An Eyewitness History of the Soap Press

Marlena’s first cover, September 1981

Jan. 14, 2003

When people meet me for the first time, they invariably ask me two questions: 1) You have an unusual last name. How do you pronounce it?  (I say, “Pass-a-lac-qua. Yes, it’s Italian, and it means “over the water.”) 2) You do WHAT for a living???

Yes, I am proud I have been a soap opera journalist for … oh my, 40 years now. Like many of my compadres, I have suffered scorn and put-downs for loving a television medium that was long considered inferior to the rest of entertainment. For the first year of this column (established in 1989 in Soap Opera Weekly magazine), I spent too much time assuring my dear readers that … No!  Soap operas ARE NOT stupid.

In their very early years, soap operas were mostly ignored by print media. But as the soap opera medium grew, so did a press that was specifically devoted to it.

Most of the early magazines — like Daytime TV (founded by Paul Denis in 1969) and Afternoon TV, of which I became the editor in 1981, were founded by former Hollywood movie magazine editors who knew everything (i.e., all the good dirt) about the movies.  In the early years of soap publications, there were about half a dozen magazines, with great names like TV Dawn to Dusk.. (Soap Opera Digest, the industry leader and the only remaining print magazine, was not among the earliest. It was founded in 1975.)

When I first started watching soaps as a teen, there were 13 soaps on the air. When I started freelancing in 1983, I watched them every weekday out of my home office from noon to 4:30 p.m.  What great afternoons I had!

It’s not like now (Marlena starts to cry), when we are down to just four soaps and one of them, Days of Our Lives, has been exiled to Peacock, NBC’s streaming service.

Buck up, Mademoiselle, Marlena tells herself. Think about the glory days when daytime was pure gold to cover, and so many journalist colleagues became — yes — friends for life. We had a grand time getting to know, via interviews, the medium’s actors, writers, directors, costume designers, and so on and so on. We went to the lavish parties the networks threw for their income-producing soaps, which were far more profitable than prime-time series since they were not nearly as expensive to produce. The networks showered us with all kinds of mementoes, like T-shirts, mugs, notebooks, etc. Marlena even has a special photo collection featuring the many couples who were married on ABC soaps.

How interesting it was to interview performers and hear them describe (to you!) how they formed their portrayals.  As I’ve written before, talking to the show’s headwriters, like Agnes Nixon and Douglas Marland, was so illuminating. Watching monumental producers like the great Paul Rauch (Another World, One Life to Live) and Gloria Monty (General Hospital) — and oversized  personalities like Jill Farren Phelps (executive producer of six shows, including Santa Barbara, Guiding Light and General Hospital) and Jacqueline Babbin of All My Children (her cat Bonkers appeared on the show) — was more than a full-time job and a half for lucky reporters and writers like me.

And yes, because we were scorned by those in the “real” world, we soap journalists formed bonds not with just our readers but with each other. (Marlena’s motto: “Soap friends and fans are the best friends.”) Everyone remembers who liked whom, who hated whom (of which there was a bit too much of, I say in retrospect) and what went on in “the good old days.”

As far as I’m concerned, I wouldn’t want to do anything but write about soaps for a living.

Perhaps the greatest soap journalist ever IMHO was the late editor under whom I worked on my first job and whom I have always tried to emulate. When I was a teenager, I loved a soap mag called Daily TV Serials.  It was done so … intelligently. The editor was a former actor named Jon-Michael Reed (who passed away in 1986 at age 38). His critiques of the shows were just plain stunning. I’m so glad I worked for him (as a research intern). He was my inspiration when I edited Afternoon TV and later on when I became Marlena. I hope I continue to honor his memory with my work.



  1. Jon-Michael was the first editor I worked for too. He rewarded readers with humorous notes on the credits page in every issue—it was like an Easter egg that you had to search for. I had no intention of being a soap journalist, but I wrote Jon-Michael a fan letter about how erudite his magazine (Daily TV Serials) was. I had complimented him on putting out a magazine that treated the soap genre with respect. He tracked me down and asked me to do a piece for him. Thus began my lengthy career in the soap world. I also was lucky enough to write for a certain Connie Passalaqua.
    I considered it my mission to show that soaps were not worthy of being dismissed. I always love it when an actor from soaps always gives due credit to those soap roots. To this day Shemar Moore is still happy to discuss where he cut his acting teeth. I loved talking to actors or simply writing about the medium. I started watching in college as a favor to a friend on a crucial day she could not watch. This was prior to videotaping. I got hooked. am still a fan. As always, Connie, thanks for reviving those memories. Chicken soup for the soap soul.

    • Marlena De Lacroix a.k.a Connie Passalacqua Hayman says:

      Thanks for writing. I’ve always appreciated everyone who has ever worked for me. Isn’t it a great to be in a field where you get to do what you love?

      • Yes, it’s always great to do what you love. I didn’t mean to make this anonymous. In case you haven’t figured it out by context, my not so secret identity is Pat Palmer, aka Pat Burman Bott.

        Marlena says: Of course it’s you Pat. What a joy it is to have you a longtime colleague and good friend!

  2. This was an awesome memory-inducing post. Thank you, Marlena! Yay, soap press peeps!

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