Today I got the special treat of interviewing Eileen Fulton who has played bad girl Lisa on the As the World Turns soap for nearly fifty years. Eileen lives in a gorgeous apartment on the Upper East Side and insisted we have tea and cookies before we began our shoot. (Which was absolutely fine with my cameraman and I!)
She told tales of what it was like in the old days of soaps where married couples had to sleep in twin beds and you couldn't say the word "pregnant" on the air. (She threatened to say it once - insisting her character wouldn't say "since I'm with Bob's child" when talking to her on-screen mother in real life. She got the suits all in a fuss - remember it was live TV back then! - and it could have gotten them taken off air.) She also talked about how fans, especially back in the early days, couldn't recognize that the actors weren't actually their characters in real life and how that led to her getting punched in the face by a woman in a Chanel suit who didn't like Lisa's bad girl antics.
Anyway, it was fascinating to hear her stories - many of which were similar to those I've heard in the past from my own step-grandmother, Kathryn Hays, who incidentally has also been on As the World Turns for more than thirty-five years.
It's sad to think that soaps are a dying institution (Guiding Light being the latest casualty) and the cheaper reality TV is fast taking their place. I guess why bother paying writers for storylines when you can just point a camera at someone and they'll conjure up real life, unscripted drama at the drop of a hat. Yet, there was a certain glamour to the soaps that is not easily replicated by reality stars and I hope someday things will turn around again and make them relevent to a new generation.