Thinking Fans Comment Update July 22: pjs praises Search for Tomorrow’s man of yesterday … Cherry Ames remembers Stu and Jo … DS0816 wishes the young’ns could have seen Mr. Haines … and more. See Comments below.
By Marlena De Lacroix
Larry Haines passed away July 17 at 89 in Delray Beach, Fla. How sad that is for soap fans! He was a character actor character’s actor. During 35 years on Search for Tomorrow, he delivered wit, wisdom, tears, inspiration, love, sympathy, excitement, sweetness, pathos and more. And he played all that in just one character, Stu Bergman.
Stu was Jo’s (the great Mary Stuart) best friend through the whole run of the show, but he was nobody’s side kick. The astounding versatility with which he played Stu made him the most human of soap characters. Any one of today’s overly plot-oriented soaps could use a drop of the heart and genuine human warmth Haines offered by just by showing up every day to tape Search for Tomorrow.
In 1986, I had the opportunity to work with Haines for two episodes of Search. The show was about to be cancelled and NBC was looking for newspaper publicity. So to write a story on what it was like to act on a soap, I was cast as Connie Bronson, a bitchy 80s hair teased-out-to-there nightclub critic (typecasting?) who had an axe to grind with Stu’s then love, a singer named Wilma Holliday, played by an adorable Anita Gillette.
I can’t act, darlings! After I was shown “enjoying” Wilma’s performance at Stu’s club, I nastily told her what I thought (and later let her have it in my column) and Anita ran away, out to her car in the parking lot. Stu ran after her, and they had a shatteringly emotional reunion love scene — a long, full-blown one of the sort you’d never see now between characters over 60 these days!
The whole long shooting day is still kind of a blur to me because I couldn’t see without my glasses and they kept demanding I take them off. And did I mention that I can’t act? But I do vividly remember watching Haines, who was not the Uncle Stu of the screen who I could just go up and kiss.
He was very quiet and very, very serious, a total professional going about what must have been his 6,583rd shooting day of Search. He was kind of remote, standing quietly to the side preparing to go on. Unlike some of the other actors on the set that day, like the very sweet David Forsyth (Hogan), Haines didn’t even feign patience with me. When the director said go, he drew in his breath and seemed to attain the height of a 6′ man (Bergman was legendarily short). He fed me my first line. I was NEVER so intimidated in my life.
What had looked so easy to me on screen every day was the hardest thing in the world in person. But there I was shaking! Ignoring my plight, he was tart with me (I mean Ms. Bronson), and then ran off to find Anita on another part of the stage in the club’s parking lot. To her, he was so charming and tender in declaring his love, I got tears in my eyes. So did the director and the lighting guy. My eye make-up ran down my face. I knew my short acting career was over. After that day I understood how difficult the actor’s craft really is. Watching Haines at work, I was an eyewitness to soap acting as it was done by a true master.
As you may know, Haines won two Daytime Emmys (in 1976 and 1981) for playing Stu, and a very deserved Lifetime Achievement Award in 1983 from American Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. And he had another whole career in theater, earning Tony nominations for such Broadway hits as Promises, Promises and Generation. And if you’ve never seen him, rent the movie version of The Odd Couple, in which he’s hilariously one of the guys who plays poker with Walter Matthau.
For Haines’ generation of soap opera actors, it was very common to leave the soap set and go straight to the theater. (Remember soaps were only a half hour then.) It was all in a day’s, and night’s, work for him to put in a full day as Stu, then head for the theater district to appear on stage with, to name a few examples, Sada Thompson in Twigs, Jack Lemmon in Tribute and Jason Robards, Jr. in A Thousand Clowns. The theater and soap opera nourished each other then. Haines was a valued and beloved player in that great era. He’ll be missed.