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Llanview in the Afternoon: An Oral History of 'One Life to Live'


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#1 John

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Posted 26 February 2013 - 12:22 PM

Jeff  Giles is writing this book and should be published soon--------https://www.facebook.com/oltlbook

 

Interviewed Tony Call, a.k.a. longtime Llanview D.A. Herb Callison. Choice quote: "Working with Robin Strasser was the gift of my life."

 

Interviewed Michael Storm, a.k.a. Dr. Larry Wolek. Quote: "Warts and all, it was the most wonderful time with the most wonderful people."

 

Interviewed Marilyn Chris, a.k.a. Wanda Webb Wolek. On seeing a fellow actor on the street after landing her role: “I just bought a new sweater and a new pocketbook, and I’m gonna take a cab, because I have money from the soaps!”

 

Interviewed Kassie DePaiva, a.k.a. Blair Cramer. On the psychology of playing one character for so long: "It’s heavy. It’s painful, constantly going into yourself and identifying parts of who you are to take out and expose."

 

Interviewed Jack Betts, a.k.a. the dastardly Dr. Ivan Kipling. "I was having a terrific time being evil -- I loved it."

 

Interviewed Ellen Holly, a.k.a. Carla Gray. "The first two years of One Life were thrilling. After that, it’s just a question of being a fireplug that keeps getting pissed on by junkyard dogs."

 

Interviewed former executive producer Jean Arley: "You can call damn near any drama a soap opera, as long as it’s serialized."


Edited by John, 26 February 2013 - 12:44 PM.

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#2 John

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Posted 26 February 2013 - 12:25 PM

Interviewed Robert S. Woods, daytime's Bo Buchanan. "The fame was really a shock. I couldn’t believe it, actually."

 

Interviewed the legendary Robin Strasser, a.k.a. Dr. Dorian Lord: "So I go in and I meet [executive producer] Joe Stuart, and he says -- looking down at his notes, because he had some little habit of twisting or folding paper -- 'I understand you’re a bit of a pain in the ass.'"

 

Interviewed Shelly Burch, a.k.a. Delila Ralston: "All the professional sports teams would come to our set, which shocked me."

 

Interviewed longtime head writer Sam Hall: "There was a whole lot of activity in the dressing rooms on that show."

 

Interviewed Judith Light, who won an Emmy for her portrayal of Karen Wolek: "Everybody thinks it’s so glamorous, but this is not a glamour job. We’re all grateful for the things we get, and the perks, but it’s a very deeply -- when you do your work, you have to work hard. We did."

 

Interviewed Steve Fletcher, who played Brad Vernon: "I got the script for the show, which was airing on a Friday, and it ended with Brad taking a gun out of a drawer and putting it to his head. I thought 'Oh my God, I’m out of work.'"

 

Interviewed Barbara Treutelaar, who played Didi O'Neill: "My screen test was with Bobby Woods, who I’d had a hot crush on for who knows how long, and then I’m kissing him. I wanted to die."

 

Interviewed Roy Thinnes, who played two different characters on the show in the '80s and '90s: "I was back in California when I got a call asking me to come back. I said, 'I don’t have my apartment anymore, and you must have the wrong guy, because my character is dead.' They said, 'We want to kill him again.'

 

Interviewed Mark Arnold, who played Rob Coronal: "People will come up and say, for example, 'Did you go to Syracuse University?' Because their interest in soaps coincided with their college years, so they feel like I went to college with them."

 

Interviewed Jill Larson, who played the dastardly Ursula Blackwell: "It was so much fun, especially for a girl from Minnesota who was taught that if you can’t say something nice, you shouldn’t say anything at all. You can imagine."


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#3 John

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Posted 26 February 2013 - 12:29 PM

Interviewed longtime stage manager Alan Needleman: "We had to do more with less. You know, we’d do a concert scene with Nelly Furtado and 30 extras -- we had to make them look like 100. How do you do that? Feed ‘em lots of donuts."

 

Interviewed legendary director Peter Miner: "In the beginning, 'One Life' was taking risks, and doing things other shows didn’t do."

 

Interviewed former executive producer Linda Gottlieb: "We hired Roger Howarth as Rapist Number Three, but I took one look at him and knew he was a star."

 

Interviewed Joe Lando, who played Jake Harrison: "I think Jake and Joe became one person, for the most part, and when I left the show, he was hard to leave behind."

 

Former head writer Michael Malone: "It’s a great American art form, the way the musical is. But of course it isn’t new. When we won the Emmy in 1994, I joked that Dickens would have done it, because he would have."

 

Former ABC executive Jozie Emmerich: "Of the trio of one-hours on ABC, 'One Life' was always the stepchild -- in many, many ways. More than you would even want to know."

 

Nathan Fillion, who started his career playing Joey Buchanan: "Anybody who speaks of daytime with disrespect -- boy, let me tell you, it really bugs me down deep inside. That’s someone who has no idea about the work that goes on. Try it -- try it for just one day. Put out a 44-minute program in one day and see how you fare. Then do it for a week, a month, a year, 20 years. You can’t imagine the kind of work that goes on."

 

Mark Derwin, a.k.a. Ben Davidson, on the daytime stigma: "I've met actors who aren't working, and they'll say something like 'I'll never do soaps.' I just say, 'You're an !@#$%^&*]. Get me another drink, please, while you're at it? Because that's what you're going to be doing.'"

 

Erin Torpey, on playing Jessica Buchanan: "To me, it was just like live theater, and there's nothing better than that. It's real, it's raw, and there's no hiding behind anything -- I think it's awesome. I love it."

 

Barbara Garrick, on playing infamous babynapping lunatic Alison Perkins: "I got to express a side of myself that most people don't ever get to -- at least not without going to prison."

 

Dennis Parlato, on his final scene as the villainous Michael Grande: "I think Larry Pine hit me over the head with an ashtray. It was a hell of a way to go."


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#4 John

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Posted 26 February 2013 - 12:33 PM

Ilene Kristen, on playing Roxy Balsom: "That character was the one I really wanted to play, and I didn’t care where I played it. Daytime, nighttime, in my bathroom for four people -- that was a dream come true."

 

Tonja Walker, on playing Alex Olanov: "I thought I’d do two years on 'OLTL' and save up enough to go back to Los Angeles, but I never went back. I went through six producers, I think, and three or four of them wanted to kill me off."

 

Thom Christopher, a.k.a. the deliciously evil Carlo Hesser, on acting for daytime: "I never understood the expression 'daytime actor.' I always laughed. If you’re a nighttime actor, do you fly out of a batcave when the sun goes down?"

 

Roscoe Born, on playing the nefarious (and notoriously hard to kill) Mitch Laurence: "The process wasn't always fun, but Jesus, what could be more fun than playing a guy like Mitch? The entire experience of a day where, you know, you pop out of a coffin?"

 

Hilary B. Smith, a.k.a. Nora Hanen, on struggling to protect her character's integrity: "I remember my executive producer looking at me one day and saying, 'I can’t bear to see the look in your eyes,' and I said, 'I can’t bear to be here. You’ve got to let me out.'"

 

Chris Stack, on taking over the role of Michael McBain after previously playing a drug dealer on the show: "I ended up being cast as the character who technically sold drugs to his own soul. [Laughter] You can't make that [!@#$%^&*] up. It's awesome."

 

Erika Slezak, on the challenge of selling some of the show's more...fanciful scenes: "So here were these two grown men, respected actors and directors, digging a hole in the studio floor to find the entrance to Eterna behind little papier-mâché rocks."

 

Gina Tognoni on her experiences with fans: "Someone will come up and say, 'By the way, I loved you on 'One Life to Live.'' I can’t tell you what that does. It’s like a hug, and I get to tell them, 'Well, guess what? I loved doing it for you. Believe me. That’s what pulled me through for 10-15 years -- that’s why I got up every day and did it. Because I loved it, I loved the words, I loved entertaining you.'"

 

Margaret Klenck on the show's shift in focus after the introduction of the Buchanan clan in 1979: "The Texans -- I mean, I love Bobby Woods. He’s my pal. But they came in, they didn’t have theater backgrounds, they didn’t have that ethos. It wasn’t about trying to make the scenes better, or going to the director and fighting for your character. They didn’t have any of that, because they came out of Hollywood. Let me put it this way: Clint Ritchie once said to me, 'When the red light is on, I’ll talk to you.'"

 

John Brotherton on what domestic bliss did to his character, Jared Banks: "I remember they were so concerned with Jared being likable once he and Natalie got married, and I always thought he was likable when he was a con artist. People love a villain, and it isn’t like I was murdering anyone. Once they combed my hair over and put me in a sweater vest, I really became, basically, frustrated. "

 

Writer/producer Susie Bedsow Horgan on the origins of the show's endlessly complex latter-day antihero, Todd Manning

"I was on the breakdown team, and we were writing the rapists -- we were naming them. So I had this guy, and I don’t know why I did this, but I just named him Todd Manning. That name just came to me -- and you know the rest. When we realized what a good actor Roger Howarth was and knew we wanted to use him, we said, 'But he isn’t connected to anyone.' And then we realized, wait a minute, his name is Manning! It was complete happenstance. It was not planned, and I don’t know if anyone knows that, but it’s true. We couldn’t possibly have planned it."


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#5 John

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Posted 26 February 2013 - 12:37 PM

A quote from last weekend's follow-up chat with Erika Slezak, sharing a sweet story about Clint Ritchie: "We’d been taping this party scene -- they go on forever, and you’re standing around in these uncomfortable shoes, and I’ve always had a bad back, so I was lying down on the floor. None of us had director’s chairs, except for Phil Carey and Patricia Elliott, who’d brought in their own. Clint came up and asked me if I was okay, and I told him I was just lying down because my back hurt. Anyway, our producer took me aside later and said, 'I’m not supposed to tell you this, but I’m going to anyway. We just did a renegotiation with Clint, and he accepted our terms, everything was fine, but he wouldn’t sign unless ABC bought you a chair.'"

 

Jerry verDorn on Clint Buchanan's oddly...youthful appearance after he assumed the role: "I’m a cancer survivor, and I had a real problem with dying my hair. When I came on, my oldest daughter was a bit of a redhead, which they thought was great -- they had this blank canvas with me, and they thought, 'Great, we’ll make him one too.' Which was the dumbest thing. You end up looking like the aging weatherman in Des Moines, and I finally went in and played the cancer card with Frank and said, 'I really don’t want to do this anymore.' I felt like they had the potential for a silver fox storyline, so they should take it -- and the next thing I know, Clint’s dating a 20-year-old girl and I didn’t have to dye my hair. Best thing that ever happened!"

 

Margo Husin Call explaining how all those courtroom and hospital scenes came together: "The way research was done was just sort of like, 'Well, who do you know?' My father was a lawyer, so I’d call him to get free legal advice. When we needed to know medical stuff, I’d ask my gynecologist. Eventually, the company that supplied all the medical equipment gave us free consulting, and we hired an advisor, so little by little it all became something more official. But right to the end, a lot of the research was done that way -- find out where you can get it for free."

 

Nathaniel Marston on how his character Al Holden went from being killed off to inhabiting the body of another character,Michael McBain: "They never really discussed their plans for the storyline with me in too much detail. I’d just show up every day and pick up my paperwork, and it was like, 'You aren’t planning on moving away, are you?' 'No, I’m here as long as you need me.' 'Okay, well, we aren’t really done with this character yet.' 'Well, I’m dead -- how much more done are we gonna get?'"

 

Sean Ringgold on what One Life to Live did for him as an actor: "I shot a scene with Donnie Wahlberg yesterday that took 10 hours. I was like, 'Dude, I would have done two shows in the time it took for this.' I don’t feel nervous on set anymore. I’m just like, 'Let’s do this.' I’m nervous when I’m doing auditions, but 'One Life to Live' has prepped me for anything. I had more pressure when Frank Valentini was looking over my shoulder, getting ready to yell 'Cut!'"

 

Brian Kerwin sharing a funny, embarrassing moment from his time on the set as Charlie Banks: "One day I show up to shoot, and it’s for a funeral. I have a black suit and very little to say -- it was basically whether Charlie was going to fall off the wagon because he’d just lost his son, and this funeral would remind him of that. I’m there rehearsing, getting ready to shoot, and all of a sudden it dawns on me that I don’t know who’s dead -- I have no idea. And at this point, I can’t ask anyone, but I realized it didn’t matter; your behavior at a funeral is pretty much the same no matter what, so I just put on a long face and nodded my head. To this day, I have no idea whose funeral that was."



Lee Warrick, who played Julie Siegel from 1969-74, on the comeback that might have been: "I went back and talked to 'One Life to Live' -- we were talking about me coming back, but then 9/11 happened, and I said 'Nope! No thank you.' I don’t know if they would have done anything with it, but I did want to return."

 

Producer Suzanne Flynn, who was with "One Life to Live" for its last 20 years: "Some of our loveliest moments happened because we had extra time to fill, so we’d say, 'Let’s just get these two characters together and have them talk about something.' That’s what soaps used to be! That’s all they were."

 

When I said I was writing a book about One Life to Live, you might have assumed it would be about all the split personalities, long-lost twins, and baby swaps that the characters went through, but no -- here's an example of the kind of story Llanview in the Afternoon: An Oral History of 'One Life to Live' is really trying to tell:
Original executive producer Don Wallace, sharing a great, funny story about longtime "OLTL" writer and marvelous curmudgeon Sam Hall: 

"We were sitting in the studio one day, in the writer’s office upstairs, tossing ideas around during a meeting. There were monitors so you could watch what was going on down on the set; I’ve forgotten the circumstances, but during this particular rehearsal, we had a small child in a scene -- maybe about three years old. Sam became fixated by this kid on the monitor -- the child was staring off into space while he was sitting on someone’s lap -- and he said, in his inimitable manner, 'What on Earth is that child looking at?' I said, 'Sam, he’s probably just looking at his mother or someone who’s just outside the set.' And Sam, without missing a beat, said, 'We should have hired an orphan.'"

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#6 John

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Posted 26 February 2013 - 12:42 PM

David Fumero, a.k.a. Cristian Vega, on what it's like to experience the first rush of soap fame while you're still finding your feet as an actor:

"It was the strangest, most awkward, most uncomfortable experience to go through, because I was horrible. Every time I’d watch myself on TV, I just wanted to cry. But then you’re a star: You go to events, you have fans. I was ashamed, because I had nothing to back it up. I was like, 'Have you watched my show? Have you seen me?' I had nothing to be proud of, and I felt like I was getting all this recognition for nothing."

 

One Life to Live creator Agnes Nixon on her thoughts regarding the decision to make Viki's split personality, Niki, the result of incestuous sexual abuse by Viki's father, Victor Lord:

"I had a very, very difficult father, and I based my Victor Lord on him -- and he didn’t abuse me. [Laughs] He was very unpleasant, and he spent four years of my college life telling me I had no talent as a writer, and that I had to take over his business when I graduated. I just didn’t think the abuse story was a good idea. A father’s domination of a girl child is profound -- I know it personally. I don’t think the sex aspect...well, anyway."

 

Timothy D. Stickney on the way ABC's changing corporate culture affected One Life to Live during its later years:

"Once Disney took over, time was most important. The days ran out. We’d just run out of time, which would mean there were scenes we just didn’t shoot. Out of time, out of money, not gonna do it. In the last four or five years, if scenes aired where characters were talking about things and you thought, 'Wait, that never happened,' you were right."

 

Brenda Brock describes the surprising meeting that took her from a six-week appearance during the "1888" storyline to a contract role on One Life to Live:

"There was a writers’ strike going on when we got back from Arizona. Paul Rauch called me up into his office, and I knew he really liked what I was doing; he’d made that clear. He said, 'We’d like to keep you on the show for a little while.' I said, 'Okay, well, tell me about my character.' He had all these stacks of paper on his desk -- I wasn’t experienced enough to realize what he must have been going through with the strike, I just wanted to know about who I’d be playing. 

I said, 'What’s her name?' And he said, 'Uh...Brenda.' I said, 'What does she do?' He knew I’d studied nursing in college, and he said, 'Uh...she’s a nurse.' Later, I realized he had no idea. [Laughs] I love that, in retrospect. He was just trying to keep things together while all that other stuff was going on."

 

Patricia Elliott on saying goodbye to Renee Divine after more than 20 years: 

"I hadn’t worked in about six months, I think, and I came in to do these five or six lovely scenes with Bob Woods at Asa’s grave. They were wonderfully written, and we had a beautiful time shooting them. I left and I thought, 'I don’t really want any more.' I was kind of dreading being called back in for one last hurrah for some big crowd scene where Renee would have maybe one line, because I didn’t want to come back again. I felt like I had been able to say goodbye in the most beautiful way."

 

Brynn Thayer, a.k.a. Jenny Wolek, on meeting her future husbandGerald Anthony on One Life to Live:

"I was extremely intimidated by him in the beginning, because I was young and naive, and he had this crazy sexual energy. I was attracted to him, but I thought 'No way.'

"Then ABC put us together for '$100,000 Pyramid,' and he was not very happy about it -- he told me to go get the board game so we could sit down and practice playing. I thought, 'Practice playing? What are you talking about?' but I still sort of meekly went and got it, and we played that freaking game for two weeks.

"When we started out, all our answers were opposites; we were from totally different backgrounds, and we couldn’t relate to what the other person was thinking. But by the end of those two weeks, we fell in love -- and we won $100,000 for a charity."

 

Melissa Archer, laughing about the difference between herself and her One Life to Live character, Natalie Buchanan

"Natalie is a bit more of a troublemaker. She would just say whatever was on her mind, and I’m not like that, so it was nice to be able to play that on a regular basis. Every once in awhile, I’d think 'Hmm, I wonder if I can pull a little bit of Natalie into Melissa?' but ultimately, it didn’t work as well if it wasn’t on paper."

 

Former One Life to Live executive producer Joseph Stuart, on one of the burdens of being the man in charge: 

"You’re the hirer. You can give jobs. But unfortunately, sometimes you have to take them away -- and that ain’t easy. That’s the worst part of being any kind of boss, and it was a really crushing aspect of being a producer for me. I always insisted on letting people go in person, and that went all kinds of different ways; in retrospect, I wonder if that was a wise thing to do. Maybe I should have called their agent, rather than making it a personal situation. I’ve been fired -- I know the feeling. It’s the most unpleasant situation to be in, and I guess I came out of that feeling like I wanted to handle it the best way I could for others."

 

Jerry verDorn looking ahead to the new One Life to Live:

"I want the first scene to be Clint and Viki in the Lord library, and the first line to be 'So, where were we?'"

 

Original cast member Allan Miller, who played Dave Siegel, on what led to his departure from the show in 1972:

"Everybody came to my character with their problems. His wife got deluged with problems, but he stayed pretty much on top of things, until they decided to start giving him the same problems as his wife. That’s when I went to the producers and said, 'Why are you changing this on me?'

"The answer was 'What’s it got to do with you? We’re the writers.' I said I didn’t want to do it, and they told me I had to because I had a contract. I said, 'Well, you have a contract with my mouth, but not my heart, and if I’m not enjoying this, I’m not going to be doing it very well.' I threatened to muck up some scenes if they didn’t let me out, so they let me out."

 

Brandon Buddy on his unlikely journey from unknown actor to Cole Thornhart:

"My manager at the time was shocked that I’d even gotten the role. When I was was flying to New York to test for the part, he told me, 'Brandon, go have a good time, but know you’re not gonna get it. Just enjoy yourself.' So I just went out there and had fun, and once I got it, it was just an extreme rollercoaster."


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#7 MissLlanviewPA

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Posted 26 February 2013 - 02:40 PM

He interviewed Brenda Brock? Cool!

I hope he interviews JDP soon (especially since he interviewed Kassie), and of course Fiona smile.png .
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#8 Dale

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Posted 27 February 2013 - 09:03 PM

I've been following Jeff's FB page for months, and the sheer number of people he has interviewed is mighty impressive. And it's not just the usual suspects, either.  A lot of vets and people from the past have participated. I am really looking forward to it!  Shame that Andrea Evans won't talk to him, though.    


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#9 John

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Posted 27 February 2013 - 09:04 PM

I've been following Jeff's FB page for months, and the sheer number of people he has interviewed is mighty impressive. And it's not just the usual suspects, either.  A lot of vets and people from the past have participated. I am really looking forward to it!  Shame that Andrea Evans won't talk to him, though.    

Wait why wont she?


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#10 Dale

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Posted 27 February 2013 - 09:11 PM

Wait why wont she?

 I am not sure, John.  Jeff posted that she would not talk to him and speculated that she is writing her own memoirs.


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#11 SFK

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Posted 27 February 2013 - 09:12 PM

This is awesome, love the Holly and Thinnes quotes, but I'm actually going to stop myself from reading all of this so I'm not spoiled.  I will definitely pick this up.


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#12 Paul Raven

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Posted 27 February 2013 - 11:23 PM

Those quotes are fascinating.Hope the full interviews are even more revealing.

Now someone needs to get busy and start interviewing as many soapers from the 50-s thru to the 90's as possible.
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#13 OLTL #1 fan

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Posted 28 February 2013 - 12:24 AM

I had no idea they had planned on bringing back Kevin & Joey's cousin, Julie


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#14 John

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Posted 04 March 2013 - 01:02 PM

Julia Montgomery, who played Samantha Vernon from 1976-80, on the new One Life to Live:

"I’m ready to come back from heaven. That sounds like fun! Brynn Thayer and I will come back -- we’d love to come to Connecticut together."


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#15 John

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Posted 05 March 2013 - 01:14 PM

   
Just got off the phone after a brief (and, unfortunately, off the record) chat with Arthur Burghardt, who played Dr. Jack Scott from 1978-80...

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#16 SFK

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Posted 05 March 2013 - 01:20 PM

 
Just got off the phone after a brief (and, unfortunately, off the record) chat with Arthur Burghardt, who played Dr. Jack Scott from 1978-80...

 

Oooh, if he can't share I wish he didn't even say anything...


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#17 soapfave06

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Posted 05 March 2013 - 02:08 PM

What a tease. I'm dying to know what he had to say.
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#18 John

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Posted 05 March 2013 - 02:11 PM

Ellen Holly said she couldnt stand Arthur & he played her boyfriend. Im thinking EH made his two years at OLTL miserable


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#19 Vee

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Posted 05 March 2013 - 02:15 PM

Ellen Holly said she couldnt stand Arthur & he played her boyfriend. Im thinking EH made his two years at OLTL miserable

 

Husband. She said it was the other way around - he was a terror.


Edited by Vee, 05 March 2013 - 02:16 PM.

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#20 SFK

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Posted 05 March 2013 - 06:46 PM

He was also the voice of Destro on G.I. Joe and Devastator on Transformers.  I would have asked him about that too.

 

That's a real shame, would be interested in hearing his side of the story.  Why bother giving an off the record interview, just to be polite to the person who was interested?


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