An Open Letter to the Fans and Historians
Photograph by J.A. Preston
Courtesy Johnson Publishing Company, LLC.
In 2011, ABC announced it was closing down two of the most popular soaps in daytime: One Life to Live and All My Children. Both had lasted more than 40 years. They were the brainchildren of Agnes Nixon, the legendary writer/producer known as "The Queen of Soaps."
With One Live to Live soon to take its place in the history books, frozen in time, I write to correct the record.
Fans who inquire are told that both Lillian Hayman, the actress who played my mother, and I had left the show in 1985 "to go on to greener fields." Not so. We had been terminated, in secrecy, and with what we personally experienced as gratuitous brutality. This, after the role I played had attracted to ABC the major black audience that would go on to buoy both Nixon soaps for the next four decades. While the story line for my character had been added with great fanfare as an important first for blacks-I was the first black actor to have a central character on daytime television-the reality was much darker. Our remarkable tale is best told from the beginning, however... CLICK HERE to read the letter in sequence from beginning to end. Later, should you choose to view it selectively, its text is divided into the 14 sections listed below that can be clicked on individually.
AGNES NIXON'S MAIDEN VOYAGE
PAGE 1. One Life to Live made its debut in 1968, the most violent year of the revolutionary decade of the 1960s.
THE BLACK AUDIENCE MAKES ABC DOMINANT IN DAYTIME
PAGE 2. In addition to whites mesmerized by Nixon's brilliantly written story line, a major black audience began to watch that would anchor One Life to Live for its next 40 years.
LILLIAN HAYMAN AND I RIDE FOR A FALL
PAGE 3. Lillian Hayman, the actress who played Sadie Gray, my character's mother, was a remarkable woman with a string of accomplishments that included a scholar's depth of knowledge about the blacks in the early American West.
THE FATAL ANNIVERSARY
PAGE 4. Then came the event that would alter our lives forever.
MONEY! MONEY! MONEY!
PAGE 5. My instant concern was money.
THE RINGING PHONE
PAGE 6. In 1968 I picked up a ringing phone.
THE LETHAL CONTRACT
PAGE 7. Every contract I signed with Creative Horizons thereafter was a simplistic, single-page letter built on a modification of that original contract dated September 30, 1968.
AGNES NIXON PRESENTS SUSAN LUCCI AND ELLEN HOLLY TO THE MUSEUM OF BROADCASTING AS THE TWO MOST PRECIOUS JEWELS IN HER CROWN AS "THE QUEEN OF SOAPS"
PAGE 8. Meanwhile, there's a final Gothic twist to the saga of Carla.
A MYSTERY SOLVED
PAGE 9. Meanwhile, buried in Nixon's prepared remarks for the celebration of her career at the Museum of Broadcasting was a passage I was initially charmed by...
GOODBYE TITLE Vll...HELLO THIRTEENTH AMENDMENT
PAGE 10. From the moment I reread Nixon's museum remarks in 2008 and believed I had stumbled on the identity of the caller on the phone, my sense of my life changed.
PAGE 11. Next to go was my good name.
THE LARGER ISSUE THAN JUST LILLIAN AND ME
PAGE 12. Meanwhile, a larger issue is at stake than just Lillian and me.
MY LIFE AS... "DIRTY JOKE?"
PAGE 13. After my termination, for the next 27 years, it was less than hilarious fun to smooth out aluminum foil for a second use and pinch pennies in a struggle to remain financially solvent...
People are still kind enough to remember me.