May 16, 2005

Like those of us who can sing like Aretha Franklin or Celine Dion in the shower, I write the most amazing columns while vacuuming or washing dishes.  I'm shocked I have not yet been presented with my mental Pulitzer Prize...  Wait.  There it is.  Just a sec.  OK, got it.  Excellent.  Did a mental press conference while I was at it.  Sadly, any more, when I sit in front of the computer screen for anything other than the spoiler commentary, it's as though some crappy, Ritalin deprived devil child gave my mental etch-a-sketch a good shake.  We have such talent here on this site that most of the time, whatever I was going to say, they have already said, usually as well as or better than I could have myself.  Never let it be said that ol' Katrina is unwilling to delegate.  The more I can sit back and post the quality work of others, the more entertainment bang I get for my buck.

Call it ego.  Call it menopause (which seems to be eating my brain from the inside out, creating quite an impressive cerebral implosion lately).  Call it boredom, but after 7 months, it's time for Katrina to crawl out of the woodwork, thunk the proverbial soap box onto the pavement in the Town Square, hop on it and start barking.  I feel a bit like the Dormouse who sleeps through the tea party and wakes up now and then to mutter something incoherent before diving back into yet another drunken slumber.

General Hospital and One Life to Live go back with me literally for decades.  I was not a Jr Achiever who came in during Luke and Laura's wedding or got drawn into Megan and Jake's romance one boring college day when I was laid up with a sprained ankle I copped in Aspen.  Oh no no no.  I am an O.G., veteran, "Old Skool," hard core long term viewer.  When I was a mere three years old, my mother plopped me onto our old, plaid, hand-me-down couch (not a sofa, not a davenport... it was a couch), a semi-frozen (just enough that there were tiny, tiny ice flecks) 12 oz glass bottle of Dr Pepper (with the 10, 2 and 4 dial on it) in one hand and a barrel-sized bowl of popcorn (not microwaved -  those didn't exist yet - but the kind you dumped into oil and shook like mad) in the other and together, we watched a half hour of OLTL and a half hour of GH.  The day before I gave birth to my first son at the tender age of 16, we sat together on a similar couch in a similar rural house in a different rural town and watched an hour of each, having gone through the short span of time when each show was 45 minutes, thinking it was like a soap buffet.  The day I left for the airport to fly to Guam to live with my brand new husband, we sat together and watched again.  Mind you, we also watched every day in between.  When I went to school, I would run from the bus as fast as I could so she could tell me, in grand hand gestures and excited tones, what happened on One Life to Live (My Mom = one of the first and best soap recap artists), then we'd watch the final 45 minutes of General Hospital together.  When I left home, Mom stopped watching, but I continued.  We knew Howie and Janie Dawson, Peter and Dianna Taylor, Jessie and Phil Brewer, Lee and Meg Baldwin, Joe and Viki Riley, Vinnie and Wanda Woleck and Dave and Eileen Segal like they were our own family. 

When someone asks me why I continue to watch ABC soaps when they have deteriorated so far away from their own personality, that is why.  It's the history I have with them.  I have more experience with these soaps than the entire administrative body of all three shows put together, I'd eagerly wager. 

I started watching AMC in 2001, a year after founding Eye on Soaps, mostly so I'd have a clue what I was writing about on the site.  I tried to get into it when it first started, but I couldn't find the momentum.  It was like standing at the edge of double dutch jump rope twirlers, never finding my opening to jump in.  This time, I did it out of necessity and now there is so much about it that I wish I'd seen. 

I used to say that soap operas are like reading a book that never ends. There are exciting, riveting chapters and filler chapters, slow chapters and real page turners.  I love'em, I'll admit it.  Never was that brought home to me so clearly as two years ago when I was at the GH Fan Club Weekend Main Luncheon and Debbie Morris, a dear friend of mine and President of the GH Fan Club, announced that the WSB was on the premises.  Into the ballroom walked John Reilly (Sean Donelly) and Tristan Rogers (Robert Scorpio).  I about had a fucking heart attack.  I'm am a grown woman, dripping with class and oozing cool from every pore.  Nothing moves me.  I am a rock.  I am an iiiiisland.  I screamed and I cried and it was Beatlemania all over again for a normally collected 41 year old woman.  It is hilarious in retrospect to see half of the audience on their feet, screaming and crying and whistling and jumping up and down like idiots while the rest of the people were saying, "Who the hell is that?"  That was where the men were separated from the boys, so to speak.  You know we were looking down the aisle to see if Finola was also on the way. 

"Blithering" is such a tiny, insignificant little word for the sounds emitting from me.  I have no idea what they said.  They were dressed as "Men in Black," complete with the basic black suits and black sunglasses.  I get goosebumps talking about it now.

I'm not an idiot.  Really.  Truly.  Even though I run a fansite that honors ABC soaps and even though all of my wonderful staff demonstrates amazing dedication to and appreciation of the shows, we are not ga-ga over particular characters or actors.  We all love the show as a composite endeavor rather than focusing on specific people.  That's quite a feat since there are something like 13-14 of us.  Sure, we have our likes and dislikes.  I am likely the most fickle bitch in the bunch with Sage as my closest competition.  My affections wax and wane according to storylines, quirks of the actors, the steam they put into the performance on a particular day, how hot they looked at the last event... any number of factors can buy or sell my appreciation.  I didn't pay much attention at all to Ric until I met Rick Hearst and then he was one of my favorite characters.  Ditto for Greg Vaughan.  I used to love Sonny and was a proper little SonnySap until I was knocked down by over-exposure and... and... well, bad writing.  Now I can take him or leave him.  Loved Nora forever, but she's turned into such an oblivious sap now that she makes me crazy.  Loved Marcie and Al, can't stand Marcie and Michael...  With me, you're only as good as your last scene.

What I'm saying is that I am not the kind of fan that is so invested in one character or actor that if they leave the show or break up with their leading paramour, I call in sick to work (meaning I don't get up out of bed and walk over to the computer, but you get the idea).   Not that there's anything wrong with the people who are that wedded to one actor, one character or one couple.  It's just not my gig. 

So imagine my surprise when there I was, eyes bugged out, nearly exploding with joy and tears, little fat fists clutched to my quivering lips and feet that were, independently of ME and one another, each doing their own little freelance Riverdance jig.

Those of us in the "club" who knew what was going on could not communicate in words.  Caveman, guttural sounds that originated somewhere in our uteruses (uteri?) and flew out of our mouths unbidden, sort of like moose mating calls, were about the full extent of our linguistic abilities.  It sounded like all of the elephants at the zoo were mating at once in some bizarre, 300 part harmony. 

Anyway, you get the picture.

That's the effect that these shows have on us.  You might THINK you are a paralegal, an office manager, a doctor or a high powered CEO.  If you're a soap fan, you have an Achilles heel that is so vulnerable that even you don't know the power it possesses over you.  Don't even think you're cool.  The first time you see Ted King in a black suit, you'll learn otherwise.  The first time Blake Gibbons puts his hands on you to give to the patented soap cuddle for a picture, you'll learn exactly how suave you are not.  The first time Maurice Benard flashes his dimples at you in person, you'll find out what a goon you really are.  Trekkers need to get the hell out of the way because they are rank amateur fans compared to us. 

No.  Really.  I'm cool.  They're just that good.

There is a very good reason why these people make the money they do and have the jobs they do.  It's like they are from the Planet Perfect or something.  All of the women are so, so, so tiny.  They're like little porcelain dolls.  I was walking behind Robin Christopher and I wanted to reach my hand out to her hips and verify that yes, her waist was literally as wide as my pinky tip to my thumb tip with on hand spread wide (I didn't because I thought I might get arrested).  If the camera adds 20 pounds, these girls must have at least 2-3 cameras on them. 

The men are just absolute, sold-their-soul-to-Satan gorgeous in a really bizarre way.  When you were a freshman and you looked at the senior guys and thought about how handsome some of them were, you were about 20 levels off from this.  I mean, these guys will make you go through puberty all over again.  I was going up an outside staircase at the Sportsmans Lodge to get to the upper level and when I looked up, I saw absolutely the finest, tightest, sweetest jean encased (male) ass ever.  It brought tears to my eyes.  When I got to the top of the stairs, he turned around as though he'd forgotten something downstairs and kabam!!  I ran directly into John J. York, possessor of said fine ass.  His eyes were so blue they didn't even look real.  His smile was wide and broad and very genuine.  He reached out his hands and braced my shoulders and still I almost tumbled back down the stairs, trying to get my breath back into my chest.  He flashed his brilliant smile and said, "Careful there."  I looked right back at him and said, "unnnn hunnnn.  i be kerful. aaaahh heeeeah  aaaaa heeeah aaaa heeeaaah."  (Immediately, my name was Katrina Bodine)  Every ounce of dignity left me and I was reduced to being Mortimer Snerd with boobs. 

Likewise, there are stars who are often snotty and shitty to the fans and that also colors how I see them and their character.  It's interesting how the two are intertwined. 

As I watch our shows in their current incarnation with 40 years invested in them, it's hard to know what to feel.  I remember when OLTL and GH used to take turns being interesting.  I still watched them both (the glory of VHS got me through my years in the work force before "retiring" into motherhood), but inevitably, one or the other would catch my attention more so.  I have followed both shows through some real turkey times.  It's really surprising what a Head Writer who is tapped for ideas can come up with that while it might look good on paper, turns out to be a mess on screen.  We've weathered our Eternias, our Casey the Aliens, our punchouts in the Cabana, our grinding lap dances on the thighs of elderly men and our Loon Lake whack jobs.  All too often, we've wished that Pam would wake up and find Bobby, alive and well, in the shower, rendering a few whole shitty seasons into nothing more than a bad dream.

Many would say that we are there now.  Like all things regarding soaps, it's a matter of perspective.  I can say that if we are in a lull, soaps still draw the most dedicated, rabid and excitable fans in the history of entertainment.  If *I* can be turned into a shrieking, Olive Oyl ingénue over a couple of quintigenerian guys in black suits and dark glasses, imagine what happens to the really unbalanced folks... the Nurse Bettys in the viewing audience.

Oh yes, they are there... they of the dim-eyed, pasty-faced, slack-jawed expressions of awe.  They are the equal of the kid who tries to trim his ears with the hedge-clippers to given them Vulcan points.  If you ever want to people watch, just grab a table at a soap event and open your eyes.  It's almost more interesting than the shows themselves.  I'm not talking about the usually serene and normal folks like myself who go nuts when the WSB comes into the room.  I'm talking about people who think this shit is real.  They talk about the characters as if they were personally drinking 40's with them on the street corner the night before.  It's skeery (but highly entertaining).

Lull or not, the past couple of weeks or so of the shows definitely got my attention.  I found myself being drawn into the "Michael Murdered AJ" headline, despite my best efforts.  I tried to tell myself it was ludicrous.  (Anyone who thinks Dylan Cash can't emotionally handle the scenes where Michael realized he killed his birth father, I'm sorry, does NOT know Dylan Cash!)  I tried to tell myself it was a stupid plot device.  I was and I am riveted.  Reese, Carly, Jason, Michael, Sonny and Ric had me by the short hairs today.  The exchange between Sonny and Ric in the interrogation room today had my eyes burning with tears.  Seeing Jason midwife Michael through his realization had me absolutely gobsmacked.  Watching Marcie choke up while singing today got me boo-hooing and I didn't even LIKE Jen.  Just a few minutes before, I was standing on a table like Norma Rae, holding up a sign that said, "Bullshit" because here were all the same people who tagged Jennifer as Llanview's Whore, sniffling and pawing the air, talking about what a sweet spirit she was and how she was an angel come to earth.  When Marcie started to lose it, I was blubbering right along with her.   Phoebe's funeral (memorial service, whatever, I'm old and we had funerals) had me worked up and I didn't even KNOW her.  By the time I started watching, Ruth Warrick was only brought out for weddings and charity balls.  Still, I craved knowing her just from seeing the wonderful retrospective and great old footage. 

Say what you will about our current regime and trust me, I've said plenty myself, but what I was watching this sweeps month was 99 & 44/100% purrrre soap. 

Now I can't wait to get all goony and giggling at the GH Fan Club Weekend this year!  If you're there, find the Eye on Soaps table and say hello!  I'll be the one with strands of Blake Gibbons' hair taped to my forehead.