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Erika Slezak Library

Soap Opera Update
May 21, 1990

A Day in the Life of
The Inimitable Erika Slezak

By: unknown

Any job...any good job...should always offer new challenges and new heights to conquer.  It can become a dulling experience when every daily expectation is just that - expected and never off the routine course.  Just for the record, I'm talking about my job - not Erika Slezak's job as Viki Buchanan on One Life to Live.  You see, being with Soap Opera Update allowed doors to open up to me, offering me the opportunities to meet and speak to many daytime favorites.  There are a few daytime stars who can be so eagerly awaited to meet as Erika Slezak.  Speaking on the phone to her would have been one thing, but spending an entire day with her could have been nerve wracking, exciting, scary...the list continues.  Why?  Because Erika Slezak is a legend, but an acting legend in general - though her candor, demeanor and personality never give a clue to the feeling that she might be too big for her britches.  A more down-to-earth performer is hard to find.  Harder to find is an actress more insightful and fun to spend a day with.

At 9:30, ABC publicist Rodi Rosensweig and photographer Cathy Blaivas and I rendezvoused with Erika.  She greeted me at her dressing room door with a very polite, “Hello, I'm Erika Slezak.”  As if I couldn't guess.  Her makeup-less face boasted a young and fresh complexion - a face that gave no indication that she had actually been on One Life to Live for 19 years.  We sat in Erika's dressing room talking about the day's taping schedule, her daily routine, and then she was called up for a rehearsal.

On the way to the studio, we ran into Fiona Hutchison (Gabrielle), whose mother was visiting from England, Nicholas Walker, complete with the scar makeup Max has had to endure, and a pacing John Viscardi, waiting to rehearse his scenes as Father Tony.  On the set, Erika went through blocking with Clint Ritchie (Clint), while Larry Pine (Roger) waited on the sidelines.  John Loprieno (Cord) joined the activities in the midst of giving an OLTL tour to two guests.

With rehearsal over, Erika excused herself to take a shower before hair and makeup,  In the makeup room, she got the full star treatment - which was an added plus for her as she was going to the theater that night with her of the ten times they go the theater, she relates.  This was the hour in which Erika gave us story after story about her two children (obviously a mother thoroughly proud of her children), and her late father, actor Walter Slezak.  With an hour for lunch after her beauty treatment, we hopped over to a local Italian restaurant.  Erika was ever so gracious, even considering the slow service this particular day.

Once back at the studio, Erika went to the makeup room to run lines with Clint Ritchie.  Hustling and bustling were Linda Thorson (Julia) blow-drying her hair, John Viscardi having his makeup applied, and Melody Combs (Lily) walking in and out.  Erika then headed to her dressing room to get into her outfit for dress rehearsal.

We went back up to the studio for dress rehearsal (which went off without a hitch), and had some time before the actual taping was to take place.  On our way to her dressing room, we paused in the lobby to take a few photos.  While there, we watched a bevy of beauties enter the ABC portals to audition for the role of Tina Roberts (Erika's comments concerning some of the Tina wannabes were priceless...humor can be her forte.)

At one point, a fan standing on the street with a bouquet of flowers and a small bag of potato chips (a Slezak favorite) motioned to the actress to join him outside.  Erika recognized him as an admirer who often waited to get a glimpse of his favorite OLTL star.  No, he doesn't always bring flowers.  This was a particularly special day (March 16) because March 17 (a non-working day in 1990) is Erika's anniversary with the show.  Erika obliged by posing for photos with the fan, and even accepted a kiss (which she normally is loathe to do)!

Back in her dressing room, Erika shared stories with me and paused to watch General Hospital - her favorite soap next to One Life to Live.  She actually doesn't have a lot of time to watch TV in general, so if its not scheduled during one of her daily breaks in taping, then she wont see it.  Her time at home is quality time for her children, not for television!  Watching Erika watch General Hospital is terrific, because it's not an actress your witnessing watching a's a fan.  It happened to be a red-letter day for GH, as it was the episode on which Duke (Greg Beecroft) met his demise.  Erika was ooh-ing and ah-ing just like a true GH fan.

After OLTL taped, it was time for good-byes - a sad good-bye because I actually had a wonderful day with Erika Slezak.  She is a complete professional.  A day in the life of Erika Slezak?  You'll never get to know or see everything there is to know about Erika in one day.  For her life goes well beyond the acting profession.  She is an actress, a wife, a what seems to be her most favorite role - a mother.  And anyone who might be having problems with juggling an acting career and domestic life, need go no further than to see what Erika Slezak has done with her life.  Everything correctly!

Erika Slezak on waking up early and long days:
“There are days when my commute is a killer - when we go until 11 o'clock at night, which is not often, but has happened.  We went to 3 o'clock in the morning once during the Heaven sequences.  The Eterna sequences never went that late, but the Heaven sequences were usually done no earlier than 10 o'clock.  Only one night did we get out at 7, I think, and that was the last night.  There are very long days.  I drive most of the time.  Sometimes I take the train...if the weather's bad, snowing or if it's pouring rain.  But the train I have to take from home leaves at 5:40 in the morning which means I have to get up at 4:45.  And there's something major offensive to me looking at a clock that says 4 something.  Even if it's 4:59.  I cannot get up!”

...on Viki becoming Mayor of Llanview: 
“I don't know if I win.  You know I asked (director) Peter Miner last week, 'Do I win?' He said, 'I don't know.' I said, 'I better win, I'm the good guy.”

...on Jane Elliott (Tracy, GH):
“I think that Jane Elliot can do no wrong.  One of the reasons that I watch the show is Jane.  I stop everything when she comes on.  She is wonderful.  She's bitchy and nasty and mean, but it's all done in humor.”

...on her children coming to visit her on the set:
“My eight-year-old Amanda was here with me one day at the studio.  And they love to come and visit the set because they think it's fun, because I have a television in my dressing room.  And they come with me in the morning and they get to eat a sweet roll for breakfast, which we don't allow them at home.  I bring them in on days when I don't have a lot to do.  And we go to the park or we go to FAO Schwarz and shop around.  Michael likes to go the Hammacher Schlemmer and the Sharper Image and look at gadgets.  Amanda likes to go on rides on the carousel in the summer.  But anyway, I had her here.  And I went upstairs to do my taping, and I said if you want to watch the taping turn on the television to channel 31.  And I came downstairs right after my last scene, in which I had been very upset and was crying, because somebody had done something to me again.  And I found her sobbing in my dressing room.  And I took her in my arms and said, 'What's wrong?'  And she said, 'Mommy, I hate it when you're that sad.  It's so sad to see your crying.  I've never seen you cry before.'  And this was a big thing for her.  She said she had never seen me cry except on television.  And I thought that she probably hasn't seen me cry.”

...on winning two Daytime Emmys:
“You never expect to win.  I can tell you that I've been nominated four times, and I've won twice.  And you never think you're going to win and you never think you're going to lose.  And you sit there and you say to yourself, and it goes back and forth, “I'm not going to win.  There are these four other ladies.  They have unbelievable reputation in daytime.  Why would I win?  Of course I'll win.  No I won't.  Because Susan Lucci's going to win because she's been nominated 103 times.  And she's never won.  Of course she's going to win.  And Liz Hubbard.  She's so good.  Why wouldn't she win?  Of course she's going to win.  And Helen Gallagher's going to win.  Of course she's going to win.  Why can't I win.  I should win.  I think I'll win.  No, I'm not going to win.  Because Kim Zimmer's sitting there.'  And you make yourself stark raving crazy!”

...on why people leave Daytime:
“Because they think they can do better somewhere else.  And the track record isn't good.  In the number of years I've been here, I've seen any number of people leave...”I'm gonna be a star'...and off they go.  And two years later, they're back.  Sometimes they come back, and almost without exception, it does not work when they come back.  Andrea (Evans, ex-Tina) was the only exception.”

...on which OLTL alumni have come back to visit:
“Perfect examples, I can give you two.  Judy Light (ex-Karen), who would not come through New York without stopping in here.  And she comes in and goes to the page phone at the lobby desk, and she picks up the phone and she goes, 'Heeeeellllooooo,' screaming.  And I heard that one day two years ago, and I said, “Judy's here!' Robin (Strasser ex-Dorian) is another one who comes back.  Judy and Robin used to do the best Jewish accents of anybody I've ever Sadie and Esther.  Oh, and Blair Underwood.  Every time that kid is in New York, he's here.  My sweet Bobby Blue.”

...on her childhood aspirations:
“When I was a little girl, I wanted to be an actress from the time I could remember - like three-years-old.  I was going to be an actress.  That was all I was ever going to be.  It never for a second occurred to me to be anything else except once, for about five minutes, I was going to be a nun.  That was probably when I was 13 and going to boarding school.  And I gave that up very quickly.  I was quite determined, always, that this was what I was going to do. My children don't talk about it at all.  Michael has had many different professions since he could start thinking about it.  And they've all been wonderfully sensible things.  Like an architect.  He as going to be a fireman.  Until he realized it's dangerous to be a fireman.  Now he wants to be Donald Trump.  That's fine by me.  Amanda is very definite what she wants to be.  She wants to be a horseback rider, have a farm, and have horses and animals.  And Michael, because he's going to be Donald Trump, is going to buy the horses.  This is a pact that they have made.”

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