Daytime TV, 1970s
Loving Memories Of Christmas Day!
Erika shares her holiday remembrances from little girl to beautiful grown-up star!
She returned with the two hot cups of coffee and we continued our discussion. She had been thinking, and one "utterly miserable" Christmas had come to mind, along with one that was
merely disappointing. The really bad one was just two years ago.
When there's a bit part on the schedule, Erika's often the one to give the actor a few points
'cause she's an expert at putting people at ease.
"I had plans for that Christmas. Great plans. First I was going to Europe. Then my schedule changed and I knew I wouldn't have that much time, so I figured on going to Canada."
Everyone knew Erika was going away, so those special people with whom she might have spent the holiday made other plans. That included the most special of all, Brian Davies, who had gone out of town. Brian is a very handsome blond, curly-haired guy with a great smile and an even greater sense of humor. He's a perfect companion for any sort of celebration, especially for Christmas. But at the last moment Erika had had to cancel her Canada plans because of another schedule change. "So I thought, Oh well, I'll stay here and rest:"
Castmate and good friend Lee Patterson plays husband Joe Riley to Erika's Viki. Her energy for life rubs off on him, too.
"I've ever felt so awful." So the following year she made plans to go to Canada and kept them. She would spend this Christmas with her dear sister and her family in Canada. On December 26 she 'would come home to New York for a few days with Brian, then he'd leave to visit his family.
1 "At 3 p.m. Christmas Day it started to snow and it was gorgeous-a beautiful snowfall. At 4 p.m. we sat down to Christmas dinner. It kept snowing and snowing, a real Christmas snow. My sister
is a super cook and she gathered a big bunch of us together for Christmas dinner and it was wonderful. It was still snowing when we went to bed that night.
I thought they'd plow overnight and I could leave in the morning on the first ' flight out. "But they didn't plow for two more days!" Erika said, with all the anguish she must have felt at the time. It was very nice to see my sister and her family for two extra days, but I never got to see Brian at all that Christmas, either! I called him three times on the 25th and he called me several times." Erika remembered. Alexander Graham Bell's invention could never replace being together, but it Helped.
Erika has loved Christmas since childhood. Being so family-oriented, she delighted in this one holiday they always spent together. For an actor's family, that's very special, and Erika's illustrious dad, Walter Slezak, was a very successful and busy actor.
"If my father was working we knew I we had to wait till he came home Christmas Eve to start celebrating the holiday. If he was home we had to wait until dark, so we'd keep asking, 'Is it dark yet?' "We asked at three and four and five in the afternoon, and every two minutes in between. 'Is it dark yet?'
Finally, it would be time to go up and get washed and dressed." "We usually had circular stairs in our house and we couldn't see downstairs. When we were ready, we had to wait at the top of the stairs until our father called us. Mother sat with us, while my father arranged the presents.
"He would open the door and whisper, 'Bring it in,' and make all sorts of noises pretending it was a giant dog or something. Our house was a menagerie. We had three dogs, cats, birds-another dog would have been just what my mother needed! Finally ready, he'd ring a little bell and say, 'The Christ child has been here.' Never Santa Claus, and we'd stampede down the stairs. But we had to sing some Christmas carols before ripping into the presents.
"I must say, they were more than good to us. My parents bought us so much, and so did relatives and non-related relatives, 'uncle' this, or 'aunt' that."
Because of her father's career in films and on stage, they could not spend every Chnstmas in the same home. Being at different places for Christmas did not disturb their routine, though, for
they were always together. On two occasions -- the two occasions Erika remembers as the very best Christmases of her life -- her father gave her mother mink coats.
"He was in Fanny on Broadway and we were living in a New York apartment. The Christmas tree was right where you walk into the living room. Then the living room extended way down to the
piano. My mother was so interested in what we were getting-so busy watching us-that she never even looked down toward the piano. I got a doll carriage I had wanted more than anything in the
whole wide world. I was a very little girl then. You could hear all our squeals and shouts on the tape my father made of that morning. Then you hear this gasp.
"My mother had looked down to the far end or the living room and there was the mink coat on a coat rack. "But it took 45 minutes before she saw it. My father never said a word about it, just waited for her to find the big surprise.
"The next time he gave her a mink, we lived in Larchmont, New York, and he put it where she could see it right away. He wasn't going to have to wait another 45 minutes!"
Somewhere between those two Christmases, Erika learned her real name. She had always been called, "Rickie." That was how she introduced herself.
"One day my mother decided she'd had enough of this and said 'No, your name is not Rickie, it's Erika."' Even telling the incident, -- the actress reenacted it by wrinkling her nose, widening her eyes and staring up in dismay. " And I said, Erika? Why didn't you ever tell me that?' It was a real surprise to me;"
Before Erika was grown up enough to celebrate New Year's Eve, she used to watch her folks go off to parties and dream about when she would be old enough to celebrate the same way. And when she began dating, that's exactly how she did celebrate it.
"I spent three or four New Years' Eves out and that's all I intend to spend out, ever. I went to my first New Year's Eve Party when I was 16 or 17 and it was the coldest night of the year, and at midnight, we were still waiting for food! Now, I'm never even awake at midnight on New Year's Eve."
Her parents still party, but she manages to call them, and also her sister and brother, that night each year. "Calling them is how I celebrate New Years."
Another event Erika is celebrating is five super years on One Life To Live. "I'll always be grateful for those years," ErIka said, although she'd never had trouble finding work in her field of acting. She has loved the show, never causing problems for anyone or feeling troubled by anyone on the show. Watching her with her fellow actors, you can see how much affection and understanding has developed between them all.
Many a lunchtime break I've seen Erika in the lobby, just returning or going off to lunch with Brian, and once I even heard them talk about that bad, snowbound-in-Canada Christmas. "
But never have I heard them talk about anything bad at One Life To Life. It's one of the reasons Erika feels herself a very lucky lady, She has the job she loves to, work at, the man she loves to be with and the family she loves to talk to. How could anyone ask for more, Christmastime or not?