Pining for Pine Valley

Today on Alphabet City: Jon Paul admits he’s been cheating on his mentor with soap opera star Susan Lucci.

It’s a new year, fresh start, so I’ve decided to come clean about something.  All this time, I’ve been saying how it was Mary Tyler Moore that inspired me to move to the Big Apple.  But if I am to be painfully honest about it, I have to admit that my dreams of life in Manhattan were actually inspired by the devilishly delicious Erica Kane played by Susan Lucci on All My Children.

When I was about 7, Erica became a fashion model and I sat glued to the TV watching her New York City photo shoot.  The image of Erica around in flowing chiffon gowns in front of the pulsing waters of the Lincoln Center fountain is seared in my brain.  I knew then that Erica was calling to me to come join her.  She even inspired me to try my hand at modeling at Conklin’s fashions down the street.  I might have been more successful in some of Erica’s dresses, I thought.

My runway debut, making Erica proud

That’s right, I’ve been a soap opera queen since the tender age of 4, mostly thanks to my sisters who got me hooked one summer.  Hours of watching Erica and her friends and foes had me imagining I would fit right in living in the comfy and dramatic surrounds of Pine Valley—having coffee and a burger at McKay’s, living at Myrtle Fargate’s boarding house, and probably working at the Glamorama with Opal.  But it was only a quick train or car ride to the real city of glamour—New York City.  And Erica Kane would be my guide.

I’m reminded of all this because AMC is celebrating their 40th year—we’re both Capricorns; I am just a year older.  So as part of their celebrations the show participated in a New York TimesTalk lecture yesterday with the legendary creator Agnes Nixon, Susan Lucci (‘natch), Debbi Morgan (the famous Angie), and several other current actors.

To say I was excited would be an understatement.  Thankfully, my friend Susan M. accompanied me to hold my hand and take in the crowd.  Compared to others in the sold out auditorium, I am just an AMC-fan-wannabe.  I mean these ladies were IN it!  They politely listened to the Q&A, and then sat on the edge of their chairs as Susan Lucci recreated one of her first scenes with Agnes Nixon playing the role of her mother Mona.  But it was when they turned on the microphones and let the crowd have at it that it separated the part-time fans from those who should have a Pine Valley drivers’ license.

It seemed like everyone who grabbed the mic had been watching the show since its debut, and unlike me, stayed with it.  Some of them weren’t so happy.

“I just want to say that I’ve been watching from the beginning.  But recently, in the last year, you’ve just really gone of the rails.  It’s sad when I think how many great assets you have to work with.  Like, Palmer Cortlandt’s old computer plant is just sitting there unused.  You could do something really new and interesting with that.”

I turned to Susan M.

“Wow, she thinks Pine Valley is a real place.  Like that factory actually exists somewhere and needs gentrification!”

Near the end of the session, another longtime fan asked Susan Lucci what might be her most memorable moment from the past 40 years of playing Erica.  She paused and looked around—would she say some of the groundbreaking moments like when Erica had an abortion (the first on TV)?  Or perhaps when her daughter came out to her as a lesbian?  She smiled.

“You know, the image that comes to mind is when Erica was a fashion model.  And we came to New York for her photo shoot.”

I  let out a little scream, clapped my hands and jumped up and down in my seat.  Susan M. encouraged me to run to the microphone and tell my story.  But it was too late.  The event was over.  But that’s okay.  After all these years, I’m sure it comes as no surprise to Susan Lucci that a legion of young boys were inspired by her glamorous and wicked Erica Kane.

At the end of the day, Erica is a survivor.  And that’s what it takes to make it in Alphabet City.  That, and a little of Mary Tyler Moore’s plucky spirit.

It’s good to be in your 40s.  Welcome to the club AMC.

1 Comment

Filed under Alphabet City Excerpt

One response to “Pining for Pine Valley

  1. wife

    Wow this was strangely uplifting. But if you think of it, abortions and lesbo daughters come and go, and life’s real takeaway is that first runway step, dip, and pivot.

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