BY Michael Fairman
October 09 2009 11:15 AM ET
Will you be in drag at the drag ball?
Excuse me? I guess I am going to have to direct you to the article I wrote three years ago when the Imperial Court of New York knighted me and made me a Dame of the Court. And my article’s opening line is, “Yup. I am a drag queen.” The article discusses the difference between Robin morphing into Dorian as more and more time goes by. It takes longer and it takes more attention to detail to create the kind of majestic divahood that Dorian aspires to. Mostly, because of my own bad experiences with small bad plastic surgeries, I would not do what I would believe Dorian might have done. If it needed trimming it was lypo’d; if it needed pulling, it was tucked, baby. She would be cutting-edge on that whole issue of how to defy time. So, in order to support that as an actress, I started to abdicate over the last five or six years as our production schedule has speeded up to get the production people to give me enough time in hair, makeup, and every detail of my costume, from the earrings, the necklace, and to be as perfect as possible ... and baby, that takes time. Finally I got this inspiration. I come in sweats or clean jeans and loose and comfy with no makeup on and I go, “Look at me? I have to turn into Dorian. I am a drag queen. We need time to get ready. Give me two hours.” [Laughs]
One of my favorite Dorianisms, is the way in utmost diva fashion, she puts emphasis on certain vowels. Like when she says “Car-lo-ta” for Carlotta or pronounces her mansion “La Boulaie.” Speaking of Carlotta, Patricia Mauceri was recently fired from the show for taking issue with a small story point in the Kish story line that she refused to play. Thoughts?
I can’t speak to that. I don’t know Patricia very well at all. Don’t hang with her or talk to her on the phone. Frankly, when the story was told to me, I did not feel to act any further. I have great respect for our executive producer; Frank Valentini’s judgment calls in these circumstances. In full-disclosure spirit, Carlotta existed because Robin Strasser years and years ago would get frustrated over the whole mansion thing and I had no servants. Dorian had the worst luck for hiring help. So I started experimenting with names. So I experimented with different personalities, and Carlotta stuck. People would ask me to say it at fan club gatherings, “Robin, would you please call Car-lo-ta!” Then one day I looked at the cast list and suddenly there was a real Carlotta, and that is when I met Patricia Mauceri for the first time. In actuality, a lot of us do not know each other beyond the cordial. I do know Saundra Santiago, who took over the part. We don’t go to the mall together, but I knew her years ago. Whatever may have happened with Patricia Mauceri, if I see Saundra Santiago anywhere, my arms are open and I would give her a big hug.
Robin, we almost lost you there when you were going through intense contract renegotiations. Looking back, how do you feel about the situation now?
Here is what I want to impart: It was extremely painful for me. I was never for a moment trying to manipulate a reaction from the fans that might generate a different reaction from ABC and the stated immovable offer they were giving me. Then I had a moment of sanity that suffering was optional and that I never made the decision to become an actor to be rich and famous. Somehow the universe was in alignment with that, and I said, “OK, whatever. You can cut my salary, but you can’t cut my enthusiasm.” I still love what I do. And I have been doing it a good long time. I decided it was not about the money. I just got busy doing what I had to do, which is keep being connected to the part and keep being connected to the show because I love it. It does not matter that we take pay cuts, we are still telling stories. I want everybody to back off that whole “it’s fair or not fair” because I will leave the room. I do not want to hear that opinion because it does not serve me as an actor. I am fortunate. I found life so scary as a child, and all I wanted to do was dress up and pretend I was somebody else and hide in plain sight. That is all I wanted. I have been able to do that all my life. There were times I had to take a day job, but not that often. And when I was selling clothes at Henri Bendel’s I was a great salesgirl because I acted the part.
And yet there was more controversy for One Life to Live over the last few weeks when cancellation rumors began circulating, that All My Children’s move to L.A. left OLTL vulnerable as the only ABC soap still filming in New York. Are you concerned?
Speaking for myself, I don’t know the source of that rumor. I decided not to carry it around with me as another thing to be worried about. I think the bigger issue is how to contribute to making our show the best kind of storytelling anybody can see on their TV. Scripted story has production challenges and budgets involved that have to make sense. It has to have everybody involved that watch and make the show aware that this is a special entity. If this concern of fear, to defining the show, brings about more audience participation and activity, then that’s all to the good, isn’t it? One thing you do not want is complacency on any level. Nothing should be taken for granted.