George Reinholt: Soap Opera's Most Popular Idol
By Gloria Paternostro
The New York Times
June 4, 1971
A woman darts out from the crowd as we walk down Broadway and tells him, "I love you as Steven Frame!"
He smiles, thanks her and walks on. Chances are she doesn't even know his name, but I do, and am strangely flattered. I know she envies me.
She is one of millions of women across the country who have kept NBC's ANOTHER WORLD running in the 3:00-3:30 p.m. (EST) time slot since May 4, 1964; and he is George Reinholt, one of the stars who've kept her watching.
ANOTHER WORLD is the fourth-rated TV daytime drama with a Nielsen rating of 10.6, representing a 33% share of the audience. Several afternoon TV magazine polls have named George as the most popular daytime TV actor.
Since entering the show three years ago, he has caused a small sensation with his vivid portrayal of tycoon Steven Frame, hard-headed, arrogant, selfish and opinionated - until he falls in love with Alice (Jacqueline Courtney), and he slowly mellows.
Playing a character who is sometimes tender and romantic, sometimes hostile and bitter, and at still other times pragmatic and businesslike, George is probably the most three-dimensional, human character ever seen on daytime TV. I sought him out to see whether George Reinholt can match the appeal of Steven Frame. And I was not disappointed.
The TV camera, while transmitting his magnetism and masculinity successfully, is not kind to George. In person, he is taller (a shade under six feet), handsomer and slimmer than the home screen suggests - broad-shouldered and slim-hipped. He is also complex; friendly, but a self-confessed longer, co-operative, though a trifle moody, confident, yet vulnerable.
As we settled down to the Chinese food he loves and handles expertly with chopsticks, I discovered one quality in him that Steven seldom displays - a sense of humor.
Asked when he decided to become an actor, his reply was, "When I learned I could lie effectively!" He chuckled as he said that was around the age of nine and cheerfully admitted to having been a difficult child.
At 30, George Reinholt is far from difficult to interview. He is intelligent, charming and responsive, with an almost startling integrity. When it was remarked that a derogatory remark he had made could hurt his career, he replied, "That would be sad. But I'm sorry - it's the truth." He refused to retract.
Comparing himself to the character of Steven Frame, George feels there are similarities.
"He's aggressive, but not to the point of hostility - until he's crossed. I'm like that - very much so. He's plagued by his dishonestly and that I understand because I dislike myself terribly when I don't deal with myself honestly. I despise dishonesty - that and intolerance. These are the big fire alarms with me."
He claims to have some of Steven's arrogance, but he qualifies it. "True arrogance - I think Peter Fonda has it - doesn't care what people think. I do care. What arrogance I have is probably defensive."
When I suggest that if he's less arrogant than Steven he's also a lot poorer, I am rewarded with an abandoned, deep-throated, infectious laugh. "Well, I am!" he declares ruefully. He adds that the clothes he wears on the show are his own. "They provide ladies' clothes on soap operas, but they let the men take care of themselves. They won't even pay my cleaning bills - and you can print that!"
Unlike Steven, George doesn't believe he has ever been in love. "And I don't think I've ever lied about that. I've never kidded myself - or the woman. I would love to be in love," he adds, a little wistfully, "but I don't think I ever have been."
On the subject of woman, he begins to generalize: "I'm fascinated by women, but frankly I have a problem with them. I treat them like toys. When I'm done with them, I put them up on the shelf and expect them to stay there until I can come and take them down. I'm dictatorial. I want a woman to do exactly as I tell her, and I realize that's not realistic. There's not a woman in the world who's going to play that kind of game unless she's a complete masochist, and that creates other problems!
"Marriage scares me," he admits, citing the tremendous responsibility it entails. He doesn't take marriage lightly. "What's the point in getting married if it's not for a lifetime?" he demands.
The recipient of the most fan mail on the show, George answers it himself.
"All the people want is response," he explains. "They just want to know someone is there, someone is answering them. It doesn't have to be a brilliant reply or eight pages long. It just has to show some kind of warmth. That's why I like to answer my mail myself."
Apart from having been in another soap opera, THE SECRET STORM, George has gained all of his experience in the theater, which he loves. He spent two years on Broadway in "Cabaret," playing a Nazi and understudying (sometimes playing) the lead.
I could not help wondering why movie producers had so far passed him by.
"I'm dying to do a movie," he admitted. "If only someone would just take a chance on me!" He was also at a loss to explain why he had not been sought out for commercials. Other soap opera actors are selling everything from coffee to hand creams. I suggest that maybe the problem is his agent. He only shrugs and says "maybe."
A read of psychoanalytic literature (currently enjoying R.D. Lang's "Knots"), George seems very aware of his own motives and needs. He agrees with psychiatrists that all actors are seeking love and approval. He has figured out that what he himself wants from life, personally and professionally, is "to live a little closer to what I really feel. I find myself resisting things I want to do because somewhere I learned it wasn't good to enjoy myself. It's sad but I'm working on it.
"I used to kid myself. I used to say it wasn't important for me to be a star. But it is important. I want power. I want it all the more when I see so many people in our business misusing it."
One can't help feeling when and if his name becomes as famous as his face, it will be interesting to see whether he handles his stardom as well as he intends. Somehow, I think he will.