1993 (Publication Unknown)
Daytime's Fearless Soap: Celebrates 25 Heavenly
By: ROBERT RORKE
We had a totally integrated cast," says Creator Agnes Nixon of her former
baby, ONE LIFE TO LIVE. "I wanted to take soaps out of WASP Valley." Nixon
launched pioneering stories on drug abuse (Cathy Craig at Odyssey House) and
multiple personality (Viki/Niki) and captivated viewers. That time in her life
was "exciting and scary," Nixon says. "I wasn't sure we'd be on the air for more
than 13 weeks."
That was 25 years ago. Premiering on July 15,1968, OLTL went on to bend the
rules of daytime, taking bold imaginative leaps with stories that went back in
time (The Old West) and journeyed into the unknown (Heaven). But more than
stories and characters, OLTL is also filled with the many rich friendships that
were born there and remain strong to this day. Storyline highlights, as well as
behind-the-scenes anecdotes, follow in our anniversary salute.
"ONE LIFE TO LIVE was unique, and successful right away ," says Ellen Holly
(ex-Carla Gray). "Until then, soaps were filled wall-to-wall with the white
middle class. ONE LIFE was the first soap to focus on the American reality.
Agnes Nixon had four root systems: the Lords, the Siegels, the Woleks and the
Grays. The Lords were a rich, mainline Philadelphia family. The Siegels were
Jewish. The Woleks were first-generation [Polish] Americans and the Grays were
When she joined the show, Holly played a black woman passing for white. "It
was an absolutely riveting story," the actress remembers. 'I told Agnes
everything that I knew about blacks who had passed for white, and what their
psychology was. I had known three blacks who had passed, and they all had
different reasons. "Agnes created the Carla character after seeing a talk show
in which Eartha Kitt talked about how difficult her life had been as a
light-skinned black in the South and how hated she was by dark-skinnedblacks."
As Holly tells it, Nixon made Carla a nightclub singer who falsified her
past. She developed health problems that sent her to Llanview Hospital. She
later became romantically involved with a white physician, Dr. James Craig, and
Price Trainor, a black intern. Both the New York Times and TV Guide wrote major
articles heralding the storyline.
"One of the reasons I took the part was because in theater, I always had to
wear dark makeup from head to toe to play a black character," Holly says. "This
was one of the few black parts I was allowed to play with my own face."