WE LOVE SOAPS TV: You were on soaps when there were at least fifteen soaps on the air all at one time. We are now down to six. What needs to happen to keep the shows that are left alive and vital and thriving?
Jerry verDorn: I think it’s what they are doing now, streamlining them. And you are right, when I came to New York City I think there were fourteen being filmed here alone. They were everywhere. They were very big and nighttime-like. We did one show a day, we had rehearsal. Now they have to streamline the budget. And I think the reason this happened is because there are now 650 cable channels and everyone’s attention is getting split. And now there’s a new generation that watches everything either on their phone or whatever they are carrying around in their pocket. It is rare to find the person who watches ONE LIFE TO LIVE on channel seven at the time it is aired. They are like dinosaurs now. They either TIVO it or Hulu it or do something to watch it at their convenience. So you always have to keep in mind that the shrinking audience has distractions. The budgets have the power. I think what they are doing now is on the right course if we’re going to stay on.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: Which includes more multi-generational stories?
Jerry verDorn: I think it has to be well rounded. I think the 17 year olds like to watch the 17 year olds. But if the generation above them as missing, it doesn’t ring true to their lives. That generation wants the world and the generation above them is saying, “Hey, not so fast.” If that pressure isn’t there it rings hollow.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: I remember as a teen viewer I was always more interested in Ross, Roger, and Holly, than the kids.
Jerry verDorn: It’s like a keyhole into the older generation. That’s what they do. You enjoy the younger group but you want to see what goes on in a grown-up land.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: You won Emmy in 1995 and 1996 for Best Supporting Actor.
Jerry verDorn: I was nominated six times, so I think I’m batting .333.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: Where do you keep them?
Jerry verDorn: They are in my wife’s office now. For the past seven years I have a fundraiser, a bowling event for the American Cancer Society. Last year I got the vivid idea to drag these [Emmys] out and charge people pay $5 to get their pictures taken with them. These Emmys raised over $7000 for the American Cancer Society.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: This is a cause that is very important to you and I want to make sure people know why.
Jerry verDorn: I am a seventeen-year cancer survivor. GUIDING LIGHT at the time were very kind. They kept me on payroll and said, “You tell us what you are going to do and when you are well you come back.” That takes an awful lot of pressure off a household that suddenly found themselves with a lot of anxiety. The kids were little at that time. It was not a good time. Though it’s never a good time. So I got treated and luckily got better. I had a couple of relapses.
I didn’t talk about it for a long time, it’s not something you want to be known for, or be a poster boy for. It’s part of that repression, you’d really rather get back to your normal life and forget it happened. But other people, who shall remain nameless, convinced me that it could be healthier to talk about it, and inspire others. You have to be a little strong when you go events like the Bowling Event. You find part of the attraction is relatives or survivors themselves coming up and exchanging stories. It does become very emotional and it is draining. But I’m glad I started it all and that’s how I’m putting the Emmys to good use instead of sitting on a desk. This year the event is October 10th at the Port Authority Bowling Alley. Last year the total was about $40,000. All of it goes to research.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: Early detection is key to preventing and treating cancer.
Jerry verDorn: Men are notoriously bad. They don't like to go to the doctor unless something really hurts, or something is falling off.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: If I’m 39-years-old, what do I need to know about early detection and prostate cancer?
Jerry verDorn: Hopefully you are getting a physical every 12 to 18 months. And during that physical they will should take blood and run a PSA test. That can detect the growth of cancer in the prostate.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: A lot of male clients I have worked with are afraid and ashamed of getting the test. They are very nervous about the “finger.” What do you say to them?
Jerry verDorn: It is so painless. The only pain involved is your embarrassment. You’re 39? I was 42, and I went in with this information that I had gotten oddly enough from some letter we had gotten from a Congressman telling me about a new thing called the PSA [Prostate specific antigen test]. When I asked for the doctor said, “Come back when you’re 50.” Well it was in my family. And I was only in there for a physical, I didn’t have symptoms of any kind. I almost canceled it to go to a commercial audition but decided to go. My doctor said, “Well your insurance won’t cover it.” I told him, “Run it.” So they ran the test, along with other blood tests, and the figures came back way high. He said, “This is a lab error.” He had done the digital rectum event and there was nothing there. So [the labs] came back even worse. They you’re in biopsy-land. It went on from there, and I finally had the operation. But if you didn’t have that information, if I had waited until actual physical symptoms, it would have been too late.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: So we need to demand this and be specific about getting a PSA test.
Jerry verDorn: Knowledge is power.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: Yes it is, and you have done so much to spread such valuable information. Have you heard back from women and men whom you’ve helped?
Jerry verDorn: Yes. And it’s often gotten through to the women. Because they are more used to being poked and prodded and going to the doctor. Take your man with you! And not just your man, but your dad, your uncle, your brother, your friends. Encourage them. Men statistically just don’t get physicals. Women get physicals much more often. So make two appointments. Nag him. If nagging can save lives, do it.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Please watch the entire video at WLS TV # 1.72.
Damon L. Jacobs is a Licensed Marriage Family Therapist seeing individuals, couples, and families in New York City at Mental Health Counseling & Marriage And Family Therapy Of New York. He is also the author of "Absolutely Should-less: The Secret to Living the Stress-Free Life You Deserve."