Back to the past
Sunday, May 4, 2008 11:44 PM| By Scotty Gore
(SoapOperaNetwork.com) – A look at Viki before Erika.
Hello everyone. My sincere apologizes for this column being a few days late, but I am about to enter the final days of my student teaching semester. With graduation fast approaching next Saturday, things have gotten rather hectic around the house, seriously limiting the amount of free time I have available
to write this column.
So, because of homework and tests, here an article from the June 1971 edition of After Noon TV, entitled “The Good Witch of the North Riding Side Saddle on a Washing Machine.” It was written by Robert Narrows, and talks about Joanne Dorian who became the second actress to portray Viki on “One Life to Live” between Gillian Spencer and Erika Slezak. Hope you enjoy…….
Return with us now to El Mirage Lake in California, a sea of sand where Joanne Dorian once road the toughest, the orneriest, he most rip shortin’ washing machine in creation.
Yup, that’s what we said folks. A washing machine. Rode it sidesaddle, no less. And that’s not all. Joanne’s also been a puppet come to life, had conversations with an imaginary dog, been stuffed in a Volkswagen with 23 college boys and dreamed about flowers inside a coffee cup.
Hard to believe? Well, the truth is that anybody can do it. Anybody, that is who’s young and beautiful and has what they call in the business “a commercial face.”
And Joanne Dorian has it. So much so, that if you haven’t yet caught her performance as Viki Riley on One Life to Live, chances are you’ve seen her work in dozens of little commercial dramas. Last Christmas, for example, she was popping out all over the tube as the Avon Lady, the one who sold her goodies to a deliriously happy Mrs. Santa Claus at the North Pole. And do you know that surrealistic split-screen classic? That masterpiece where on one side is a girl soaping her hair, and on the other is a baby running through the fields while an off screen voice coos “Remember the baby like softness that was born in your hair…?” Well, Joanne was the sudsy one. She’s also been a Crisco lady, and if you live in the Midwest, you might recall her throwing snowballs and shilling air-conditioning for Columbia Gas. And so on, ad commercio nauseum.
Joanne has been on the commercial whirl for the past two years, ever since she migrated to New York from sunny California. That’s not to say she singled out commercials as a life work. When you earned a degree in drama from UCLA, danced and sang in a USO sponsored tour of Carousel in the Orient, worked in repertory and appeared in the national company of There’s A Girl in My Soup, you don’t necessarily dream about huckstering for Johnson and Johnson, Crisco, Top Job or ringing doorbells for Avon.
What we’re trying to say is that life just ain’t that easy for an aspiring actress. So up till now, and except for a brief appearance as a copy girl in The Secret Storm (oddly enough, she is cast as an executive assistant on a newspaper in One Life to Live), Joanne’s talent has been displayed largely on 30 and 60 second commercial spots. Not that we’re knocking commercials. Joanne regards them as rewarding and fun. Some so funny, in fact, that they’ve never made it to the home screen. Like, for instance, that mechanical dreadnaught we spoke about earlier – the washing machine.
“I rode side saddle on that thing for three days,” said Joanne “driven across the desert by a little old man who was scrunched up inside the machine at the controls. There were food stains set up at particular intervals, and the driver was supposed to stop at those marks when he heard a horn blast, the signal being given by the director who was riding along side of us in the camera car.”
“The trouble was that the machine didn’t stop. It zipped right through the bloodstains, the coffee stains and the egg stains. It went faster and faster. I was screaming and yelling and banging my feet, and the director was screaming and yelling and tooting his horn.”
“But then things got even more ridiculous. As we were galumphing along, looming on the horizon and heading straight for us was an entire house, pulled a long by a little car. And off in the distance we could see another commercial being filmed – some guy flying in the air with a wing like apparatus.”
“So you can just imagine how ludicrous it was. There we were, the washer and camera car rattling along, the house in front and aerial act above. It was like a scene out of a Fellini western.”
“Finally, a’la John Wayne, the director pulled me off the machine to safety. Later we discovered that the washer driver didn’t stop because he never heard the horn. Seemed he was hard of hearing.”
But that’s not all, folks. Here ‘s another commercial that died on he cutting room floor. Let’s call it the great Volkswagen caper.
“I guess the sponsor was trying to show how roomy the car was,” said Joanne. “Anyway, they put me under the dashboard and wedged in a fraternity house from the University of Southern California. Three of the boys were put in the trunk and the rest were plopped in the car like so many pancakes. I almost smothered to death.”
“For the grand finale, they all poured out of the car, put me on the hood and carried me off.” Why didn’t they air the commercial? Use you imagination. There’s something slightly risqué about a girl coming out of a car behind 23 young guys.
I got a mild case of claustrophobia from that commercial. My own car was a Volkswagen, and for the next two weeks I was afraid to get into it.”
There’s more. “Oh let me tell you about this coffee ad,” she laughed. “It was partially animated to give the impression that my husband and I were sitting in the middle of a coffee cup. Every time we took a sip we’d have a psychedelic experience. He’d see boats. I’d see flowers. The images kept alternating until one of our visions merged and we were lifted out of a cup by a balloon. It was fun, really. But they never did put that coffee on the market.”
Her first commercial, and one that did see the light on the TV screen, was a Top Job ad especially tailored for the annual showing of The Wizard of Oz. The detergent bottle caps were shaped in the puppet form of Oz characters, and Joanne sprang to life as the Good Witch of the North.
“I had to sprinkle magic dust over a little girl who was playing Dorothy and guide her through the Land of Oz,” recalled Joanne.
According to Joanne commercial auditions can be crazier than commercial itself. Without a script or prop to work with, She’s been asked to recreate some nutty situations. Among them carrying on an impromptu conversation with an invisible dog and lifting imaginary tables and chairs.
Now if you think that’s ridiculous, consider the lunacy of her most recent audition. Consider also, that it’s you, not Joanne who has just walked into the commercial studio. The director speaks:
“Okay,” He says, “I want you to imagine that it’s very early in the morning. You’re half asleep when you go to the window and open the Venetian blinds. You pull the string, and while it’s going down the string on the other end is going up – with a box of Jell-O. Throughout the day, you see boxes of Jell-O everywhere. Finally, you get in your car, and because it’s raining you turn on the windshield wipers. And attached to the wipers are boxes of Jell-O going back and forth, back and forth.”
Now if you can do that, you can do commercials. Who knows, you might even be lucky enough to ride sidesaddle on a washing machine.
Saving the best for last, it’s time to take a quick look at some of the plotlines coming up on “OLTL” a couple of weeks down the road. A concerned woman is relieved to learn that one Cramer woman is a virgin, but shocked that another is with child. A young child has a medical crisis on someone’s wedding day.
A man of the cloth confronts a lustful couple for not keeping their hands to themselves. And a mother is heartbroken to discover her daughter’s present living conditions.
Well, that’s all for this edition of the column. I hope you enjoyed this edition of the column. That’s all for now; please be sure and join me again on May 15th. See you next time.
And until next time remember, we only have “One Life to Live” …..
Pictured: My View of Llanview courtesy Matt Smith/Soap Opera Network