Paul Rauch, R.I.P.

By Marlena De Lacroix a.k.a. Connie Passalacqua Hayman

Paul Rauch, surely the greatest executive producer in daytime soap history, died today in Manhattan at 79 following an illness.  

Paul Rauch
Nobody did soaps better

Marlena had the honor of covering and knowing Paul from 1980 onward, during which he was executive producer of Another World, Texas, One Life to Live, Santa Barbara. Guiding Light and The Young and the Restless. He generously taught me so much about soaps during our many interviews.  In the industry, Rauch was known as intimidating, but I found him to be a tremendously charismatic and complicated man who was great creative leader and a premier innovator in the art of soaps. No one knew soap production better than Paul.  He was always moving with the soap times. I always maintained he was a genius — which he loved.  Rest in peace, Mr. Rauch.

He is survived by his wife, concert pianist/playwright Israela Margalit, two children, two stepchildren and three granddaughters.

When Paul became executive producer of his last soap, Y&R, in 2008 (the job lasted until 2011). Marlena wrote this column about having known him over the years:

                                                                                                    

PAUL RAUCH FOR REAL!

September 19, 2008

By Marlena De Lacroix a.k.a Connie Passalacqua Hayman

Paul Rauch. That name may send you screaming from the room if you ever worked for him unsuccessfully, if you judge a man in totality by his bad soaps (Santa Barbara, Guiding Light) or if you are a typical internet poster who relies on rumors, innuendo and chapters of tell-all memoirs.

But now that Rauch is back as co-executive producer of The Young and the Restless (at the age of 74, after recovering from a heart attack) I’d like to offer some first person testimony. And I can do it freely and ethically because I am a journalist, and don’t have to work for him.  I knew and interviewed Rauch regularly from 1980-2001.

I’ve always maintained that, despite his stormy temperament and the people he is said to have hurt, Paul is a genius.

I knew him when he was in New York executive-producing Another World, Texas, One Life to Live and Guiding Light.  Like everyone, I had terrible, terrible times with him (I have stories — let’s just say no one could intimidate a young girl reporter better than Paul) but then again I had incredibly engaging and enlightening conversations with him over the years, too.

Ironically, it is the same young students of soap opera out there cursing at him on the net who would probably die to have to chance to have an audience with him.  Every time I interviewed Paul, I learned more in 20 minutes about the fine art of making soap opera than I ever could any other way. A serious art collector (it always cracked me up that Paul had a print of Edward  Hopper’s classic painting “The Lighthouse at Two Lights” in his office at Guiding Light), he has an incredible eye for the visual composition and texture of the image on screen.  Between that and his up-to-the-second technical knowledge, his explanations of such things as his lighting ideas, why he photographed scenes in radical new ways, and his innovative location shooting techniques, made you appreciate what he was after in a fresh way. Or he could make you understand why soaps are now casting models with perfectly beautiful faces by explaining why the technicalities of cable competition (which was new in the late 90s) called for such a (to me, awful) thing.

And he has amazing taste in actors.  Before you scream “Kim Zimmer” at me, this is the man who gave great actors like Ray Liotta (he grew up on Another World) their show-biz starts.  I used to see him all the time at the New York theater in the 80s scouting talent.  He recognized and relished using superb leading actors like Vicky Wyndham (AW), Beverlee McKinsey (AW and Texas) and Erika Slezak (One Life To Live).

He’s produced soaps for 40 years (two Emmys), moving with the times from style to style.  There were the classic, almost Shakespearean quality of AW (which was soap opera nirvana for the Thinking Fan); the campy, high budget days of OLTL, and even the very early days of GL (before he and those boobs Brown and Esensten poisoned us with the clone story).

Because he moves with the times and is a genuine Thinking Producer, Paul is a great choice for Y&R.  Among other things, the show needs a definitive post-Bill Bell style, since it’s been drifting all over the place since Bill’s death. Y&R is his kind of show: it is rich in dramatic texture and has many sophisticated characters (the Abbots, the Newmans) that are tastefully wealthy.  Although I haven’t seen Paul in years, I’m sure he still approaches his work with all the intensity and meticulous attention a show like Y&R badly needs to stay on top in these troubled, troubled soap times.

Welcome back, Paul!

Comments

  1. Justin Murphy says:

    I was practically raised on Paul’s OLTL years and the last couple years doing Santa Barbara. My mother also watched his stuff on Another World and Texas. While I don’t agree with everything he has done, his soaps were the most visually impressive anyone has ever seen on daytime. Sad to see him go.

  2. Brandon says:

    You and I have had a number of conversations on the genius and grace of Mr. Rauch, who will forever hold a special place in my heart. In the fall of 1988, shortly after I first started watching “One Life,” I lost my mother, and the year that followed was largely a miserable one for me. One of the few bright spots was that there existed one hour a day when I could forget all my troubles and lose myself in the wacky and wondrous world of good ol’ Llanview, PA.

    He didn’t do it alone, obviously — he had a game cast of actors behind him, and a team of writers that MUST have been high on. . . something — but Paul Rauch had a notion that daytime television didn’t just HAVE to be irrelevant, kitchen-sink drama; he dreamed that the genre he so clearly loved could be big, and dreamlike, and glamorous, and crazy, and, maddening, and extraordinary. And even as budgets continually shrank, he never lost that larger-than-life vision. (Not for nothing, but he took “The Young and the Restless” to Paris of all places during his final producing stint!)

    It was long a dream of mine to be able to tell Mr. Rauch myself what a profound impact his imagination-drenched work had on the confused twelve-year-old boy I was once upon a time, and while that particular dream will have to be deferred for a while longer, I am comforted by having had the great privilege of commiserating — on my show and in other forums — with a number of actors and writers (and YOU, mon cherie!) who worked closely with Paul and who recognized his immense genius. Alas, that, and my memories — memories of Eterna, of Faux Bo, of Tina and Cord, of the Buchanan City of 1888 — will have to suffice for now.

  3. Dale says:

    Marlena, thanks for posting this tribute column so soon! I’d love to hear more of your stories about Paul Rauch! I know his work from OLTL and GL. Before he came to OLTL the show was in the doldrums. It was kind of boring and pedestrian. Nothing special. He arrived in Llanview in late summer of 1984 and it took him a little while to find his legs, but once he did, OLTL exploded off the screen with vibrancy and excitement. That iconic theme song! Viki/Niki! Tina Lord! Dorian in prison! David and Jenny! Viki in Heaven (two weeks of the best soap ever)! Fraternity Row! Even Faux Bo, 1888 and Eterna had great moments. OLTL in 1985, 1986 and 1987 were just about perfect and it was truly a can’t miss show during those years. The show declined somewhat as Rauch steered the show further away from its roots, but he treated us to new found talent like Jessica Tuck, James DePaiva and Fiona Hutchison. I have most of OLTL from 1985-1991 saved on DVD so I can look back on one of Llanview’s golden eras whenever I want to. :)

    The situation at GL was much the same as it was at OLTL; venerable show that lacked spark and excitement. Again, Mr. Rauch took a few months to figure out the lay of the land, but 1997′s GL is one of the best soap years I have ever seen. The Josh/Annie/Reva business was must see TV! The re-introductions of Beth and Harley jazzed up other people’s stories and Wendy Moniz’s Dinah was a hoot! I also liked 1998 with the clone story and 1999 with the introduction of San Cristobel, and the Santos family, though those stories seem to split the fans in half.

    Often , I read that two of the lowest points in daytime history are Eterna from OLTL and the clone from GL. But you know what? Both stories were original with great production values and I found them both entertaining. Mr. Rauch seemed to like to “break the rules” of what traditional soap stories could be, and while that polarized people, those of us who stuck around for the rides had a lot of fun. I am so glad I got the chance to see Rauch’s genius at work! The soap world needs innovators like him now, more than ever.

    “Here’s where you go when it looks like the rain won’t end, don’t cry….”

    Dale

    Marlena says: Dale darling, haven’t heard from you in ages. I remember your enthusiasm for OLTL in those golden years; they sure showed an incredible amount of showmanship and were very entertaining. The same can be said of Rauch’s first years at GL. Paul certainly was a great innovator and showman. He will be so missed.

  4. Patrick Erwin says:

    Very sad to hear of his passing. I know that he had his admirers and his critics (and I’ve been both) but he definitely had a singular vision for his shows, which I respect immensely.

    It was a Paul Rauch show that had the biggest imprint on me as a kid, and though most younger viewers remember his time on OLTL or GL, I remember the halcyon days of Another World. His partnership with Harding Lemay, and their ability to produce Broadway-quality drama every day, is still astonishing.

    I’m disappointed at how underreported his death has been. No NYT obit, despite the thousands of hours of New York television he produced and the thousands of actors and crew people his shows employed. Same for Deadline. Soap folks still, sadly, get no respect.

  5. Esther says:

    Beautiful tribute. I’m sure he’s smiling down on you.

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