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Soapside: Best and Worst of Otalia


As the light fades on today's finale of the longest-running show in broadcast history, gay fans will also mourn the loss of same-sex TV couple Otalia, whose relationship was cut short. Whether or not you agreed with the journey these two women in love took, if there was any story line over the last year and a half that captivated audiences gay and straight, it was this one.

I spoke with Crystal Chappell this week to get her thoughts on Otalia's final bow.

"It is here and we are all watching this last week of shows," she said. "It's hard and gut-wrenching. It's really great, and really sad. I am proud of all the people that worked so hard on it. And as sad as it is, I am enjoying seeing those faces up there, and I know how it ends and it's nice. For me, what is important is that these two women ended up together and that their love managed to survive. You get the sense it's going to grow and continue, and that this is the real thing. In that respect, I am happy with that. There are certain aspects of the show, and that couple, that could have been a little different."

But what would Chappell say are the top five Otalia moments in the history of the couple?

"Certainly, Olivia telling Natalia she loved her at the cemetery and the gazebo scene. Those are in my top five. I liked "My Two Mommies." I thought that was fantastic! I even liked their spa weekend, and I thought that was sweet. I certainly loved Olivia showing up at the sonogram. Also, when Olivia is trying to die in her hotel room and Natalia is forcing her to eat well and trying to get her to live. I loved watching this relationship evolve, and how these two women changed over the course of a year. You know, I also liked at Christmastime, and the how-to-decorate-the-house episodes, and the feeling that I am going to have to move out. It breaks my heart to have to think about that. All of it was so important and I felt an interesting story."

OK, now to the big question: What did Chappell think was the worst moment from Otalia's love story. Was it (drum roll, please) Natalia's pregnancy via Frank? Not according to Chappell. She said, "If anything, what I found a bit unbelievable was Natalia, of all people, fighting her religion and trying to understand how her religion would fit in with what she was feeling for Olivia. Yet she is the one that would run out and sleep with someone. I found that totally unbelievable! It happened with the two men in her life and she got knocked up both times, dear God. [Laughs] Someone needs to give Natalia a sex-ed class, poor thing.

"Also, it's unbelievable that there was not a little more affection shown. I have had these conversations with people where they go, 'I don't want to see them slurping kissing,' and I go, 'Well, I don't want to see two dogs kiss like that. You know what I am saying? I don't want to see two people slurping and slopping, either.' I think people get things in their minds about love scenes and that they have to be tasteless. What I think would have been wonderful is just a simple, romantic, mutual kiss. It's almost the simpler the better. That would have been my choice... not that there is anything wrong with some good hot stuff."

Now Crystal is set to premiere back on Days of Our Lives as Dr. Carly Manning on October 2, and is busy working, producing, and starring in her new Web series Venice. She is quick to point out how the millions of gay fans and supporters were instrumental in her decision to bring Venice to the Web.

"It's a diverse world and what I learned from the Otalia story line, and from the e-mails I got from all over the world, was how forthcoming people were with their stories. Their gratitude... it would literally make me weep. It just seemed too big to ignore. When Guiding Light got canceled it was like we just could not let this go."

And what of missing her beloved screen partner, Jessica Leccia (Natalia)? "Jessica is my friend. We truly supported each other and wanted the best for each other. I am Auntie Crystal to her daughter Ivy now, but we will see what happens with our new characters, Gina and Annie in Venice."

Stay tuned! For more on Chappell's feelings on Guiding Light's finale, the end of Otalia, her return as Dr. Carly Manning on Days, and her new Web series Venice, go to my website for my brand new full-length Chappell interview, and you can hear the audio of our interview there as well!

I Love Lucy

On As the World Turns, soap fans have been treated for the past few months to the return of one of daytime's favorite actresses. I am talking about the wonderful Lynn Herring.

Currently, Lynn is chewing the scenery in a short stint as Henry Dawson's gold-digging mother, Audrey. But all good things must come to an end, and Lynn will be leaving the series come October.

Many remember Lynn for her performance on both General Hospital and its spin-off, Port Charles, as the outlandish Lucy Coe. I had the chance to speak with Lynn for a new interview out next week, and touched on why the gay fans loved their Lucy!

"I had gotten such amazing response from the gay community... part of the people jumped to the assumption that she did have great hats! [Laughs] More than just the great outfits and outlandish behavior, which was fun and titillating, I think the main thing with Lucy was she was trying to fit into society and you always saw her motivation was pure. She was a survivalist in that a lot of people thought she did not fit into their society. So I think the gay community could identify with trying to survive, struggle, and be accepted, and that is what Lucy wanted, to be accepted."

Back in the day of GH's famous Nurses Ball, it was Lucy who spearheaded the fund-raising efforts by putting on a talent show, but sadly, the highly anticipated soap event faded into oblivion. During its heyday, the episodes entertained while trying to enlighten the audience about HIV/AIDS.

Herring recalls, "I was very proud of that, and the Nurses Ball was a symbol. We had the AIDS Quilt come through and we had a lot of discussion from the characters through various speeches about how AIDS had affected them, and it became part of our story without preaching to the audience. When it did not happen anymore, part of it was budgetary, but to me I think we got complacent. To me to drop the whole thing like, 'AIDS is gone, we fixed it,' ah, that's not what happened. I wished we would have followed more of the couples and people that were dealing with AIDS for a continuum of 15 years or so, instead of just the five or six we did for the Nurses Ball. The AIDS Quilt was a huge thing for that time and everybody was so proud on the set that we had it with us. We had this silence out of respect and mourning."

But, in modern soap times, how does Lynn feel about her World Turns cast mates, Nuke? Since she is working in the same studio, she tells me she has nothing but high praise for the boys.

"What was so great is that when Trent Dawson [Henry] and Colleen Zenk Pinter [Barbara] were talking about our ATWT couple to present at the Emmys, there was no presumption of it being anything out of the ordinary for it to be Nuke, because they were such a popular couple. I thought that was cool that we have come this far. I have crossed Van and Jake in the hallways and they are hilarious, and they were charming. I think their story is particularly well done. In the past, being a gay character was sensationalized and they tended to make the gay person more negative. Here they are trying to portray the trials and tribulations of their everyday life and I think that is a much better take on it, rather then jump off the screen as every day weird."

GL'S Doris Comes Out: Now There Are Four Lesbians in Springfield!

Orlagh Cassidy's Doris finally came out to her unsuspecting daughter Ashlee (played by Caitlin Van Zandt) in this week's final episodes of Guiding Light. The blessed event occurred one day, Ashlee had trouble dealing with it on another, and then was not so much upset with the fact that her mother was a lesbian as she was with the idea that her mother could not be open and honest with her.

All the more shocking to poor Ashlee was the revelation that Doris had used a sperm donor to conceive her. Thus, through a hurried bit of compressed time (the show is ending, for God's sake), Ashlee wants to try and start anew with her mom. This is followed by the terrific episodes of Billy and Vanessa's and Buzz and Lillian's double wedding.

Then came the piece de resistance: Doris shows up with some gal on her arm, Ashlee almost chokes to death seeing this (not literally), and Doris and her date join (drum roll, please) an openly out and proud Otalia in a lesbian klatch in a corner of the room. I never thought I would live to see that day, Guiding Light! So, my review of this is: Doris telling Ashlee -- a bit of a let down. But four lesbians in a room? BRAVO!

Y&R Looking for Hottie to Play Malcolm

If you are the next Shemar Moore (gorgeous, with a six-pack, a set of pecs, and a great smile), then all the boys who watch the soaps -- and The Young and the Restless -- want you!

Seems a casting call has gone out looking to bring in this former bad boy and beloved brother to Kristoff St. John's Neil Winters come November. Adding an interesting twist to this is Victoria Rowell, whose Drucilla has been rumored to be returning to the fold as well. Remember... Dru went over a cliff. The outspoken actress tweeted this week, "Actors are working OT 2 keep Dru OUT! And an inside source told me who. Word is Lily don't want her Mamma -- read between the lines." Hmm.

Red Letter Fish Day!

Don't miss today's episode of One Life to Live! Fish's father jumps to the conclusion that Cristian is gay and berates his alleged "lifestyle." Pushed to the breaking point by his father's intolerance and ignorance, Fish finds the courage to tell his parents that he's gay.

Coming up, Fish fears he has lost his parents love and Cristian urges Fish to tell Kyle how he feels about him, and Fish in turn urges Cristian to tell Layla how he feels about her.

Geez, all these urges!

Imaginary Bitches at the Daytime Emmys

In case you missed last night's hilarious spoof from Imaginary Bitches with darling Eden Riegel, you can watch it here. The Imaginary gals take to the red carpet at the Daytime Emmys, and what ensues is very amusing! Then you have to check out Daytime Confidential's sneak-peek interviews.

Here is an excerpt from Eden Riegel about her imaginary friends, Catherine and Heather, and their experience at this year's Daytime Emmys!

Daytime Confidential: Were Catherine and Heather impressed with Vanessa Williams as host, or would they have preferred an imaginary host -- say, for instance, Snuffaluffagus from Sesame Street?

Eden Riegel: Catherine thinks Snuffaluffagus looks filthy and can't imagine what lives in his fur. Heather is intrigued by the size of his trunk. But on Emmy night, Catherine went to the show at the Orpheum with Andrew and Cameron Mathison while Heather and I stayed home. We thought the show was fantastic. Especially Susan Lucci's moving "Daytime Gives Back" segment, but Catherine had a terrible time. She kept texting us endlessly, saying how much better she would have looked in Tamara Braun's dress, which is impossible!

Want to Live in Cameron Mathison's New York Brownstone?

So, L.A. boys, get ready, Mr. Cameron Mathison is heading west and will join the relocated production of All My Children in Los Angeles. Mathison told me on the Emmy red carpet that the decision was not an easy one, and he told The New York Times, "It is a tricky situation. We envisioned being in this place forever, but in order to keep my job on All My Children we have to pack it up and move across the country."

To that, Cameron has put his modernist brownstone in Harlem on the market for $2.7 million. So you can own a piece of Cameron, while Ryan owns a piece of Erica.

And In the End, Time to Turn Out the Light

This has been an extraordinary week of shows for Guiding Light. Tuesday's episode in particular was one of the most beautifully acted, written, and produced one of all. In it, Alan Spaulding, played by Ron Raines, ends up losing his life while saving his sons, and the amazing Robert Newman begins to tell his loved ones he is leaving town against the backdrop of some long-time-coming weddings.

This bittersweet saga has been just the tip of the iceberg for today's grand finale. I can't give you any more Otalia updates and previews, but it was sure a wild ride. In a touching story that I wanted to relate to gay sons and their moms, one of my dearest friends was telling me just the other day how he and his mom would watch and bond together over Guiding Light for years. It was their story. He told me it's really hitting him hard that the show is going off the air after 57 years, and he has been thinking about his mom a lot.

Then earlier this week, he received a call saying his mother had passed away -- the very same week their beloved soap goes off the air. How ironic. How sad.

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Michael Fairman