AS THE WORLD TURNS ON DVD: Eileen Fulton Reminisces About The Ending Of ATWT & Much More (Part 3 of 3)

In the next installment of our series highlighting the many special performances preserved in the new AS THE WORLD TURNS DVD collection, We Love Soaps and the legendary Eileen Fulton continue reminiscing about the character of Lisa and her own real-life experiences.

We started talking about how many actors played the role of Tom Hughes, Lisa's son. In the 1979 episode on the disc, Tom was played by Tom Tammi.

"I had more boys...," Eileen laughed.

Our conversation turned to the 2010 episode in which Bob and Kim celebrated their 25th anniversary episode. It seemed more like a series finale than the actual final show.

"You are so right," Eileen said. "I loved that. I think that was one of Helen's last shows."

Eileen loved both anniversary episodes that aired on Friday and Monday.

"That was a wonderful script," she said, "because Lisa almost got back to Bob. She tried. It was on the same day--or we filmed it the same day, and it was broken up into pieces. In the opening, Kim gets so mad at Bob."

"But then they spoiled it," Eileen continued, "by having Lisa and Susan saying, 'Well, we proved that he really belongs to Kim.' We did that the following Monday, and when I read that, I thought, 'No, that's not how I played it! I played it like Lisa really wanted this!'"

Some actors leave soaps and have big success in their careers and try to ignore their soap opera history. But not Julianne Moore (Frannie).

"She came back, and everyone was happy to see her," Eileen recalled, "and she seemed very happy to see everyone, and I thought that was really a lovely touch. It was fun."

We were so upset with the way the character of Lisa was handled on the finale that it almost made our 25 Biggest Blunders in Daytime Soap Opera History list.

"Leaving Lisa standing alone in the hotel was disgusting," Eileen agreed. "That was their 'Up yours!' to Lisa."

The show not only had lost understanding of the historical value Lisa provided, but the entire sense of community was gone in the final years.

"It certainly was," Eileen said, "and I had such a fit when Bob had his stroke (or whatever he had) and Lisa just stood there, in the hospital room. I expected to have something to say, or to do. They had me in the background: 'Eileen, get out of the way of the camera. Eileen, move over to the left, you're in the camera shot.' That's what I hated. It was disgusting! Lisa, as his first love, should have come up, and he should have asked for her."

There seemed to be no accountability at ATWT at the end for some of the decisions made. It's as if those in charge did not "get" the show.

"It's not only that they didn't get it," Eileen agreed, "but also that they didn't like it, I can tell you that."

We thought at least a phone call from Grant Colman would have been a nice ending for Lisa. But how would Eileen want it to end?

"Here's how I would have had it at the very end (I do this in my club act)," she revealed. "I always said, Lisa would be standing alone, in the hotel lobby, and John and what's-her-name go running out the door, happily ever after, and you see a hand come in, and hands Lisa a glass of champagne. Then, you would pan up, and it would be Ellen DeGeneres! [laughter] Lisa was a lesbian all the time, that's why she could never keep her husbands straight!"

Eileen agrees with us that soap operas could have merchandised more over the years.

"They missed the boat, didn't they?"

But she's excited about the new ATWT DVD collection.

"I'm glad you're doing it, I think it's a splendid idea, people will love it."

Eileen still hears from fans with their stories of missing AS THE WORLD TURNS.

"At my farewell to AS THE WORLD TURNS show, a young man came up and cried and cried afterward, and said, 'What am I going to do? I work, and I want to come home after and turn on my television, and have dinner with my family. And you won't be there anymore.' I will never forget that. He cried, and cried, and cried. He lost his family when we went off the air."

What does Eileen think lead to the demise of ATWT?

"[P&G] wanted to be rid of it," she said. "CBS was of no help. Their idea in casting (actually starting back in the eighties) was to get a good looking hunk, and a pretty girl, who couldn't act. They were models, and they couldn't act. And they started to show up in the opening, in the prologue. People would turn it off. I was there... the kids were beautiful, but it's not beauty that grabs the audience, it's the person."

The WIPING process was our No. 2 Blunder of all-time. So much soap opera is lost forever. But Eileen does have an episode master tape from 1961. It's possible others exist we may not be aware of yet. But was more than the WIPING process involved?

"I heard, at the studio, from people I think would know--that the library that kept our shows up through the '70s--that they torched it!" she revealed. "They just said, 'Aw, get rid of it,' and they just burned it down. That's what I heard. And I heard that from people who were not the actors (who would naturally say that) but, I think, from some of the people who worked in the office."

At least AS THE WORLD TURNS episodes from September 1979 forward are completely preserved and someday hopefully every available episode will be digitized and sold online.

"Oh, that is fabulous!" Eileen said.

We will be able to pick an episode or group of episodes and watch stories from the past, even the banging shudder episode!

"It reminds me, for some reason, about how I once played my own corpse, you know?" Eileen laughed. "I have newspaper clippings of that. I've just gone through, because I'm trying to get stuff all together from that time, and at the time my daddy laughed and laughed, he said, 'Oh, girl, your picture was in the obituary section of [my hometown newspaper]!"

We cover a lot of soap opera history at We Love Soaps so fans send us old soap magazines from the '70s and '80s. We laughed about some old articles that feature Eileen with her second husband, Danny Fortunato.

"That is so funny," she said. "You know, I have just been working on that period of my life? I had (at a friend's house, who was keeping them for me) four huge Xerox boxes full of those magazines, and he's gone through it and cut out stuff for me, so I'll have it for a lecture series."

Eileen then revealed the role she played in trying to get press coverage for daytime soap operas.

"Something you might be interested in: when I first got on ATWT, I went up to CBS's publicity department, and I said, 'You need to have some fan magazines about soaps.' And they laughed hysterically, and said, 'Nobody cares.' I said, 'You'd be surprised who cares. You should do this.' So I went to a woman at CBS who only handled movie magazines there. I said, 'You need to put a section in.' I was a real champion for this. And then they started."

So we have Eileen to partially thank for the wonderful print press coverage of daytime during the 1970s and beyond.

"There was absolutely nothing," she recalled of her early years on ATWT. "They said, 'Oh, we can't do that.' Then it started, and it caught on. I really believed in that; I've always believed in PR."

She also agrees that spoilers have taken away a lot of the incentive for watching the soaps these days.

"'Carly dumped Mike.' Or whatever. 'So-and-so dumped so-and-so.' Then you think, 'Oh, okay. I already know.' It spoils it."

The broadcast networks seem to have moved on from traditional soap operas.

"They all want to go to reality shows and doctor shows," Eileen said. "Doctor so-and-so tells you how to..."

One thing we can all agree on. These shows will never make the same type of impact on millions of viewers as Lisa and the characters from AS THE WORLD TURNS did for 54 years.

You can watch clips featuring Eileen from the ATWT DVD collection, and purchase your copy, at SoapClassics.com.

Roger Newcomb is a producer and writer in New York City. Aside from co-hosting WE LOVE SOAPS TV, he has written and produced a full-length indie film, Manhattanites, and two radio soap operas, SCRIPTS & SCRUPLES and ROCKLAND COUNTY. He has also made acting appearances in indie web series IMAGINARY BITCHES and EMPIRE. He has consulted on numerous indie soaps and is currently a producer on THE BAY and executive producer on the indie short May Mercy Lie, which is currently making the rounds at film festivals.

RELATED:
- AS THE WORLD TURNS ON DVD: Eileen Fulton Reminisces About Meeting Doug Marland, Gardenias, Tight Dresses & More (Part 1 of 3)
- AS THE WORLD TURNS ON DVD: Eileen Fulton Reminisces About The Anniversary Episodes and Lily & Holden's Wedding (Part 2 of 3)
- BREAKING NEWS: 20 Classic Episodes of AS THE WORLD TURNS to be Released on DVDs
- EXCLUSIVE: We Reveal the 20 Episodes Chosen for the First AS THE WORLD TURNS DVD Collection
- EXCLUSIVE: SoapClassics.com President Mark Yates Reveals New Details of ATWT DVD Release, What's Next, And Online Streaming!
- SoapClassics.Com: AS THE WORLD TURNS DVD Is Region Free, Will Play Anywhere In The World
- SURVEY RESULTS: Fans Weigh In On The AS THE WORLD TURNS DVD Episodes
- AS THE WORLD TURNS ON DVD: Sara Ramirez Reminisces About Playing Hannah

5 comments:

  1. I'm amazed by the emotions I've experienced since the DVD's arrived. When I opened the mailbox - I immediately felt overwhelmed with excitement like I did as a child on Christmas morning. I haven't experienced that feeling in many years.... I realized, forthe first time since ATWT went off the air - I felt a partial sense of inward peace in knowing my "on screen" family was a few minutes away. Like a long lost friend had returned home and was safe once more. I knew I missed both ATWT and GL, but didn't realize the depth of my loss - until I held that box in my hand. I know this longing I've had will be complete when hopefully an entire collection of both ATWT & GL are released.

    Thank you Eileen Fulton - for being a major contributor and mentor as Lisa - in shaping the 52 year old woman I am today. You taught me not only what I want to be "Wade Bookstore" - but also what I didn't want to be.

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  2. I miss ATWT and I miss seeing Eileen. I even miss the fan club luncheons. A grown man ... I found myself getting teary eyed when I met Helen Wagner and Eileen Fulton.

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  3. I have a question for Roger, Eileen or anyone who knows what went on behind the scenes that last day of taping.

    I bought a "bootleg" copy of the "As The World Turns' finale script on eBay. CBS or P&G tried to pull the auction and stop the transaction before it went through, but I was smart enough to take the "Buy It Now" option and it was already in the mail to me before they could stop it. :)

    As I read it, I was surprised to see a nice scene with "Lisa" joining "Bob" and "Kim" in the Lakeview Lounge for a small celebration of "Bob's" retirement. "Lisa" gives "Bob" a letter that she's had in her possession since the time they were first married; in it "Nancy" counsels "Bob" to accept a position as a doctor at Memorial and remain in Oakdale.

    The scene calls for a flashback to an early 1960's era episode where Helen Wagner discusses the issue telling "Bob" how the Hughes' are rooted to the community and have never been a "traveling family." After the flashback they reminisce a bit and agree that "Bob" made the right decision and reflect happily on their lives in Oakdale.

    It was already written and would have been a more appropriate send-off for "Lisa," spending a happy moment with her first love, appreciating all the happiness their lives in Oakdale (and on "As The World Turns") had given them. Plus, it would have provided an opportunity for a flashback featuring Helen Wagner.

    I can't imagine why it wasn't included in the broadcast? Was it taped? Did they cut the scene that day? I've always wondered what happened. If it's in the "bootleg" script I bought-with an "X" through it-then I assume everyone associated with the show must have been aware of it and must have discussed its' omission. Someone must be willing to come forward and tell the fans what happened.

    As a fan of the show I am still appalled by the gruesome decision to have Reid Oliver run over with a train in order to cut his heart out and stick it in Katie's 6th or 7th "true love." Thus ensuring that all the straight couples were happily paired up; giving "As The World Turns'" gay fans one last cruel insult as thanks for giving the show (and it's writers and producers) it's last chance at gaining a new audience.

    It was obvious to everyone that the only gay relationship was engineered to end in tragedy amidst the all the happy heterosexuals; which would have been expected if the show were ending in 1956, rather than in the 21st century, but I digress.

    Eileen Fulton's right. She was disrespected. The show's history was disrespected. "The Powers That Be" were clearly going to steal Reid's heart and give it to the straight guy even if they had to cut it out with a pocket knife. But, "Lisa" could have had a better ending. It was already on the page and I have a copy of the script to prove it. So, what happened?

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