We Love Soaps: When we met at the Cramer Lunch, we discussed honoring Constance Ford on We Love Soaps Top 50 Actress List. Tell me about Constance.
Robin Strasser: I’m going to take you back to 1965. As I remember, it was around April 1st, no fooling. I had done a year at Yale Drama School, right out of the High School For The Performing Arts. I won a regent scholarship, I could have gone to any academic school in New York state tuition, free. I did one year at Yale, then was understudying and taking over a part on Broadway. At one of these shows I had come back from one of these four auditions for a daytime serial. I show up in my dressing room and some of the other actresses asked, “What did you do?” I said, “I auditioned for a daytime soap but I’m telling my agent no more soap auditions. I’m never going to get one, I’m not the type they want.” The stage manager said, “There’s a telephone call for you, Robin.” It was my stage agent and it was ANOTHER WORLD saying I was cast as Rachel, I was being offered a five year contract.
Of course, it was cancelable every 13 weeks by them. Screaming and celebration ensued! The [Broadway] show was The Impossible Years, I was playing the ingenue lead in that with Sam Levine. I had replaced, interestingly enough, Jane Elliot in that role. Neither one of us knew we would become daytime divas of the future. We were hard working theater ingenues.
In those days [the soaps] were live. It’s that long ago. The day before there was a pre-rehearsal for what you would call in the theater a table read. Everybody sits around a table, you read through it with some feeling. You get cuts, you get an idea of where you’re going to be in terms of movement. And I met this stunning woman. Physically, Constance Ford had a presence that I came to synthesize as star quality. She was awfully gorgeous. A lot of light around her. She had beautiful skin, beautiful hair, and a sharp sense of humor, wit, and brooked no fools. I was taken to her immediately but it was not in the sense of feeling oh-so-secure, safe, or heaven forbid, complacent. I sensed immediately that only my "A" game [would be acceptable]. To this day I’m that kind of person. You show up, but don’t even go if you’re not bringing your A-game. Her standards were extremely high.
It took a long time...[pause] I’m going to get emotional...for me to figure out how much she really cared about me. Not because she wasn’t nice. But I guess in a sense she was bringing me up correctly. She had to teach me everything without seeming to be taking me by the hand or lecturing me. I was playing her daughter. Connie taught me everything I know about daytime acting. On some level I didn’t even know it was happening. She just grabbed a hold of me and we created that family. Luckily, two or three people have sent me old tapes of that show. I never watched it. About ten years ago I watched Constance, me, Jordan Charney [Sam Lucas on AW], and I said, “Oh my goodness, no wonder this show was so popular!” In and of it’s day, in many ways, there was a pace to it. A lot of heart, but no sentimentality.
Constance set the bar high for all of us. She also had this elegance about what she was going to wear. We were supposed to be poor, poor. But there was still elegance with the way she would buckle a belt. She had long long legs. I left that show twice, at that time it was about following my husband’s career, I was clueless. It was the late 60’s what did we know? She gave me this picture and it was of Constance, beautifully lit, standing on her tiptoes. Barelegged in a man’s white shirt, sleeves rolled up, on tiptoes, and there is a sweater she is holding over her shoulder. She hands it to me and I’m like “Wow, Connie, this is gorgeous.” She says with this secret sweet smile, “That’s Rock Hudson’s sweater.” She signed it, “Think, Star.”
That was when I left the first time. I think she got a little impatient when I left the second time. But she gave me this beautiful bracelet from Cartier’s that I still have. I just adored her. She taught me how to work. She would never have accepted anything but my being a hard worker. I’m so fortunate because that was my calling anyway—to take it very very seriously and to give it my all. How lucky I am that the universe sent me Constance Ford to me as my creative and professional mother.
We Love Soaps: Many of your co-stars have described you in the same way, they can only bring their A-game into a scene with you.
Robin Strasser: Well, then I’m mightily flattered. If it means I can honor, if I can channel Connie, I’m moved to tears.
Damon L. Jacobs is a Marriage Family Therapist practicing in New York City, and the author of "Absolutely Should-less: The Secret to Living the Stress-Free Life You Deserve". He is re-imagining a world without "shoulds" at www.shouldless.com.