My View of Llanview: January 1 Edition

Thursday, January 1, 2009 11:08 PM EST | By Scotty Gore


(SoapOperaNetwork.com) — A soap legend responds to previous column.

With the holidays over and 2009 beginning, I have made a New Year’s resolution to be more faithful to this column, my readers, the fans of “One Life to Live,” and the show itself.
I intend to devote more time and attention to this column, which truly lost its focus throughout much of 2008. So let’s celebrate by proposing a toast. Here’s to “My View of Llanview.”
I hope you will enjoy the revamped column and my thoughts and comments on “OLTL.”

During my hiatus from this column, I periodically received comments from “One Life to Live” fans that voiced their opinions on the latest Llanview happenings. Among the individuals leaving comments in my SON mailbox was former soap star Mariann Aalda. Now upon first glance, I’m ashamed to say that I did not recognize the name. I grew up watching “All My Children,” “One Life to Live,” “General Hospital,” and “Ryan’s Hope” and was unfamiliar with the name since it did not fit even my earliest of soap memories from the past 29 years; even though Ms. Aalda did make an appearance on “One Life to Live” in the early ’80s as Ed Hall’s first date following his divorce from Carla Gray.

My curiosity getting the better of me, I ran a Google search of Ms. Aalda and learned of her connection to now defunct soaps “Edge of Night” and “Sunset Beach.” For those still unfamiliar with Ms.Aalda’s work, she portrayed DiDi Bannister on “Edge of Night” and Lena Hart on “Sunset Beach;” she also portrayed Grace Battles on “Guiding Light” from 1990-1991. In addition, she had starring roles on “The Royal Family,” where she co-starred with Della Reese and the late Redd Foxx, and the HBO series “1st & Ten,” where she played the wife of O.J. Simpson’s character. Ms. Aalda also guest starred in episodes of such popular sitcoms as “Family Matters,” “Designing Women,” and “Grace Under Fire.”

However, Mariann Aalda’s career is not limited to acting. She co-hosted the talk show “Design for Living” on the USA Network and was a correspondent for the “Now!” entertainment show on WNBC TV. Aalda also helped write, produce, and perform in the in stage production “Herotique-Aahh.” Lastly, she currently writes a humorous “ethnic etiquette” advice column for the website BlackBerrySpeak.com.

Before we move ahead we must take a couple of steps back in time. Flash back to July 30th, 2008. In recognition of “One Life to Live’s” 40th anniversary, I dedicated an edition of this column to reviewing those four decades and discussing Agnes Nixon’s view for the soap she originally titled “Between Heaven and Hell.” That vision involved a highly diverse cast, characters, and storylines. Among them was the light skinned African-American Carla Gray trying to pass herself off a white woman and how viewers, not yet realizing she wasn’t white, jammed the ABC studios with phone calls, protesting her budding relationship with an African-American doctor. But that was 1968. The Llanview of 2008 was very different. Those two years are like night and day, which I also referenced in that July 30th column. I noted the lack of diversity in the current cast of “OLTL,” with only African-American actress on contract, and only a small handful more on recurring status. My last line in that particular column was a bit of personal commentary on how the sea of diversity in Llanview had all but dried up over the course of 40 years. I believe my exact words were “Forty years ago “OLTL” had a rather diverse cast, and many an African-American youth only dreamed of someday running for President. Today we have an African-American running for President for the first time on a major party ticket. However, at the same time, African-Americans on “OLTL” (as well as other soaps) have become nearly non-existent. The more things change, the more they stay the same I suppose. At least programs like “One Life to Live,” which helped pushed the envelope of what was acceptable in society during a turbulent time in American history, helped get us to where we are today. Although there is still a lot of work to be done, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. would be proud of his nation today. And that is something that even this white boy from a small Kentucky town that is over 98% Caucasian can appreciate.”

It appears those very words, grabbed the attention of Ms. Alda, who responded with a rather touching, reflective, and intuitive comment. Here are the Ms. Aalda’s thoughts in her own words:

“As “…a white boy from a small Kentucky town that is over 98% Caucasian…” (your words) I was deeply moved by the bigness of your heart and astuteness of your observations. In the contract role of DiDi Bannister, I helped “integrate” the town of Monticello on “Edge of Night.”. As a bit of daytime trivia, my first day player day player role on a soap opera was as Ed Hall’s (Al Freeman, Jr.) first date after his divorce from Carla (Ellen Holly). Hmmmm….sounds like it’s time for me to make a return visit to Llanview! LOL”

Furthermore, Ms. Aalda went on to say that “FYI – Just wanted to let you know that I left the post, below, at “My View of Llanview.” Having been deeply saddened when I got my AFTRA newsletter with an article celebrating “OLTL’s” 40th anniversary — congratulating itself on having Al Freeman, Jr. as the first African-American to win a daytime Emmy…and then accompanying the article with a current cast picture that had not one person ‘of color’ in it. Yikes! Was I the only person struck by the irony? So I did a Google search and stumbled across your column…and felt much better, because you ‘got it’ — and took the time to write about it. Bless you! Btw, I also wrote a letter the producers of “OLTL” of my interest in “integrating” Llanview. We’ll see what happens! :-) -Mariann”

One can only imagine my shocked expression upon the realization that a soap star had actually read and appreciated something I wrote. I was practically speechless. It made me proud, excited, and left me feeling more confident about my writing abilities. It also made me wonder how many other soap stars, crewmembers, production members, and network executives have read some of my columns and articles over the years. And believe me, that is a scary thought.

I sincerely thank Ms. Aalda for her comments on both my column and on “OLTL,” and welcome her thoughts and opinions anytime. It was an honor to have such a talented actress read my column. I am also thankful for the opportunity to write a regular “OLTL” column for SON, and cover the daytime drama I grew up watching. Llanview has been like a second home to me over the years, so much so that growing up I would often imagine myself as a character on the soap interacting with the likes of Erika Slezak, Robin Strasser, Andrea Evans, Phil Carey, Robert S. Woods, and the rest of the very talented cast. Although I no longer picture myself as a character on the show, I would still welcome the opportunity to make an appearance in Llanview, even if it is a non-speaking role. So Ron Carlivati and Frank Valentini, if you’re reading this, please keep that in mind. I’m available.

Well, that’s all for this edition of the column. My thanks again to Ms. Mariann Aalda and to you, the fans of “OLTL” for muddling through my jumbled and, at times, incoherent ramblings about our favorite daytime drama. My wish for all of you is that 2009 brings you love and prosperity, and that it makes you healthy, wealthy, and wise. Take care, and I hope you will join me for the next installment of “My View of Llanview” on January 15th. Hope your Christmas holiday was wonderful and that you have a safe and happy New Year!

For more information on Mariann Aalda, visit her official website by clicking here.

And until next time remember, we only have “One Life to Live” …..

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