When AW was cancelled, we asked Producer R.
Scott Collishaw -- who had been with the soap
for 13 years -- to keep a diary of its last days.
He sent it to the magazine in installments, and
when all was said and done, the diary ran about 10
pages. Obviously, it had to be edited for space
in the magazine, but here is the unedited version.
Fasten your seat belts -- it was a bumpy ride.
April 12, 1999
I was sitting at my desk in my office reading scripts. I was just beginning to get the feeling back in my jaw from a visit to the dentist. Little did I know, a different kind of numbness was about to begin.
It was about 1:15 PM. Michele DeVito, Chris Goutman's executive secretary, was out on a vacation day. Her replacement, Sandy, had been filling in for her and other office personnel for quite some time, so she was aware of all that was happening. Still, I chuckled silently when she nonchalantly called out, "Chris, I have Susan Lee on the line."
My heart skipped a beat ... just one. I continued to read, trying not to appear panicked and fighting the urge to go and listen at his door. He was in his office with [P&G Executive] Mickey Dwyer-Dobbin, with the door closed for about 5 minutes.
Suddenly, his door opened. He strode out of his office, head bowed, and I heard him start down the stairs. In my head, I started counting backwards from 10.
When I got to one, the announcement came over the PA system. "Everyone in the building, please report to Studio 1 immediately. Chris has an announcement to make." The same message repeated again.
I slowly rose and made my way down to the Studio floor. Others were doing the same. No one spoke. We all just calmly walked, with little nervous smiles on our faces. It was the moment we'd all been waiting for.
Much has been reported about how the announcement was made in the Cemetery set. Actually, it was in the aisle that runs between the sets on either side of the studio. I, appropriately enough, was standing right next to the Grandfather clock in the Cory Living Room. And right next to Victoria Wyndham.
Chris was in the center, his head down. After a few moments to allow all to arrive, he lifted his head and spoke. "It's bad news. We've been cancelled." There was dead silence. He lowered his head again. For a long moment no one spoke. Or breathed. Chris said , "I'm going to try to get through this." He lifted his head again, and louder, with an edge in his voice, said again, "I'm going to try to get through this."
Now there was anger in his voice. "I just received a call from Susan Lee. We are going off the air June 25. Sunset Beach has gotten a 6 month pick up. We will try to wrap up storylines as quickly as possible. Out last tape date will be in late May. She said that we don't fit the profile NBC wants for its Daytime lineup."
At that, a loud guffaw erupted from Ms. Wyndham. It was awkward, but somehow oddly appropriate. Chris went on. "I know this is hard. I know this is sad. But we must continue to be proud of what we have accomplished here. You people are the best, and have worked too hard, too long to give up now. So let's take this show out with our heads held high, proud of the 35 years we have been able to make this show great."
By now, Mickey had arrived on the floor. She then spoke briefly, saying how proud Procter and Gamble was of us, and what a wonderful job we had done for 35 years. She was obviously very emotional, fighting tears as she spoke.
Then, as abruptly as it started, it ended. We all began to file out of the studio. Some were in shock. Some began to cry. Some just stared vacantly. It was odd to say the least.
As I headed for the door, I heard Vicky behind me say, "Are you going outside to have a cigarette?"
"Yeah, I guess", I replied.
"I'll join you," she said.
So there I found myself with Vicky Wyndham, Rachel, the star of our show, the woman who I first got to know when I was a viewer in 1974, out in front of the Studio having a cigarette.
My feelings at first were decidedly mixed. My first thought, honestly, was of the fans. Oh my God, the fans. I had been one myself for years before I ever got a job on the show. They had really stuck with us through everything; some very tough years, the deaths, the almost cancellations, the firings. What a die-hard bunch. But I understood their loyalty. Soaps are very special. Ask anyone who started watching one as a kid. They are family.
Vicky turned and said something like, "This decision was made a long time ago. [NBC has] been living with it."
I knew she was probably right. Still, I was amazed at how unsurprised I felt. Maybe it's because those of us who had been through this for the past 10 years had all settled into a kind of numbness when it came to network decisions. In so many ways, it wasn't unexpected at all. The writing had been on the wall for so long. The analogy I came up with was this:
"I feel like Sysiphus. You know, that guy in Greek mythology who is condemned by the Gods to roll that huge boulder up the mountain for all eternity? And he never gets to the top? Well, I think we just stepped aside and let the boulder roll down the hill. At least, we can just walk away now."
Vicky nodded. "Exactly," she said. "The fight is over."
April 13, 1999
Now the hard part begins. It still hasn't completely sunk in. People cry, people are sad, yet we still have to put out a show every day. For a little while, at least.
There were some light moments. We work in a very old building. One of the worst aspects was the phone system. Very 1950's. It was a complex mess, and often on breaks and at lunch hour, it was hard to get an outside line if too many people were trying to use the phone at once. Throughout yesterday and today, it was virtually impossible. We all laughed about it. 150 people all trying to line up the next job as soon as possible. People calling agents, parents, loved ones... and still trying to do their jobs.
Every aspect of our jobs suddenly took on new meaning. Was it the last time I would do this or that? Is it the last time I will see these two actors in a scene together? What happens to the sets, props, costumes? Everything became so clear, so focused. One minute not caring at all. The next, caring so much it hurt.
Not a fun way to work.
April 14, 1999
I was in the booth today. Chris was directing. All in all, not a bad day. But all I could think about was the task before me at the end of the day.
We had scheduled a Cast Photo shoot at the end of taping. Cast photos are taken rarely because of the headaches involved in scheduling them. I have been with the show 12 years and in that time I have scheduled three. We had planned this before the announcement and we all thought we should go through with it for posterity. It would be the final photo, the final cast of ANOTHER WORLD. As the time neared, we were having second thoughts.
First, we all hadn't been together yet. Some actors who were not in Monday, had found out by phone, word of mouth, from their agents. Now, suddenly, there they were. The whole cast decked out in tuxedos and long, formal gowns. [Costume Designer] Shawn Dudley had done a magnificent job. Everyone look so beautiful, so classy, so timeless. I had insisted from the start that this would be a class act. The kind of photo they took at MGM back in the Fifties. We had risers set up against a large white, curved curtain. The photographer was on a high ladder. I had made up a floor plan of where I wanted people to stand. I began to round up the actors.
"All right people," I shouted, "the sooner we get started, the sooner we can all go home."
"What if we don't want to go home," someone muttered.
That was it. Suddenly we all felt the weight of what we were doing. Watching those actors smile and pose for the camera was an amazing sight. I have never been as proud of them as I was in that moment. Somehow we all got through it. There was a lot of laughing, suprisingly little crying, and a lot of off color jokes ... mostly at the expense of a certain network. It seemed as if everyone in the building stayed around that night. Toward the end, Linda Dano, Steve Schnetzer, Tom Eplin and a few others came over and said to me, "You should really be in this photo."
I took a breath to keep myself from crying. Soon, everyone just rushed up onto the risers. Staff people, publicity people, crew members, the xerox operators and cleaning people, the security staff. We all just hugged each other, mugged for the camera, laughed and held on for dear life.
April 16, 1999
The buzz has begun.
From the internet to regular phone lines, everyone is talking about ABC or some other Cable network picking up the show. Honestly, I didn't know what to think. Obviously, there was a part of me, way deep down, that wanted to believe it was possible. The rest of me just shut it out. I didn't want to get my hopes up. They had been dashed too many times before.
Calls have been coming in all week. People I hadn't spoken to in years. Old cast members, past producers, directors, writers, friends who had watched the show for years, and members of the press who I have come to know and love over the years. Everyone says the same thing. "Why? Why this show that has been on for so long, and is still higher rated than the other show? It doesn't make sense."
Note to anyone who has to do this in the future: Don't ask these questions. It just makes it harder on us who are supposed to know, but are asking ourselves the same questions.
April 24, 1999
Today is the Fan Club Luncheon. No one planned it to be the last one.
I have been to all of them the last 12 years except one. Last year, after the firing of Charles Keating, things were just too raw. We all had such mixed feelings, and the fans were so upset, it just seemed prudent to let them express their hurt and anger with each other.
This year was different. We all wanted to
express our hurt and anger, and surprisingly,
our hope that maybe there was life in the show
yet. Vicky started the ball rolling with a
rousing speech about how the fate of the show
was in their hands. Keep writing, faxing, and
e-mailing ABC, she said, as there seemed to be
interest from them about continuing the show.
I was dubious, to say the least, but it made
everyone feel better.
She then passed the microphone to each of the actors and asked them to say a few words. (This was a marked departure from previous years when a wonderful, funny, and oftentimes, crudely staged Revue with skits and songs was presented. Anyone who has been there can tell you how hilarious and warm these shows were. Many great memories. Not this year.)
Joe Barbara started things off, though he was not prepared for it, and thanked the fans for their loyalty and perseverance. Then Jensen Buchanan came forward. She just lost it. And so did I.
Until that point, I hadn't really been mourning the loss of the show. Maybe I was too busy being self-involved, worrying about when I would find another job. Or just working day to day with blinders on. Trying to be strong for everyone else in the building. I was one of their leaders. They looked to me for guidance. And hope.
This was different. It was my day off. I was free to just be a fan.
What followed was torture. Each actor spoke, some eloquently (Ellen Wheeler), some from the heart (Anna Stuart, Steven Schnetzer), and many through tears. Henry Simmons just blew everyone away. He was so emotional, I can't believe that anyone in that room (800 plus strong) wasn't crying.
I just let the tears course down my cheeks. I couldn't hold back any longer. It was time to mourn.
Later, Chris Goutman invited many of us to go around the corner to a local pub. He has been so sensitive and caring with all of us. Many remember him from when he was a director years ago. Some only know him for the few months that he has been Executive Producer. Either way, everyone has been affected by the depth of his caring, his dedication to excellence, and the way he is taking a personal interest in each of our futures. This man is a genius. Daytime TV needs him. Badly.
April 26, 1999
Chris called me in today. He surprised me by saying the rumors of going to ABC had been true. They had been in talks and wanted very badly to make some kind of a deal. He said the talks had stopped. There would be no deal. No one's fault. Just not enough time to pull anything real together. Too little, too late.
I was glad I hadn't gotten my hopes up. Much.
April 28, 1999
The feelings of sadness and anger flare up now and again. None moreso than when we get finished taping an exceptional scene.
We were taping in Carlino's today. A highly emotional and complicated scene with Paulina, Joe, Remy, Nick, Toni, and Josie. It is when Paulina is being arrested for Grant's murder. What tremendous acting. All of the actors are giving it their all. The scene runs the gamut; tears, anger, fear, urgency, and good conflict. It was a long scene. The actors were so charged up. It's almost as if they are afraid to not do justice to the wonderful words and scenario the writer's had come up with. The scene ends. There is silence in the booth and on the floor.
I turn to Chris Goutman and say, "Should we send a copy of this scene to NBC?"
"Why," he asks?
"To show them what great soap opera is all about."
Great actors. Great teamwork. I am so delighted that the press has been talking about the great acting that has always been a part of Another World. It is truly our greatest legacy.
May 4, 1999
Surprisingly, a day like all the others.
The party this evening was simple, low-key, and tinged with much sadness. All the major players were there: P&G executives, the Press, most of the actors, staff and crew people. It was simply for us. No guests. It was nice for us all to have a chance to remember, to celebrate, and to honor 35 years of rich history.
There were speeches of course. Ms. Wyndham delivered an elaborate metaphor about a cockroach living in her dressing room for 27 years. I'm afraid many found it to be an odd choice for her farewell address, but I found it rather funny and certainly appropriate.
Many of us, over the years, have often referred to our show as "the show in Brooklyn, the forgotten soap, the unwanted child of Daytime," or even, "the show that wouldn't die." It was a way of bonding us together; forging ahead when it felt like no one was bothering to notice.
May 6, 1999
A new game has begun at the Studio. It's called, "Who will find work first?"
There are rumors and speculations coming at us so fast and so frequently, it is hard to keep up with them all. Linda Dano has been everywhere, it seems, telling all who will listen that she wants to be Ally McBeal's mother. Good casting choice. I wonder if David Kelley's been listening?
The latest buzz has Tom Eplin, Jensen Buchanan, Lisa Peluso, and Steve Schnetzer going to As the World Turns. Again, smart move. Have characters from one soap ever crossed network lines to live again on another show? Very intriguing. I must confess I feel a little like an overprotective parent, however. Who will remember the rich history of these characters years from now? Oh sure, they will probably have a whole new set of dramatic situations, new audience to fall in love with them, and such talented actors should have no problem fitting in easily.
I will not forget. Cass and Frankie. Vicky and Ryan. Lila and Matt. Jake and Paulina.
I will watch. And in those inevitable long pauses that are so much a part of this medium, I will fill in my own blanks. "He's thinking about the time he and Paulina jumped off that cliff and promised to trust each other forever."
It will make me smile.
May 13, 1999
A funny thing happened on the way to the most and best press we've gotten in years.
The editors of this magazine offered to do a cover photo to commemorate the last week we will be on the air. As I have already stated, feelings have been very mixed about anything having to do with the end of the show. There is a tendency to want to rebel, to say to the world, "We're not going. And we're certainly not going to go happily."
Soap Opera Digest set up a beautiful shoot. The actors agreed, the costumes were set, a photographer chosen. Everything was in place. The editors had sent over a lovely spread. Delicious salads, fresh fruit and bagels, sandwiches, and a beautiful cake, large enough to feed at least 75 people. Another World was artfully displayed on the top. A very nice gesture indeed.
At one point, the photographer suggested that the actors involved hold the cake as a group, and he would take a nice photo of them all happily smiling for the camera. The best laid plans ...
One of our veterans had a different idea. She suggested that they try to get a picture as they tossed the cake in the air. Sort of an action photo, a moment in time, which would suggest, See how happy we are about all this? We're just going to toss this cake on the floor so everyone knows we don't feel we have to polite about this. We are really angry.
And so it was done. It was a lark. A moment to rebel. We've had precious few opportunities to rebel.
Another fitting methaphor. A cake. Smashed on the floor.
Except now we can't eat it.
Friday, May 14, 1999
A barbecue. A celebration. A neighborhood.
We've always welcomed visitors to our studio. Whether it was contest winners, charity auction winners, friends, family, or press, we've always been secretly proud of our little enclave in Brooklyn. It's true the neighborhood is stubbornly devoid of decent food, any kind of cultural nourishment, and no place but Amazing Savings to shop in.
The last few weeks, however, things have changed quite a bit. People who have passed the building perhaps hundreds of times are now stopping to ask questions. What will happen to the building? (It's up for sale.) Where will everyone find work? (Good question.) Will the coffee shop across the street survive without my daily "usual breakfast" order to deliver, with my requisite hefty tip? (Oh, I hope so!!) We've also seen an increase in the number of fans waiting patiently outside the building for a cherished glimpse of the favorite soap stars.
There were a couple of women from Colorado who flew in for a week for just such a chance. They seemed like nice enough people, and they managed to meet many of the stars as well as a few of the men who work on the crew. We all got used to them being there, and today we were being given a barbecue in the "back yard" as we called it. This is where the loading and unloading of sets and props occurred and where we story a lot of the greenery and other pieces used for production. As luck would have it, these two fans managed to finagle an invite. Imagine: Eating hot dogs and hamburgers from Nathan's with your favorite Soap Stars!
The barbecue was the brainchild of Mary Beth Scalici, the woman from NBC who managed the building. A lovely gesture, to be sure, and a way for all of us to party together one last time in Brooklyn.
Besides the aforementioned food, there were carnival attractions: A dunking booth, a strong man "ring-the-bell" contraption, fun house mirrors, cotton candy, popcorn, and the like. Everyone was invited, most attended, and we were treated to such fun as watching Linda Dano try to dunk Jonathan Sharp in the tank. (She couldn't, for the record.)
Once again, I'm afraid, the mood was slightly dampened by the sense of impending doom. An unusual by-product of our final days has been the release of the 35th Anniversary book about Another World by Julie Poll. A wonderful book, by the way. People have been clutching the book as a lifeline, an anchor, much the way high school and college students revere their year books. At the barbecue, many were circulating with their books, asking everyone to sign next to their picture.
Now I haven't signed a book in many years. What does one write? "Have a great summer. Stay just the way you are. See you in the real world." It all feels so small and insignificant compared to the very harsh reality of something so large ending so abruptly.
Oh well. Have a great summer. Stay just the way you are. See you in the real world.
Friday, May 21, 1999
I did not expect to go this year. My first thought after the cancellation announcement was, "Oh, good, I won't have to sit through the event this year in my same old tuxedo, eating the same old barely edible meal, watching the same shows clean up as we sit feeling like the cousin no one wanted to invite in the first place. I can finally sit and watch from home in my sweats, yelling at the TV when someone was badly dressed, said something profoundly stupid, or was just generally unworthy of the award bestowed upon them.
Oh course, this was not to be. Smarter heads than mine prevailed and once again, we all began the annual ritual of primping and preening in preparation for the big night.
Boy am I glad I did.
Although we were not nominated for any awards this year, I must say it was the most exciting Daytime Emmy Award Show I have ever been to.
The last ten minutes anyway.
Although all that I have previously stated about these events remained the same, in those final moments when Shemar Moore announced Susan Lucci's name, I can honestly say I now understand the meaning of raising the roof. The energy, the spontaneous combustion in that auditorium is something I will not soon forget. It was wonderful.
I can only imagine how she must have felt. It was electrifying for all of us. Here we all were feeling sorry for ourselves, no mention had been made of our show's plight (aside from Linda Dano's and Stephen Schnetzer's unscripted asides), and suddenly there was something to really root for. Something honest and heartfelt.
Good things can happen. There is a future. Patience and hard work can be rewarded.
My faith was retored that night. Congratulations Susan!!
Tuesday, May 25, 1999
The last day.
Many tears were shed.
They began early in the day with the usual suspects: Linda Dano, Lisa Peluso, Judi Evans Luciano. It was difficult not to feel the weight of what was ending. There were lots of press people on hand, as well as friends and family, and many, many fans. By evening, as we were all leaving the building, it seemed as if there were over 100 people standing outside, waiting for that final glimpse of the stars. It looked like a movie premiere or an awards ceremony.
Surprisingly, for me it felt like any other day. Until the end.
As we approached the last two scenes of the episode, one in Vicky's Cottage and one in the Cory Living Room, the air grew even thicker with emotion. Several people approached me with words of sadness and encouragement, but I brushed it all aside with a glib remark. I've got my force field up. I'm fine.
And then I saw Jensen. Just like at the Fan Club Luncheon, one look in her eyes and I just lost it.
I hurried to the safe haven of the Control Room, and quietly let the loss wash over me. Not a pretty sight.
As the actors approached the final lines of the scene, Tom Eplin did what he usually does: He surprised us. His final lines were unscripted. Don't miss it. It's beautiful.
By the time we got to the Cory Living Room, there were over a hundred people on the studio floor to watch the final moments of Another World. Vicky Wyndham carried the weight of the moment with grace and dignity and, yes, some tears. It was painful and beautiful at the same time. After it was done, Ms. Wyndham gave a lovely speech, imploring us all to remain friends and remember what we had done here, and to move on to the next, greater thing. We all toasted with champagne. We partied in the Cory Living Room. No one wanted to leave.
"We do not live in this world alone, but in a thousand different worlds."
Unfortunately, it all just got a little smaller.
As I rounded the corner, leaving the building for the last time, I did not look back. I didn't need to. It's all right here, in my heart, to remember and cherish for the rest of my life.
May 4, 1964 -- June 25, 1999