supposed to be the Alexis of Daytime. Marj Dusay, who played Myrna Clegg on Capitol, was supposed to be the Alexis of Daytime. Louise Sorel, Augusta Lockridge on Santa Barbara, was supposed to be the Alexis of Daytime.
Baloney, I wrote in an early column headlined “Outrageous” in Michael Logan’s old magazine, Soap Opera People. We already had the definitive Alexis of Daytime. Her name was Dorian Lord, and she’d already been played definitively from1979 by Robin Strasser on One Life to Live. Strasser was so good at extreme villainy, she didn’t even have to wear a hat. And as a life-long Strasser fan (going back to the Alice, Steve and Rachel triangle in the 60s on my first soap, Another World), I also wrote that Strasser was a much better and more serious actress than that overdone poseur, Joan … what’s her name?
So what a truly campy hoot it’s been more than twenty years later this past week to see Dorian wearing a big-brimmed hat (the size of California) as she made a huge Big Entrance at the Buchanan Enterprises Annual Corporate Meeting. Lips trembling, Dorian exposed Jared “Buchanan” as a hoax. For the millionth time in Strasser’s long, long career, she proved that nobody does Alexis Carrington better than the actress who plays the character who came way before her creation, and survived her — namely Miss Dorian Lord. That’s Doc-tah to you!
I love that Mr. Headwriter, Ron Carlivati, who obviously knows the history of soaps and can write for Dorian both as a vulnerable older woman and a campy wicked Queen For a Day. He’s writing the only soap I look forward to watching every day. Not just because it’s the only truly entertaining soap opera right now, but because it does current story details well and, at the same time, knows its own history.
In all her different shades of black, Dorian has been OLTL’s chief villainess for decades. Remember in 1976 when Dorian killed Victor Lord by standing by and letting him die in the hospital? This was the original version and I saw it with my own eyes! Later in the early 90s, the facts of the event were changed to appear that Viki had killed him.
Dorian has been played by various actresses (Nancy Pinkerton originated the role; Claire Malis played her briefly, Elaine Princi played her for a few years), but Strasser owns the role. She is and always has been the quintessential Dorian. And who else could make this great villainess unexpectedly loads of fun in that big, big hat! Hardly any soap makes me look up from my chair and starts moi laughing in the middle of the afternoon anymore. Some may call Dorian at the Buchanan Enterprises Annual Meeting “camp,” but moi, Marlena De LaCroix, is grateful for the good laugh Strasser evoked. I call it food for life.