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OLTL's Ellen Holly's Open Letter to Fans and Historians


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In fact, she makes Agnes come off as a huge hypocrite in some parts.

Ellen was/is so beautiful. You just don't see natural beauties like that on daytime or any medium anymore.

I loved how she backs up some of her claims with actual articles and documentation, even if she sometimes seems to twist their original intent.

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She really goes into the backstage racism in the soap world

In the book I would later write…ONE LIFE: The Autobiography of an African American Actress… I expressed my ultimate belief that I’d been selected for use as a temporary “gimmick”that, in a unique political time, could rocketboost a payload of white stars into orbit… an exotic “freak” that, stationed outside the circus tent, could attract the folks on the fairway and lure them inside to see the show.

Once they were there and both Nixon soaps were in easy orbit I was taken out of The Showbox as Exhibit A …probably because I’d already aced 90% of what I’d been hired to do.

The rest of the years turned into a holding action. I was yanked back and put on a leash by a management that behaved like an adversary. I was treated as if I were an 800 pound gorilla that would attract too much attention unless forcibly restrained. Now boxed in and fenced out of the main action, I was probably kept on the margins for the sole purpose of keeping the black audience in place that was so critical to the ratings.

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This is very interesting. Honestly, I was shocked when I learned how many years she was on the show, because she has been minimized in terms of importance to the show. As one of the original cast members, she should at least be mentioned at times, but she never is. I also don't find it surprising to read the racism she experienced. I know it's hard to see that with names like Erika Slezak or Agnes Nixon attached, but it was such a huge issue and we all know these things were a major issue at the time. I'm sure people did have those feelings at the time. We've come a long way, but we still have lots of issues with race, especially on TV.

We all know for a fact much of Y&R's success comes from it's black audience, yet it's the most disrespected audience. Their storylines have no thought, a 15 year veteran like Tonya Lee Williams is treated like an under five despite not having any drama with the show. Her only problem is that she's black. Maria Arena Bell showcased EVERY vet in at least ONE story, yet she wasn't given anything except dayplayer work. Eva Marcille may be a limited actress, but so are many on soaps and they GROW given time and material. Her character was put into contrived storylines and she was written in such a bizarre way she had no chance. Julie Pace Mitchell has also been given bizarre, contrived stories (with limited screentime) along with popular two-time Emmy winner Kristoff St. John. It's obvious these characters don't matter to anyone. Right now I thought they'd break the cycle with Debbi Morgan, but she was hired for buzz and even her name and proven success can't get her decent screentime.

It makes me so sad to think that black actors are treated so poorly that people seem to question the truth of their statements or even their sanity at times. I know Victoria Rowell seems crazy at times, but this stuff can drive you crazy! I know from personal experience not just being black, but being gay as well. It's hard to truly understand unless you experience it. I had hoped to one day see Ellen Holly back, but that will never happen. It's so sad. A daytime legend that is just forgotten and nobody seems to care.

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It can't be said enough that daytime does exploit black viewers and then throw them away. I was interested to know that she disapproves of the official story given to Carla and that she feels it rewrites what Carla was. I thought that the story was a moving tale of acceptance, but she seems to see it more as Carla not needing to accept herself, and just navigating society's traps.

I do wonder if one of the reasons why some of the actors she named made bigger money was because they were known before joining OLTL, whereas she was there at the start. And it's tough to know with some actors whether they were ever paid huge salaries - you never heard about extravagance involving Erika Slezak.

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It's possible she's only seeing things through her own lens, especially in regards to Agnes Nixon, but I don't really want to try to dispute Ellen's version of things, because God knows, there has been and still is a lot of racism, subtle and otherwise, in Hollywood (and the mid-60s were probably really difficult). One thing I do wonder about is the unseen guy she dealt with on the phone who helped negotiate for the part. It seems the epitome of naivety on Ellen's part (and dare I say stupidity) to even have him negotiate without even meeting him or even know who he was. I don't begin to even get that.

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Even further, unlike all the top stars on One Life to Live who joined the show years after its debut, played no role in launching it into orbit, and slid into millions on the backs of other people’s work, Susan built up All My Children from the basement and stands on nobody’s shoulders but her own.

As they say in the audience during every episode of "Good Times," RIGHT ON!

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Very interesting and very sad and eye-opening. I wonder if there's bad blood between her and Slezak or if it's more of a bitterness/jealousy on Holly's part because she was replaced in a sense as the breakout star of OLTL. It's also disturbing how soap history books & press re-wrote the history of the character to make her sound ashamed of who she was.

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In some ways she seems like a victim of bad timing. She's got all this experience and clearly a flair for drama. She should still be acting or writing screenplays or something but she's spent so much time out of the business, I wonder what kind of network she has. It just seems so...unfortunate that Debbie Allen's overrated ass is directing plays on Broadway (badly) and still getting acting work while Ellen Holly is screaming out her story on the internet.

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I think one of the unique elements of OLTL is that the show changed so many times that there was never any true "breakout" name or someone who could take credit or be given credit for the show's core identity. I can see where she feels that she was not given enough credit, because I think she's right - she wasn't. But I also don't know if anyone necessarily got any more credit than she did, in terms of OLTL's image. OLTL's image, generally, is everything and nothing.

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And a lot of that has to do with audience reaction and who the show chooses to push. Carla and Sadie could have been OLTL's answer to Rachel and Ada or Erica and Mona. But OLTL and a decent amount of audience sure as hell weren't ready to catapult a seductive, exotic, uppity, avaricious character who also happened to be black into true soap superstardom, particularly when miscegenation and casting a black character in a less than positive light would be called for in order to drive that archetype.

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There is so much I want to say in response to Ms. Holly's open letter; and yet, I've no idea where to begin.

I realize OLTL, and Paul Rauch in particular, did a grave disservice to EH and to Lillian Hayman by dismissing them from the show as cavalierly as they did. I realize, too, that because of that indignity, as well as many others she had suffered throughout her acting career, EH has every right to the mixed emotions she has whenever the subject comes up. (Make no mistake: African-Americans, as Holly's own story proves, have been treated badly by TPTB.) However, there comes a time, I think, when you have to let go of that bitterness. Because, in the end, it destroys you more than it destroys them; and if I were in her shoes, at least, the last thing I would want is for all those bastards who rode on the coattails of my and my colleagues' success to have any victory over me whatsoever.

Moreover, although she makes the strong argument that Agnes Nixon, at best, looked the other way while these injustices were occurring, the fact that EH painted AN in a more positive light in her book makes me think she is looking for someone -- anyone -- to be held accountable for what was done to her.* (To put it another way: EH wasn't victimized by AN, by Paul Rauch, or even the heads of ABC Daytime, but by faceless, nameless, set attitudes and misconceptions of a certain class and generation of otherwise well-meaning people.) Did AN "abandon" her and Ms. Hayman when she abandoned OLTL? I think so (and mind you, this is coming from someone who adores AN as a writer). But OLTL as a whole always was a means to an end for Aggie, IMO, with the end being ALL MY CHILDREN. (Conversely, Bill Bell stayed hands-on with Y&R even while launching B&B, because 1) B&B was meant more for his kids to carry on the legacy after his death because (IMO) he knew what Sony and CBS would try to do once he was no longer around; and 2) he loved Y&R too much just to walk away from it, partial ownership or not.) The fact that she nominally was a consultant to the show thereafter means nothing, quite frankly, since there were years she also was consultant at AMC and LOVING and Lord knows how those two shows turned out!

* Notice, too, how EH backpedals somewhat in her criticisms toward Erika Slezak in her letter as opposed to her autobiography. The disdain is still there, but she uses the entire quote from ES in that SOD article this time around, yet stops short of suggesting their removal from the show was the result of ES' jealousy.

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