April 18, 2011

“All My Children:” Susan Lucci & Erica Kane



     Erica has been “the other woman” in my husband’s life for almost forty years.

     In spite of the fact that he does no more than occasionally glance at her soap opera episodes—especially now that she is entering her eleventh valid marriage—I’m sure he will miss her beauty and pizzazz.

     He’s unaware that Erica Kane will disappear from our television set after September 2011. I only caught the news as I was about to put our computer to sleep for the night: ABC network is canceling both All My Children (and One Life to Live).

     Lest you conclude that I lounge on my couch all day in my comfortable ‘jammies with my hair up in rollers, nibbling on Reese’s peanut butter cups and indulging in an array of chocolate candies while I watch soap operas, I want to tell you that neither Monte nor I are fans of these programs.


     My memories of soaps goes back to my childhood, when my grandmother listened to Stella Dallas on the radio soap. As I grew up, graduated from high school and college, held jobs, and married, I never expected to be an avid fan of a soap opera.

     Both All My Children and my daughter, Sandy, celebrated their fortieth birthdays in 2010. I wasn’t present for either 1970 birth, but entered into their lives shortly after.

     Sandy came into our lives at three weeks old.* I discovered All My Children while sitting in an overstuffed brown rocking chair in the corner of my living room. The television happened to be on, and tuned in to ABC. I was about to change the channel when I picked up that the soap was airing an adoption plot. I kept the program on, and became an avid viewer.


     Through the years, the program served me well. I tend to get involved in projects, ignoring the fact that I must break for nourishment and rest. All My Children’s 1:00-2:00 p.m. time slot provided me with an excuse to stop working and regroup. Often I sit and fold laundry or tidy up the television room during the episode I am watching. However, this soap opera also occasionally interfered with my life. I hated having an activity—especially long trips—that took me away from the television set at 1:00 p.m.

     The soap opera taught me some life lessons. It confirmed my take on the 1970s philosophy of free love: love is never free. It complicates life if treated that way. Unwanted pregnancies and disease result. And if it is so free, why does lovin’ someone “freely” lead to dysfunctional relationships? The philosophy might be great in creating soap opera drama, but it isn’t so good in real life.

     Drama on All My Children was much more compact than in most, but not all, real lives. Some real lives are equally dramatic. However, the drama, in both cases often results from the inability of the players to deal with problems from a healthy point of view.


      I’ve followed the program for forty years, through numerous moves—Slippery Rock, New Castle, Jamestown, Connellsville, and Laurel Mountain Borough in Pennsylvania—and Stone Mountain, Georgia.

     Fortunately we had a VCR, and could tape programs if I knew I wasn’t going to be home. I’ve watched episodes during our travels, while staying in motel rooms and host’s homes—Edwards, Black Lake, West Seneca, Heuvelton, in New York; Cleveland Heights, Ohio; various places in Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Maine, and Massachusetts;

     A couple of times, while traveling, I had a neighbor who also watched All My Children tape the program. I caught up on the episodes when I returned home. I still find tapes with old episodes recorded on them. Today keeping up is not a problem—the soap channel re-airs the program in the evening, middle of the night, early morning and on weekends. Missed episodes are also available on the Internet, although I have never watched on my computer.


     Throughout the years, I considered doing an Internet search on the petite, dark-haired Susan Lucci, who played Erica Kane the entire forty years. I never did the search until this evening.

     Lucci, 64, grew up in Garden City, N.Y., then rose to fame on All My Children while experiencing marriage and motherhood. She invested herself in All My Children due to her love of Erica Kane (“a part like this doesn’t come down the pike every day,” she notes); her commitment to her family; and the flexibility her relationship with All My Children provides.

     “While I remain inspired by so many other actresses’ work to this day,” she writes, “I decided a long time ago that it was important to stick to my own path and make it the very best one it could be.”**

     Could it be that Susan’s love of her character evolves from the idea that Erica represents her alter ego? I’ve observed that Erica loves the limelight, while, according to one critic of her recently written memoir, All My Life: if Lucci has something to teach the rest of us about how to handle setbacks with grace, she’s not sharing much of it… (it’s) a memoir that skims the surfaces of her experiences.**

     Susan has a stable marriage with an apparently strong home life, while Erica was married 10 times (not counting marriages that were deemed invalid), threatened suicide, been accused of murder and forced to go on the run, cheated on one of her husbands with his brother, served time in prison for kidnapping, been facially disfigured in a car accident, beat addictions to prescription drugs and alcohol following a back injury; she was raped, and years later stabbed another husband after hallucinating that he was her rapist; she secretly took birth control pills behind another husband’s back; she also had an abortion – but the pregnancy wasn’t actually terminated. Erica found out later that her doctor stole the unborn child and implanted it in another woman, who gave birth and raised the baby as her own.

     Before winning the 1999 Daytime Emmy for her role of Erica, Lucci’s reputation was that of a loser legend, an inadvertent poster child for dignity in the face of defeat.** In answer to the question many of her fans asked her while she kept losing the award, ‘What would Erica do in a moment like this?’…she writes “The answer, of course, is she would have run up onto that stage, grabbed the statue out of the other actress’s hands, and said ‘Are you kidding me? I’ve earned this award! It’s mine, damn it!’ And she would have done it long before receiving nineteen nominations…”**

    Lucci’s memoir focuses on her upside attitude… she lacks time to ponder negative aspects, being too busy doing what one of her favorite songs — a pop standard that she cites as a personal touchstone — always told her to do: accentuating the positive. dominates the book.**


     Upon hearing about ABC’s cancellation of All My Children, Lucci responded: It saddens me. It’s been a fantastic journey. I loved playing Erica Kane and working with [show creator] Agnes Nixon and all the incredible people involved with All My Children. I’m looking forward to all kinds of new and exciting opportunities.”*


     Kelly Ripa, current co-host of Live! With Regis and Kelly but former long-time portrayer of Hayley on All My Children, expressed the viewpoint many fans surely share: This is like losing a member of your family…  She continued: All My Children was more than a job.– it was my family. It was there that I met my husband (Mark Consuelos); it was there when my first two children were born; it was there where I met many of my life-long friends. It was the greatest training ground ever. I feel heart sick.***

     My daughter Sandy just asked me what I would do after the final episode of All My Children. I’ll probably work through my lunch/rest and recuperation hour, losing my well-deserved break. And, like Lucci, I will move on.

     And my husband? He’ll have to move on too. Perhaps he will find someone else to be his “other woman.” But I doubt it—who can compete with Susan Lucci?





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The Church Role in Child Abuse Issues

Ocean Views: The New England Coast

The Conestoga Wagons and Wagoners: Thomas Read

Memorable Job Interviews


1 Comment »

  1. I must say that this the first time I ever heard of (a man with positive thoughts of a soap opra ) even though I myself find Susan Lucci as an interesting charactor on the show!( like I really watch soap opras)

    Comment by tom — March 9, 2012 @ 3:10 pm | Reply

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