Guiding Light: What Happened? Start Your THINKING Long Ago

Thinking Fans savor vintage Guiding Light: Mike Goldberg says, “It seems to me that Guiding Light has had so many magical periods and then so many dreadful periods. The era you describe was magnificent” … while from Italy, Giada declares, “I don’t want to be a ‘laudator temporis acti,’ someone who praises the past for its own sake, but I do believe we’re not seeing in the present moment soaps as good as we used to” … and more. See Comments below. 

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By Marlena De Lacroix

It’s been so difficult to write since last week’s  cancellation of Guiding Light.  So painful to see it go, so awful to lose a show that is literally the cradle of all soap operas.Guiding Light 1

I only stopped feeling bad when I realized that the cancellation freed me from ruminating about the disasters of the past year (the “new” production model!). Instead, I could reflect on and savor memories of the remarkable and glorious 72-year history of GL. Not just to reminisce, but to think about why GL was an excellent and superbly crafted classic soap for so long, and how over the years so many of the elements that made it so popular and compelling were carelessly discarded.  I decided to pick one era –1980-82, the first years I watched — and examine it through the eyes of someone who’s watched thirty years of subsequent soap opera history.  Some might call what happened during those years modernization.  Others might call it slow destruction …

You have to remember that GL in1980-82 stood in a shadow. In those days everyone, especially the young and hip, were swooning over the magical Luke and Laura story on General Hospital, which had hit all of daytime with a tidal wave of

GL was truly an ensemble effort.  As a viewer, you felt very much an integral part of Springfield, too!  It was like a real place, a real home.  Which once upon a time is what all soaps were.   

popularity in the summer of 1980, the summer on the run.  I was the new editor of a magazine called Afternoon TV, and was responsible for watching all the soaps.  I didn’t want to watch GL, a boring CBS soap!  Squaresville!  I was a hip ABC soap chick!

It took many months for me to get into the show, with its comparatively slow moving scenes and even slower moving storylines. There seemed to be 42 characters I had to get to know on screen every day.   Unlike today, GL had a range of actors of all ages.  True, a rookie actor named Kevin Bacon was finishing up his stint as alcoholic teen Tim Werner (his acting talent was more than evident), but there was only a handful of younger actors.  There was still a coterie  of very old actors — 60, 70, 80-plus — who had GLhonored places on soaps.  One actor, Stefan Schnabel (Dr Stephen  Jackson, who had a thick German accent) had to at least 80 years old. And there was the bow-tie wearing Ivy League-esque Henry Chamberlain, who sat off to the side with his debutante daughter Vanessa making sophisticated comments and witticisms on the action. Delicious! None of the actresses had cleavage, and few were even beautiful.  None of the actors looked like they were stamped out with a cookie cutter as they do today. Their characters looked like real people, our neighbors and friends. Everyone in the acting company (and it felt like GL had a very cohesive, top theatrical quality ensemble  at that time) had two things we rarely see in today soap casts: stage or acting training, and perfect diction!  

The Spauldings, led by super-rich industrialist Alan Spaulding (Dallas and Dynasty made super-rich men all the rage then), had come on the scene in 1979 and were taking the town by storm.  Alan, who had a receding hairline, Alan Spauldingwas so commanding as to be sexually  electrifying. He was played by Chris Bernau who, at the time, was playing Dracula at a theater downtown.  He was just about to marry sweet young Hope, who was the progeny of the show’s oldest central family, the Bauers.  Hope’s father, Mike Bauer, hated Alan. The show’s posturing 45ish hero lawyer had dyed black hair and looked and acted like Mike Connors.  Alan had the hots for Rita, the flaky wife of Hope’s uncle Ed Bauer, a doctor and reformed alcoholic (at that time played by chubby, sweaty Mart Hulswit).   In the best remote I ever saw, everyone went to Jamaica, where married Alan seduced married Rita in a waterfall.  This sequence was hot, hot, hot not just because the actors were good, but because by then viewers had waited a long, teasing year for this  forbidden act of … adultery!…..  to happen.

On the home front,  the citizens of Springfield, remained so … individual.  They were all a bit quirky. Most quirky was young  but very intelligent Holly.  She was lovely but neurotic.  Her late husband Roger Thorpe (now thought dead) had  raped her during their marriage.  I don’t have time or space for the details now after thirty years, but at some time Roger, Holly, Ed  (and Rita)  had all been married or involved with one another.  Roger and Ed hated each other, and I mean REALLY hated each other, the same way that Mike and Alan did.  Another new hothead in town was a (then )nasty lawyer named Ross Marler (Jerry ver Dorn), who was terrific at grilling everyone on the stands at trial.

In this era, GL‘s drama was fueled by these hot, powerful, magnificently acted rivalries. The violence of  today’s General Hospital was not needed to ratchet up the dramatic stakes!  They had words then!  And the show’s overwhelming theme was romance.  Adult romance!  The core audience of the show — and all of daytime — was women. The whole show reflected that by always remembering that daytime soap opera was aimed at women who were thinking about and making hard psychological choices about their lives and relationships.  GL was all about the life of the heart, not mob chiefs or hurricanes!

And there were no spoilers then.   Thus the surprises in the plots –the murder mystery revelations for example — were a lot more effective.  And because we didn’t know what was going to happen on the show the next day, or we were always in suspense about what was going to happen to your favorite character, we felt absolutely compelled to tune in to our soaps every single day!

The best part of Springfield was something I took for granted then because I was in my 20s  and yet to live my life.  Everyone in Springfield had a mother, a father, a grandparent, a friend to talk to about their lives. Everyone was loved as a whole person.  Even the venal Roger had a father! These talk-to scenes, now mostly eliminated on soaps, gave the characters and the storylines a deeper dimension.  Most importantly, it made  the viewers THINK about what they were watching.

Queen of the talk-to was Bert Bauer, played by the late, very beloved Charita Bauer. Bert/Charita was a pleasant, humorous woman,  but was definitely not a push over  When she talked, you listened.  Now that most of my older family members are gone, I wish I had a Bert/Charita to guide me.

In 1979, a new headwriter charged with adding youth appeal took over the show. (He had created Luke and Bobbie on his previous soap, GH)   His response was to create Nola Rear don, who lived in a boarding house with members of her new family: mother Bea, brother Tony and sister Maureen.  Nola’s dream was love and romance, particularly with a town hunk named Kelly. But the way she tried to vamp him had nothing to do with lingerie, cleavage or fake tits.  Nola was a young girl whose innocent longing for romance, something most young American girls had back then, well before actual sex started in middle school. This longing manifested itself so very endearingly as she imagined herself as the heroine of such 30s classic movies as The Wizard of Oz  and Wuthering Heights.  Nola didn’t get Kelly, but she did get lavishly produced scenes emulating those movies and others.  These movie-esque fantasies came directly from the upstate New York 30s childhood of Douglas Marland, the show’s headwriter.

A decade before his legendary stint on As the World Turns, Marland took all the stories and elements I described above and wove magic at Guiding Light.  During this era, he wrote GL as the classic soap that it had always been. But Doug’s theater background (he had been a Broadway actor), his personal passion for great drama, and the joy he got from creating characters for this great company of very talented actors yielded superb, highly intelligent soap opera.

Yet back then few viewers and magazine writers knew who Doug was. It was before the Cult of the Headwriter.  Doug was a sweet, gentlemanly, passionate man who actually welled up when the magazine I edited  presented him with a “Best Writer 1980″ Afternoon TV award for GL.  He looked at himself, not as a “superstar” but as being part of the GL company he loved.   GL was truly an ensemble effort.  As a viewer, you felt very much an integral part of Springfield, too!  It was like a real place, a real home.  Which once upon a time is what all soaps were.   

Looking back on that era from a perspective of 30 years, I’m glad I started watching Guiding Light then. The Gloria Monty era of General Hospital was revolutionary and fun to watch. But by also watching GL as well, I got to see all of the elements that made classic soap opera so terrific and long-lived.  There were so many other characters and stories on GL back then that I don’t have the space to include here.  Yet I hope this glimpse of Springfield 1980-83 has made you think about what has happened to the show since then, what it lost over the decades and perhaps a bit of why it was cancelled.  The end of Guiding Light – what an American tragedy. 

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Marlena dedicates this essay to the late Ed Devlin, a publicist for Guiding Light in the 80s and early 90s.  He adored the theater but he loved GL, too. Classy, and with a great sense of  humor, he  presented his shows to the press with genuine pride.   He was a gentleman and a friend. He died in 1992 at age 38, way too young. 

Comments

  1. Dave Feldman says:

    Thanks for the great tribute (obit?). Unfortunately, GL and ATWT are the only two shows I never watched regularly, but when I did catch GL during the Marland era (and before), I was attracted to the cast and the range of characters. I’m deeply saddened by the cancellation, so I can only imagine how regular watchers feel.

    Marlena says: Thanks Dave!

  2. NelsonAspen says:

    Beautifully said, Marlena. I grew up with GL and was first captivated by Ben/Amanda/Evie (Rita’s kid sister). I was a loyal viewer through thick and thin until the Ellen Wheeler era. Even when I grew up to work in daytime myself, I still kept abreast of what was going on in Springfield. My mentor was Mary Stuart and we were both so excited when she joined the cast of GL (as Aunt Meta Bauer) after the cancellation of SEARCH FOR TOMORROW. It may have been in the bottom of the ratings pool, but it was always considered daytime’s grande dame of shows. (You may be interested in my chapter on Mary in my new book “Hollywood Insider: Exposed!”)

    The only consolation to GL’s cancellation is that we can remember its glory days and the wonderful influence it had on the many generations who enjoyed it faithfully.

    Marlena says: Thanks, Nelson. I’d love to read your book and review it here. I watched Search for Tomorrow for a long time, and even did an infamous bit role on it in its last year. Mary Stuart was, as the kids say, awesome! A real lady, a big talent and a total pro. She and Larry Haines made Search go! How we miss them both.

  3. Mike Goldberg says:

    It seems to me that Guiding Light, unlike any other soap on the air, has had so many magical periods and then so many dreadful periods. The era you describe was magnificent. I don’t recall who was writing at the time, but the decision to write off Mike and Hope Bauer and kill off Hillary Bauer most likely started the show on the road to cancellation. The Bauers had so much history which could have been mined for years. Certainly, during another amazing era in the early 90s, we had the Bauers on the canvas, but it wasn’t the same. GL has also had to endure the deaths of so many amazing actors and thus their characters. Having said all of that, there was still time to save the show before all of the mistakes in the last decade. Hope Bauer could have returned to the show, stronger and morepowerful and faced off with her devious ex husband Alan. Alan-Michael should have remained a core character, forever torn between his Spaulding side and his Bauer side. There was and still is so much potential. I mourned the loss of Another World, but with GL, it hits a different chord.

    Marlena says: There are hundreds of reasons GL was cancelled and my aim was just to get you to think about them. And darling Mike, you did. While I don’t think any one death or event can kill a soap, it might typify that problem. It was pretty stupid to kill Hilary and exile Hope, because that certainly discounted the Bauer family, who had been the core of the show since the 40s. Perhaps they were too middle class and heroic for the soap 80s or 90s? Sure, Ed Bauer and his son Rick were eternal good guys who wove back and forth into the show in later years, yet “Bauer Power” was not what the show was about. The show was about clones, and jumping into fountains, and mob families named Santi. The Bauers should have remained the core of GL, but alas, there were other things and people who were more “spicy” and “sexy” to write about.

  4. esther says:

    Just awesome!! A beautiful, loving tribute to a show and genre that’s dying. I hope head writers and executive producers of current shows take heed of your wisdom here and infuse their shows with many of your salient points. Well done!

    Marlena says: Thanks dear!!! When was the last time I got an unqualified rave from Esther? Seriously, there are few people on earth who were once as passionate about Guiding Light as my friend Esther.

  5. Russell Weil says:

    I, too, have believed for years, that Guiding Light’s demise began in late 1984 when Hillar Bauer was killed, Hope and Mike Bauer being written off, and the with Charita Bauer’s death in 1985, the end of Bert Bauer. That was the Gail Kobe/Pam Long first era. I know that there are many who have yearned for Pam Long’s return, but with those two at the helm, and the beginning of CBS/P&G intererance, the show suffered, and never recovered. Why? As someone intelligent wrote in a previous post – the dismanteling of the Bauer’s. And when they did bring the Bauer’s back, it was the faux-Bauer clan of Johnny Bauer. The only good things after that era: The return of Holly, Roger, and in 2004, the botched return of Peter Simon as the “second” original Ed Bauer.

  6. Melanie says:

    Great tribute Marlena. I really wish I had watched Guiding Light during that era. I started watching it when my beloved Justin Deas joined the show and watched up until a couple of years ago. I started watching again, sporadically, during Coop’s death because of Deas’ performance (it was Deas that got me started, and Deas that brought me back). I just can’t imagine a world without Reva, Josh, Buzz, Philip, Alan.

    Since the cancellation was announced I haven’t watched any soaps (except Ryan’s Hope and EastEnders.) I’m just so depressed. Depressed about GL being cancelled, but also about the fact that my shows are pretty lousy right now. Instead of enjoying the shows, I find myself *trying* to find something to enjoy about them.

    Okay, sorry for the rambling. Thanks again Marlena!

    Marlena says: Thanks to you Melanie, you are always so sweet! The shows are pretty bad right now. It’s scary! Hang in there. P.S. As you know, I am a huge Justin fan too. Betcha they try to bring him on OLTL as a little shopkeeper who is really a homicidal maniac when GL is over!

  7. Indydavid says:

    The Marland era of GL was my favorite! That’s when I started watching and when I stopped shortly after he left. I loved the large canvas of characters that he expertly kept on screen and the memorable storylines he penned, keeping the Bauers front and center through it all.
    I checked in from time to time over the years thereafter only to find most of the Bauers gone and the show suddenly The Reva Hour.

  8. Giada says:

    I welled up by the end of your piece. Darn! After such a beautiful reminder I miss the show even more.

    MY GL was the one of the early 90s. It had caught my eyes before, but I had never yielded to it because it aired opposite ‘Santa Barbara’ for me and I used to watch that show religiously. When I bumped by chance into Ross’s electoral dream, though, I knew I couldn’t avoid surrendering. I was VERY sick at the time and it was not an easy task for me to watch TV. But it was just too good for me to renounce it. SB also was in a state of grace (they were airing 1987-1988 years, more or less), so thank goodness for VCRs. It was magic and it brought to my life more than I can possibly put into words.

    I don’t want to be a ‘laudator temporis acti’, someone who praises the past for its own sake, but I do believe we’re not seeing in the present moment soaps as good as we used to.

    An Italian author once said that he was convinced that when pieces of art start to die that is the moment when we start to study and analyze and appreciate them. This thought comforts me. I hope dying soaps will be newly discoverd and respected. If it’s only to say: it has been great.

    Marlena says: Ah, Giada thank you for getting it! Even if this was the first time anyone used Latin in this column! Just kidding — I adore your brain and intellectual understanding. Will soaps be examined when they die? Was vaudeville? I’ve been examining soaps for decades because I love soaps, so the cancellation of GL is still personally the saddest pop culture loss I’ve ever had to witness.

    I don’t want to ask–even in an academic arena — where the whole medium goes from here.

  9. James says:

    Chere Marlena,

    Ahh, what wonderful memories you have stirred up.

    I started watching GL at the tail end of the Marland reign. Started watching in April 1982 when Texas moved from 3 p.m. to 11 a.m. With my 3 p.m. time slot now open, I decided to check out GL which I’d been hearing so much about thanks to the praise the soap magazines were heaping on Nola’s movie fantasies.

    Like you, I was terribly confused at first, trying to distinguish all these new characters and determine what their relationships to each other were. The show didn’t grab me at first, but I stuck with in, holding on to the few things which seeming intriguing.

    I was treated to Nola’s romance with Quinton and his gothic storyline, complete wiht his creepy housekeeper, Mrs. Renfield. I was delighted by Kelly Nelson’s total devotion to his wife Morgan who was finding married life unfulfilling. I got to see Carrie Marler, another seemingly innocent character who I knew was hiding something (little did I suspect it was multiple personalities). And I saw the Bauers who somehow seemed to be heroic just by their very presence on screen.

    Marland was gone by fall 1982 and a revolving door of writers attempted to pen the show for the next 9 months until Pam Long took the helm in May 1983. And she gave us the Four Musketeers, which completely captivated me.

    Ahh, what memoreis.

    While I will be sad to see GL leave the air, maybe P&G will finally release video of that wonderful GL era so that we can relive those memories.

    Marlena says: Mrs. Renfield, how I loved her. IRL, actress Beulah Garrick was a real kick! The character was drawn from the creepy housekeeper character in the classic Hitchcock movie Rebecca, played by Dame Judith Anderson (who starred decades later on Santa Barbara as Minx.)

  10. Eric says:

    I’ve watched Guiding Light off and on for nearly 30 years and in fact I can clearly remember the first episode I ever saw. Jennifer Richards was on trial for the murder of Lucille Wexler and it was revealed that Amanda McFarren was the child Jennifer had with Alan Spaulding (then played by the magnificent Chris Bernau) when they were teenagers (years before the writers changed the story to make Amanda, Brandon Spaulding’s child).

    I was a teen at the time and had turned the channel because of a commercial break during General Hospital at the height of the Luke and Laura era and never turned back.

    There were so many great characters like Rita Stapleton, Ross Marler, Mike Bauer and Hope Bauer Spaulding who are gone and all but forgotten, which is too bad because the show has such a rich history.

    As sad as it is to lose this daytime classic, clearly it’s glory days have passed and even as a fan of the current characters on the show, I hope Guiding Light goes off the air for good in September and wraps everything up nicely like my other long lost daytime favorite, Another World.

  11. Purple Haze says:

    I remember that era well. In fact, I still have an ancient VCR tape of Alan and Rita in Jamaica.

    An interesting, if forgotten, plot of that era involved Dr. Sarah McIntyre (portrayed by Millette Alexander who was a veteran of many soaps, including “Edge of Night” and “ATWT”), a sex therapist. Virtually every woman in Springfield sought help from Dr. McIntyre and Holly’s “bad boy” brother, Andy Norris, stole the tapes of Dr. McIntyre’s sessions for blackmail purposes.

    I found the demise of the show began with the introduction of Reva, sort of a precursor to “Bold and Beautiful”‘s Brooke Logan. She slept with every male member of the Lewis family and IIRC married each as well.

    Her larger than life character sucked the oxygen from the rest of the show, and suddenly an ensemble that revolved around several equally compelling storylines and terrific acting became focused on one character. As the character’s longevity on the show increased, the preposterousness of the plots designed to keep Reva front and center made the show unwatchable to me.

    The show still struck gold from time to time. Beth Ehlers blew me away from day one and I loved her pairing with Mark Derwin.

    With all the handwringing of long-term soap fans, we have to accept that “entertainment” is never static. I’ll never enjoy movies as much as those made in the 30′s and 40′s and I’ll never enjoy soaps as much as those of the early 80′s, but those days are gone and let’s hope that there will be a medium to come that will give us as much pleasure as our shows did in their prime.

    Marlena says: Reva! Now you’ve said it! Although I fully recognize Kim Zimmer’s great talent and unstoppable energy, I have always hated the character. Still, Reva was a great heroine who did eat up too much of the show (and its actors.) I always wanted the character to grow up, get smart and go to college! At least as she got older (past dopey plots like The Clone) she did show a lot more heart. I actually followed the recent cancer/pregnant story rooting for Reva. Reva (Kim) and I are almost exactly the same age. When the baby was born at the end of the menopausal pregnancy I cheered! Years ago, a soap headwriter told me 50 something pregnancies are done on soaps so that women that age could have their fantasies fulfilled. I gotta say, there’s something to that!

  12. Matthew J. Cormier says:

    Well you said it best, GL was always in a class of its own and as has happened with all soaps over the years was slowly stripped of any of the unique qualities that made the show worth watching.

    Marlena says: Thanks Matthew. You really get it, too! Thanks for understanding.

  13. Raye says:

    Thank you, Marlena, for a beautifully written article. I have been a Guiding Light viewer for 31 years – since I was 7 years old. And I vividly remember Martin Hulswit’s Ed, Chris Bernau’s Alan, and Lenore Kasdorf’s Rita to name but a few. I will miss Guiding Light when (if) it airs its last episode in September, but I will forever have my memories of those wonderful years. The Douglas Marland years, the (first) Pamela Long tenure and the Nancy Curlee years were the BEST Guiding Light that I experienced.

    Reliving those years of Guiding Light through your article literally brought tears to my eyes. Primarily because you did not just pinpoint what began to cause Guiding Light’s slide, but what has permeated and is rotting the genre as a whole. And while it does not have to be (nor should it be) that way, unfortunately it is. So, we can only be thankful for the memories. And hope that the genre will, someday, experience a resurgence.

    Thank you for providing this wonderful forum to share.

    Marlena says: Raye, I want to send you a big kiss for really perceiving the main theme of my article! And thank you so much for the tears! We all want daytime to have a resurgence. Maybe by some miracle, Guiding Light will have one, too.

  14. Dana Webb says:

    Beautiful piece Marlena. It really helped me to understand Guiding Light and its importance to all of daytime as the prototype show, and the foundation that all of daytime storytelling was built upon.

    I got, from your piece, that The Guiding Light was important as a example to all of the shows that came after it, by the way the staff and actors took pride in every episode, and how the genuineness showed through because of the respect (and love) that the cast and crew had for the show. The way that they revered this show as they created every episode with love and respect!

    I think it was that love and respect that was the very root of its success and longevity!

    I missed out on GL and the acting that you spoke about, but i was able to catch it on other shows (if only briefly). That style of acting that was truly riveting to watch (as you said the actors were theater trained) and every episode was written and produced with such fevor and love for storytelling not to mention professionalism. I always feel so lucky to have been able to experience daytime before the internet, before the hair model days, before it was all about the revenue and before the power of the all important skewed ratings point system.

    I watched DAYS when the hot quad was Bill, Mickey, Maggie and Laura. I watched Another World when Iris, Mac, and Rachel were IT so I feel that i had a brief glimpse into the ‘old days of soaps’ where the genre was LOVED and respected by its participants, and it showed in every episode. It truly was different in the 70′s, 80′s and even early 90′s; it was intriguing and inviting and lured
    me in … even as a kid.

    I regret never watching Guiding Light in those decades, but I am glad that GL has been the catalyst for all of daytime serials and ongoing character driven drama with heart and realistic passionate dialogue.

    Truth is, I love reading about Soaps as much as the soaps themselves. I was very lucky to have picked up copies of Daytime w/ Rona Barret, Afternoon TV, and all those other magazines that covered Daytime, and read them with such anticipation and glee!

    I am sad to see those days DYING and ending too…Gone are those days- now replaced with the days where rumor mongers rule the press, where spy vs spy rule the news and coverage of daytime. I am happy to found many of the daytime free lance writers i enjoyed in magazines now online. I’ve read so many free lance columns, through all those years, in all those magazines, that i don’t even remember all the names that I read on a consistent basis- quite a few men too.

    These writers are slowly being replaced by writers/columnists who fall all over the actors (actors who want to control their coverage). Writers who are more concerned with the competition (and website hits) than they are with ethics or accuracy in reporting or even about covering interesting aspects the genre like production, or the writing (storytelling) or even about personal stories that the actors want to share. Now its all about who is screwing whom on on a fan cruise or who is gay and who isn’t- or worse yet MonaVie.

    So much has changed and mostly not for the better.

    *sigh*

    Dana

    Marlena says: Thanks! Well, we all go back a long way, don’t we, Dana? Mickey and Bill and Laura on Days was one of my first soap storylines and I was a huge Another World fan. Your comments on the changes in the daytime press cracked me up — honey, I lived it all those decades. I can tell you the major, major difference between the old soap magazine days and online — in those days, it was a living, and now it’s a labor or love — or something. LOL

  15. Dan says:

    Very nice column as usual, Marlena. GL, unfortunately, suffered from what I like to call “baggage pileup.” As you said, there are a hundred different reasons that GL was cancelled, including many mistakes both onscreen and off over the past forty years. Characters dying who had potential to lead the canvas like Maureen, Hillary, Robin, and Leslie to inappropriate storylines like the clone and Barbados. It all just pile up until it just brought the quality and the ratings down too far to financially justify further episodes. I agree with those that say that GL has gotten better, but it is still lightyears away from any golden era. And the fans campaigning for a new venue need to remind themselves that any financial requirements for a new home could wipe out that improvement.

    At any rate, GL deserves one hell of a finale, regardless of whether or not they find it a new home. In a sense, I just wish they would have given it a longer timeframe to plan for the final episode.

  16. Giada says:

    I wanted to share with you and your readers a YouTube link to the Italian opening credits to Guiding Light/Sentieri. They refer to the 1994 -1997 episodes (Italian airing dates). Some of the lyrics sound sadly appropriate: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vqL70IEfRgc.

  17. Tracie says:

    Since GL’s unfortunate cancellation, I’ve seen many people start to point to Pam Long as the beginning of the end for GL, particularly pointing to the death of Hillary and exile of Hope.

    I find that to be a little unfair. Perhaps part of it is my age; I am freshly thirty, and though a lifelong viewer, my first clear memories of the show are of Nola/Quint and the four musketeers. So Pam Long’s GL is largely the GL of my childhood memory. Pam Long set up so many of the stories that paid off handsomely for GL for decades, particularly doing a fantastic job of setting up the adult Alan/Phillip relationship. She also fleshed out the Lewises, let Vanessa grow up, and brought back Roger Thorpe, Holly Lindsay, and the grown up Blake.

    My problem with Hope is not that she written off (many characters have left the canvas), but that no one ever brought her back! It’s been almost thirty years. There was certainly a place for her. Alan, especially after Mr. Brenau’s death, needed the grounding influence of a love he had to fight to be worthy of. I don’t really remember Mike Bauer-again, crazy.

    The destruction of the Bauers is a huge problem for GL. I think that the wonderful Douglas Marland’s introduction of the Reardons weakened the Bauers, Long didn’t help any, and then all the HWs since have totally lost the thread. The Coopers (gag) have certainly subsumed what should be the Bauers place on the show.

    A lot of what hampered GL since, say, the mid-nineties has been the curse of all of soapland; chasing young viewers and writing by focus group. It led to almost a decade of an unfocused soap that really hasn’t provided the sort of deep history that could be played on for years, like the stories of the ’80s, early ’90s did.

    BTW, I’ve grown to love the new production model. Was it horrible at first? Yes, but now it is used so well I think other soaps now look strange.

  18. Joy says:

    The key sentence for me was “They had words then”. That sentence said it all. Thanks for a great column and a wonderful trip down memory lane.

    Marlena says: Thanks, Joy. And don’t forget (as casting directors do today): those words were pronounced correctly and clearly by actors with diction. Diction is still taught in acting schools!

  19. Jake says:

    A wonderful article full of many insights, but I want to focus on just one aspect that I miss so much: the intergenerational mix of days gone by. You write, “Everyone in Springfield had a mother, a father, a grandparent, a friend to talk to about their lives.” That was so essential to my enjoyment of soaps – though, like you, I didn’t recognize it at the time. Bert and her sons and grandchildren on GL, Ada and Rachel on AW, Alice and Tom and their brood on DAYS, and so many more. I miss them all so much. And I regret that those who’ve dictated soap content for the last 20 years never understood the appeal of multigenerational storytelling … especially since divorce and broken homes mean that fewer and fewer viewers have those kind of connections in their real lives. Soaps could have really capitalized on the innate human desire for connection, not just in a romantic sense, but in terms of family and mentorship.

    Ah, for what could have been.

    Marlena says: Wonderful letter, Jake. Your email address makes me wonder … are you Mr. Tom, or maybe his fan club president? Marlena had some fine disputes with Tom over the years, but I really miss his talent on soaps. He was so dynamic.

  20. blake says:

    Thank you for a wonderful article Marlena! I wish I had watched the show then, but sadly I was too young then to know what was going on.

    My first memories of Guiding Light were of the mid 80′s when Pam Long was writing. My mother, grandmother, babysitter and aunts watched it so us little kids (even the neighbor kids that played with us) would take time out from playing and watch GL with them.

    I was in love with Mindy (played then by Kristi T.) I loved that she was the spoiled rich girl who would do anything to get her way. And I loved Reva and her crazy and dramatic antics. And I respected Alexandra Spaulding and Vanessa Chamberlain for their class and fierceness.

    But my all time favorite time was in the early 90s, started off with Mindy (then played by Kimberly Simms) and Roger’s secret affair and then Alex finding out and making their lives hell after that! Then the Who Killed Jean Weatherall murder mystery and the great climax with Daniel St. John holding Holly and Roger hostage forcing Holly to marry him. Then stories like Alan-Michael/Eleni/Frank, Nadine/Billy/Vanessa, Harley/Mallet/Jenna, Bridget/Hart/Julie/Dylan, Hamp/Gilly/David/Kat, Maureen/Ed/Lillian.

  21. TJ says:

    I really enjoyed this column; this is the first time I’ve been moved to add a comment on your site!

    My era of GUIDING LIGHT was significantly later than most of yours, but I also realized it contained my first significant soap opera memory, other than hearing the strains of the ALL MY CHILDREN theme coming from my mom’s bedroom.

    My babysitter watched the CBS soap lineup religiously. One day when school was out for a holiday when I was in second grade, I remember sitting in her living room with her watching the tail end of one of her soaps. There was this really creepy clown reaching out to a young girl. “Oh no!” my babysitter exclaimed. “He’s a bad man! He wants to kidnap her!”

    I didn’t know anything more than that at the time, but once I grew up and became a soap fanatic myself and learned soap history, it turns out my first soap memory was of Roger trying to kidnap Christina aka Blake.

    Recently I came across a YouTube link to this storyline so I went back and watched, and saw it all the way through the climax of Roger chasing Rita through the hall of mirrors to the strains of “No More Tears (Enough is Enough)”. What struck me was how there was such a wide variety of characters at the carnival, or whatever it was, and how they all talked and acted like actual human beings…two elements that are sorely lacking in a lot of today’s soaps. (I also was surprised to find out that Lenore Kasdorf, who played Rita, didn’t have a southern accent, as I had only seen her as the grating Caroline Wilson on Santa Barbara.)

    But I didn’t watch Guiding Light myself until much later. One day in 1996 I was home and flipping through channels when I came across deaf Amish Abigail coming to the Spaulding mansion asking to see Alan. “We gave at the office!” snapped Amanda, and slammed the door in her face. Alan told Amanda that he was indeed friends with Abigail, who said she was there to take Alan up on his promise of a job if she ever needed one:

    AMANDA: But what can you do? What skills do you have?
    ABIGAIL: Well, I can knit, and I know how to milk cows–
    AMANDA: Well! Too bad we’re not living in Colonial Williamsburg. Anyway, Father…

    It was so WRONG, but Amanda cracked me up to no end. I decided I had to keep watching to see more of her. (I still wish her portrayer, Toby Poser, would turn up again somewhere.) And I enjoyed the rest of the show and characters as well…Cynthia Watros as Annie was amazing once she started going off the deep end, and I also loved Phillip and Harley together because they reminded me a lot of what I loved about Mason & Julia on Santa Barbara and what resonated for me personally–two people who had been burned by love contemplating trying again even though it was scary as hell. I was actually sorry when Beth eventually came back. And as bizarre as it seems to think of now, when I first started watching, Reva was married to Buzz (or, as I knew them, Jodie Walker to Keith Timmons) out of some sort of self-sacrifice thing for trying to respect Josh and Annie’s marriage.

    For the next two years, GUIDING LIGHT became my primary soap, but I was primarily a fan of Amanda and Annie. When they left in 1998, I drifted away as well; my life had gotten a lot busier, and it didn’t help that they were starting storylines like Reva being cloned and the Santos mob family in which I had absolutely no interest. I did keep reading the synopses, hoping that it would get better, but it seemed like the more I read, the less interesting it became. Ironically, now that it’s being cancelled, I’ve seen some clips of Otalia and other storylines, and it really does seem like it was about to get back on track, unfortunately.

    So my memories probably don’t have the resonance of a lot of others, but I did enjoy my time with it and always hoped it would find its way again eventually, and am sad to hear of its cancellation.

  22. Steve says:

    This is belated, but your article was just beautiful, very moving. “My” GL began in the late 80s, early 1990. I didn’t quite realize what hooked me at the time, but looking back, I can see it was the strong, complex female characters. They were rampant in those days. Harley, Alexandra, Holly, Blake, Nadine, Vanessa, Maureen, and yes, even Reva. I think that strong women have always been GL’s trademark, and even with ABC daytime and other soaps headlong into running Phyllis Schafly fanclubs, GL still has more self-reliant women than most other daytime programs. I don’t mean to exclude some of the dynamic (Roger) or stalwart yet deeply flawed (Ed, Billy) or lovable (Henry, HB) men, I also loved them. It’s just the women I found most fascinating.

    I was so thrilled to get to watch some 1980-1982 episodes on Youtube. They do go with the world you describe. The show was so balanced, so complex, yet also relatively easy to understand. What always stood out was that Douglas Marland had great respect for daytime viewers. I wonder what could have been, especially with the Carrie story. Have you seen those clips of Diane Ballard’s last few months? Just brilliant, everything soaps should be.

    One small correction – I think the Spauldings showed up in 1976.

    I know we have to let GL go, but a part of me still hopes the show will be picked up, and that the better elements of the more recent years can live on. I’m not ready to say goodbye, not when GL can still find a way forward, as they did when radio soaps were winding down. And I’m also not ready to say goodbye to what still reminds me of my grandmother, my aunts, so many wonderful people who are no longer here.

    Marlena says: Hi Steve, thanks so much. As you wrote “Diane Ballard” the whole story spun through my mind! Sofia Landon was just brilliant! I will watch it in Youtube when I can. The Spauldings showed up in 1976? Was that any of them other than Alan?

  23. David C says:

    Marlena as usual, your column is one of the highlights of my week.
    As I’ve mentioned here, Guiding Light began for me in the spring of 1981 which was one of only two or three golden eras of the show in the last 40 years. So much has been accurately detailed about how the show went so wrong in the last decade or so and much of it has been dead on.
    There’s another aspect that I think bears consideration:When Betty Rae retired as casting director, so many good actors stopped getting cast.
    Yes there have been stand out actors on the show since Rae retired-Tom Pelphrey is the prime example of that. But so many others that ended being cast were marginal at best-How Many Shanes and Lizzies and Marahs have there been in the last decade?!!! None of them had the acting chops to really bring their characters off the page and into being a new vital part of the show. I think Ron Raines is a fine example of a good actor who never really rose above the often shoddy material he had to work with; his Alan was never more than a stock villain right out of musical comedy theater. And Alan has been an intregral element of the show and without any serious gut wrenching turns, Alan was just a garden variety corrupt soap billionaire.
    Alan and most of the newer characters of the last decade seemed to be there just for story purposes and had no real reason for their existence and they were archetypes-the good girl, the good boy, the villain with a secret that we all saw coming miles away. There were no surprises in terms of characters and therefore, without fail, no depth either.
    David Andrew MacDonald did rise above the crap he often had to play and was consistently riveting to watch.
    imagine what he’d have done if a writer had given him a story that broke Edmund out of the stock evil prince character. (He was as close as the show ever got in finding another Chris Bernau; that actor was so compelling at all times.)
    So the producer’s I think went with the wrong casting director who just did not have the same golden instinct that Betty Rae clearly had. Often the right actor ended up being cast in the wrong role or more often than not, the weakest actor somehow made it out of the audition and onto the show. That has helped bury Guiding Light after 72 years.

    Marlena says: Oh David, thank you so much for providing the missing link to who made GL great during the 70s and 80s. I remember that everyone in soaps was in absolute awe of Betty Rae. I met her a few times and she was indeed just an extraordinary person. A great lady, as we used to say in the days when young people still respected their elders. Jerry ver Dorn, who she found in some obscure role in a Broadway show, was always, always singing her praises. Her actors (like Bernau and ver Dorn) were solid with great stage experience and training who did make all the difference in the show’s quality. (Rae’s daughter Ellen is now a renowned movie casting director. She lives in my Manhattan building!)

    Just a year or two ago, I interviewed the show’s current casting director. He told me he scouted local colleges (!) for the kind of young, “appealing” actors (!) the show needs today. He got very lucky once — he found Tom Pelphrey in a freshman student production at Rutgers in New Jersey.

  24. pjs says:

    Hi, Marlena…

    You said it all in a column brimming with heartfelt insight and memories-inducing nostalgia, all of it laced with the painful awareness that it’s all gone very wrong today.

    I haven’t seen more than a handful of episodes since the late 1980′s, the last being 2008′s heralded new look premiere which was probably one of the nadir’s in daytime story-telling, and I’m talking as much about the story as I am the woefully amateurish (ok, lousy) production value.

    But I don’t really want to talk about the GUIDING LIGHT of today. I’d rather remember THE GUIDING LIGHT of yesterday. It’s just that I don’t treasure the memories that you’ve recalled as highly as you and your readers. I overlap your starting point with GL, but I started watching TGL much earlier than you (and possibly all of your readers, too) did.

    It was 15 minutes per episode circa 1960 when I started watching. What I remember most fondly about TGL and many other soaps of that era was how comfortably ordinary it was. The “tune-in-tomorrow” was less about plot climax and all about how these people who seemed like your friends would react.

    I remember Bert and Papa Bauer endlessly talking about Mike and Hope and Bill and Ed and all the other Bauer. I remember coffee klatch get-togethers between Bert and Meta for updates on their adult kids. It was cozy. It was everyday. I also remember everyone in town collectively worried about newly widowered (?) doctor Paul Fletcher and his son Johnny, and how they wanted to see him happy with Maggie who had a daughter (Peggy) who was Johnny’s age, and how nobody was happy when rebellious Johnny and Peggy began getting into each other.

    Of course, none of your readers have these memories. I’m not even sure that I have most of them myself anymore. But I was there when 15-minute serials existed, and they worked. No flash, no flamboyance, just family and friends … like everyday life. I also remember when it began to change … the addition of color, the expansion to an hour, the necessary expansion of the cast. I even remember when the town began being called Springfield. I believe that it was supposed LA when I first started watching.

    In any case, I remember that the show back then was very comfortably one of the pack. It wasn’t showy; it didn’t have to be. It was the story of a family and friends, and it just plain worked. Times were different. It’s pace was a pleasant interlude of escape. You didn’t think of it as fiction, as a written story. The slowness of the action and the general quiet of the episodes made it seem more real.

    I remember the start of the Marland era…and I loved it. But I also wanted to see the heart of the show that I knew everyday…and that was Bert Bauer. The family grounded the show. And, that family began to splinter, ironically, when 2 of it’s characters left town for a year and a half, to move Another World. Mike Bauer and his teen daughter Hope moved to Bay City (not yet called Bay City in the ’60′s) in what had to have been daytime’s first character transplant (occurring long before several of the late ANOTHER WORLD’s characters moved to AS THE WORLD TURNS.)

    I also remember checking out (long after I’d checked out of GL) a few moments of the inane Dolly the sheep-inspired Reva clone story. Hated the story, but it reminded me of a different headline medical breakthrough of an earlier era that TGL dramatized before any of the other soaps. Who remembers that daytime’s first heart transplant patient was Bill Bauer, who went on to live far longer than any of the actual heart recipients at the time.

    Anyway, I just wanted to share a few memories about this legacy show. I always thought of TGL as a great monument to ordinary life, comfortable and cozy, everybody caring about one another, people overcoming disfunction and not glorying in it. Of course, that was also true of its sister show, AS THE WORLD TURNS, the daytime ratings champ in that same era. Back then, it was all about the multigeneration story-telling about families and friends rooted in their communities. Back then, we didn’t talk so much about the writers and how great or awful they were. We talked about the characters. We tuned in for the characters. And we loved when they turned to each other to sort things out. Some of it exist today. Too much of it has been lost.

    I feel the loss of GL on broadcast television. I hope it lives on in another venue. It’s very existence tells a long story in the life of American culture and interests. The changes have been alternately exciting and regrettable. I hope something exciting (in a quiet way) emerges for GL and all the other soaps from the quake of cancellation.

    Marlena says: When this letter first came in there was no name on it. And I thought. “Oh, this has to be pj.” I could tell by sincere, yery very profressional writing style. Oh pj, you make yourself sound as old a Methuselah, which you are not!

    But thanks for the very early memories of the 15 minute and the half hour show (where you in utero then, dear?) and for explaining what the core of real soaps is: everyday life, people caring about one another, overcoming though not dwelling on what is now called “dysfunction.” Today’s the networks (and instant excitement-addicted fans) just don’t get it. Still I share your wishes that the now cancelled GL be continued somewhere, some place. America, and the American life so long and well reflected in GL, must go on.

  25. renee says:

    Oh Marlena, I’m listening to ‘The Best of Montreux 2003′ and what a background of richness to read this column and comments that have mined the richness of GL. Bottomline, GL, like all our soaps, have a history of characters that have deeply resonated with us. Again, it’s called integrity. Good writing, great acting, great casting, fantastic crew.

    Some of these moments I’d forgotten, so thank you all for bringing them back, and thank you Marlena for giving them a place for posterity.

    There’s probably little to add, but you know me. LOL.

    TV is a strong medium. What we see, we often believe. What we believe, becomes possible, acceptable.

    Racism is a part of our society. Because of television, America saw what was happening in the South and Jim Crow laws fell. Civil Right laws were enacted. And in the 21st century on a TV show called 24 a Black man was president, and now we have a Black president. You can call it coincidental if you wish, many, including, I, do not.

    In the mid sixties, when racial strife was high, GL introduced the first really major Black family. Why do I remember that? Cause he was Billy Dee Williams. Everybody I knew noticed it. Dr. (yes, he was a Dr.) Frazier was played by James Earl Jones. Could they have picked any more major stars except Sidney Portier or Bill Cosby?

    And right after GL there came Carla Grey, the amazing Ellen Holly on OLTL. And Julia in prime time. No, we didn’t think it was coincidental. GL broke the door open. I’m sorry, GL mack trucked the door open. While I acknowledge things aren’t perfect in the industry, I never discount those who paved the way or steps made.

    So I bow to GL in gratefullness and thankfulness. I don’t know the backstory behind how this happened or why, but I know how it was discussed and still discussed in the African American community.

    When I envision their lights going out, I see Mama and Papa Bauer turning them off.
    Good night GL.

    Marlena says: Renee, thank you noting that GL was the first to introduce African-American characters into soaps, and the first-person report of the reaction in that community. How sad we are losing SUCH a valuable piece of American cultural history!

  26. John says:

    Thanks Marlena, and Damon, for sharing your thoughts on GL’s cancellation. This has affected me a great deal, too. I wish I’d been able to see those early ’80s Doug Marland years. Like others have posted, my earliest memories are from the early ’90s, and in my mind it was by far one of the best shows on TV then. Roger was the perfect villain, and Michael Zaslow was such a compelling (and handsome!) leading man. Harley at that time was everything a soap heroine should be, not like the helpless, spoiled, self-absorbed cookie cutter types that we are too often told to root for. Ed and Maureen were like people one would know in real life. Alexandra, Holly, and Vanessa were three unique, powerful divas who drove stories. And there was really an effort being made to make the show more diverse and actually give the actors of color good stories. A lot has changed in less than twenty years, sadly.

    I would echo what you and others have said that GL lost touch with its history. It’s ironic that the show that has the most history has been the quickest to dismantle so much of it. The fact that Ross, who had been on the show only 25 years and had few family ties on the canvas, had become a de facto patriarch, and then he too was killed off, speaks volumes. Even ATWT, which wastes its veterans, still has a lot more of its core in tact. It’s like what happened with AW, except AW was never known for its history – in fact I remember as a teenager being somewhat surprised to learn that it had been on the air for 30 years or so, when Rachel was the only character left with longterm history and since she was (literally and figuratively) a different person nobody ever talked about what she had been doing in the ’60s and ’70s. But GL is a historic icon and, at very least, every five years it has an anniversary that is a milestone for all of TV at which point, however far off-track it had gotten, its history had to be acknowledged.

    I wonder if the fact that GL had successfully reinvented itself several times gave people behind the scenes a false sense that it could take its legacy for granted. The thinking being that if the Bauers could successfully replace Reverend Ruthledge as the center of the show then maybe X, Y, and Z could replace them. Ten years ago it even seemed like someone was toying with the idea that if GL could relocate its setting from one midwestern town to California to a new midwestern town, maybe they could relocate it again to that wretched San Cristobal. I’m not sure if it was the constant revolving door or the fact that the new characters ultimately became so much less compelling that made it the first of the longtime shows that survived into the millennium that we are losing,

    As far as the new production model, I am curious to know what you object to about it, Marlena. I don’t mind it aesthetically – I think going back to basics and scaling back production costs that were probably never sustainable even when viewership was at a high, let alone now that ad revenues are on the decline across the board, is a good thing. I just hate that the same things that are wrong with what has become of the traditional soap production model are still happening on GL: Whether characters are having intimate, confidential conversations in crowded restaurants or in fields, it’s really stupid. Even when soaps were produced on a shoestring budget they still seemed to be able to afford appropriate sets for scenes (i.e. characters’ homes).

    Marlena says: I tried for an entire year, but I always found myself losing my concentration when I watched GL. I literally couldn’t focus on what was going on. Rather than unfairly bash a show I couldn’t get into I preferred to give it to Patrick Erwin, then on my staff, to write about. He loves GL dearly. See the links column on my main page to get to Patrick’s own blog, 1000 Other Worlds, which is totally about GL.

  27. Levi says:

    Guding Light: The Complete Family Album is a very good book to keep up with GL’s rich history through 1997. It seems that Quint/Nola/Kelly and those young adults were a very powerful ensemble. I also loved the Vanessa/Nola feud, They should bring Lisa Brown back for the finale at least. I knew of her when I first watched the show in 1996.

    Also, Reva the Scarlet Years is a good show too—which is on youtube I believe. I do have a vhs copy that will be a memento. Kim Zimmer was a brilliant actress and I did like her far fetched storylines due to the fact she played even the most out there storylines so well. Amish, blind, cloned, and paint traveler I still rooted for her.

    I think the show lost a lot when Laura Wright and Jerry ver Dorn left. It sucked some air out with some heavy hitters leaving. It paved the way for many more exits that were hard to replace.

    Yet still GL had a wonderful journey: 72 yrs is a long life period for anyone. GL is the symbol of daytime and will continue to be long after it is gone. It paved the road for a wonderful medium we are able to enjoy.

    One article that sticks in my mind is Mimi Torchin’s article on daytime soaps. Even a few years ago, she wrote daytime would have only 3 soaps left in around 10 years. That quote stuck in my minds and it left a bad feeling of what is to come. But the memories we do have will last forever. GL provided many memories for all of us and through classic mediums we will still have them available to us every day.

    And the CW says they plan to provide a tribute with big names and classic clips. I hope this comes true and it last more than 2 minutes. It should and it better! GL deserves a long sendoff at the emmys in august.

  28. renee says:

    Hi Marlena, just noticed a correction i needed to make. Left out a “then” which is very important to what I wrote. Dr. Frazier was played by Billy Dee Williams, THEN James Earl Jones.

    And yes, it was significant to the community. Many who watched daytime soaps, and many who didn’t but were involved in the Hollywood industry, felt what GL did in not only introducing an African American character, but a leading character, and a character that was a doctor, led to the primetime introduction of Julia who just happened to be what … a nurse. Not a secretary, not a businesswoman. A nurse. There are only so many coincidences. LOL.

  29. Dan says:

    Just a quick clarification: The Spauldings first appeared in 1977. The creation of the Spauldings and the Marler’s coincided with the expansion of the show to an hour in, I believe, September of that year.

  30. Steve says:

    Marlena, I’m sorry, it was 1977, not 1976, when Alan Spaulding first debuted. I think that was with young Phillip, repressed wife Elizabeth, and nanny-turned-secretary Diane in tow. Then Jackie Marler also showed up around this time. Such brilliant characters. I always wonder what would have been if the show had explored more of Phillip’s relationships with Jackie, Elizabeth, and Justin (they could have said Jackie hadn’t really died in the plane crash — just as they should do for Ross).

    Yes, Diane’s downfall was everything a soap should be. All the secrets she uncovered, all that power in her hands, and yet, her world fell apart as she realized not only did Alan not want her, but he’d had an affair with Rita Bauer, whom she loathed.

    What can you say about Rita? What a strong, powerful antiheroine she was. Can you imagine seeing a woman like that in daytime now??

    Steve, Didn’t The Dobsons, Doug’s predecessors as GL headwriters write part of the above story? I remember Jackie and Elizabeth and Rita–real women! I don’t think any one has written elsewhere since the cancellation that the Bridget and Jerome Dobson were a big part of GL history. That is of course, before they went on to create Santa Barbara. I had many interviews with them around then, and I wish I had asked them about GL. The two of them were a real trip baby, stories I will tell some other time!

  31. Byron says:

    Thanks for the trip down memory lane. Tears streaming down my face, remembering the good old days. Morgan calling Kelly, “Mr. Perfect” all the time! Nola being a very bad all the time. Who will ever forget the three faces of Carrie? Thanks to Jane Eliot for those wonderful scenes.

    GL, like any other soap did have it’s ups and downs. I remember when they had Beth’s cousin Jesse and her mom came on the show. It was awful. I had to stop watching it cause they were on all the time.

  32. Levi says:

    When you think about there have been so many head writers at GL. I thought about the Esensten and Brown years, Claire Labine, Millie Taggert, David Kreizman. There was such a shift in writing the last 15 years. So many new teams in and out. I have to give Ellen Wheeler credit for making GL a show about the fans. It seemed she had a genuine effect on the fans with the emmy going from town to town. As well as the New Orleans clean up and other cities that were helped.

    If I am not mistaken I thought Esensten and Brown were with Port Charles ? so they liked that out there stuff like the vampires. So hence came the clone.

    Claire Labine—-I think of Ryan’s Hope—was another legend yet couldn’t do too much with Guiding Light. So it was too much change unfortunately. But they did keep the story going and that was a good positive.

    I am so lucky, since you are talking about this era in your article, that I started watching Michael Zaslow, what a talent. So menacing yet some vulnerability to his character. He made being bad good (minus the rape part). I got to see him towards the end of his run with Dinah and Hart. That was a good story.

    It was bad when they let go Maureen Garrett too—I do remember that Sebastian Roche mess believe it or not lol. Holly was a great character yet messed up when she kidnapped the kids as the “Nursery Rhyme Stalker.”

    Oh so many memories good and bad but I will think of the good ones. So Marlena, as hard of a question as this is, what is your favorite Guiding Light moment that stands out?

    For me—just watching through clips—was Josh and Reva’s first wedding. It seemed so magical and special. GL’s most consistent episode this past year was that retelling of the wedding in 1989.

  33. Zane Johnson says:

    Marlena,

    Thank you for this specific trip down memory lane. I was a little kid during this era, but of all the things that have been etched in my mind during my youth, “Guiding Light” is at the top of the list. My grandparents and my mother watched both “ATWT” and “GL”. I couldn’t tell you what was going on on “ATWT”, but I could remember Ed, Mike, Bert, Rita, Holly, and especially Roger. Roger Thorpe was my favorite character as a kid. I attribute the rise again of “GL” in the 1970′s to the Dobsons, who created Rita, the Spauldings, Justin, Jackie, and who also brought back Bill Bauer from the dead. When the late, great Douglas Marland took over the show in 1980, he continued the brilliance. I truly believe that had he not resigned in 1982, he would have continued to make “GL” as amazing of a show as he did in the mid-1980′s with “ATWT”.

    I agree with those above that in my view, the downfall of “GL” was forcing out most of the Bauer clan between 1983 and 1985. Once Charita had passed, the entire Bauer clan was either dead or had been recast. Consider this:

    1983: Bill Bauer killed, Hope Bauer Spaulding written off.
    1984: Ed Bauer recast (for the second time that decade), Mike Bauer written off, Hillary Bauer killed.
    1985: Charita Bauer passes away, thus making the Bauer clan almost obsolete (Ed, Maureen, and Rick being the sole survivors).

    By 1986, it had become “The Reva Show”. This is nothing against Kim Zimmer, since she did not come up with character of Reva Shayne, but I initially saw Reva as a southern version of Rita Stapleton.

    Thank you, though, Marlena, for reminding me of when this show was truly fantastic.

  34. Steve says:

    Marlena, the Dobsons wrote the Spaulding arrival, Alan’s divorce from Elizabeth and Jackie’s marriage to Alan, the custody battle between Elizabeth and Alan, all the way up to Alan and Hope falling in love on the deserted island. You’re right, I don’t think they get enough credit for their work on GL. They basically revived what had reportedly become a very stale format, and created a slew of characters and stories which either did dominate the show for decades, or could have, if future producers and writers had been better.

  35. Levi says:

    So I read that Maureen Bauer got killed because Jill Phelps used a focus group to test the popularity of the character. It seems by what everyone is saying, that was a big nail in the coffin too. I seen her as a ghost for Michelle many times and she seemed to be a very good actress.

    And from the period you described—-any Bauer not on there is a big loss. GL just decimated the Bauers. And when Danny and Michelle left, Rick was all alone more or less. (And they shouldn’t have aged Leah overnight—SORAS i know, but rapid SORAS).

    From watching Youtube, I actually saw some old black and white clips. It seems like Papa Bauer with Bill and Bert was a great trio. GL has such a great history. I haven’t read it so much in depth pre-1980s, but I will read into it more. I am familiar with reading about Kathy and Robin. Another big death that Irna Phillips created was that of Kathy. That GL 70th Anniversary show was so good and very rich in their telling of the history.

    Surely ABC will loan Jerry Ver Dorn and Beth Ehlers for a day. And maybe Laura Wright. At least they should.

  36. sherri says:

    I too have had a love/hate affair with gl more love than hate though it may be because I didn’t used to like soap operas at all dark shadows being the exception but, that ‘s a website all by itself so I won’t go into it.
    the mid to late 70′s it probably my favorite period of gl. After Mart Hulswit left I didn’t I’d like another actor playing the part of Ed Bauer but, it turns the man who got the part was an actor on another soap I also watched called Search For Tomorrow. His name is Peter Simon. Like someone else who posted on this topic, I liked Nola Reardon too, Lisa Brown doesn’t act very much anymore I guess. She’s hardly on atwt at all and the last time iva was even mentioned was when martha byrne was still Lily. Another character from Gl from the 70′s who still on and sometimes I have to remind myself the other character he played, when Jordan Clarke used to be Dr. Tim Ryan, instead of Billy Lewis. Speaking of the Lewis clan who introduced the family into springfield and who did her abusive husband turn out to be? Trish Lewis was married to Hollys’ brother Andy Norris . He was the only one of Stanley Norris’ children I thought was going to be normal. Ken shot Ed , in the 90′s Holly kidnapped the children in springfield. Why they haven’t had blake do anything similar, I don’t know.
    I wonder what the original Holly Norris, Lynn Deerfield is up to these days.When she played if there’s any way people can get a chance to see guiding light back then, you can see her with Roger who worked for stanley norris , see barbara berjer as hollys’ mother before she was bridget on another world, the character of holly hadn’t even had her eighteenth birthday yet. Barbara norris was a caterer I think, and when Rogers’ father Adam came on the show he was an editor for a publishing house and he and barbara fell in love and got married, he helped her with a cookbook she was writing. She’d been divorced from Stan a long time and when he came back to Springfield Hollys’ brothers especially Ken tried to warn her not to get to know him and tell her about the kind of things he ‘d done but she got to know and love him anyway. Sound familiar? Adam was a very nice man , barbara a nice woman, Holly wasn’t too nice until a few years later just before maureen garret took over that part. I used to wonder how 2 people like them could have such terrible children. But I ‘ve already written too much from that time period and story line that would show you a lot of ways that Blake has always been just like Holly and her grandfather, stanley norris, not roger the way the writers made it seem when Christina Bauer, was aged and grew up into Blake LIndsey. One last comment, I didn’t get to see every single episode of gl,there’s always something about the 70′s story lines I’ve wondered about, when Rick was a little boy and still called Freddie (leslie named him after papa bauer I think), his mother Leslie Jackson was still alive. she found out she was adopted, that Stephen Jackson, wasn’t her father. Did she ever find out who her birth mother really was?

  37. CAROL says:

    The Bauers were the nicest family around in the 50s and 60s. There was so much love between the younger and older generations, and we all felt that we were part of the family. My favorite was the Mike/Leslie/Ed triangle. It was done with suspense, grace and with morals, something that is quite missing from tv today. I would love to see those actors from the old series and have them come back at the end for the goodbye. I know a lot of them are probably gone, but to the ones that gave us all those great memories when we were young, I thank you all

  38. sherri says:

    I remember the mike/leslie/ed triangle. How bert always made mike out to be the good son. At that time, I wanted ed to stay married to leslie but, it was not to be. Looking back, it was probably for the best. Ed was drinking back then. He started his affair withJanet then I think. I’m not sure if they showed it onscreen but he used to hit leslie when he was drinking. Ed Bauer was turned into a good guy long before it became the popular soap storyline to reform bad guys.

  39. JC says:

    I find it interesting that the idea of “not praising the past for the past” keeps coming up, yet everyone is basically saying, “The time I got hooked on GL was the best.” Certainly, there are certain periods that had that perfect combination of cast and production: the early 80s and the early 90s being almost unanimous.

    Yet the real thing is that the sword of Damocles hung over GL have been circulating for about as long as I’ve been alive.

    Television has changed. Daytime has changed. GL has spent the past 32 years constantly re-inventing itself to try and suit those changes. Sometimes, it has succeeded. Sometimes, it has failed. But each change has turned off some longtime viewers. And, as often happens when an aged institution tries to keep up with what’s hip, the young people didn’t necessarily drop the hot show for GL.

    What surprises me really is that the 3 PM slot wasn’t more successful. I grew up watching GL after school. My mom watched it. My sister watched it. My paternal grandfather watched it. My babysitter watched it. My Mom’s youngest sister watched it. Anyone I knew who watched soaps watched GL, and it was the show that was on after school.

    The history of GL is really a microcosm of our culture for the past 7 decades. So many of the reasons it has failed are tied in with how our society has changed at so many levels.

    One that strikes me is that there seems to be no sense of “tradition” anymore. We don’t even hand down the most secular, pop culture things. When I was a kid, there were still 4 networks (counting PBS) and maybe 2 TVs in a house. You had to agree to share the TV or go do something else . Now, everyone’s doing their own thing.

    The other thing that I think is significant is that GL has always been about a “moral center”, the proverbial Guiding Light, whether it was Rev. Ruthledge and his lamp, or Papa Bauer, or Bert Bauer, or Maureen and Henry in the late 80s.

    The moral centers were not just counselors who focused on feelings, but they were willing to tell someone when they were wrong. Insofar as they acknowledged their own flaws, they used them as learning experiences. But, when they served as “moral centers,” these characters really were the best GL had to offer.

    Back then, GL had characters who were, more or less, decent people. Perhaps their morals were not completely up to par with what some of us might ideally like, but these characters provided the show with a solid anchor.

    That’s why, of all the “when did it jump the shark” arguments, Maureen’s death is the one. Maureen died because Jill Phelps thought moral centers were boring and interpreted a focus group study to prove her point (she did the same on at least one other show).

    They tried to make Eleni the new moral center, as they were trying to replace the Bauers with the Coopers. But Melina K. left. Then they attempted a few other characters, even Reva. But Maureen’s death signified the end of a minimal standard of behavior.

    It was the era of Brent/Marian, Annie Dutton and MonizDinah: villains became crazy psychos willing to do anything, and not the complicated, scheming masterminds we had in the glory days of Alan and Roger.

    A few of the newer characters–Edmund was the best thing to come out of San Cristobal–were just lost potential.

    Alexandra Spaulding was once the anti-hero “moral center”: In Bev’s era, she never did anything “wrong” except with a goal of stopping a greater evil. Then came the Nick-Mindy business, the Amanda birth certificate, the Gus parentage story, and worst, of all, the drug dealer story–all of which completely destroyed my personal favorite GL character.

    The intermarriages got to be absurd. The characters lost all grounding and consistency in their behavior.

    That’s what went wrong with GL. The whole point of sticking with a soap opera day after day is to see the reliable characters behave the way you expect them to (or better). If Charita Bauer were still alive today at the age of 86), we’d likely have seen a story where Bert Bauer became a social security serial killer, then went to a mental hospital for 2 months, then returned to have an affair with Danny Santos.

  40. Nicholas Ryan says:

    Marlena,

    The Dobsons were fantastic on Guiding Light but they always seem to be over shadowed by Douglas Marland’s immediate regime. I wish they were given more credit. You know, I’ve always had an interesting take on GL with Gail Kobe and Pam Long when they first took over GL. They just came from Texas which had been cancelled and in Gail Kobe’s interviews with the press there seemed to be quite a bit of resentment over the Texas demise. I’ve always felt that Kobe and Long deliberately retooled GL into a clone of Texas. HB was Striker, Billy was Justin and Reva was Reena. I always felt that they were so intent on proving that their Texas clone could succeed that they threw the Bauers/Marlers and the heritage of both the Dobson and Marland era’s out in the drain, perhaps as a subliminal move on vengeance toward these regimes which continually beat Texas in the ratings while GL and Texas shared the same time-slots. Call me crazy but I trully believe there was intentional sabotage, conscious or not. That being said, this was also the beginning of the era where several shows began to write for larger than life anti-heroines at the expense of ensemble casts and traditional core families and heroes and heroines. I think Reva sucked the life out of Guiding Light much like Rachel sucked the life out of Another World. Kim Zimmer is a great actress and I actually adore her but Reva killed GL for me. I also recall Kim Zimmer commenting similar concerns regarding monopolizing story and air time in an interview with Soap Opera Weekly during your period with the publication at the time she returned to the show when Jill Farren Phelps was helming GL. So I definitely feel Kim Zimmer isn’t to blame and (IMO) the death knell rests with Gail Kobe and Pam Long!

  41. Nicholas Ryan says:

    I should have said the Dobsons were overshadowed by Douglas Marland’s immediate following regime.

  42. Zane Johnson says:

    Nicholas,

    That is a fascinating (and probably dead-on) interpretation of what happened to GL beginning in 1983.

  43. Jason B says:

    Well, based solely on ratings, the “death knell” rests on whoever was in charge in 1992 when Kimberley Simms and Beverlee McKinsey left during a very popular story in which they were the two female leads, the subsequent death of Maureen Bauer, the HORRIFIC recasting, then re-recasting of Mindy, the loss of Sherry Stringfield as Blake and Melina Kanakaredes as Eleni, as well as the loss of writer Nancy Curlee, all occured within a year, from 1992-1993, when GL’s ratings went from it’s best in nine years to mediocre. It was a rapid loss of viewers and the show never recovered in the ratings after that.

  44. RICKIE says:

    What great recollections, Marlena! I especially liked the ones about Mart Hulswit & Stefan Schnabel (I so enjoyed Dr. Stephen Jackson and the fact that they retained him long after his daughter Leslie died in 1976). By today’s soap standards, Mart Hulswit was kinda dumpy; however, he had an attractive Regular Guy quality that was most appealing. I, too, enjoyed “GL” during this period (the only weak link, IMO, was Lezlie Dalton’s bland and breathy Elizabeth). What was especially endearing was the show had a certain “look” and pace that made it distinctive. It took the better part of the 1980s before all the soaps, unfortunately, started to look like each other.

    Before this point, the actors were distinctive in look, sound, and appearance. Marie Masters, Larry Bryggman, Gerald Gordon, Larry Keith, Alice Hirson, and Doris Belack, for example, had unmistakably East Coast accents; and leading ladies such as Maeve McGuire, Jacquie Courtney, Ellen Holly, and Valerie Starrett all had video qualities that the TV cameras loved!

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