‘OLTL’s’ Erika Slezak Accused of Using Racial Slurs By Former Co-Star

One Life to Live, Erika Slezak, Victoria Lord Buchanan
ABC Photo Archives
Donna Svennevik/ABC
Donna Svennevik/ABC

In the new book, “Llanview in the Afternoon: An Oral History of One Life to Live,” actress Ellen Holly (ex-Clara “Carla” Hall) accused former co-star Erika Slezak (Viki Lord Buchanan) of getting her fired off of the ABC soap back in the 1980’s. The actress says Slezak used the words, “Get those two black bitches out of my face,” in reference to Holly and Lillian Hayman (Sadie Gray) during an anniversary party for the show in 1983. Until now, Slezak had not commented on the matter since the book hit Amazon and other outlets in early September.

Per her official website, Slezak emailed author Jeff Giles on November 7 to give her side of the story (see below), which will be edited into all new and future editions of the book (both digital and hard copies). “Please know that the quotes attributed to Erika from Ellen Holly are absolutely not true,” Slezak’s website stated.

In her own words, Slezak says, “Let me begin by saying that never happened. I have never, in my entire life, used such language, nor would I have ever said that; especially about two ladies who I greatly admired and respected. I have no idea why Ellen has chosen to blame me for her being let go from ‘One Life to Live.’ Not only is that an absolute fabrication on her part; it was never in the power of ANY actor or actress to make such a decision and anyone who has worked on One Life to Live would know that. We were owned and run by ABC; this was their decision alone. Furthermore, I would like to add that Ellen Holly was a wonderful actress, a beautiful woman and an essential and vital character on ‘One Life to Live’ and there was nothing to be gained by her leaving the show. In fact I felt that her absence was detrimental to the show. Agnes Nixon had put together an amazing, multi-racial cast, which was groundbreaking at the time, and by losing two very important black actors, ABC was robbing the show of its diversity. I am very sorry that she has deluded herself into believing that I was in any way instrumental in her being fired, but more than that, I am appalled that she would accuse me of using racial slurs.”

Jeff Giles
Jeff Giles

Per Holly in the book, “In July of 1983, ‘One Life’ celebrated its first 15 years on the air. There was a party at the Tavern on the Green — a big, lavish event where Lillian Hayman and I were celebrated as the show’s only remaining original stars. A lot of people looked at that, including Agnes Nixon, and said ‘No, we’re not going to have two black women as our only original stars forever and ever. We’re not going to have Erika Slezak sitting around watching this happen.’ And Erika Slezak said to Agnes Nixon, ‘Get those two black bitches out of my face.’ Agnes turned around, and bang-bang! Overnight, Jean Arley [former ‘OLTL’ executive producer] was gone, and Paul Rauch, the Terminator, was there in her place.”

This isn’t the first time Holly has attacked the show (or someone on the show) for racial discrimination. In her 1998 memoir, “One Life: The Autobiography of an African American Actress,” the actress says Lillian Haymen was fired by Rauch in 1986 after not picking up her option because she was black.

“Look, there were definitely problems at the show. But with regards to racism? They gave her everything she always wanted. No, no, no, no, no. Racism? There were more black people on that show than there were on others. She’s listened to this plaint of hers for so long that it’s become second nature — part of her own propaganda about who she is.Imitation of Life. That was the storyline she kept, and the show outgrew,” said Arthur Burghardt (ex-Dr. Jack Scott) in “Llanview in the Afternoon” of Holly’s comments in the book. He added, “I know mother——s who have been hurt, man. I know people who have been shot down in the God-blessed street for trying to get a job! I mean, damn. I saw a lot of stuff, and I could turn to Ellen and say ‘Excuse me, but you really have no complaints here.’ And as a matter of fact, when Lillian Hayman was still alive, she probably would have told her the same goddamn thing.”

For more on “Llanview in the Afternoon: An Oral History of One Life to Live” as told by cast and crew members alike (ABC version only), you can purchase your very own copy by clicking here.