Between Heaven and Hell, 4…

On July 15, 1968, the inhabitants of Llanview, Pennsylvania: The Riley’s; The Wolek’s; The Craig’s; The Siegels, the town’s first Jewish family; The Grays, the first African-American family in the neighborhood and the Lords, the wealthy newspaper family moved into our living rooms and into our hearts and have remained there for over forty-three years until recently, when they  received an untimely and unwarranted notice of eviction. Of course I’m talking about One Life to Live, the Agnes Nixon creation which emphasized ethnic and socioeconomic diversity which sadly comes to an end this Friday.

I’m not sure exactly when I first started watching but it was sometime before Erika Slezak took over the role of matriarch Victoria (Viki) Lord (Gordon, Riley, Burke, Riley, Buchanan, Buchanan, Carpenter, Davidson, Banks) and that was on March 17, 1971. It might have been the original actress, Gillian Spencer, or Joanne Dorian who took over briefly from late in 1970 until the following March.

What I vividly remember was seeing someone called Niki Smith, a sassy party girl who looked exactly like the proper well-mannered Viki. At times someone would call her Viki and her response was usually a wicked shrill laugh and then exclaim that she’d sent Viki packing. It was because Viki suffered from multiple personality disorder, more recently known as dissociative identity disorder (DID).

Through the years we suffered along with Viki while she battled DID, which was a marvel to witness. In all, there were, oh man, at least 6 personalities (I should know this; Viki, Niki, Tori, Jean, Princess, Tommy) and with just the subtlest change of  facial expression or with overall body language, it was evident which personality was present.   We also held our breath when Viki suffered a brain aneurysm, a stroke, breast cancer, a heart transplant. We felt her pain when she was widowed on several occasions and when she divorced. (Well, I never liked Steve anyway.) She lost siblings, she’s had children kidnaped and she lost a daughter to lupus. And in good old fashioned soap opera style, she had a few siblings waiting in the wings, namely the conniving Tina Clayton and the irascible Todd Manning, neither of whom we could ever get enough of. She became Llanview’s mayor. She was once accused of murder. And, once even committed murder… Actually it was one of her many alternate personalities (alters) who smothered her father decades before, which exonerated Dorian Cramer, who had been his doctor and eventual wife and had long been blamed for the elder Lord’s death. And best of all is that she was Viki’s lifelong archnemesis. And oh, what good times they were when Dorian and Viki went toe to toe on screen over anything Dorian felt like blaming on Viki…anything at all.

The storylines were vast and sometimes downright outrageous (think Eterna), but as long as six-time Daytime Emmy winner Slezak had a part in it, they were believable and enjoyable.

And we always knew Viki would make it through all her adversities. She had to. She was our heroine.  She was our rock. She was, and will always be, One Life to Live.

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3 Responses to “Between Heaven and Hell, 4…”

  1. camille Gnolfo Says:

    This was so well written and to the point I thouroughly enjoyed reading it… Your thoughts were all factual and endearing Thank you for sharing…. long live OLTL 4-Ever…

  2. Diane c Says:

    I have watched from the begining and this sums it up, I will miss oltl terribley.

  3. Melissa Says:

    It is Tuesday, and I am just now having a chance to read this. I had no idea that the last show was this Friday!!! Oh MAN. I’m thinking I may have to take an extra long lunch that day to be sure that I can see the entire episode. As it is this week, I have been getting teary-eyed while watching. Wait a second – have I been watching it for 11 years???? Could that be RIGHT???? Well, maybe I started 11 years ago but haven’t watched it religiously since … but still, I am sad to see it go! Wah!

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