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Erika Slezak Library

Soap Opera Digest 1985

One Body, Two People: One Life to Live's Nicole Smith Shouts Out About Her Split Personality, Her Crummy Sister and Life with Herron

By Andrea Payne

She misses her hair. Tugging at the short golden locks deftly hidden under an unobtrusive hat, Nicole Smith, her eyes clouding at the memory of her long red wig, sighs deeply and says, "I hate this hair being done all the time." This should be her only problem.

Freewheeling, fun loving, a woman whose only goal in life is to go dancing until her feet drop off (she would have made a great dance marathoner), Nicole Smith, or Niki as she is also known, has a lot more to worry about than her coiffure. Much to her chagrin, Smith inhabits the body of Victoria Buchanan, a Llanview society matron and victim of multiple personality disorder whom Nicole considers duller than dishwater. "Viki is boring," Nicole chimes. "She wears boring clothes. She has a boring life. Come on," Smith says disgustedly, "she comes home every night. Boring. She never goes out and has a good time."

In her quest for the seemingly elusive "good time," Nicole has tried to run away from Clint Buchanan, her alternate personality's husband, but has been foiled repeatedly by Viki's sister, Tina Clayton. One senses that something is not quite right between Nicole and Clayton, especially when Smith calls Tina, "an opportunistic, evil, lying little vulture."

Born Victoria Lord in Llanview, Pennsylvania, Niki Smith made her first appearance when Viki caught her father, the wealthy philanthropist (and unknown to Viki, philanderer) Victor Lord, doing it with Viki's best girlfriend, Irene. The realization that her father, who had always made himself out to be a veritable paragon of virtue, was nothing more than a lusty old vulture, tore Viki apart, causing the emergence of the somewhat wild and woolly Niki Smith, who was fond of hanging out in bars and coming on to strange men. Yet, while Viki gave up everything as Niki, one thing remained intact: her virginity. "Honey, I've never had sex!" Nicole declares. "That's one of the reason I don't want to go to bed with Clint. I don't know what I'm in for."

After extended therapy with the renowned Dr. Polk, Niki retreated and Victoria lived happily in her own body until an unfortunate series of events caused Niki to reappear. And, as of this writing, all attempts to banish Smith have failed. At the time of this interview, Niki was pretending to be Viki so that Clint would not have her committed to a sanitarium, where do-gooders would try to force her to split, as in get lost.

When challenged about her right to exist, Smith squares her shoulders and insists that she has a right to Viki's body. "It's me," she says, twisting her mouth into a snarl, "I came from her. I'm entitled to as much a life as she is," she says sharply. "She's had it all these years and not it's my turn. The thing is, Nicole confides, leaning forward and reverting to her high-pitched sing-songy voice, "is that if circumstances were different, if Clint wasn't married, I'd probably fall for him. But the thing is, he wants Viki back and I can't be Viki. I can't publish newspapers. I can't do good stuff like she always does - all that community service and good works. It's not very interesting," she sneers. "It's not fun. I've got to be free. I've got to be able to go dancing."

While Smith has her fears about life in a sanitarium, she's more afraid of that locked in feeling than of the doctors' ability to restore Victoria. Alluding to the time she faked a coma and fooled her "cute" former brother-in-law, Dr. Larry Wolek, Nicole's assessment of Dr. Larry is that, "he's not a very good doctor. I would never go to him if I were sick ever, ever, ever," she stresses. "In fact, I wouldn't go to anybody at Llanview Hospital, they're a bunch of dodos."

Having hung around long enough to get the goods on Llanview's apparently inept medical community, Nicole, who's nobody's dummy, is also onto some of that town's most prominent citizens. Mention Dorian, and without hesitating, Nicole snaps, "Boy is that a two-faced bitch. She doesn't really care for Viki a lot, says Dorian...Do you know she lost all her money?" She asks then offers, "It's all right, she'll live. She can sell her apartment," she says, shrugging her shoulders. Niki considers Viki's father-in-law a "big ox and a big loudmouth," and also admits she's not to crazy" about Herron, the family butler. "He's always looking at me funny. He doesn't like my clothes, doesn't like the way I do my hair or the way I talk. I tried to be friendly with him Smith claims, "I shook his hand."

While Nicole confesses that Clint is the person she likes best, the man she'd most like to nab, Smith says, is Viki's brother-in-law Bo Buchanan. "He's a cutie. He like to have a good time. Cute smile." And though she regrets the death of Harry O'Neill (the only man Niki truly loved), she believes that Clint would be a good substitute for O'Neill if he would only - you guessed it - take her dancing.

For now, Nicole, who has finally managed to divorce Clint, is just biding her time until she can move into the ballroom at the Back Street Restaurant. A lover of the simpler things in life, besides dancing, Nicole yearns for "a couple of hamburgers. Nobody ever eats hamburgers at Llanfair. There's all this fancy food with sauces all over it. Give me a hamburger," she cries, "a hot dog, pizza! They never eat pizza and they never send out for Chinese - ever!"

There was much laughter the day Erika Slezak sat in her One Life to Live dressing room and , as she was asked, conducted an interview pretending to be Nicole Smith. Ten minutes into the interview, Erika offered, "Its' very hard to do this because Niki is a very limited character and it's very hard to talk as she does. She has very little frame of reference...The biggest difference between Victoria and Niki is that Victoria is a very real person with very real, deep-seated emotions and Niki, by virtue of the fact that she is the opposite of Victoria is the opposite in every way. She has very surface emotions. Nothing goes very deep with her because...she is a fragment of a personality."

While Erika has enjoyed her tenure as Nicole, she does miss Victoria, whom she calls a "terrific dame." As to how the storyline will be solved, Erika suspects that the writers will "have to merge the two characters...In medical science the few documented cases they have of multiple personalities, the only way they can cure them is to merge them all together. You cannot banish the other personality because they are all part of us. We're obviously multifaceted and I think what they'll have to do in this case is to..maybe let Viki become a little sillier and allow the Niki part to live in her."

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