Monday, June 28, 2010

Daytime Emmys 2010

I don't pretend to know how the votes are determined for awards shows. There's no accounting for taste as evidenced by the many shows I've loved that have been cancelled. And any given year, for any category of any awards show, there are no doubt several nominees who are deserving of any particular award and probably a few deserving of nominations who were neglected.

But I still wanted to see Crystal Chappell and Beth Chamberlin win Emmys last night.

I've been a fan of Crystal's since she was on One Life to Live as Maggie Carpenter. Her character was memorable because she wasn't a typical soap heroine and she played the character differently than most soap actresses would have. She was more real and I loved that. I was sorry when she left the show. But I did not follow her to Guiding Light when she moved on to that soap. I watched All My Children and One Life to Live whenever I could and didn't want to add more at the time.

It wasn't until February of 2009 that I watched Guiding Light for the first time because some of my online friends had told me about the wonderful way the story of the relationship of Olivia & Natalia was being played out on that show. I decided I'd tune in and see what Crystal was up to and maybe I'd watch, just for her scenes.

What I saw took my breath away. It was the day when Olivia was in a panic about Phillip coming back to town and Natalia had to get right up in her face to help her calm down. Grasping her hands and making Olivia look her right in the eye, Natalia told her "Trust me. We won't let anything happen to your daughter." I was amazed at the intensity between Crystal Chappell and Jessica Leccia and with the way the production style enhanced the story, bringing the viewer right into the room with the characters in a way that other soaps did not. I was sold, a confirmed "Otalia" fan.

What really surprised me, though, was what happened when I watched the rest of the show. The story was all about Coop's death. Now, I didn't know who Coop was or what his relationship was to other characters in the scenes or who they were to each other. Mother, daughter, sister, son, etc. didn't matter to me yet. I knew I wasn't crazy about the green walls of the hospital and the cheap look of the sets, but I didn't notice that for long. I was completely swept up in the remarkable performances of the actors. I didn't know who Buzz was or what his history with his son was all about, but I hurt for him as he watched his son die. I didn't know who Beth was or what had happened between her and Coop before that day, but my heart broke for her. I wanted to tune in the next day to make sure she'd be okay and to see how she and Buzz would rebuild their lives after such a profound loss. Again, the production model put me right in the middle of the scene and brought it all home to me much more effectively than the traditional style of other shows.

I was a Guiding Light fan.

I never missed a day of the show after that and was continually impressed by the quality of the writing, the performances of the actors and the creativity of the producers and directors as they brought us the show in new and different ways, challenged by their limited budget. That they were all able to present such compelling stories, such memorable characters, day after day under such constraints is remarkable. Other shows with many times their budget can't seem to get it right.

Which brings me to the Daytime Emmys that aired last night.

I do appreciate the fact that somebody, anybody, was able to bring us the Daytime Emmys and on a major network, too. But it was still sad to see that no network bothered to show any red carpet footage of this major industry event. It was also sad that there was no memorial segment to give tribute to stars like Frances Reid, James Mitchell and Helen Wagner after all the years they have entertained and comforted and challenged us.

I have always looked forward to seeing a glimpse of performers on shows I don't usually watch when the nominees are presented, but last night, no clips were shown as the names were announced. Instead we had a commercial for the city of Las Vegas and the travel industry. I'm glad they paid tribute to Dick Clark, a man who has truly changed the industry. More than just American Bandstand, he has produced numerous game shows that have aired on daytime television and this program was not just about soap operas. But I wonder if cutting just a bit from this segment would have left enough time for a decent tribute to As The World Turns, a show that has been a constant for CBS and millions of viewers for over 50 years. The tribute that was presented was less than Guiding Light received last year, which wasn't nearly enough. And although I hated the way the ovation for the cast of Guiding Light was rudely cut short by a commercial break last year, at least they were allowed to take the stage and be recognized by their peers. Not As The World Turns.

I was delighted to see Agnes Nixon honored and although I would love to have seen more time given to this segment I thought they made the most of the time they had. Susan Lucci's emotional speech on behalf of this amazing woman who had literally made all the difference in her life was perfect. And to see Agnes herself stand on the stage and deliver her own (beautifully written, of course!) acceptance speech brought a tear to my eye.

But I still would have liked to see Crystal Chappell win an Emmy last night.

Every soap opera fan can name two or three unforgettable moments in their favorite soaps, performances that are seared into our memories, some because of the pivotal point in the story, some due to the actor's performances, or maybe both. I think the one scene that has been played over and over again as an example of the best soaps have to offer is the scene of Karen Wolek's meltdown on the witness stand, as played by Judith Light on One Life To Live, a scene that is still used in acting classes.

Crystal Chappell's performance as Olivia Spencer, finally declaring her love to Natalia is one of the most riveting performances I've seen on television, daytime or primetime. I read the spoilers, I knew it was going to happen, I could feel the tension building during the scene. But when she screamed "I'm in love with you" I still came up out of my chair and screamed, too. And the way her hand shook as she said it again, this time with a whisper, laid bare the soul of this powerful woman, suddenly powerless in the face of true love.

Crystal connected powerfully with the hearts of the viewers as she portrayed Olivia Spencer, one of the genres most memorable characters. And isn't that what actors are supposed to do?

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

A Daddy Story

Once upon a time when I was a little girl my daddy told me a story.

It was bedtime and he stooped down while I climbed up on the couch and reached my arms up as high as I could, all the way up to his shoulders. He grabbed my hands and pulled me up the rest of the way and I wrapped my arms around his neck and peaked over his shoulder as he gave me a piggy back ride down the hall and around the corner all the way to my room and swung me around to land softly in the middle of the great big bed I shared with my older sister. And when I was snuggled under the quilt my grandmother had made he began the story in his slow Texas drawl with that rumbling baritone voice of his....

O-o-o-nce upon a ti-i-i-me ....when I-I-I-I was a little bo-o-oy....

I was transported to a different place and time and tried to imagine what the world looked like through my father's eyes when he was young. The story was always about something silly that happened to him and it always ended with a giggle.

And I went to sleep feeling safe and warm and the world was full of fun.

I thought a lot about my daddy as Father's Day approached. Not only because of Father's Day, but because he'd just told us he'd been diagnosed with follicular lymphoma and we were waiting to find out more details about his condition.

I had just made a donation in support of Crystal Chappell and Michelle Carter as they ran a half-marathon to help raise funds for Leukemia/Lymphoma research when I heard about this. At the time I was thinking of my neice who was diagnosed with Leukemia when she was four. She just got her masters degree and started a new job in her field. I had no idea my father would be facing this in only a matter of days.

I typed the news of Dad's diagnosis into Twitter and Facebook, reaching out to friends I talk to every day online to share my concerns with them and ask for prayers. I was overwhelmed by the response. In a matter of minutes people all over the world were praying for my dad. Hundreds of people, from all walks of life, offered me their support and I'm grateful for each one of them and the many ways they have blessed me. During the next few days, as we waited for more news, they continued to ask about him and offer me encouragement.

There are few things my father enjoys more than meeting people and making new friends. I can't count the number of times I waited with my family, long after a church service or banquet had concluded, while Dad was still talking with someone, hearing his booming laughter ring out even as the lights were being turned off in the building. Well, usually, the others were waiting in the car while I was tagging along with Dad because I wanted to meet them, too! Maybe it was on one of these occasions when he told me to live life on tip toe, like a little kid peering over the crowd at the parade to see what all the excitement is about.

People and their stories fascinate Dad and he's been collecting them both all his life. It's only fitting that he's on Twitter and Facebook now. Not many almost-81-year-olds can say that, I'll bet.

I remember when my dad first told me he thought I could be a writer. I don't recall how the conversation started exactly. We were driving home from church and I was leaning up from the back seat, peaking over his shoulder as he drove. He looked at me in the rear view mirror as though he'd never considered the possibility before and said, "I think you'd be a good writer. Yeah, I can see you doing that!" He talked about how I noticed things and that's something a writer does.

Now he says he shudders to think of what stories I might tell about him in that book I'll write someday!

On the Friday before Father's Day, my brother called me. He was visiting Dad and got him on the phone with me and my sister so we could all hear the oncologist's report at once. This story has a happy ending. Dad's lymphoma is the "easily manageable, slow growing kind". They'll do an MRI and CT scan, just to be sure, but no treatment is required. He'll go back in six months for a check-up and they'll keep an eye on him.

Once again, we listened as Dad told us his story.

And there was laughter.

And I went to sleep feeling safe and warm

... and the world is full of fun.

I can see it if I stand on tip toe.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

There's One In Every Family

I got a phone call from my Aunt Becky today. She is perhaps the most "twinkly" of all the women in my family. (Read my previous entry in this blog if you don't understand that reference.)

Aunt Becky is single and never had children of her own so she has always borrowed her nieces and nephews for child-like play time. My family lived in Dallas and when I was a preschooler she was in seminary in Ft. Worth. She later moved to Dallas where she lived for most of my childhood. I recall clearly my earliest memories of her.

Here was this woman who looked remarkably like my own mother, but she was ...bigger. I'm referring to her presence, not her size. She told wonderful, loud stories with funny facial expressions and silly voices and big gestures and her laughter filled up the room.

Most grown-ups who visited, including relatives, would speak to the other grown-ups most of the time and eventually get around to asking us kids questions like "What do you want to be when you grow up?" before returning to their conversations as my brother and sister and I went back outside or to our rooms to play. But Aunt Becky would get right down on the floor and play games with us for hours. I remember being fascinated by her and watching her to see what she'd do next.

When Aunt Becky was attending seminary in Ft. Worth she would occasionally have to take time out from our visit to work on her homework. One day she looked up from her work to see me standing at the door, just watching her. She said, "Donna, I can't play right now, but if you want to come in and keep me company we can play when I'm finished." And I did. I sat quietly and watched her while she finished her class assignment and then we went back to playing. Since then I have always been her "Company Girl."

Aunt Becky and I had an exciting adventure one day when I was about four or five years old. She had taken me with her to go pick up the last of her things at the dorm in Ft. Worth as she was moving to Dallas. I recall the big, stately buildings on the campus and the map on the floor in the enormous rotunda and the big smiles on the faces of her friends as she introduced me to them.

The rain started on the way home and it came down in sheets. We couldn't see the car on the Turnpike in front of us and the windows kept fogging up. This was back before laws about kids riding in the backseat, before most cars even had seat belts. I spent most of our drive back to Dallas jumping from the front seat to the back seat to wipe off the inside of the windshields so Aunt Becky could see better.

Then we both heard and felt a loud bump. I jumped to the back seat to see what it was and I saw a trash can in the road, the big metal kind we had in our backyard by the alley But this one was sort of ...crunched in the middle. Apparently, we'd just run over it. Now in some families that might be told and retold as a scary story. But when Aunt Becky tells it we always end up laughing about how ridiculous we must have looked with me climbing back and forth over the seats to wipe off the windows and her running over trash cans.

In my family, almost every story ends up being funny, whether it started out that way or not.

Back to the phone call….

During my conversation with Aunt Becky we somehow landed on the topic of my grandmother's colonoscopies. (I chose not to retrace our steps in an attempt to discover how we arrived at this topic. Some things are better left alone.) Aunt Becky began to giggle and made me get pen and paper ready before continuing her story, saying "You're going to want to write this one down!"

Aunt Becky helped take care of her mother/my grandmother during her declining years and told me about the last time she took her in for a colonoscopy. Afterwards, as they were leaving my grandmother turned to her and said, "If I'm growing anything in there, I'm takin' it with me. I'm not goin' through that again!" Aunt Becky and I collapsed in laughter as I struggled to dutifully write down that quote for posterity.

I could just see the twinkle in my grandmother's eye as she said that.

And in Aunt Becky's as she told the story.


I don't know how old I will be when I breathe my last...

or how feeble I may become before I get there...

but I hope I never lose the ability

to find the funny.

Thanks, Aunt Becky!

I love you!

Sunday, June 06, 2010

An Old Woman

I spent 48 hours today shopping for a new pair of glasses. That's not a typo. It really did feel like 48 hours and I'm sure my husband and daughter would agree with me as I took them along to get their opinions. I don't know why they wouldn't be endlessly entertained watching me take one pair of frames after another off the display, put them on, then scowl at myself in a mirror, finally putting them back in disgust. You'd think they had better things to do on a Saturday afternoon.

I've discovered that all the world wants flat, rectangular glasses. My face, however wants nice little round ones.

It told me that every time I put on something rectangular or square. I found a few with rounded corners but most of those had a shape that was vaguely reminiscent of the cat's eye glasses I saw on my substitute teachers when I was a kid...some complete with rhinestones. Really.

I can't explain why cat's eye shaped glasses with rhinestones in the corners (especially blue ones) would ever be thought to enhance a woman's natural beauty but to each his or her own.

I think the problem is that I don't want people to look and me and think, "What a pretty pair of glasses!"

I want people to look at me and think "What a pretty woman!" That's pretty much my philosophy where hair and make-up are concerned, too, but that's another story.

My goal is to find a pair of glasses that will help me see better and won't get in the way of me as I look out or of others as they look in. I'm pretty sure I'm over-thinking the whole process.

But the frames I have now are ones I picked out about 10 years ago. I've gotten new lenses put in them a couple of times but they're worn out now, barely holding together, hence the search for something new. It's quite possible that the next pair of glasses I pick out might also be worn for 10 years and how old will I be then?

This has all made me consider a question that has occurred to me before: What kind of old woman do I want to be?

I think of those little old ladies I've known who wore those blue cat's eye glasses with the rhinestones on the corners. Some were less than gracious. Some were unexpected blessings.

I've seen old faces with perpetual frowns frozen firmly in place, eyes that darted about uneasily as they tried to anticipate the next disappointment, faces that sagged as though all the energy of life had left them years ago.

I've seen women whose energy into their 70s made me wonder what they must have been like in their 20s, women who took a backseat most of their lives who stood up sometime in their 50s and changed the world. I've seen women who never achieved great things on the world's stage, never accumulated great wealth, didn't see all their dreams come true...but you could still see their eyes twinkle with the wonder of a little child, as though they shared a secret with God.

And maybe they did.

Maybe they knew what was really important in life...

That each day brings with it new possibilities.

New opportunities...

to laugh...

to forgive...

to love...

to make a difference.

I want to be one of those women


...when I grow up.