Tuesday, December 1, 2009

FLASHBACK: Daytime's First AIDS Storylines 1987

AIDS Is Causing Soaps To Return to Romance

by Sue Facter
Los Angeles Times
Jul 19, 1987

Soap writer Thom Racina wanted to do an AIDS story line on DAYS OF OUR LIVES. He was turned down.

That was a year and a half ago. Now Racina is scripting pages for another NBC soap serial, ANOTHER WORLD, and he and series head writer Margaret DiPriest will be writing one of the first AIDS story lines on daytime TV.

"Procter & Gamble, of all people, approved the idea. I'm so excited," Racina says. "I don't know how people can go to sleep at night without teaching something to someone. How can you write for pure entertainment value?

"We want to teach our viewers how to cope with this deadly disease. And we want to get a good cry out of it too."

In the story line, a young woman named Ivy Rollo-the role has yet to be cast-contacts the virus [EDITOR'S NOTE: The character's name was changed to Dawn Rollo]. The young, sharp Scott LaSalle (Hank Cheyne) falls in love with her. Therein, according to the script in development, is the dilemma.

Because of the AIDS epidemic, soaps are returning to old-fashioned romance. Gone are the days when promiscuity was rampant and casual sex was a regular diversion.

Donna Swajeski, NBC director of daytime programs in New York, says that ANOTHER WORLD historically has tackled various issues. "We've been on the air for 23 years; that says something. We did a teen-age sexuality story this year. That's a terrific lead-in to our AIDS story line. These stars and their characters have tremendous power with the public. It's a great exorcism for the audience."

ALL MY CHILDREN also will premiere a story line confronting AIDS starting next month. "I always said, I will do this when we find a cure but that is long in coming," notes Jo Ann Emmerich, ABC Entertainment daytime vice president. She wouldn't discuss specifics of the upcoming story but acknowledged that some cast members will be added. "The story will come out of a natural circumstance and will hit Pine Valley like a lead balloon. It will have an upbeat ending."

The AIDS theme won't be done in any other ABC soap. "I don't like to duplicate my material," Emmerich says.

Other sudsers will confront the issue in their own way.

William J. Bell says he has written a scene for an upcoming episode of THE BOLD AND THE BEAUTIFUL, which premiered in March. It is a conversation between a mother and her man-about-town son. She talks with him about safe sex and informs him that he may be risking his life.

Says Bell, who also executive produces and writes THE YOUNG AND THE RESTLESS, "All the years I've been storytelling, I've never written a sex scene without a relationship. I try to use a little mystery with my love scenes. Sometimes the audience can decide whether a couple made love."

"SANTA BARBARA's executive producer Bridget Dobson talks about her "one evil, naughty girl, Gina Capwell (played by Robin Mattson): "Gina is constantly being punished for her activities. I would personally like to see her whip out a condom every time she hits the sack. It would be for fun value and social responsibility. Because we reach the home, we've got to do something about safe sex in the environment of AIDS."

But Dobson has had a running battle with NBC's Standards and Practices office that sets restrictions for program content: "We've never been able to use the word condom until now. We go on fighting case by case."

(Maurie Goodman, NBC's vice president, broadcast standards, West Coast, said that the network has not yet seen a storyline involving condoms submitted by SANTA BARBARA and has only heard talk. He added that condoms have turned up on many NBC shows, including daytime's DAYS OF OUR LIVES a year ago.)

NBC daytime drama vice president Susan Lee sums up the network's protocol: "We don't want to condone the word condom for several reasons: we don't want to say that it's the best form of birth control, we don't want to promote the sale of Trojans, nor do we want to say it's OK to have casual sex if you use one."

DAYS OF OUR LIVES on NBC was a pioneer in teen sexuality. A writer's committee came up with a story line about a young boy going to the pharmacy to buy protection. Head writer Leah Laiman said, "The word condom could not be used because the network wouldn't let us."

Laiman has a continuous battle in her weekly network meetings about sexuality on screen and using the word condom. "When they have turned you down for two consecutive times, you don't ask again for another six months."

DAYS has toned down its use of promiscuity. "When Justin Kiriakas (Wally Kurth) joined the show, he had a girl in every port and his share in Salem. We realized we were sending across the wrong message; this was not an appealing character. Justin's now involved with Adrienne (Judi Evans) and will not come near her until after their marriage vows."

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