Daytimers, July 1977
Has She Lost Her Touch With Men?
By Karen Krieger
"I have been so lucky. I have never been out of work for any long period of time and I have had great success in everything I have done. God has been smiling on me and I pray it doesn't stop!"
That's Erika Slezak, daughter of the famous Austrian-American actor Walter Slezak and, since 1971, Victoria Lord on One Life to Live. The reflections of this sophisticated and lovely young woman don't at all mean that she has been living wrapped up in cotton wool, immune from the pains that seem to afflict the rest of the human race. It's just that Erika, sure since she was a
small child that she wanted to be an actress, has put her professional life first, a decision she has never regretted.
"In order to be an actress I've given up things which some people consider important, but I don't think of much. For instance, an active social life. I have a very inactive social life because this work is a demanding thing to do. I have to be at the studio at 7:30 in the morning so I go out at night very infrequently. I go out sometimes on the weekends, but I tend to fall asleep at ten o'clock, which doesn't make for a great date! "
No wonder some may wonder if she's lost her touch with men. She rarely has time to be near them!
Even now, can the man in her life bring her the happiness she deserves?
"The other thing I think I have given up in choosing this life is a certain amount of security that goes with getting married and having a family and being supported by somebody else. Now, I have a great deal of security in this job because I've been working for six years and I've been able to save my money. I have financial security in that sense, but on the other hand, there's insecurity in the business.
"I've traded security for something that is far more exciting and much more Interesting. It's an ever changing life and I've never been bored, never for a minute! The last six years as Victoria Lord have been delightful and it's impossible to believe it has been that long. And ahead of me I hope is years of work in the theater.
"When I was in a repertory company, before I started work on television, I played many of the great female roles in Chekov and Shakespeare and the Greek tragedies. But I was really too young for those parts then. Well, now the time is approaching, another five years, maybe ten, and I'll be ready to tackle all those roles."
None of this is to say that Erika has anything against romance, fun and frivolity. An avid collector of antique furniture and an enthusiastic gourmet cook, she has been with Brian Davies her present companion for two years and before she started work on One Life to Live she was married to another actor. She also had quite a romance with a former castmate. But the men in her life
haven't brought her lasting satisfaction.
"Sure, marriage is a possibility in the future. I have nothing against it. But I have grown up a lot and I feel less and less now a need to be married. That's a hard thing to describe because I value my freedom and my privacy but with the right person, of course it would be a desirable thing.
No one has given me anything, nobody has helped me pay for anything...I did it on my own!"
"I once thought it was a harder thing for an actor and actress to be married, but I don't anymore. Because two sensible people can be whatever they want. There are extra pressures in this business, that's absolutely true. But it can work. What happened before was I was too young and so was my husband. We were like kids and we were playing. It wasn't an unhappy experience. We were quite happy, but it was game playing. We didn't take anything very seriously and I chose a different way to go.
"I would like to have children. That would have to be a very conscious decision because I don't believe that I could have children and then leave their care to someone else. So I would probably have to stop working for a couple of years and that will be very hard for me.
"I'm very used to my life. I enjoy it and I am extremely used to bringing home a paycheck every
week, not only because it's money coming in, but it's an independence that I have achieved for myself. I can look around my apartment and I know it's mine. It's a co-op and I own it and everything in it. Nobody has given me anything, nobody has helped me pay for anything and I did it all on my own.
"My mother, who never worked -- she was a singer before she married my father but when she married him she stopped -- is not jealous, but I think she wonders what her life would have been like if she had a little bit of financial independence. Not that my father has in any way
not given her everything she wanted, he has, but it's something you always wonder about. What would it be like if I had my own money? It's a wonderful feeling."
The question of whether it is possible for a woman to combine that kind of independence with a permanent commitment to a man is a serious one. Erika believes it can work and, it seems, the success of her present relationship is proof of that fact.
"You find yourself deferring where it's not necessary when you get involved with one man because
of an age old thing that the woman is less than the man and not the one to make the decisions. I sometimes find myself doing that a bit and then I think, well that's stupid. It's not a question of deferring or not, it's a question of sharing. When we make decisions we can make them together. They may not always go my way, but that's a choice that I've made in deciding to be with somebody. The one danger comes in deferring in the wrong matters, to build up someone else's ego. That's not necessary.
"Anyone of us changes by what happens to us. I think I'm better at relationships now, but I'm obviously a little better at dealing with everything. I'm a very pulled together person and I know that. No one knows what shatters me inside. Obviously things do and I go all to pieces and
I become marshmallows of jelly melting all over the floor, but no one else will ever know that, what it is that causes that. For all intents and purposes I can deal with anything, so in a sense, getting older and having a career has made me secure, as a person who can deal with things."
Clearly, success has brought many things to Erika: independence, discipline, professionalism. It is just as clear that it has made her lose none of the warmth, sensitivity and openness that come across so clearly day after day on One Life to Live.