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News for the week of 24-Sep-2012

by Carol Banks Weber

It all started with an innocent interview assignment for Pop Dose: do a profile on OLTL music director Paul Glass. That assignment resulted in a nice March 27, 2009 feature, a friendship between reporter Jeff Giles and his subject, and Giles’ return to a soap habit first fostered by his mom.

Well, one more important thing. Giles got inspired to do an oral history of the soap opera. “The more I thought about it, the more I believed someone should compile a chronicle of the show – a tribute to the craft and dedication that went into what was largely an unheralded series in a maligned medium,” he told me. “And when OLTL was canceled, I figured I might as well get over my fear of attempting to, you know, WRITE A BOOK and just go ahead with it.”

Giles has so far spent a year comprehensively interviewing executives, writers, cast, and crew – many well-known to fans, many not so well-known but equally important – for his OLTL oral history project. He’s put up sneak-peek excerpts of the interviews amassed so far in his OLTL Book in progress onFacebook. Hillary B. Smith (Nora) gives hint to the discontent she felt on behalf of her trashed character during a dark time in her OLTL life. Erika Slezak (Viki) described what it was like to play out a very soapy fantasy story for serious actors: “So here were these two grown men, respected actors and directors, digging a hole in the studio floor to find the entrance to Eterna behind little papier-mâché rocks.” Roscoe Born (Mitch) enthused the joys of playing an unrepentant monster: “The process wasn't always fun, but Jesus, what could be more fun than playing a guy like Mitch? The entire experience of a day where, you know, you pop out of a coffin?”

And Giles has loads more to interview. “My hit list is still fairly long – I'm speaking with Gina Tognoni (Kelly), Margaret Klenck (Edwina “Cookie” Lewis Dane), Lee Warrick (Julie Siegel), John Brotherton (Jared), Brian Kerwin (Charlie), Susie Bedsow Horgan (former executive producer), and Jerry verDorn (Clint) in the next few days. I've already spoken with Jim DePaiva (Max). I've reached out to Stickney's (R.J.) reps, but haven't gotten a response yet.”

While Giles’ source list is impressive, long, and fruitful, the Pop Dose writer hasn’t always been successful in getting everybody to talk. A handful of the actors have turned him down. The names may surprise you: “Ken Meeker (Rafe Garreston), Nathan Purdee (Hank), Andrea Evans (Tina), Kim Zimmer (Echo), Jason Tam (Markko), Roger Howarth (Todd)... Those are the ones that stand out off the top of my head. Part of the reason for starting to publicize the project now is to maybe encourage reconsideration on their part – to demonstrate that a lot of people are a part of this.”

Nailing down these interviews hasn’t been easy. Think of the exhaustive manhunt—a lot like finding a needle in haystack, or sorting through publicist/manager red tape—not to mention the transcribing nightmare to come (think 300-plus pages so far and counting!). Giles explained the arduous but rewarding labor of love: “I started in January (Tony Call/Herb Callison was my first interview), and have been talking to people ever since. Some folks have been impossible to find and others have disappointingly turned down my requests, but for the most part, everyone has been tremendously warm, honest, and down-to-earth about their experiences.”

Once the interviews are completed, Giles means to work on the final product. He’s not sure whether to go for the traditional publisher or do what every writer has been doing, self-publish. “I don't have a publisher or a target date for the book's release; I've been doing this all by myself on spec, and once I have all the interviews out of the way, I'll start untangling a chronological/thematic narrative from the quotes and shop a couple of sample chapters around to potential publishers. In the end, though, I suspect I'll self-release it – that's what seems to make the most sense for new writers in the current marketplace.” Giles’ oral history book – working title, “Llanview in the Afternoon: An Oral History of One Life to Live” – will tell the true story of this ABC daytime drama in the words of those who were there, along the lines of an Andrew Shales’ “Live From New York, An Uncensored History of Saturday Night Live,” and James Andrew Miller’s “Those Guys Have All the Fun: Inside the World of ESPN.”

In the meantime, check out Jeff Giles’ “Llanview in the Afternoon…” on Facebook for news updates and sample quotes.

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