Soapside: Advocate's Guide to Daytime

By Michael Fairman

Originally published on Advocate.com August 13 2009 11:00 PM ET

As promised in the last edition of Soapside, I caught up with Louise Sorel on her exciting return to Days of Our Lives, which has many gay soap fans jumping for joy that Aunt Viv is back! Getting the chance to work again with her on-screen rival and dear friend Crystal Chappell (who returns next month to Days as Dr. Carly Manning) was completely an unexpected surprise in her life. During her last stint on DAYS some eight years earlier, the NBC soap fired her. This time she weighs in on how things might turn out.

“We know how things go," she says. "They might say, 'Get her out of here.' This time I am going to be much more docile, because when they always used to see me coming, their eyes would cross. I so loved the work and the character. I would always say, 'Why am I doing this? Why am I doing that?' It’s hard in soaps. They work long hours, and it’s so hard to get this stuff out so fast. I think I can be a little annoying, and I am a perfectionist. Ken Corday [executive producer of Days] was the most generous producer in terms of people’s salary, and nobody paid people the way he did. Everything is more difficult now for everybody. Now it’s like eight years later and now there is a connection and respect. I don’t even know what the original reasons for my firing were. I have some ideas that I won’t get into. I don’t think they wanted to lose Vivian; I think other things were at work. In a funny way, I did not feel fired. I thought, Well, they are just getting rid of this character now. I was not a happy person when I left there. I was very sad and thrown by it, and I had a lot of months to prepare for it. But the day it happened, I lost it and went to pieces. That’s life. You just move on.

When I got the news I would be coming back, I immediately called Crystal. We have not been able to see each other yet. I don’t know how she did what she did. Crystal was commuting to the West Coast and shooting the end of Guiding Light. But I did call her and speak to both her and her hubby, Michael Sabatino [rumored to also returning as Lawrence; Days would offer only a “no comment”], and we were just laughing, going, 'Who could believe this? It’s just so unexpected.' I have a September start date to begin taping episodes. So I don’t think I will end up on-screen till late October."

Obviously every die-hard daytime fan knows the most infamous moment in soapdom, when Vivian buried Carly alive. Sorel’s incredible performance had her rolling around laughing on Carly’s grave, and then in her insanity (Chinese herbs were the culprit) she began walking around throwing flower petals in celebration of her hatred of the good doc. To this day, it is one of the most upsetting and brilliant moments.

Louise gave me the inside scoop on how that eventful scene came to be.

“Originally, it was written that Vivian did a jig on the grave. I swear to God I did this, and I laugh at myself now. I stormed upstairs to the producers' offices and said, 'I don’t do jigs. Vivian would not do a jig.' The producer said, 'Well, what would she do?' I am sure he was horrified that here I was again. I said, 'I have got to do something else.' I spent my lunch hour on the set going through a kind of actor’s madness. I thought of Ophelia. I started walking around the grave and thinking about things like, How do I feel about Carly and the complicated emotions going on? So I was thinking, She loves me. She loves me not. I don’t know where it came from. But we used to do that ... tear off the petals of a flower when I was a kid. I thought, This is really weird. Then I thought I would end on 'She loves me.' I said, 'And then I will just fall on top of the grave and try to hug her and get somewhat hysterical.' I had no idea where this came from, and then they came back from lunch break and they very sweetly let me do this. Afterwards, there was this dead silence on the set and everyone was frozen and they printed it. [Laughs] That is how it happened.

Thank goodness Crystal was not there during the taping, because she would have been dead. It was an actual coffin! [Laughs] I have to give her so much credit. All of that stuff can be silly, but we committed to it. So Crystal was lying in that coffin and banging and screaming, 'I have to get out of here!' I would call her on the walkie- talkie while she was in the coffin and I would say, 'Hello, darling. Are you napping?' It was so nuts."

MORGAN FAIRCHILD X390 (GETTY) | ADVOCATE.COM

So, ultimately, is Vivian really Auntie Mame gone nuts? Sorel tells me that that is an interesting analogy.

“Well, I think Auntie Mame is already nuts. I don’t mind that comparison. That’s fine with me. I did not get to throw parties like Mame and don’t have a band like her ... but give me a band and I will march [laughs]. I have never thought of her as Mame, because Mame was more of a social butterfly and certainly wasn’t doing the things Vivian did. Mame is very likable, and Vivian is on a different path, but there is a certainly an over-the-top theatricality about her. I am glad the LGBT fans enjoy her as much as I do.”

Morgan Fairchild … the Lipstick Lesbian, and Her Friends

This week on The Bold and the Beautiful, some special guests made the in-soap smackdown between dueling fashion houses, The Fashion Challenge, extra special.

Morgan Fairchild, one of daytime and prime-time soaps' most familiar faces, popped up as Dottie, a socialite friend of Stephanie Forrester's who wants to execute this fashion face-off to raise money for her favorite charity. I was on the set the day of the tapings, and after the long shoot, Morgan and I caught up, and I addressed a few topics of interest. One of which is, Why does she always get cast as the bitch?

Personally, I always thought it was her nose, and I was correct! She answered, “I always thought it was my nose. I have a pointy nose, and it makes everybody think you are a bitch. They don’t even give you a chance. I honestly thought I was going to play ingenues my whole life. Suddenly I get to New York and get on the soaps and it's instant bitchdom. It’s more fun to play the bad guy because you are always the catalyst. I take a lot of one-dimensional bad-girl parts and make them fun and kind of jump. Larry Hagman [J.R.] did it on Dallas, and Joan Collins [Alexis] did it on Dynasty. The thing was, none of us were supposed to be the stars of the show, but we are wise-asses, and we would throw it out there, and those are the characters that jump off the screen.”

But for LGBT fans, Morgan made a very special appearance on the hit comedy sitcom Roseanne back in the early '90s that, to this day, is a milestone. Morgan recounts, “They called me up in 1992 and they called and offered me this part. I jumped at it. My agent said, 'Are you sure you want to do this?' I knew it was groundbreaking, because I was the first lipstick lesbian on a sitcom, playing Sandra Bernhard’s girlfriend. I thought it was going to be a hoot. Sandra talks about her new girlfriend through the whole show, and the last person anybody was going to expect to walk through that door was Morgan Fairchild. It was fun, and you like to do things that catch people off-guard. I have this theory that to stay in this business you have to reintroduce yourself to a new audience every five years. So, when they offered me the Old Navy gig, I thought that was great. I told my friends, 'You know the target demographic for the clothes is 13-year-old boys. You know what? The network demographic is 13-year-old boys.' I have little kids in airports doing the Old Navy dance and they don’t know a thing about me from Flamingo Road or Falcon Crest. They know me as the ‘Old Navy lady.’”

So what does Morgan think of the cougar story line featuring B&B's Brandon Beemer (Owen) and her BFF, Lesley-Anne Down (Jackie)? “I think older woman-younger guy is great. I think the term 'cougar' is demeaning. No offense to this show. Just as a woman, I find it demeaning. What is the reciprocal one for a guy -- letch? [Laughs] I think the whole concept of women not being limited to someone older than they are is great. The way it was before, a woman used to be married to someone at least five years older than she was. I think that’s great that those sets of norms have become passé. On the other hand, you look at some of these women and wonder, What do you talk to him about? He does not look that bright! It’s sort of the same thing you think when you see older guys and dim blonds. What do they talk about?

YANI GELLMAN MICHAEL MUHNEY X390 (FAIR USE GETTY) | ADVOCATE.COM

The Fashion Challenge episodes get more twisted with the hilarious trio of Jim J. Bullock, Alan Thicke, and Melissa Rivers as “celebrity” judges. Bullock plays Sergei, the gay wedding planner. Thicke plays slimy talk-show host Rich Ginger, and Melissa Rivers plays herself. LOL! They all accept a bribe designed to sway their vote, but does it?

Bullock told me he has judged something in real life that any gay lover of beauty pageants would find amusing.

“I was a judge for the Miss Teen USA pageant, somewhere in Louisiana when a hurricane hit in the early '90s. It was the only pageant that I knew of that they crowned two queens. That is because they had to pretape it and they did not want it to leak to the press. So they gave it to Miss Wyoming and stopped taping and made her give her back her crown and get back and line! Then they crowned Miss Missouri. So when the judges left no one had known who had won --Miss Wyoming or Miss Missouri --but we found out that night when it aired.”

For more of my interview with Morgan and friends, go to my website to hear the audio and read the full transcript.

St. John Sounds-off on Adam and Rafe

Y&R’s Kristoff St. John (Neil Winters) was recently a guest on BlogTalkRadio’s Buzzworthy Radio.

The eight-time NAACP award winner (and two-time Daytime Emmy winner) sounded off on many subjects involving how minorities were represented on the show, including the handling of the gay story lines. St. John stated, "If you look at the story line on our show with Adam and Rafe, that whole thing petered out and turned out to be such a crock. And forgive me for going there with it, but if you're going to do a gay story line on the show, then do something topical and current. And what could be more topical than Proposition 8 in California but doing a same-sex marriage thing. You don't have to go there with that character who's going through so many things -- being blind, screwing over Victor, doing the thing with Mary Jane, the baby with Ashley -- man, come on. Don't cheat the audience out of a really hot, good story line that would reflect what is actually happening out there in our world and in our nation."

Speaking of Adam and Rafe, let’s take a look at where things stand. Adam has duped D.A. Heather Stevens (with whom he had been sleeping). He confessed to her that he spent one night with Rafe. He had to, to keep up his nefarious plan. Heather is repulsed. She cries on her father’s shoulder and says something akin to, “How can someone who is a D.A. and extremely intelligent be so stupid?” Then Rafe (another intelligent lawyer) drops by Adam’s to tell him that it was a big step to come out to Heather, and he will help him! Are these two so smitten with this blind evildoer that they can’t figure this out? Stay tuned for more unscrupulous confusion on today’s episode.

Four Score and Seven Hunks Ago: Adonis 2009 competition

It’s down to four fabulous hunks who will vie for the top soap stud in all the land. Advocate.com is sad to report that two of your beloved are O-U-T! Yup, Van Hansis (Luke, ATWT) got the boot last week, and Brandon Beemer was given the eject button the week before. Now it’s down to Steve Burton (Jason, GH), Jake Silbermann (Noah, ATWT), Mark Lawson (OLTL), and James Scott (Days). Vote today through August 18 for this round. Remember only one vote per day, so use it wisely.

Crystal Chappell Answers Your Burning Questions About Venice

Uber-popular soap star and now producer Crystal Chappell released an online video this week with writer-producer Kim Turrisi to answer fan questions about her upcoming online series Venice, which will feature a lesbian-themed love story as one of its centerpieces. Check out what she had to say about how long viewers will have to wait for a kiss. She promises it won’t be no Otalia mess.