Monday, December 28, 2009

Claire Labine Answers YOUR Questions, Part Six

In Parts One and Two of our follow up interview with writer Claire Labine, the Emmy winner answered your questions about her writing career.  In Part Three, she answered your questions specific to RYAN HOPE'S, in Part Four about GENERAL HOSPITAL, and Part Five about ONE LIFE TO LIVE. In this final part, she answers YOUR questions about GUIDING LIGHT and LOVE OF LIFE.

John asks: Were there any other GL characters you wished you could have written for, either who were on the canvas at the time but not utilized very much or who were already gone from the show by then?
Claire Labine: Yes indeed.  I can’t go into it because there isn’t any point.  In the end the network and the production entity called the shots.  That’s the way it is.  You take a deep breath and wish you could have been more eloquent in persuading them this would have been a good thing to do.  If you can’t do it, you can’t do it. 

We Love Soaps: We spoke about the triangle that so many enjoyed of Buzz, Holly, and Billy.  Who could you have seen Holly ending up with.
Claire Labine: I don’t know!  We would have to have played it out.  They were both so viable.  The chemistry with the three of them was gangbusters.  I don’t know who she would have ended up with.  Maybe a third party.

PJ asks: Is there any truth to the rumors that on GL, around the time you were writing, Olivia and Holly were going to get involved?
Claire Labine: That wasn’t the original plan, but it was a later plan.  I wanted to do a “Children’s Hour” story. I was very serious about wanting to do that, but the network shied away from it.  We really wanted to try it to see if it would go with those two consummately gifted actresses.  I would have loved to do that.

We Love Soaps: But "Children’s Hour" is a very tragic story [in which a lesbian commits suicide].
Claire Labine: It sure is.

We Love Soaps: Did you mean for it to end that way?
Claire Labine: No. I don’t think anyone needed to have committed suicide.  But the realization of one or the other, that she really was in love with the other.  I think how she managed that, and how the other character managed it in a loving way.  In a sympathetic and loving way ask, “How the hell do we stay friends and how the hell do I not torment you?  At the same time how do we do this?” That’s the stuff you get can get a lot of emotional scenes out of.  It moved me. I was really interested.

Hunger asks: Please comment on the almost male rape jail scene with major heartthrob character (“Beanie”, played by Christopher Reeve)  on LOVE OF LIVE in 1974?
Claire Labine: Ben Harper—I had only written for Christopher Reeve in that role.  But this story rings no bells, I can’t imagine how we would have gotten there.  He got bigamously married in a highly convoluted story.  I think that had to have been an early incarnation.  I didn’t know him as “Beanie,” that must have been prior to 1974.  We didn’t talk about it, it wasn’t us.

Hunger asks: Did you write the Vietnamese woman & war vet story?
Claire Labine: I don’t remember that one.

Hunger asks: Also,the horsemeat/cafeteria story on LOVE OF LIFE?
Claire Labine: That probably was an early foray into environmental issues that outraged me because I love horses very much. This fellow has a great memory. 

We Love Soaps: According to Wikipedia, this was related to the story around the mayor Jeff Hart. He had his henchman lock Vanessa and her daughter Cal (Caroline) in a meat freezer.  They learned that the meat served as Cal’s school was horsemeat. 
Claire Labine: That was us! We were fully responsible for that.  Van and Cal were locked in the freezer. 

We Love Soaps: Then it says Jeff raped Cal before he left town.
Claire Labine: That had to have been after we left.  We wouldn’t have done that for a minute.  The wonderful thing was having Jeff Hart as the mayor and his henchman played by Michael Fairman [ex-RYAN’S HOPE, now THE YOUNG AND THE RESTLESS].  Fairman was playing Haldeman to Hart’s Nixon. We had laid this out before Watergate.  We had this mini-Watergate story that was playing out at the same time as the real scandal.  Hart’s lies were closing in on him, he had dirty tricks up one side and down the other.  I don’t think ABC ever really understood, but my theory is that there five minutes of news at 12:00, they were playing out Watergate, then on comes LOVE OF LIFE doing Watergate.  They thought we were doing it on purpose. 

We Love Soaps: That covers most of our reader’s questions. What do you think?
Claire Labine: Please thank them.  I was delighted to answer them.  I’m astonished people remember what they remember, it pleases me very much. 

We Love Soaps: I think it also shows how you’ve touched so many people.  They carry your writing and how your stories have helped them or improved their lives in some way.
Claire Labine: Really and truly it such an astonishing privilege to be able to tell stories that reflect human dilemma and have this incredible audience every day.  And a resident company of actors that you trust and love.  There’s nothing like it.  The pressures of night time are different, the pace is different.  This every day exposure to other people’s lives, and the fun of living in the alternate reality...when one is it one is not always sure which world is the real world.  Am I coming out of the real world to bring things into the serial, or am I coming out of the serial to bring things into the real world?  Who knows, it gets very confused.  But it’s a profound pleasure to work in the forum.

Damon L. Jacobs is a Marriage Family Therapist practicing in New York City, and the author of "Absolutely Should-less: The Secret to Living the Stress-Free Life You Deserve". He is re-imagining a world without "shoulds" at


  1. great interview !! kudos !! wish a soap hire her as a headwriter.would love to see more good stories.she is great writer !
    was she fired from kids show (capt kangaroo) or did she leave ? love her learns greta new the long scenes & dialogues that many character had on her soaps.
    did she attend or/& graduate from the university of ky ? she created a soap about ky,horses,etc ?
    wish that dr clem ( black doctor with earrring/1st dr & soap character to have earring for daytime)& other characters like bucky,etc could have stayed pass three yrs.contracts were for 3 yrs ? bob character needed more love stories,etc why didn't he get more romances ? why was black character & female nurse (latino?) characters not given more major story & written out ?
    thx soo..much for this wonderful series of articles.

  2. please have a interview/s with great former producers of soaps -joe/joseph stuart of the award winning soap (the doctors/soap was near top of ratings for yrs),wendy riche,linda gottlieb (of movie dirty dancing & later a soap).she made ..oen life to live..different.soap had a new introduction,short arcs,etc great stuff !!
    a agnes nixon interview.please ! also,doris quinlan.she had top rated soaps.

  3. does claire know that message boards have great comments daily about ryans hope ?

  4. After reading Hunger's questions to Miss Labine, I think that Love Of Life's Ben Harper was nicknamed Beanie as a little boy by his mother Meg & his Aunt Vanessa (Van) years before the character returned as an adult & was then played by Christopher Reeve.

    Also, Cal was Meg's daughter, Ben's sister & Vanessa's niece.

    I think it would be super-great if you could interview Audrey Peters (ex-Van, ex-Sarah Shayne, GL) in future columns for reactions on her recollections on both of her soap characters. Thanks!

  5. My understanding is that Christopher Reeve's character went to prison for the bigamy, and that's when the infamous prison rape scene supposedly happened. But I don't know if it's ever been established that this scene really did air, or if that's just an urban legend. In any case, although Labine and Mayer were the writers who aged Ben/Beenie and created the bigamy triangle, they were apparently no longer with the show when the fallout happened. The World of Soap Themes website posted an episode of Love of Life a few years back from the same month Ryan's Hope went on the air, featuring Christopher Reeves, and it was clear from his scenes that the truth had not yet come out.

    Speaking of rape, it's interesting how sure Ms. Labine was that she had not written the other rape story on Love of Life. That reminds me of what she said earlier in the interview, about the story that was playing out at GH when she started with Sonny giving Karen drugs to get her to strip and sleep with him - she said that in her first week at the helm she had Karen throw the drugs in his face. I'm trying to remember if any character was ever raped on a Claire Labine show? There were one or two attempted rapes in the early years of Ryan's Hope, usually when characters like Delia or Maggie were using some sinister man in one of their schemes and the plan went awry, which I could have done without. But considering the time, and the fact that soaps still to this day regularly use rape as a plot device to punish/redeem "bad" women, it's remarkable that the show never went there. It seems like somebody had enough humanity to know that Delia at her worst did not deserve to be raped, and having that happen to her would not fundamentally change her personality (not for the better, anyway), and that the (predominantly female) audience most likely did not want to watch such a thing happen to another woman. And from everything I can remember of Ms. Labine's work in the 90s, when I'm sure the trauma that survivors of attempted rape go through was much more understood, I don't recall attempted rape being used as a plot device either. I get the sense that Ms. Labine preferred to depict female characters being empowered and having healthy, consensual love lives. What a far cry from the misogyny that pervades so many of these soaps today...

  6. In any case, thanks again, Damon. Great interview, from start to finish.

  7. Thanks for the comments everyone. f
    @Hunger - some of your questions were answered in part one and two of this series, pertaining to her concept of "Celebration," a soap that takes place on a horse farm in Kentucky.

    @John - I have always said that Maeve Ryan can do more damage with a disapproving look than Sonny Corinthos can do with a gun. Why? Because violence against women is a lazy plot point used by writers who don't know how to use words or complex relationships to bring conflict. Labine always knew how to use language and psychological underpinnings to tell a painful story. She didn't resort to cheap stunts. Yes, she did incorporate the mob and guns into RH and GH, but it was as a means of exploring deeper psychological dimension of the main characters, NOT as as ends to glamorize the criminals.