Robin Strasser Reflects On Constance Ford, Part One

Emmy-winning legend Robin Strasser recently took some time to pay tribute and reflect on her time working with Constance Ford, who came in at #23 on the We Love Soaps 50 Greatest Soap Actresses of All Time countdown. The phenomenal Ms. Ford portrayed Ada Lucas Davis on ANOTHER WORLD, mother to Strasser's Rachel Davis from 1967-1971, and again when Strasser returned in 1972. Please enjoy Ms. Strasser's eloquent and beautiful memories.

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.

Continue reading...

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.

9 comments:

  1. Damon,

    This article is making me cry, largely because I still miss AW & because my late Grandmother Zepher & my late Aunt Norma adored watching Constance Ford play strong & wise Ada on this wonderful, still-missed-like-crazy soap.

    I'm not surprised in the least that Robin Strasser, Victoria Wyndham, Douglass Watson, Linda Dano, & so many others who had the pleasure of working with Connie Ford over those years had stepped up their A Games straight to the top!

    I can hardly wait for Part 2 of your interview with Miss Robin. Great Work, Damon! :)

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  2. How wonderful that Robin was generous to share that with you.

    Speaking of Robin....I suspect we may be seeing her name in the next few days?

    I have an idea of who four of the five remaining leading ladies are....the fifth has me baffled.

    Great interview!

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  3. Thank you, thank you for this extra treat! I eagerly await part 2. Constance Ford was indeed a class act all the way & anyone who worked with her must have been blessed. It's a shame that so many of today's crop of soap actors & actresses don't strive for that "A".

    As for Patrick's comment regarding our five remaining actresses, my hunch is they are (in no particular order) Robin Strasser, Erika Slezak, Kim Zimmer, Susan Flannery & my all-time favorite, the late Beverlee McKinsey.

    Keep up the great work!

    Greg

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  4. Gman1757 said

    "As for Patrick's comment regarding our five remaining actresses, my hunch is they are (in no particular order) Robin Strasser, Erika Slezak, Kim Zimmer, Susan Flannery & my all-time favorite, the late Beverlee McKinsey."

    My guesses exactly. I am struggling to think of any other greats, and if one of these were missing, then it would be a head stratcher....

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  5. How about Eileen Fulton? Ann Flood? Kathryn Hayes?

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  6. What a wonderful tribute to the late Constance Ford. I do not know Robin Strasser's work very well (Victoria Wyndham had already replaced her on AW in my time) and have only started watching OLTL recently due to the Kish storyline. If this reflection is any indication, Ms. Strasser definitely should be in the top five for reasons of being a classy individual.

    I'm rooting for Beverlee McKinsey to be number one.

    I think others are on to the identity of the remaining five. Would love to see honorable mentions to late greats such as Lois Kibbee (Edge), Irene Dailey (AW) and Ruth Warwick (AMC). I was a huge Texas fan and also thought highly of Carla Borelli and the late Elizabeth Allen.

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  7. Daytime has had a wealth of fabulous actresses, but I put Constance Ford at the top. No one in the history of soaps could rip anyone to shreds like Ada, the truth-speaker of "Another World." On some level that show died with her.

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  8. I too was so touched reading this. Damon, you did a great job. I'd love to know what Robin's body language was like (if you did this in person). AW is sorely missed indeed. The one question i wanted to ask Robin in her podcast 2 weeks ago was how it was working on AW, and you answered it for me!

    Unfortunately i haven't got to see a majority of Robin's work on OLTL, b/c once upon a time we had a rich abundance of quality soaps to choose from (unlike today!)

    My mother was a huge Steve/Rachel fan, and i only remember Victoria Wyndam in the role. But i did love Constance Ford, and so did one of my favorite soap writers, Harding Lemay! thanks again

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  9. I should add i too think the remaining four are Flannery,Bev McK, Erika Slezak, Kim Z. And there's only one pick for the top, Bev of course!

    Derek - great mentions for your honorables!

    any of you please look me up on Facebook, dean.blake i like chatting soaps anytime!

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