Daytime TV – May, 1978
Erika Slezak's Long Distance Love
By Kitty Brown
V.I.P.s – Very Important Pets
Today, a brave and lovable little six-year-old Maltese, Ludwig, is the VIP baggage in a five-year long distance romance, which just last August, culminated in a long-distance marriage!
Yes, the lovely and charming Erika Slezak, who portrays newspaper heiress, Victoria Lord Riley on ABC's “One Life to Live,” has finally married her long-time beau, Welsh actor Brian Davies!
Bubbling and effervescent as any young newlywed, Erika's energetic demeanor did not portray the exhausting fact that she had recently flown from California to New York one night to tape a segment of “One Life to Live” the following day, and, at the end of that day, took a return flight back to California and the West Coast home she and Brian and Ludwig share.
“Yes, ours is definitely a long-distance marriage!” confided Erika. “You see, we maintain two homes-one here in California and one in New York, as Brian works mostly in California with films and television, and I, of course, have One Life to Live, which tapes in New York.”
Ma Bell Plays Cupid
“Ours is a terrific relationship, despite the separations, but there are, of course some hardships. For example, when you're separated for two or three weeks, your only communication is by telephone. Brian and I speak to each other by phone every day when we're apart – sometimes three or four times a day. But with our hectic schedules and the time differences between the coasts, it's often difficult to coordinate calls! And the expense! Sometimes, I'm certain we support 90% of Ma Bell!”
“But it's very difficult to conduct a personal life by phone. A phone is so impersonal. Business is one thing, of course, but how can one convey personal feelings? It's especially difficult on the phone with Brian, because so much of his conversation is punctuated by a look, a smile – and you can not get that over the phone.”
“Other than the phone company, we spend most of our money traveling. It's quite simple, really. We may work in different places, but that doesn't preclude us from wanting to be together, just like any other normal couple.”
Has marriage changed Erika's life?
“Only in that it has made every aspect of life that was so wonderful, even better!”
Brian: “It's Tough to Be Separated”
“You see, when Brian and I first met five years ago doing Somerset Maugham's 'The Circle,' off-Broadway at the Roundabout Theatre, we were both firmly entrenched in the theater, so, even then, due to the nature of the entertainment industry, we were traveling a great deal. In fact, we adore traveling! The best time of our lives was in New Mexico about two years ago. Brian was shooting a film on location there that summer, and Ludwig and I flew down to be with him every opportunity I had away from 'One Life to Live.' We had more fun! Neither of us had ever been there, and we explored the rugged terrain and relaxed in the sun! It was terrific!”
“As you can see, even then, Ludwig traveled with us, so really, nothing has changed. We're both still working, still traveling – and that includes Ludwig! – but one thing has changed, and that is the fact that it gets harder and harder to be separated…”
Erika sighed wistfully, and Brian intervened.
Born in Wales and raised in Vienna, Brian Davies is a dashing and dynamic actor-director-producer, who has made his home in the United States since “The Sound of Music” catapulted him into American recognition.
“It's tough to be separated – not only must one bear the emotional pain of such, but also the physical fatigue of commuting back and forth and entire continent to be together! We've joked that we'll have to maintain a home in Kansas City, just so we'll each only have half a continent to travel to see one another!”
Brian is currently in California filming Paul Schraeder's up-coming, much touted motion picture, “American Gigolo,” At the time I spoke with Brian and Erika, Brian was also shooting an up-coming guest appearances with Lynda Carter on “Wonder Woman,”
“As you may have guessed, Erika and I both love animals, and I'm having a great time with my stint on 'Wonder Woman.' I play a super villain with a tiger as a pet that sticks by my side like a dog the entire time! It's marvelous!”
No Jet Lag For Ludwig
Despite Brian's impressive credits in the theater, television and motion pictures, he is remarkably amiable and easy-going, untouched by his own success, and unlike some showbiz couples, feels no threat or jealousy from Erika's incredible exposure as Viki Riley each weekday.
“People at all the airlines know us and chat with us. They especially know Erika, of course, due to the immense exposure she's had on the soap – they even call her Viki! Now, of course, they know me too. But you know what? Quite frankly, I think they know little Ludwig even better than they know me!”
Brian laughed easily, but it is obvious that the little pooch is dear to his heart…
“Ludwig is only nine pounds, and he travels everywhere with us. In fact, we can carry him right to our plane seat with us, as most major airlines now allow one pet per cabin on a first-come, first-serve basis, meaning that the first one to ask for it, gets it. Well, Ludwig'' awfully special to us, so if I can't get a flight with Ludwig, I just take the next one!”
And how does Ludwig take all this travel?
“Actually,” laughed Brian, “he takes it better than anybody! He has no problems! He's so damn secure, he just enjoys it all – really has a marvelous time!”
Both Brian and Erika were raised with animals, and thus instilled with a deep love for all creatures.
“There were all sorts of strange things at our house,” reminisced Erika, whose father, of course, is the renowned actor, Walter Slezak. “There were three kids, and we were always bringing home animals, despite the fact that we already had two dogs and a couple of cats, as well as birds! It was quite a menagerie; but my parents love animals – they've never been without animals. In fact, aside from Ludwig, Brian and I now have one and a half cats???
“That sounds off, I admit,” laughed Erika. “You see, we have one cat, Kate, who lives in New York, primarily, though she flew with Ludwig and me out here to California this time. But Brian, meantime, has more or less adopted a cat out here, so that makes one and a 'half' – once we have a permanent residence, we're going to adopt the cat – full time, and then we'll officially have two cats!”
“Actually,” interceded Brian, smiling indulgently at his wife, “the grand lady who owned his entire country estate from which we rent our house, is one of the great ladies of the world. She's an artist and a potter, and she is one of those people to whom others bring sick, stray and lost animals. She cares for all the orphaned animals, and currently has about twelve cats and seven dogs. At any rate, one day this little red cat turned up. I immediately took a shine to her and named her Sarah. Anyway, I found out that she's a he, so Sarah is now Charlie! Either way, though, he's a terrific cat, and we love him dearly.”
Soap operas may not be all in the family (the nearest Brian has gotten to soaps is jogging with his good friend Stuart Damon, of “General Hospital”): but despite the separation of time and distance, this is one family that is truly together. For in spite of increasing career demands and traveling with a dog and one and a half cats (soon to be two!), Erika and Brian are a couple deeply, exuberantly in love – not only with each other, but with life itself.
“I'd love to go to Tanganyika!” bubbled Erika. “Maybe Brian will do a film there, and Ludwig and I can go visit! Wouldn't that be fun….”
Ah! Tis love, tis love, makes the world go round!