Friday, July 17, 2015

Remembering Woodbridge: A History of the Late, Great 'Secret Storm' (Part 6)

Marla Adams as Belle Clemens, Nicolas Coster as Paul Britton, and
Jada Rowland as Amy Ames Britton.
Remembering Woodbridge: A History of the Late, Great 'Secret Storm'

The Soap Box
Vol. III No. 13 December 1978
by John Genovese

(continued from Part 5)

Charlie Clemens was becoming the Hitler of the journalistic world and came to resent the Ameses for their ownership of the Herald. He had a penchant for firing everyone who caught on to his power lust--people like Martha Novotny, Jerry's friend, who supported her brother, Ben Norris, and lost her husband Andy Warren in a fire. Another victim of the Clemens axe was a young competent reporter named Nick Kane.

Nick enjoyed his work at the paper, but his nagging wife, Joan, had bigger ideas for him. Joan was a money-hungry product of the struggling Borman family and tried to pressure Nick into joining the business owned by his wealthy father, Tom Kane. Tom knew better than to pressure his son and let well enough alone, but Joan grew blindly jealous over Nick's friendship with Valerie, who was fifteen years his senior! Once Joan struck up the alliance with fellow Ames-hater Belle, and Charlie sided with Belle against the Ameses, when they took over Jerry's advice and fired him, the battle lines were clearly drawn.

One night, Nick and Valerie were traveling when a storm developed, and they were given shelter by George and Cassie Peterson, an old farm couple. Joan's misfit brother, Archie, and his buddy, Stan Collins, were paid off by Charlie into bribing the Petersons to testify at the Kanes' divorce hearing that Nick and Valerie slept together. It was a dirty court battle which pitted Ames family lawyer Phineas Cook against Joan's smooth shyster, J. Laurence Fluellen. But Nick and Valerie were proven innocent of any indiscretion. Charlie Clemens, a ruined main, joined Arthur's not-so-beloved Clarion for a while, but fled to Arizona once all the evidence stacked up against his character. Nick obtained his divorce and fell for Amy, convincing her to divorce Paul who was enamored with Belle. Paul and Belle lived together before marrying in New York, while Karen Clemens, disgusted with Belle's antics, joined Charlie in Arizona. Jerry returned to Paris and made brother-in-law Frank publisher of the Herald.

Christina Crawford as Joan Borman Kane, Marla Adams
as Belle Clemens, Keith Charles as Nick Kane, Jada
Rowland as Amy Ames Britton, Nicolas Coster as Paul
Britton and Lori March as Valerie Ames.
The judge at the hearing was Sam Stevens, an old friend of Valerie's, whose strong-willed daughter-in-law, Jill, had known Amy for years and supported her decision to divorce Paul. Jill's husband, Ken Stevens, was down on his luck until country club president Alex Lockwood gave him a job tending bar at the club. Alex was in love with Nola Hollister, the alcoholic wife of club member Wilfred Hollister, and mother of a fragile teenaged girl named Laurie. Wilfred was a fearsome tyrant who wanted Laurie locked up for accidentally causing the death of her little brother many years earlier. Laurie, terrified of her father, struck up a friendship with Ken who understood her situation. When Ken and Laurie began writing songs together and performing them at the club, Nola was very pleased with her daughter's new happiness.

As expected, though, a jealous Jill and a disapproving Wilfred didn't share Nola's enthusiasm. Ken decided that he and Jill shouldn't live off his father any more and found an apartment on Cooley Street, which was not exactly Woodbridge's ultimate residence. A stubborn Jill refused to move to a slum and remained with her sympathetic but objective father-in-law, while Ken lived alone at the Cooley Street apartment--that is, until Laurie ran away, and Ken brought her back to live at his place. The living arrangement, however, was strictly above board and platonic. Even as Ken and Laurie grew closer and fell in love after Ken lost his job by beating up a drunk who heckled Laurie at the club, there was no physical relationship--yet!

As Nick Kane pursued Amy, Sam Stevens pursued Val--both in vain. Joan allied herself with Eleanor Gault, Sam's worshipful secretary, and tried to help plain-Jane Eleanor get her hooks into Sam and lure him away from Valerie. Eleanor backed down, but Sam accepted a Washington offer and was out of Valerie's life anyway. Joan then began to worm her way into the Hollister's lives, thinking good deeds would get her in on the Hollister family funds. Paul and Belle moved back to Woodbridge when Paul found he couldn't adjust as a jet-setter in New York.


It was now June of 1969. The show's ratings had continued to dip when Lou Scofield replaced John Hess as headwriter. But when Roy Winsor had replaced Scofield with Don Ettlinger, the audience began flocking back. Unfortunately, it wasn't good enough for CBS. The network leased both Love of Live and The Secret Storm outright from American Home Products and gained control of both shows, while the idealist genius of Roy Winsor was no longer called for. Roy Winsor was forced to close his office, and The Secret Storm was to endure countless different writing regimes before the real end came.

Or had it already come in June of 1969?

EDITOR'S NOTE: Check back on Saturday for Remembering Woodbridge: A History of the Late, Great 'Secret Storm' (Part 7), published in the January 1979 issue of The Soap Box.

- FLASHBACK: Joan Crawford Takes Daughter's Soap Opera Role 1968 (Updated With Audio!)


  1. Dear John: Thank you for these articles on the late, great "Secret Storm"> I was a fan.

  2. In what year did Joan fill in for Christina?

    1. Thanks! I missed the related link at the bottom of the article. (Listened to the clips...not sure if the character of Joan was supposed to be drunk or if Joan Crawford was actually drunk, but the slurred speech was obvious.)

    2. How could they NOT save the Joan Crawford episodes, if nothing else???

    3. I know does seem strange...maybe the Museum of Broadcasting has them?

  3. Great articles!! I checked YouTube and did not find any of the Joan Crawford episodes