By James T. Jones
July 18, 1988
NEW YORK - On ABC's top-rated All My Children, Cindy and Stuart Chandler kiss, hold hands, even sleep in the same bed.
But making love is still a touchy subject for daytime TV's most controversial couple: Cindy is dying from AIDS.
Hospitalized with a high fever, Cindy will inform Stuart this week that her condition - from the disease she contracted from her former husband, a drug user who died of the malady - is "going downhill."
This story line - the most daring undertaken by a daytime serial - is paying off for actors Ellen Wheeler (Cindy) and David Canary (Stuart), who each won an Emmy two weeks ago for their supporting roles. The show's writers also were honored.
"All My Children did a good job of educating," says syndicated soaps columnist Lynda Hirsch.
The AIDS story line "had such an emotional impact," says Christopher Schemering, author of "The Soap Opera Encyclopedia." "It just punched you in the nose with facts."
Other daytime shows have explored the topic:
- On CBS' The Young and the Restless, Jessica announced Friday that she has AIDS.
- NBC's Another World was first to introduce an AIDS victim. The character Dawn died off camera in Europe last November.
"It would have been much more educational had she been allowed to stay on the show and died on camera," Schemering says.
That won't happen to Cindy Chandler, says CHILDREN producer Stephen Schenkel. Viewers will see every stage of the disease.
"We have the advantage (in daytime) that the story can be told in real time as the key characters live it day-to-day."
Still, producers are tiptoeing around Cindy's sex life.
"We did have a honeymoon and a wedding night," Wheeler says, "but exactly what happened has not been discussed. They leave it up to the audience to make that decision for themselves."
Canary is not satisfied with that. "I got the promise of the writers and producers to deal with the sexual issue of this marriage. We think it should be dealt with."
Two-time Emmy winner Canary plays both Cindy's husband, the mildly retarded but good-hearted Stuart, and Stuart's ruthless twin brother, Adam. He won his first Emmy for the dual role last year.
Canary, 49, who made his TV debut in 1968 on the Western Bonanza, appeared in several serials before joining All My Children.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Canary actually recurred in Peyton Place before this.
He lives in Connecticut with wife Maureen, infant daughter Kate, and son Christopher, 3.
"Christopher's in nursery school," Canary says. "You hear about people taking their children out of school because one of the kids has AIDS. I wondered what I would do. But after the research we've done, I'm much more aware how it's spread. I certainly wouldn't stop him from going to the school now."
Wheeler, single, living in New York and also a two-time Emmy winner, joined Children last September to create her role of Cindy. She had made her TV debut in Another World, where she won her first Emmy for her dual role as twins Victoria and Marley Love.
Although those roles demanded much more work, she says, "I had to touch on more parts of myself to play Cindy.
"I think what's so great about the story is that you just don't see Cindy with AIDS. But you see all the people around her and their different ways of dealing with her. Most importantly though, we get to see Cindy live a normal life."