One Life To Live at 40: How Has One Life Changed Your Life?

One Life to Live original

By Marlena De Lacroix

One Life to Live‘s 40th anniversary is next week.  I’ve watched the show for 39 of those forty years, so it’s been a big part of my life!  And it has meant a tremendous amount to me.  Thinking Fans, I’m interested in how OLTL has affected your life, what it has meant to you, your evaluations and memories of the storylines which have meant the most to you personally.  How has One Life changed your life?

Here’s my One Life to Live story:

I am 14, maybe 15, a latchkey kid in Queens, New York, watching TV after a day of high school.  I’m watching ABC, waiting for that weirdo vampire soap, Dark Shadows, to come on. In the time slot before Barnabas, all of a sudden I see three actors sitting around a table eating dinner in a threadbare apartment in some industrial town somewhere.  They are SCREAMING at each other.

“Larry, you’re a Wolek, you’re not supposed to fall in love with a princess who lives in a castle on the ritzy side of town,” says Anna,  a 40ish woman with a sharp  nose.

“Shaddup, Anna,” says a 30s Vinnie, who looks darkly Italian to me.  “Don’t tell our brother Larry what he should and shouldn’t do.  He’s a doctor, he’s gonna be better than us, he’s gonna get something out of life, and if that red-headed girl Meredith wants him, then let him feel like he’s a prince.  What’s for dessert, anyway?  My sister Anna’s desserts are never very good anyway.”

“Lousy!  You’re lousy, Vinnie!  Getta outta here!” screams  Anna.

“Hey, don’t I get a say in this?”  says 25ish, blondish Larry, the youngest in the family.OLTL

“Gettadda here, Prince Charming,” scream Vinnie and Anna in unison.

 Vinnie and his future wife Wanda

I sit up in recognition and pay attention. This show is nothing like the other soap I had just finished watching, on another channel — NBC’s Another World.  That one had taken place in a beautifully decorated middle class house full of WASPs, people who wear jackets and ties to breakfast and a mother and a father who politely say good morning to each other.  In that soap town, two impossibly blond daughters, both with perfectly teased hair, had spent the half hour actually wringing their handkerchiefs (!) while  complaining about their boyfriends — in perfectly modulated voices.  

But here on ABC, this other soap is set in a town called Llanview, where people scream and tease each other and go to work as secretaries and factory workers and know that the purpose of a family is … to lovingly run each others’ lives by screaming at each other.  The  working class Woleks are exactly like my working class family, the working class Passalacquas, who scream at each other every night over dinner in Queens, New York.

This is how I fell  in love with a new show called One Life to Live.

In 1969, long before the King of Queens and just before the advent of Archie Bunker, what a revelation it was for me to see an ethnic, screamingly loving family like mine on television, let alone a soap opera.  The Polish Woleks — secretary Anna, working man Vinnie and freshly minted doctor Larry, were real to me, not like the Viki and JoeMidwestern-perfect Andersens of Father Knows Best, or the never-raised-their-voices Cleavers of Leave It to Beaver.  Finally, a soap opera about life I recognize, a soap opera that has the human sense and good humor to be about … me.

Viki, originally played by Gillian Spencer, and Joe, her future husband

And so I keyed into One Life to Live, a show I am still watching 39 years later.  Why?   The characters were real!  And the story of Viki, the show’s leading lady, kept me glued for decades.  But it wasn’t only Viki and  OLTL‘s  ethnicity that kept me watching so long. There’s a simple explanation for why the show has kept my interest throughout its ups and downs. I’ll tell you all here next week as we celebrate the show’s actual anniversary date.  Now you tell me what OLTL has meant to you.


  1. Didn’t change my life. Made me idolize the brilliance of Judith Light as Karen Wolek, the hooker with a heart of gold. But it’s never really been that special to me. I congratulate it making it to 40. 1968 was a very good year. 😉 I do think it pales today to the vision Agnes had for it. Very rich people (except for a mere few) almost all white… it’s a shame. I think of my favorite time periods in the last few decades was (and I’ll get slammed for it, I’m sure) under Linda Gottlieb. Loved it then. But I hadn’t watched in ages, so it wasn’t my “history” she was destroying.

    Marlena says: Well snip, snip, girlfriend! (And Esther is my friend, so I can say that!). I’m sorry if OLTL has never been one of your historically favorite shows! Why are soap viewers so territorial? I like mine, you like yours.

  2. My memories of One Life to Live go back to Pat Lord’s son getting run over and killed, Karen Wolek hiding the crime to keep her secret life as a prostitute a secret from husband Larry, and Marco Dane pretending to be his brother Mario Corelli.

    But when I was a kid, OLTL was the stodgy soap that could never do adventure like GH — and was comical when it made the effort. (Remember when Ivan Kipling planted a mind-control chip in Larry?)

    These days, with GH and AMC in the dumps, OLTL’s the last ABC soap that’s any good if you don’t count Ryan’s Hope reruns.

    Marlena says: Hey Roger, great hearing from you again! It sounds like you started watching OLTL some time during the fabled Monty era of General Hospital. Poor OLTL — for a lot of its history, second or third best to other ABC soaps. I’ll talk about that next week. I once met Jack Betts, who played the nefarious Ivan Kipling years later at a soap party. He was charming and a real gentleman of the old school, nothing like his character.

  3. JONNYSBRO says:

    Marlena, I love this column about OLTL. I start watching OLTL since 1986 and have been with the show ever since.

    The Rauch era of OLTL was crazy wild entertaining soap. I loved how flashy, crazy, and how 80’s it was. My favorite era though was in 1992 when Linda Gottlieb/Michael Malone took the reigns and changed soaps into something dynamic. They did the amazing Homophobia storyline and one of the most gripping compelling stories in daytime ever was Marty’s gang rape. Marlena the rape is on youtube and you cannot even believe how Gottlieb got away with doing such a graphic rape. It was gritty, amazing, compelling and brought us the biggest performances from Susan Haskell, HBS and found one of the biggest actors of the 90’s Mr. Roger Howarth as Todd. Todd was so menacing and scary back in the day, it was chilling to watch.

    I also loved Michael Malone’s DID storyline which gave us some amazing scenes with Robin/Erika. Remember those scenes where Dorian and Viki discuss the (Victor’smolestation old molestation of Viki) and Tommy throws her down the stairs? That was pure acting at its best.

    After Malone was gone the show went through ups and downs. The JFP years were much debated but nothing was as bad as the Higley years which after many years I quit OLTL. I returned this year when I heard nothing about amazing things from Carlivati and he is bringing us some entertaining soap opera. Carlivati I would not call a god like others have but he is going back to the form of soap which no other soap is doing.

    I have always found OLTL one of the most edgier shows of the ABC shows in which it can take risks and the acting is amazing when the writing is matching it. Hears to more years of OLTL. I think ABC has always thought of OLTL as the red headed stepchild but IMO in today’s ABC lineup. It is the crown jewel compared to the other two. VIVA OLTL!

    Marlena says: Jonny, I am familiar with your love for the show from years on the OLTL boards. So much past story to recall, eh? I agree with you saying that One Life to Live has always been an edgy show and that the acting is amazing “when the writing is matching it.” The show has always been overly compared with All My Children and General Hospital, both of which have their own momentous histories. But One Life to Live–well, it has had a glory all its own. It’s won our continuing allegiance and that of millions of other viewers too! VIVA OLTL!

  4. Marlena, not being a writer like you, it’s difficult for me to put into words what OLTL has meant to me for the last 30 years.

    My first soap love was actually All My Children circa 1975. I was 10 years old! But a few years later, in the summer of 1978, I caught a scene on OLTL where Karen Wolek accepted money from a stranger and entered a hotel elevator with him – observed by Viki Riley! I was only 13, but, like Viki, I knew EXACTLY what Karen was doing! It was all so dirty and sleazy! I had never watched anything like that on TV!

    Over the next week, I became a lifelong OLTL fan as I witnessed two powerhouse actresses, Judith Light and Erika Slezak, meet in Karen’s living room, where Karen confessed her double life to Viki. I could not believe that I was watching hookers and pimps in the afternoon! It was SO illicit and I am sure my mother would not have approved!

    So, Karen Wolek’s powerful redemption story got me “hooked”, like so many others, but I also became intrigued with OLTL’s other rich characters – the edgy Dorian, doormat Jenny Vernon, philanderer Brad, the suffering Pat Kendall, the naive Samantha, the unstable Melinda, no nonsense Joe Riley, the nefarious Marco, young Tina Clayton.

    OLTL supplanted AMC as my favourite soap forever! I have never looked back! Even when the show’s quality dipped, I have always been able to count on the once in a life time actors that have graced the show – Slezak, Robin Strasser, Bob Woods, Hillary Smith, Phil Carey (oh, Asa, I miss you!), Jessica Tuck, Fiona Hutchison, Roger Howarth, and SO many more!

    I said that I can’t put into words what OLTL has meant to me, but while I wrote this, two words came to mind: Home and family. OLTL and Llanview are home to me, and anyone who loves a soap knows what I mean. The characters who inhabit Llanview have been and are family: Viki is the mother we all love; Dorian is our neurotic aunt; Asa was our cranky grandpa; Bo is the brother we look up to.

    I have been privileged to have been witness to the incredible show that the OLTL production company of stars, writers and producers have treated me to for 30 years. Viva One Life To Live!

    Marlena says: Dale, what a beautiful, eloquent letter! You’ve brought back so many memories to me. The philanderer Brad, the doormat Jenny–wow, right out of the cobwebs of my mind! I agree Llanview is home and family–home, where something’s always wrong and family as long as Viki’s there! Though, I never thought as Viki as my mother; I always looked at her as more as a warm, patrician aunt or cousin whose problems I am fortunate not to have! So glad we share the love of the same show, darling Dale. Viva OLTL!

  5. Margaret says:

    I agree completely with Marlena. I started watching OLTL the day it started, July 15, 1968. I had just graduated high school and was babysitting for the summer. I too had been watching Another World and Dark Shadows, but OLTL caught my eye and I still watch it to this day. Diversity and wonderful storylines kept my interest and I was so excited when the VCR was invented. I could tape OLTL when I was at work!!! I saved up $800 for just that purpose.

    There are only three members of the acting profession who I can’t take my eyes off of when they’re on screen: Erika Slezak, Robin Strasser & Tony Geary. They light up the screen. OLTL always has at least two really good stories going on at the same time. Sometimes I have to break away from AMC and GH, but never have I dismissed One Life. I congratulate them on 40 years of entertainment. Applause Applause…

  6. One Life changed MY OWN one life in many ways, but I’ll narrow it down to how it affected me as a fan.

    OLTL was the first soap (yes, I know I’m a baby) that TRULY taught me that a soap opera storyline could be suspenseful, educational, and groundbreaking. Yes, now I know years later that soaps were doing these kinds of stories years earlier… but when I was 15, and saw the Marty/ANdrew/Billy story… which was soon followed by the Marty/Todd Spring Fling story, it truly opened my eyes to what this medium could accompish. (Followed soon thereafter my Labine’s run on GH)

    It taught me without being preaching, it touched me without being too sappy… it took SO MANY RISKS back then (making your town villainess accuse a local reverend of pedophilia was YEARS before it was mainstream news, even though God knows it was happening back then… and then turning around and making that SAME villainess the center of your rape story, as the victim (as opposed to the usual ingenue who ends up suffering through that awful crime)?!

    I loved soaps and always wanted to be a soap writer because of the joy and fun it brought me. But OLTL, when I was in high school in the late 80’s/early 90’s, was what inspired me to follow this career path because it was fun, and because it made me happy… but also because I believed I could make a difference in someone’s life, the way OLTL made a difference in mine.

    Marlena says: Tom, thanks for your reply. As a teacher, I am always deeply affected when a student comes back to me years later and says that I influenced their career path. It seems that’s what Michael Malone (and Linda Gottlieb) did that for you. As you know, Malone was/is an English professor and I think he’d be very gratified to hear about his influence on you.

    Malone was a very serious and dear man who like you, reached out into the soap community and interacted with those who were thoughtful about his work. Marlena was incredibly nasty to him when he starting writing OLTL because the way he incorporated new characters–Marty, Todd–out of nowhere and made the centerpiece of frontburner stories. He promptly called me and wanted to know more of why I thought this way. This was shocking because no headwriter had ever called me when I wrote something negative except to complain. Malone wanted constructive criticism! What an interesting, deeply thinking, compassionate human being he turned out to be, which I feel was reflected in his writing. As I’m sure the warm, smart, open person you are is reflected in yours, Tom.

  7. Hi Marlena… What has One Life to Live meant to me these past years??? I’ll have to echo my friend Dale’s comment of “home and family”. I have laughed, loved, cried, screamed, stamped my feet, smiled and just about every other emotion with the wonderful characters that populate Llanview.

    I first started watching in the summer of 1975. Nancy Pinkerton was just plain awesome as the first Dorian. I loved Dorrie Kavanaugh’s portrayal of the fiesty Cathy Craig. I still miss Marilyn Chris as Wanda! Doris Belack was the ONLY Anna Craig for me. Erika Slezak was so sweet as Viki. Lee Patterson… what a silver haired fox! I never thought that Brynn Thayer would take the place of Kathy Glass as the virginal Jenny Wolek but she sure did! I was THRILLED when Jacqueline Courtney came over from AW to play Pat Kendall. Judith Light was divine and I don’t think anyone has ever quite had the same impact as Karen Wolek…. housewife/hooker with a heart of gold!

    Then came Robin Strasser! What a marvel! I thought Claire Malis was okay but La Strasser… WOW! To this day she holds my attention in any scene she is in. Andrea Evans return in 1985 was inspired. She was awesome when it was discovered she was a Lord and all that followed! That whole era with the return of Tina/Niki Smith/David & Jenny/Dorian & Herb.. just plain fab!

    The week that Megan died was so hard!!! Lordy! I cried every day! It was so sad. Jessica Tuck and Grace Phillips both deserved Emmys!!! I can still see Sarah singing “Itsy Bitsy Spider”. Sob! The Billy Douglas story and the aids quilt… well done! I miss Luna! I miss Andrew. I never understood why Cassie left him for Kevin. Marty’s rape and the trial that followed was sensational. Hillary B. Smith… another wow! Just fantastic and won a much deserved Emmy. Much as I have never liked the character of Todd Manning both Roger Howarth and Trevor St. John have done a fantastic job at making him a character I LOVE to HATE!

    Erika Slezak…. what can I say to do her justice??? She can take any material and make it work. I’ve loved her since I first started watching. Young bride, mother, widow… split personalities! Niki, Jean Randolph, Tommy, Tori and Princess. WOW! Small wonder that Ms. Slezak has so many Emmy awards! There are just too many stories to try and remember and comment on! Stroke, breast cancer… on and on!

    Phil Carey! The rascal! Sure do miss Asa! Patricia Elliott is a gem! Bobby Woods is alway great at Bo. Love John Paul Lavoisier can make me laugh and cry in the same scene. So can his “Mama” Ilene Kristen! David Fumero is never hard on the eyes… Peter Bartlett’s Nigel is a hoot! Melissa Archer and Bree Williamson are terrific as the young Buchanan daughters.

    I could go on and on but I better stop! Summing up, Llanview is a place I would happily visit! It’s like “home”. Oh! One last thing! The library set at Llanfair is as comforting for me to see as my own livingroom. It’s been around since I’ved been watching. It’s a nice constant! Just one more thing to love about OLTL.

    Happy 40th One Life to Live….. here’s to another 40!

    Ciao Bella

    Marlena says : David, you brought back so many memories in great detail. Dorrie Kavanaugh, who played Kathy Craig was so haunting and ethereal. And Nancy Pinkerton as the original Dorian–wow!! She really packed a punch of pure evil and if she was on the show today I am sure she’d have a lot of young fans. And how right you are to say the Llanfair library is “home.” When I went to the first ABC Superstar Weekend at Disney World in Florida more than a decade ago, the Lord library was reproduced in one of the exhibition halls there. And I remember thinking at the time, “What’s this doing here? Won’t Viki be mad?” That’s how real all of Llanview was and is for me.

  8. biffordmichael says:

    I watched OLTL during the mid-90’s. The gay storyline drew me in and I stayed for Marty/Todd and the stuff that followed. I went to England for a summer and had friends compile the two months I missed for me, eight weeks edited together on videotape, two VCRs hooked together…that’s a friend and that’s how good OLTL was during that period…granted it got messy (HOW many episodes ended with Marty stumbling upon Todd and gasping yet I was gasping each and everytime as well!), my love for the show culminated with Vicki and her alters caging Dorian…what a can’t miss show it was…for the record my favorite alter was Tommy! 🙂

    Glad to hear the show is on such a creative high these days!

    Happy anniversary One Life!


  9. I don’t think that OLTL changed my life, but it has certainly given me some of the fondest soap-watching experiences I’ve ever had!

    My relationship with OLTL began in the mid-1970s. I think Dorian is the first memory I have of the show…she was being played by the awesome Nancy Pinkerton. Soon I was enjoying the work of Jameson Parker as Brad and Jackie Zeman as Lana. Then I fell in love with Joe & Viki and Ed & Carla. Then the Karen Wolek character and storyline blew me away. Although I liked Clint and Bo, I hated the changes that OLTL began implementing, making the Buchanans the center of the show. When Judith Light left, so did I.

    I was a GH fan in the glory days of Luke & Laura, and to this day I still say that OLTL and GH was the best back-to-back programming I’ve ever seen!

  10. Fabobug says:

    Hi Marlena!

    For me the love began in 1993. My own soap DAYS had gone to Reilly hell (literally) and I was looking for a change. I had started watching Labine’s Divine GH at first because so many of my favorite DAYS stars were there. But then OLTL caught my eye.

    In the summer of 1993 I remember thinking, “Wow, this is so edgy.” The fallout from the Spring Fling, the build up to Viki/Dorian explosion, Nora and Bo’s budding romance all intrigued me, and kept me as a loyal viewer until the McTavish years.

    What these stories meant to me is that the soap genre was capable of portraying layers of emotion that no other format could. Marty’s psychological journey was exhausing and elevating, and could only have properly told in the 2 1/2 years it was given. The Viki / Dorian explosion of 1994 was intense, exciting, and complex.

    I have shared on this board my own connection to Dorian and her grief after Mel’s death. I had just lost someone signficant as well at that time, and was pretty angry about the circumstances around his death. I could not run around town tongue-lashing everyone I held accountable. But seeing Dorian go through a similar process, and run around Llanview verbally lashing out, actually helped me through my own grieving process. Although it was during the JFP era, this storyline stood out to me and helped me on a personal level.

  11. I recently posted notes I took at the One Life to Live 40th Anniversary Tribute panel discussion that was held at the Paley Center in New York last month. I wrote a little introduction before my notes on how OLTL has affected me. Read here.

    And as somewhat of a follow-up, I mention two former OLTL actors who appeared in the films of Todd Haynes. Read here.

  12. OLTL has been a part of my life for so long that it’s hard to think of it changing my life so much as completing it. My first memory (seriously) is of Erica and Tom on their St. Croix honeymoon on AMC. But my mom, grandmother and I watched all three of the ABC hourlongs religiously (as well as RH – sniff). These soaps were an intergenerational bond between us that continues to this day. My grandmother is no longer with us, but she was watching her soaps to the end. One of our last conversations was her ranting about Lindsay on OLTL and how awful she was to poor Nora (During the Colin MacIver story if I remember correctly). More than any one strory, that lifelong shared relationship is the greatest gifts soaps, and especially OLTL, give us. Because it’s not just that my family watches it together, the characters of OLTL are part of that family as well.

    For all the great drama — Karen on the stand, (my introduction to Acting) and Viki’s alters — it’s probably the Billy Douglas story that had the most profound effect on me. I was the same age as Billy and coming to the same realization that he was. While my coming out was decidedly less soapy (if not less dramatic), having that kindred spirit and that positive example gave me hope in a time I most desperately needed it. The fact that the writing was so good during that time was just a bonus.

    OLTL is still, I think, the most distinctly American of soap operas just as Agnes Nixon intended. It can be a little too loud (like the Woleks), a little too campy (like Dorian and David – or the Paul Rauch years) and a little too violent (Dena “EVENT” Higley). But the throughline is always there, reflecting both American diversity and American family. And it has taught us all that we each have our own “one life” to live, even if the show routinely, through split personalities, double lives, mistaken identities, rises from the dead and switched babies puts the lie to it’s own title. My life is richer for having spent the last 33 years in, around, (and sometimes under) Llanview, PA.

    Marlena says: I LOVE what you wrote about soaps being an intergenerational bonding experience. I wonder if the desperate daytime executives at the networks even consider the power of bonding viewers to soaps for life via family involvement important anymore. I can’t see families bonding over shows that are violent, misogynistic, hypocritical, and amoral — can you? Of course, the specific show I am describing here is General Hospital, but most soaps today have elements of all the above.

    Thanks goodness, the current regime at One Life to Live steers away from all stories that are cheesy, desperate and incredibly offensive, which is a very wise investment in the soap’s future. I think other soaps will ultimately pay for the cheap tricks they are playing now in viewer loyalty in the long run. Which soaps will die and which will survive? That’s the ultimate daytime cliffhanger, n’est-ce pas?

  13. So many of my memories of life involve OLTL!

    In high school, Tina and Maria! Maria seemed to be poised with the poison over poor Tina for weeks! I’m sure now it wasn’t that long, but it seemed like every day that summer, Maria was “just about” to spill the vial … I remember thinking, “How long can this scene last?!?!?” and laughing at the ridiculousness of it, but that was the start of a lifetime addiction.

    In art school, my friends and I arranged our schedules so we could be back in our aprtment for OLTL each afternoon. The rule was you had to take a bong hit each time Cord called Tina “Girl”. Then we would hurry to art history and immerse ourselves in the slides.

    When Gabrielle was mad at God for Max’s supposed death in the car accident, and she had the crazy dream ballet, that was the first time I admitted to myself that I was a soap fan, in an un-ironic way.

    The Eterna era, during my rave years, and going out to clubs dressed in my version of Eterna gear!

    (Years pass; I see OLTL maybe once or twice a year, but keep up to date by reading soap mags, and later, online soap recaps.)

    9/11 (I live in NYC) and the whole city shutting down. Me shutting down … and the thing that brought me back to life was Roxy on OLTL. I swear, the antics of Roxy and Allison Perkins were what got me back interested in life, and laughing again!

    When they did the “Babes Behind Bars” episode, I swore my undying love and allegiance forever and always!!! I felt then that OLTL was the soap especially made for ME!!!!!

    Live Week, featuring some of the funniest Niki Smith scenes EVER, plus the beginning of that sweet story of Max and Roxy (which sadly, TPTB squashed before it went anywhere … but I will always remember the potential!)

    Thinking I was watching the birth of a new anchor family for Llanview with the romance of Marcie and
    Al. It seems sappy now, but I was emotionally involved and rootin’ for them.

    Knowing I was witnessing bad writing during the Music Box Killer era … and tuning out for a few years.

    This past month when I’ve been in the hospital, OLTL is the only real enjoyment I have each day, time when I can turn off the pain and just LAUGH with David Vickers, Roxy (and Tina; it honestly feels like a personal life-affirming gift from the gods that Andrea Evans is back in this, my time of need), or just bask in the warmth and the kindness of Viki, marvel at Dorian … I know I am watching another era of OLTL that I will never forget.

    And I have learned SO MUCH from Viki: How to treat others with graciousness, patience and compassion; be a good listener, don’t judge, and never deliberately cause harm or pain.

    Its actually comical how often I think, WHAT WOULD VIKI DO?, to check and make sure that my actions are coming from a calm and loving place.

    Marlena says: Thanks for all the LOLs, Norn. Please get well soon!

  14. Beth P. says:

    Well, I was ten years old and saw the very first show. I’ve watched it on and off now for years, since GH was my first “soap love.” But now that GH is so idiotic and dark I am back with OLTL and loving it.

    I had a huge crush on Joe Riley and on Vinnie. I remember vividly, although I can’t remember who it was, the drug-trip scene where someone got killed and Vinnie was involved. I don’t remember who it was but I remember the psychedelic graphics and rock music. It was so cool. (refresh my memory here someone, please?)

    And Viki/Niki have always been great. What a terrific storyline and such a great actress handling it so well.

    Tina going over the falls, Meredith’s death, Pat, Cord, Max, and I adore David Vickers now. So many great stories.

    It must be nice to celebrate this anniversary when the show is getting rave reviews (better than GH’s anniversary which can be celebrated with utter discontent by longtime fans).

    Three cheers for OLTL!!

    Marlena says: Thanks for mentioning the early characters of Joe and Vinnie, played by the late Lee Patterson and the late Anthony Ponzini. Patterson dripped charm and good Irish humor and was kind of a Prince Charming for women of an earlier era. Ponzini was dynamite, a mercurial and often humorous presence. I always looked forward to seeing him every day. He would have been a soap superstar today, I am convinced. Ponzini played Danny Fargo on Another World and was a police detective on Generations for a while. He also dated Erika Slezak before her marriage. Or so the old fan mags used to say.

  15. Chere Marlena,

    I stumbled upon OLTL over the July 4th holidays in 1980. NBC had preempted AW, DAYS and the Doctors for Wimbledon, so I was channel surfing the three stations (3!!) that were available in those days.

    Stopped upon a scene with two characters in a car arguing over some baby. Woman in the car kept calling the guy Marco. But in the next scene, the characters were calling him Mario. Humm? Marco/Mario? Seemed like some kind of secret identity thing. That had me intrigued.

    Next scene is a LOCATION scene showing guys riding on horseback across a green pasture and lassoing a horse. A location scene!?!? On a soap opera?!?
    And all those guys on horseback were wearing 10-gallon hats talking in varying degrees of a Southern accent. What did this have to do with the Marco/Mario scenes I’d seen earlier? Were they really on the same show. Cowboys AND secret identities? I was more intrigued.

    Next scene shows Alice Frame talking to one of the Southern talking guys? Alice Frame!! Oh, so this is where she went after she was fired from Another World. I’d always loved her as Alice. So I was delighted to see her again, even if people here were calling her Pat, which is Alice’s sister’s name.

    Humm, seems like I remember reading years ago that both Alice and Steve Frame moved to an ABC soap aftter being fired from Another World back in 1975. The possibity of seeing Alice AND Steve together on this show is exciting. So, I keep watching.

    Next scene doesn’t have Steve Frame. But it does have a blond haired actor I recognize from another soap. Can’t really place him, so I watch closely trying to figure out where I know him from. He’s called Peter Jansen on this show, but I finally realize he’d been policeman Steve Guthrie on Edge of Night.

    And the Peter character is talking about this baby but has a guilty look on his face. This must be the same baby the Marco/Mario was talking about. Humm, wonder what’s going on with this baby? Seems to be pretty important to the show.

    And then the show ended. So, I’d had a nice little diversion and gotten to see some old favorites. But I had no intention of tuning in again. I had to get back to Doug and Julie and Mac and Rachel.

    But the next day, NBC soaps were again prempted for Wimbledon. So, I watched OLTL again and became even more rivetted by this baby mystery, by the Macro/Mario secret identity thing, by these out-of-place cowboys, by Alice Frame and by the hopes of seeing Steve Frame.

    Never saw Steve Frame, but did see a couple of actors from The Doctors playing Samatha Vernon and Ina Hopkins on this show. Oh, and there’s Julie’s brother from Days of Our Lives playing someone named Marcello. Great to see them again all again.

    And then, I saw HER. I saw Rachel!! The original Rachel. She’s on another soap opera?!?! Oh my goodness! This is fantastic! Rachel and Alice on the same show again! Wonder if I’ll see a cat fight between Alice and Rachel? WOW! I better keep watching.

    By the time NBC soaps returned to the air, I was too intrigued to skip OLTL. Lucikily, we had just gotten a VCR a few months earlier, so I could record the NBC soaps AND watch OLTL live. I felt so indulgent. But I loved it.

    And so began my love affair with One Life. I’m really surprised by how distinctly I remember the details of about those first shows 28 years later. Obviously, everyone else here talking about their memories loosened up mine.

    Thanks for the the walk down memory lane and for letting me share mine with you.


    Marlena says: I watched both early Another World and the era of OLTL you are talking about, so I literally could follow your letter. For those of who can’t, let me clarify: Jacqueline Courtney played Alice Frame on AW and became Pat Ashley on AW; George Reinholt played the legendary Steve Frame on AW and became Tony Lord on OLTL; Robin Strasser played the original Rachel on AW and of course became Dorian on OLTL. All three were the top superstars of an earlier soap era. Reinholt passed away about a decade ago. I’ve heard Courtney’s deep voice in commercial voiceovers. And Alice and Rachel and Pat and Dorian never had catfights in an era of female dignity!

  16. Loved your post, James. I, too, was an old AW fan, so I followed right along.

    Marlena…where did you hear that George Reinholt passed away??? I never heard that.

    Marlena says: George was living in a converted garage somewhere in Pennsylvania when he actually sent Marlena a personalized poem in 1995, which I reproduced in my column. The editors of my mag thought he was deranged, but I was THRILLED since he had been my teenage idol. In the late 70s I used to see him at concerts here in NYC and in the Village, and that chisled face and bright blue eyes of his were striking beyond words. I remember hearing he had passed away a few years ago, but I can’t find confirmation anywhere on the net. Perhaps you do some definitive research, Leona? This is really puzzling.

  17. I must say that I am not at all impressed with OLTL, maybe because I am a newer viewer to the show and do not have all these wonderful memories of original and compelling storylines or that whenever I look at the show I can’t help but notice the disappearance of their African American characters on my screen.

    OLTL has been on the air for 40 years and my grandmother has been a loyal viewers for most of them. I continue to watch the show just for her, it is our special time together but as I sit there I find myself constantly thinking back to what Agnes Nixon created and what she wanted for her show and know it ain’t on my screen.

    My grandmother was so proud of OLTL always telling me, “child this isn’t like them other shows.” Now whenever she speaks of OLTL with pride and respect it is towards the olden days, of Carla Gray and Ed Hall and how good it felt to see them on the show making a difference.

    OLTL and the pride, joy and excitement it gave my grandmother made me a soap viewer now 35 years later OLTL has taken the passion out of watching it from my grandmother. For the first time that I could remember my grandmother didn’t hush me, or tell me to pay attention.

    Marlena says: Maria, thanks for this very important letter. I hope St. Ron and
    Mr. Valentini read this and weep!

  18. Marilyn Henry says:

    OLTL actually DID change my life.

    It is due to OLTL that I became a soap watcher. Back in the 70’s I was doing rewrites and proofing on a book I’d written, a tedious sort of job, and when I broke for lunch I’d started turning on TV just for a change of pace. I seldom turned on TV in the daytime until then. I looked up from my sandwich and there was Judith Light, on the witness stand, winning her Emmy. I was riveted. This woman was GOOD! I’d had such disdain for soaps, knowing nothing of them, though my mom had listened to Our Gal Sunday when I was a teen.

    Soon I started watching every day. When Marco Dane walked in that court room door claiming to be his own twin brother–wow. And what actors! Gerry Anthony as Marco was just superb. Can’t recall the details, but I think Viki was on trial for his murder because he had faked nude photos of young Tina and was blackmailing Viki with them. But Marco wasn’t dead at all–he came in as if he had just arrived in town as the late Marco’s twin, Mario, a respectable doctor! And he kept up the charade for some time, even treating patients.

    Later that fall, a friend found out I was watching OLTL and said, ‘There’s this fuzzy haired guy on General Hospital and he is just fascinating. You should take a look.’ I did and that did it. It was right as Luke had that big yearning for young Laura and you know how involving a good yearning can be on soaps. I was hooked for good.

    So for too many years, OLTL took second place in my viewing priority to GH. Much of what I remember then from OLTL was in the last 15 minutes of an episode, as I tuned in early for GH.

    However… It is confusing to me that I seem to have memories of seeing some OLTL much earlier than the late 70s, because I remember someone telling me about a story where a lovely black girl, Carla Grey (played by Ellen Holly), was passing for white. She then meets this cop, Ed Hall, and he finally gets her to ‘own up’ and accept herself. I must have tuned in, because I had a big crush on Al Freeman, that intriguing cop. I didn’t get to see all of his story, but I adored Al. My first soap crush.

    I grew to love so many OLTL characters: Wanda, played by Marilyn Chris, and Edwina, that ambitious reporter played by Margaret Schenk, Katrina Kar and Marcello, played by Nancy Snyder and Steve Schnetzer (who later married in real life), and Jenny Wolek, as played by Brynn Thayer, and all her problems with tennis bum Brad, played by Steve Fletcher.

    Later, when I became addicted to Santa Barbara, I would tune in early to see Steve Schnetzer and Linda Dano on Another World. Pretty soon, I was watching all of that soap, too.

    Give up soaps? Well, I have tried the past few years to stop the GH habit because I really dislike what has become of it, but soap habits die hard. Now OLTL has given me hope that true soap opera is still alive and can prevail!

  19. Matthew J Cormier says:

    One Life To Live changed my life in a dramatic way. It was the first time i watched a TV show and JUST HAD to tune in the next episode … just had too. I had watched soaps before and they were good, but OLTL just grabbed me and has never let go since. The first story I recall having to watch every single day was Marty’s rape and trial in 1992/1993. I was all but 10 or 11 and it was a show I just knew I had to see every day. It had everything — gritty realism with Marty’s rape and the trial, it had villians in Dorian, Todd, Blair, Carlo Hesser and it had good guys like Viki, Kevin, Marty, Luna, Max and Bo who you rooted for.

    Also, it was the only soap that had characters that seemed real to me — working class folks like the Vegas who ran a diner and Andy Harrison who was a police officer.

    I have watched OLTL on and off now since 1992 and have been engrossed in the characters’ lives this entire time, I’ve watched it through its ups and downs — watched it come out of creative slumps (can we say Santi Family?) and go into creative highs (Live Week 2003 anyone) and I’ve seen this show tell dramatic, moving stories that even years later we still talk about and that still tug at your heart.

  20. OLTL affected me by showing me many times that the world was made up of people who were not just like me and my family. I remember growing up and hearing a phrase “I remember when all my heroes were white or Willy Mays” It probably was a newspaper headline or something, but I do not know. I just remember the phrase. I think, for a time, all my heroes were white or Ed Hall.

    OLTL demonstrated real truth and emotion when writing about a young man who was gay. The show brought the Aid’s Quilt to daytime television. And — women were smart and they worked. They were doctors, reporters, publishers.

    OLTL opened a lot of people’s eyes to people, events and world we may not have seen otherwise. I don’t think OLTL does that as well today and there are many issues where it could.

    Marlena says: Cindy, thanks for pointing out all that was noble and good about OLTL I went on the AIDS Quilt remote in New Jersey back in 1992, and I have never been more moved as a person or as a journalist as I was that day. I got to meet the survivors of those who had a piece on the quilt and it was breathtaking to talk to them and see their love and devotion to those they had lost. The quilt was truly something spiritual. And no one got the meaning more that day than a lovely young actor named Ryan Phillipe, who played Billy Douglas, the gay teen. What a great, smart, polite kid he was to me! And you know what became of him!

  21. Agnes Nixon herself stated “I wanted to take soap operas out of WASP valley. I wanted to have multi-racial and ethnic stories,” this was her reasoning for creating OLTL.

    I am ashamed that we are celebrating 40yrs of OLTL and have diverted so far from her vision.

    I see nothing but white people when I turn on this show and all beside Gigi and Brody and maybe John have money, they have taken the diversity even out of the economic status.

    I bet the new rich Latin family coming to LLanview are light skinned Hispanics.

  22. Matthew J Cormier says:

    I always loved the social relevance on “OLTL” and i have to defend them—they may not be doing it as much as they once did but it’s still there— Starr’s teen pregnancy, Brody and Charlie’s drinking problems, they are definetly in the same realm as previous socially relevant storyline.

    Marlena says: Matthew, thanks for bringing up the current socially relevant stories on OLTL. But back in 1968, when OLTL the whole canvas was socially relevant–you had a black woman passing for while, a Polish family, an Irish family, a Jewish character–Llanview was almost more diverse than it is now!

  23. Matthew J Cormier says:

    I agree they don’t have enough racial diversity on the show, that is for sure. I mean Nora is Jewish and yet half the time she is seen celebrating Christmas; RJ is never on, the Vegas are boring and Carlotta is never seen more than twice a month. and nobody really ever seems to have a religion anymore…

  24. For me, seeing Tina Lord surveying the Lord Library, and slowly discovering the secret room behind the bookshelves. The whole thing was so kitschy, with Victor Lord’s brothel hidden away all those years. It opened up a whole new era in OLTL, and reinvented so much of the show’s past storylines.

  25. Barbara Morrow says:

    I have been watching the show since I was 9 years old and IMMEDIATELY fell into idol worship when Jacqueline Courtney became a character because I had watched her as a young daughter on another soap previously and she always stood out because of her beauty. When I was in my late teens I was actually mistaken for her and I remember how my head swooned at the mere prospect of being considered in her league, which to me was untouchable! I would really love to find out what she is doing and possibly let her know how she affected my life. If you could let me know how to reach her I would be eternally grateful! Thanks so much!
    Barbara J. Morrow

    Marlena says: I loved Jacquie Courtney too on Another World and One Life to Live. I don’t know where she is or have any contact info. Sorry!

  26. One Lifer says:

    I don’t know if “OLTL” changes my life, I started watching in the early 70s MEREDITH LORD (I also love VICTORIA LORD) got me hook and to this day if I could I’d bring her back, But there are things along the way which I found disgraceful first the Buchanan came in and TOOK over forcing the Woleks Saddie and Carla out , those outlandish storylines Eternea the wild west a badderly island, the destruction and trashing of Victor Lord, fore getting about MEREDITH LORD (bringing her name up once a decade if that much) and DON”T EVEN get me started JOHN Mc BAIN there no more “One Life to Live” it became the John Mc Bain hour with his side kicks Bo Buchanan and Rex Balsom

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