The remarkable Joan Collins starts today on CBS's classic soap Guiding Light, playing family matriarch Alexandra Spaulding. But don't expect a reunion between Collins and her Dynasty husband, actor Michael Nader. It's not going to happen -- even though soap Web boards have been buzzing with speculation for months that it might.
"I certainly hope not," Collins told me about Nader when I ran into her yesterday at designer Patricia Field's fabulous, over-the-top fashion show. Collins did confirm, however, that Guiding Light -- owned by the infamously stingy Procter & Gamble -- has an offer out to a "major star" to play her character's former husband and show villain Roger Thorpe.
"He's coming back, but I can't tell you who he'll be," Collins purred.
This news will be met with a mixed reaction by Guiding Light fans, since Roger Thorpe was played for nearly 25 years by the late Michael Zaslow. Zaslow was dismissed from the show when he appeared to be ill, and was finally diagnosed with ALS.
P&G exec Mary Alice Dobbins gained notoriety when she told TV Guide: "Roger is a powerful, active, sexual, multicolored villain. That's who we need him to be on the GL canvas. We do not need a wizened little old man. And that's what he would have to play in his condition."
A new actor took the role but failed to catch on, and Thorpe was then written off the show. Zaslow subsequently passed away, but not before doing a turn on another soap, One Life to Live, in a wheelchair and with an electronic keyboard which he used for communication.
Collins, an ageless beauty and quite a powerhouse, said the first month of shooting Guiding Light had been grueling.
"It was culture shock for me, total culture shock. There is no rehearsal time," she said. "You read through five scenes, then you shoot them. And that's it."
Her scenes thus far have been with Ron Raines, who plays Alexandra's brother Alan, and Grant Aleksander, who is her nephew, Phillip. So far so good, she says -- she's enjoyed them both, but she will leave when her six-month commitment is up. She's also re-writing some of her dialogue as she moves through the endless pages of script.
"You have to," she advised me.
Whether or not Collins stays longer or leaves on a dime, rest assured that Guiding Light's ratings will rise. Collins is still ever the attraction. At Field's show, where Britney Spears sat directly opposite her, the paparazzi could not get enough of this last-of-the-Mohicans movie star. It doesn't hurt that she's delightful, considerate and ready for anything.
Who could possibly stay awake during the interminably deadening Emmy Awards? The endless categories, bogged down by commercials and NBC plugs, not to mention honorary awards and a penchant for the obvious from the Emmy committees -- I must have flipped to HBO ten times to catch either Larry David's Curb Your Enthusiasm or Mike Binder's The Mind of the Married Man.
I know Everybody Loves Raymond, but I don't -- and I doubt many people in big cities do, either. If ever there was a show composed of pure banality, this is it. Certainly, Kim Cattrall's performance as Samantha on Sex and the City easily outdoes Doris Roberts' on Raymond, no matter how beloved Roberts is. Ditto for Jennifer Aniston -- Sarah Jessica Parker has her by a mile. And Brad Garrett? Give me David Hyde Pierce any day.
On the dramatic side, why Six Feet Under lost to the dreary, preachy West Wing says a lot about the Emmy committee. It bows to pressure from the West Coast television industry, which doesn't like HBO (read: New York) interloping on its territory.
If you ask me, Rachel Griffiths and Michael C. Hall were robbed. Maybe next time for Six Feet, although there will be a new Sopranos season in competition by then.
I know Susan Lucci is the nominal 'star' of All My Children, but for a couple of weeks now I've been meaning to write something about Finola Hughes. The British actress used to be on General Hospital, although I never saw her there. But thanks to my own insomnia, I've been catching her and her scene partner, Vincent Irizarry, on All My Children during post-midnight cable reruns.
Yesterday I spotted Hughes, who is more beautiful in real life, at the aforementioned Patricia Fields show. She is a knockout, very elegant and full of life. I only noticed this because she was in the front row a few seats away from the plastic and dull-looking Britney Spears.
In fact, Hughes sang along silently to the terrific Brit-pop soundtrack supplied by Fields and seemed to really love Fields's crazy, inspired designs while Spears, bookended by two pretty-boy stylists in denim, mostly stared open-mouthed at the proceedings with the lifeless response of a caught fish.
From what I can tell, on AMC Hughes is, preposterously, the female chief of police in the Philadelphia suburb of Pine Valley. Her character is married to a brilliant doctor who gets arrested once a week for some terrible crime. Most soap couples are standard fare, very blah and busy taking curtain calls (General Hospital's awful Sonny and Carly are the best example of this.)
But these two have kind of transcended the genre, if just for a short time. They are in their own time warp, making a three-dimensional study of a totally dysfunctional marriage seem kind of operatic.
He is brilliant but self-destructive. She is independent but hopeful that he'll mend his wicked ways. It's a no-win situation. It can't go on forever and I suppose it won't.
Because these actors are not teenagers, they probably won't be featured much longer. But their little pas de deux is more worthy of an Emmy than a lot of the stuff that was paraded around last night on prime time.
Just a reminder that a bevy of stars and writers will read from Laurie Colwin's writing next Wednesday as a 10th-anniversary memorial to this wonderful writer.
Matthew Modine, Peter Bogdanovich, Mary Beth Hurt, Tama Janowitz, Francine Prose, Karen Duffy ("Duff" from MTV and Revlon fame), Linda Yablonsky, novelists Scott Spencer (Endless Love and Waking the Dead) and Meg Wolitzer (This is Your Life) will appear -- for free -- on September 25 at the GQ Lounge at 110 University Place in New York City. The reading begins at 7pm.
Colwin, who was my great friend and beloved by many, died in October 1992, suddenly, at the age of 48. Her many fine books include Happy All the Time, Home Cooking, The Lone Pilgrim and A Big Storm Knocked It Over.
She's still so popular that HarperPerennial has all her books in print to this day -- unheard of, even for living writers. So if you are in town, stop by and help celebrate a great artist's legacy.