Where's the Beef?
As the World Turns, So Do the Ladykilling Louses Who Are Beefing Up the Soaps
By Mandy Uhry, Rebecca Bricker
March 9, 1981
Chris Bernau: kissing well is the best revenge
Cast as megamillionaire Alan Spaulding in GUIDING LIGHT, Christopher Bernau is indisputably the Cadillac of daytime cads. "Spaulding is aggressive, manipulative, clever and amoral—all vices of the middle class and all virtues of industrial America," Chris laughs. "He's also very successful, on all fronts."
So, it seems, is Bernau, at 40 one of soapdom's more articulate and accomplished staples. (Since his arrival in 1977, the once-dimmed Guiding Light has risen to daytime's Top Five.) What excites him most about the genre, he says, is "the totally bizarre plot twists." An example: Spaulding belatedly discovers he has a full-grown illegitimate daughter, "apparently the result of an adolescent sideswipe." So how does he explain that Spaulding, once a passionless lout, has evolved into a household heartthrob who's clocked three wives in three years? "Let's face it, I'm a good kisser," shrugs Bernau, clearly proud of his craft. "It looks good on the tube and the ladies at home love it." But is his hardball Spaulding believable? "Well, there are some very charming, attractive and wonderful bastards around," reflects Bernau. He needn't look far for role-model inspiration. "I'm a charming bastard at times," Bernau admits, "when I need to be. But it's not my modus operandi. I'm not a wheeler-dealer. Nor do I run around breaking hearts and stealing wives."
Bernau grew up in Santa Barbara, the only child of a physiotherapist. After some high school plays, he earned a drama degree at UC Santa Barbara. "John Barrymore had captured my romantic imagination," he reports. Bernau's credits now include several Shakespearean plays in Stratford, Ontario, years of on-and off-Broadway roles in "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" and the "Boys in the Band" and a long run as the title character in "The Passion of Dracula." Bernau still hopes to return to his legit acting career. "If a better project comes along, I'll leave the show," says Chris, whose contract expires in December. "But I'm not tired of the soap; the story line offers me infinite possibilities as an actor."
He keeps his personal options open as well, living the bachelor life out of his two-room apartment on Manhattan's Upper West Side. "When I'm happily involved with a woman, I don't look around for someone else," he explains, but cautions, "I'm going out with two or three girls now. I've never been and at the moment am not looking to get married. I like living alone. A tough workday makes me short-tempered or quiet. I'm not good company." When he is, he tends to show up at plays and the opera. "They call the soaps 'opera,' " he says, "because they're as improbable as Verdi." Of course Verdi's plots didn't hinge on fan mail, as do LIGHT's. So Spaulding will soon spend time in the slammer for a yet unrevealed offense. As for the estranged, adultering husband's next plotted romance, he may have to move on. The venerable soap has been on the air for 28 years but, as Bernau sees it: "I've pretty much used up the current cast."