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Erika Slezak Library

1993 (Publication Unknown)

Daytime's Fearless Soap: Celebrates 25 Heavenly Years


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 black."

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."

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