(SoapOperaNetwork.com) — Clint Ritchie, “One Life to Live’s” original Clint Buchanan, has passed away in Roseville, California following a brief illness, according to ABC spokeswoman Lauri Hogan. He was 70-years-old.
When cowboy Clinton “Clint” Buchanan first rode in Llanview in 1979, America had “Dallas” fever, brought on by the popular CBS primetime sudser featuring the wealthy and scandalous oil loving Ewing class. Cashing in on the success of “Dallas,” “One Life to Live” created the Buchanan family. Headed up by wealthy oil tycoon Asa, the family also included Clint’s younger brother Bo. In 1979, the Buchanans left Texas, moving their multimillion-dollar empire to Llanview, where they remain a central focus of the show to this day. The role often allowed Ritchie to display his rugged persona, but none so much as when the character of Clint Buchanan was transported back in time to the old west town of Buchanan City in 1888. The out of this world storyline played out in the imagination of the elder Buchanan brother following a blow to the head.
Clint Ritchie spent nearly two decades on “One Life to Live,” most of which were spent at the side of his two-time onscreen wife Erika Slezak (Viki Davidson). Viki was first introduced to Clint by her dying husband Joe Riley, who had handpicked Clint to take his place as Editor of ‘The Banner,’ owned by Viki’s father Victor Lord. Originally, the character of Clint Buchanan was to be named Chris Logan (later changed to Buchanan). However, once Ritchie landed the role, he had one small suggestion for the casting director. Ritchie didn’t think the name ‘Chris’ sounded like a good cowboy name, and offered his own name instead. And the rest is Llanview history.
Known affectingly as ‘Bucky’ by his “One Life” co-stars, Ritchie was often described as a prankster on the set. Co-star Robert S. Woods, who portrayed younger brother Bo Buchanan, affectionately recalled his first days on the set with Ritchie. “Bucky really acted like he was my older brother. We had so much fun on the set. At the time, whenever our characters drank beer they gave us the real thing. That ended when we were having too much fun on the set.”
Born on August 9th, 1938, Clinton C.A. “Clint” Ritchie was raised on a farm in Grafton, North Dakota. At the age of seven his family moved to Washington State. During his teenage years Rtichie moved to California, where he enrolled in acting classes.
His early acting roles were sparse throughout the 1960s and ’70s, landing guest spots on programs such as “The Wild, Wild West,” “Batman,” and “Thunder,” along with numerous bit parts in feature films, including the Oscar-winning George C. Scott film “Patton.” In the 1980s, Ritchie, along with co-stars Robert S. Woods (Bo Buchanan) and John Loprieno (Cord Roberts), appeared as their “One Life” characters in a fantasy sequence on the popular sitcom “Roseanne.”
Ritchie was an experienced horseman and strong proponent of animal rights. He rescued countless animals throughout his life. Ritchie won the 100M Silver Buckle in 1982, after competing in the Tevis Cup 100M Endurance Ride. A lover of the outdoors, he participated in numerous fifty-mile endurance rides during his lifetime. Ritchie was also a member of AFTRA/SAG.
Years before his retirement from “One Life to Live” in December 1998, Ritchie told soap reporter Lynda Hirsch that was growing tired of his onscreen persona, and that he had devised a way to write out the character of Clint permanetly. “I have a great way for Clint to be written out: He cannot stand life anymore. He takes one of his dad’s shotguns and points it at his head. The blood splatters everywhere. That is the end of Clint; we see his blood all over the wall.”
Following his departure from “OLTL,” Ritchie returned briefly in 1999, 2003, and 2004. The role was then recast with “Guiding Light” long time veteran Jerry ver Dorn on October 25, 2005.
On May 10, 1993, Ritchie was critically wounded when he was pinned under his John Deere tractor while working on his northern California ranch. The tractor hit a tree stump, throwing Ritchie into a pasture. Before he could get out of the way, the tractor ran him over. Following a prolonged recovery from his wounds, Ritchie returned to the “One Life” set. The injuries Ritchie sustained in the accident were so severe that the actor reported that he could ‘hear his own ribs cracking.’ Ritchie’s injuries included a broken collarbone, shoulder blade and ribs, along with a collapsed lung. In an interview with “People” magazine later that year, Ritchie commented, “It took forever. I heard and felt bones breaking like toothpicks.”
When news of Ritchie’s accident first broke, his “One Life” co-star Erika Slezak approached then “OLTL” Executive Producer Linda Gottlieb, urging her not to recast the role while Ritchie recovered from his wounds.Clint Buchanan’s onscreen absence was explained by having the character become injured in an off-screen plane crash, and needing time to recuperate at his ‘Happy Horse Ranch.’ The fictional retreat was named after Ritchie’s own ranch in Grass Valley, California near Sacramento.
Ritchie returned to “OLTL” following his recovery, but ultimately left the show in December 1998, claiming that the long-running daytime drama had ruined the character of Clint Buchanan. He blamed Clint’s wife Viki’s 1992 affair with Sloan Carpenter as the downfall of his character. “I never got hate mail in my life until they changed Clint Buchanan,” he often explained as the character of Clint was turned from a loving family man to an angry homophobe. The love triangle proved to be the final nail in the coffin for Clint and Viki, resulting in viewer outage at the break-up of one of “OLTL’s” longest running ‘super couples.’
Returning to “OLTL” for three short stints following his retirement from the soap, Ritchie made it clear that, while he was more than happy to bring Clint back to Llanview for brief engagements, he had absolutely no desire to return to “One Life,” acting, or New York City, on a full-term basis. In one of Ritchie’s final “OLTL” appearances, Clint met his daughter Natalie for the first time. After leaving “One Life,” Ritchie, a life-long bachelor, returned to his sixty acre ranch, surrounded by his pets (numerous dogs and cats and his beloved horses).
Ritchie enjoyed his life out of the public spotlight at his ranch until a few weeks ago. In late January, he underwent successful surgery to have a pacemaker inserted in his chest following a heart attack. However, shortly thereafter, a blood clot dislodged and traveled to Ritchie’s brain, resulting in a massive stroke. After lingering near death for several days, Ritchie died around 4:00 am Pacific Time on January 31st, 2009 at the age of 70. According to his close friend and bookkeeper Linda Honore, “[Ritchie] had been sick for awhile. My thoughts and prayers go out to the family.”
As news of the tragedy reached his “One Life” family, Ritchie’s former cast and crewmembers recalled their fallen colleague. “We are deeply saddened by the death of our dear friend Clint Ritchie. He will always have a special place in our hearts and ‘One Life to Live’s’ legacy,” “OLTL” Executive Producer Frank Valentini lamented. ” With his creation of the role of Clint Buchanan, he helped to bring to life one of the most memorable families in the show’s history. The ‘OLTL’ family will always hold dear the memories of the man we fondly referred to as ‘Bucky.’ Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family and friends.”
Catherine Hickland, whose “OLTL” character Lindsay Rappaport was once briefly married to Clint Buchanan, dedicated a recent blog entry to Ritchie, praising her former co-star.
Visit http://catherinehickland.com/blog/2009/02/carry-on-clint-ritchie_03.html to read the entry entitled “Carry on Clint Ritchie….”
Hillary B. Smith (Nora, “OLTL”) released this statement: “I am saddened by the news of Clint Ritchie’s passing. I had the honor of working with him long after I became a die-hard fan of his work. He was a tenderhearted soul wrapped up in a tough cowboy exterior. He smiled with a naughty twinkle, would pass you in the hall with a wink and a pinch and lived his life with an uncontained passion. What a guy! Here’s to you, Clint! It is amazing to lose Clint Ritchie and Phil Carey in the same week, and yet I don’t think they would have wanted it any other way. I just hope they both end up in the same place or there will be Hell to pay . . . literally.”
Robin Strasser (Dorian, “OLTL”), who worked alongside Ritchie for many years, has left a message on her hotline in memory of her former co-star. In reference to both Clint and Phil Carey: “They were both great guys. Not easy, not uncomplicated, bigger than life. Clint, I’m sure, is with as many horses as you can possibly be surrounded by and on top of one of them, riding free. It was never simple with women but it was unconditional about horses. Their spirits are set free and I feel so lucky to have known them. I celebrate their legacy. My condolences to their near and dear… Wherever [Clint] is, I hope that he’s on his favorite horse, riding free, getting together for a few good ones with Phil Carey.” Strasser’s entire message can be heard on her hotline by calling (212) 414-5300.
And Ritchie’s long-time onscreen love interest Erika Slezak also recalled her time working with Ritchie on “OLTL” for twenty years. “I was incredibly sad to learn that my colleague and friend, Clint Ritchie, passed away on January 31. Clint and I worked together for nearly twenty years, and shared some wonderful stories together. Clint will be missed by me and his family here at ‘One Life to Live.'”
Although Ritchie, who was often quoted as saying “Hey, I may live on a ranch, but I did not just fall off a turnip truck,” once dated Candice Earley (ex-Donna, “All My Children”), the actor was never married and had no children. He is survived by two sisters, Darlys Patton and Marge Virgil, one brother, Roger Ritchie, and countless friends and fans. He was predeceased in death by his parents, J.C. and Charlotte Ritchie and one sister, Charlyne. The Chapel of the Angels Mortuary in Grass Valley, California is handling the funeral arrangements. A memorial service is presently being planned and will be announced at a later date.
Fans may pay their respects by visiting Clint Ritchie’s official website/fan club headquarters at http://www.clintritchie.com/.
“One Life to Live” airs Weekdays on ABC. Weeknights on SOAPnet. Check local listings.