Friday, January 13, 2012

The Scandalous Women of One Life to Live

Today is a particularly sad day for me, not only is it Friday the 13th, but it is brings the final episode of One Life to Live after 42 years on the air. One Life to Live was created by Agnes Nixon in 1968, and from the beginning of its run, it featured strong women who were not afraid to go after what they wanted, no matter who or what got in their way. I started watching the show in junior high, and was fascinated by the wide array of female characters from the ridiculous to the sublime. While there have been some fascinating male characters on daytime and on One Life to Live in particular (Marco Dane, Todd Manning, David Vickers), soaps have always been a more female centric medium. These ten women are just the tip of the iceberg and my personal favorites during the past 43 years.

Carla Gray – the story of Carla Gray was a ground-breaking and controversial storyline for daytime in the late 60’s, and put OLTL on the map as a soap that wasn’t afraid to be different. The audience was shocked as Carla romanced not only her boss, the much older Dr. Jim Craig, but also a black intern at Llanview Hospital. They were even more shocked to discover that Carla was not white, but the light-skinned estranged daughter of Sadie Gray, the hospital housekeeper, who was passing for white. Carla and her mother eventually reconciled but she lost both the men in her life.

Karen Wolek (played by the immensely talented Judith Light who won an Emmy for the role). Karen Wolek was initially played as a gold-digging sex kitten looking for the easy life as the wife of Dr. Larry Wolek until Judith Light took over. Suddenly Karen was a walking bundle of jagged nerves with low self-esteem and a secret life Kept on a tight budget by her fiscally conscious hubby, Karen begins to indulge in a little “afternoon delight” with some of Llanview’s wealthy businessmen to pay for the luxuries that she craved. When her former lover and con artist Marco Dane discovers her little secret, he forces her to become a “housewife/prostitute” to prevent Larry for learning the truth. The storyline came to a head when Viki Lord was on trial for Marco’s murder. Under blistering cross-examination by Herb Callison, Karen confessed to the truth of her double life, falling apart on the stand. Karen later became involved in a baby switch storyline when her sister Jenny Wolek’s baby died at birth. Karen and Marco Dane (who turned out not to be so dead after all) switched Jenny’s dead baby with the healthy baby born to Katrina Carr, a fellow prostitute.

Dorian Cramer Lord – Amoral, greedy, ambitious, careless, and a murderer (allegedly), these are just some of the adjectives that could be used to describe Dr. Dorian Cramer Lord Callison Vickers Buchanan etc. during her years in Llanview. There was nothing that Dorian wouldn’t do to get what she wanted; she even pretended to be a lesbian in order to win election as mayor of Llanview. She’s also been a doctor, a publisher, the ambassador to Mendorra, and now a U.S. Senator. While Dorian married a plethora of men, her greatest love story was with Viki Lord Buchanan. For over 30 years, Dorian waged war with her frenemy and former step-daughter Viki, fighting over men and the late, and unlamented Victor Lord. See Dorian married Victor Lord have she lost her job at Llanview Hospital (she accidentally gave a patient a lethal dose. Oops!), and managed to finagle the lion’s share of his fortune after his death. She even went so far as to seduce Viki’s youngest Joey. What viewer didn’t live for the episodes where Dorian and Viki ended up trapped in a room somewhere? While Dorian could be vindictive and conniving (and that’s just before lunch), she could also be protective and caring, particularly towards the Cramer women, three generations of women, which included not just her daughters but also her nieces and her two sisters.

Tina Lord – When Tina Clayton arrived in Llanview; she was a sweet, innocent, teenager who had just lost her mother, and had come to live with Viki Lord Riley. Within months, she had been used by Marco Dane in his vendetta against Viki, and used by her father to try and bilk money out of Viki. But Tina’s story really kicked into gear when she discovered that she was Victor Lord’s illegitimate daughter. See Victor had seduced Tina’s mom, Viki’s best friend. What a dad! During her years in Llanview, Tina often did some questionable things (not telling people that her niece Jessica was really one of her alters Tess, trying to bilk Viki out of her fortune, etc.) Tina always had a good heart. Her taste in men is another story. Through the years, she always found herself attracted to the bad boys of Llanview, everyone from Mitch Laurence, Max Holden to con artists Cain Rogen &David Vickers, but her true love was always cowboy Cord Roberts. Despite the fact that Tina married him knowing that he was Clint Buchanan’s long lost son before he did, and pretending another woman’s baby was theirs, Cord just couldn’t quit Tina. No matter how many crazy schemes she came up with, and Tina was nothing if not creative, Cord always forgave her and took her back.

Echo DiSavoy – Countess Echo DiSavoy came to town, like so many tourists do to Llanview, seeking revenge, which never works out well. Played by the talented Kim Zimmer, Echo made her mission to seduce Clint Buchanan, and then framed him for her “murder” all because she blamed him for her mother’s death. Of course, he didn’t kill her mother, it was someone else. Echo finally came forward and told the truth. But leopards never really change their spots. Echo came back years later with a secret; she and Clint had a son, Rex, who was now living in Llanview. Still a schemer, she used her alcoholism to get close to Viki’s new husband Charlie Banks (and her ex-lover) who she claimed was Rex’s father. They started a torrid affair until Charlie discovered the truth. She then tried to ruin Dorian 's to David Vickers Buchanan, getting his co-star to try and seduce him, but it didn't work.

Allison Perkins was another one of those good girls who turn bad.  She was a candy striper at Llanview Hospital until she fell under the spell of evangelist Mitch Laurence and joined his cult.  Mitch convinced her to kidnap Viki Lord Buchanan’s new born daughter Jessica while dressed as one of Viki’s alters Nikki Smith.  Although she ultimately returned her, Allison ends up at St. Anne’s, the local mental institution. Was Allison always crazy or did Mitch just bring it out in her? Years later, she was still doing Mitch Laurence’s bidding.  Claiming to be well, she was released from St. Anne’s.  The 2nd part of Mitch Laurence’s grand plan came to fruition, it turned out that Allison had switched babies all those years ago.  Now Viki’s real daughter came to town to wreak havoc, helped along by Allison who pours poison in her ears about what is rightfully hers and by extension Allison. Allison was the gift that just kept on giving whether you wanted her to or not over the years.  Despite being sent to prison for 20 years, she managed not only to break out Statesville twice but also St. Anne’s.

Alexandra "Alex" Olanov Wentworth Hesser Buchanan Stuart Vickers (played by Tonja Walker) – Alex Olanov came to town as the FBI agent who was trying to help Bob Buchanan find his wife Sarah Gordon who had been kidnapped by mob boss Carlo Hesser.  When Sarah was presumed dead, Alex became just a little obsessed with Bo, who didn’t return her feelings.  Misunderstood or charming sociopath? Hard to tell with Alex.  Even when she did something good, it was for the wrong reason (Bringing back Bo’s wife Sarah on his wedding day to Cassie Callison). During Alex’s tenure in Llanview, she married Bo’s dad, Asa Buchanan (twice), became mayor of Llanview, married Carlo Hesser, was arrested for the murder of Carlo Hesser, worked as a stripper, faked having a sex addiction, and abandoned her two children as kids.  Over the years, Alex schemed to get her share of the Buchanan fortune, going so far to marry David Vickers, thinking that he was Asa’s long lost son.  Like a cat, Alex always seemed to land on her feet.

Blair Cramer Manning – Blair Cramer is probably the only character in soap history, who started out as Asian-American, and then ended up being replaced by a Caucasian actress. Later regimes had fun playing up that little fact.  Blair Daimler as she was called came to town in 1991.  Unbeknownst to everybody, she was Dorian Lord’s niece, conceived when her mother was raped while a patient in a mental institution. That would give anyone a chip on their shoulder! Blair first tried to ruin Dorian by trying to get her to sign a document confessing to the murder of Victor Lord.  She changed her tune when she discovered that Dorian had thought her sister Addie, Blair’s mother, had died.  Blair then decided to go after Asa Buchanan, one of the richest men in town, becoming wife number 5 or 6 but who is counting? The night before her wedding, Blair had sex with Max Holden in barn.  Despite the romp, she married Asa anyway.  Trying to stake a claim on the Buchanan fortune, she faked a pregnancy (this would not be the first time Blair tried this trick). When Asa had a heart attack after founding out the truth, Blair left him to die.  She left town for a while and then returned, taller, blonde and with a southern accent.  Blonde Blair went after town pariah Todd Manning (illegitmate son of Victor Lord, rapist, thug, terrorized Nora Buchanan), after unsuccessful romances with Max Holden and Cord Roberts, beginning one of the most dysfunctional relationships in Soap history.  During their many estrangements, Blair had relationships with Patrick Thornhart, Kevin Buchanan, Sam Rappaport, John McBain and Max Holden (again).  Blair’s weak spot has always been Todd Manning, despite the fact that he sold their son Jack because he was convinced he was fathered by someone else, and told Blair the baby had died.  Like her Aunt Dorian, she’s always been extremely loyal to the Cramer women, defending them to death, even as they squabble amongst themselves.

Lindsay Rappaport – Lindsay was always one of my favorite Scandalous Women on OLTL.  She wasn't amoral or vicious like some of the women on this list.  Lindsay just wanted to be loved.  Unfortunately the mean that she loved either didn't love her back, or due to her insecurities, she manipulated them by lying and scheming.  For instance, telling Bo Buchanan that he was sterile after his son Drew's death, leading his wife Nora to sleep with her old beau and Lindsay's ex-husband to have sex (to give Bo a child to replace Drew).  Then she manipulated the DNA test to make it look like Matthew was Sam's child and not Bo's.  See Lindsay grew up knowing that her father preferred her younger sister Melanie to her, he made no secret of it. Than learning that her husband Sam had never really gotten over his first love, Nora, lead her to have an affair with her brother-in-law. Her rivalry with Nora led to her decision to get back at Nora by stealing her husband Bo. Her hatred of Nora led her to help Colin kidnap and drug Nora until she lost her memory.

Lindsay was one of those women who were lonely and just a little desperate. Sure she shot and killed her ex-husband Sam, but she had been manipulated by Mitch Laurence. And yes, she imprisoned Troy McIver on a giant carnival wheel and left him to die, when she discovered that he was playing her.  Haven't we all had thoughts like those, we just haven't acted on them? Still she loved her two children Will and Jennifer fiercely. And she even once saved her old enemy Nora Hanen Gannon Buchanen from a fire.  Over the years, Lindsay softened and became less manipulative. If only the show had really given the romance between her and RJ Gannon a chance.

Margaret Cochran –A quiet and lonely accountant who worked at Buchanan Enterprises, when she was approached by Todd Manning for dirt on his rival Kevin Buchanan (who had slept with his ex-wife Blair).  Todd, being Todd, led Margaret to believe that he had feelings for her.  Imagine her surprise when she found out that Todd and Blair had reconciled for the umpteenth time. Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned! Margaret, however, was not about to give up on the man of her dreams. She fakes a photo of her and Todd in bed together and shows it to Blair.  Thank god for Photoshop! Blair, coming from a family of mentally unstable females, is not taken in by Margaret’s little art project.  So Margaret kidnaps Todd and Blair’s son, which gets her a one way ticket to St. Anne’s.  Since the mental health professionals in Llanview are easily fooled, Margaret is eventually released. Having spent her time in St. Anne’s re-reading Stephen King’s Misery, Margaret shoots Todd in the knees on his wedding day to Blair, holding him hostage in a remote cabin. Blair, who also must have read Misery, manages to track Margaret to the cabin.  When she tries to save Todd, Margaret locks her in the trunk of a car.  Not content with just kidnapping, she adds rape to her list of crimes.  Todd is eventually rescued, but now Margaret is pregnant with his child which infuriates Todd. When she is found dead, Todd is tried and convicted of her murder and sentenced to die by lethal injection.  But like Jason in the Friday the 13th movies, Margaret is not dead, but alive thus freeing Todd.  Margaret finally gets her comeuppance when she is killed in a car accident.

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