I have done some shameful, shameful things. I once went to Yankee Stadium. I shoplifted jackknives from the local five-and-ten-cent store until they were forced to put them under lock and key. I voted against Teddy Kennedy in 1962 when he first ran for the U.S. Senate. I swear the socialist labor candidate’s name was Gilfedder, but I can’t prove it.
But the most shameful thing of all was my addiction (since cured) to “Days of Our Lives” and its beautiful heroine Marlena, played by the luscious Deidre Hall.
This started off, as most affairs do, in total innocence. Those were the days when the “Today” show actually had news content. Not recipes, fashion and movie star interviews like today.
I watched it faithfully every morning. When the show signed off, if one was not hell-bent on getting to work, the siren song of “Days” would start with MacDonald Carey reminding us that “like sands through the hourglass … so are the days of our lives.”
I would occasionally put down my newspaper to laugh at the silliness that is soap opera. Then I started noticing the women. They had some women. But most of all, they had Marlena. When I started, she was married to some cop and the plot had the usual mixture of kidnapping, amnesia, love affairs and (occasionally) a few deaths.
I fell in love with Marlena and loved her as much as I despised her new boyfriend (the husband disappeared, or died, or something), played by Drake Hogestyn, who gave bad acting a bad name. I remember that you could hear him stomp his feet when he emoted. Strange.
Well, not only was he mauling “my” Marlena, I read somewhere that he played for the Yankees minor-league team. Another reason to hate him. He was the worst actor I ever saw until I rented “Cocaine Cowboys.”
As the (one-sided) attraction with Marlena grew, I watched more and more, watched her and her wonderful children. If she only knew me. We could have shared so much.
Then it happened.
Marlena’s plane went down, somewhere in the South Pacific. They killed the star! (I was new to soaps and was unaware that they killed everyone off, sooner or later, then brought them back during sweeps week.)
Naturally, a memorial service was held and they led her perfect children down the aisle. Now, I maintain that I got a little misty during the show. My acerbic roommate Grady came down the stairs and claimed I was blubbering about “those poor kids.”
“You are pitiful,” she snarled.
Larry, the other roommate, caught me watching “Days” another day and echoed Grady’s sentiments, even though I wasn’t emotionally involved in that episode. “What are you watching this crap for?” he asked.
Then out walked Shannon Tweed, the Playmate of the Year, now married to Kiss singer Gene Simmons. She played a nurse or something. Didn’t matter. Larry not only recognized her, he knew her name and what month she had appeared in Playboy. He stopped in his tracks, sat down and watched, too.
I was in heaven when Marlena’s real-life twin sister (two Marlenas!) showed up to play Samantha, who not only took over Marlena’s life and loves, but committed her to an asylum. (There were plenty of those on this show.) In another plot development, Marlena became possessed by the devil, complete with demonic voices and levitation, kind of like Sigourney Weaver in “Ghostbusters.” She wore a lot of black. Fantastic.
Like all intense affairs, this one eventually burned out. Gradually, the stupid plots got the best of even me and I actually had better things to do. I stopped watching “Today” in favor of ESPN highlights.
I had almost forgotten about the lovely Marlena until NBC announced last week that the lovely Deidre Hall was being dumped (along with Hogestyn) in a cost-cutting measure. I guess she can’t complain. She had played the role for 32 years.
Farewell, Marlena, we will always have our memories. I am so glad you survived that terrible plane crash. And how are those kids?