It's time for another trip back through time as we enter the time machine for the Tuesday Timeline. This week, the date we're going to be focusing on is September 18. It was quite hard to choose a particular event to focus on, because September 18 was a date in history that had quite a lot going on. First things first, we will talk about some of the famous people who are celebrating a September 18 birthday.
Happy birthday to the following celebrities...June Foray, Bob Toski, Robert Blake, Scotty Bowman, Jimmie Rodgers, Frankie Avalon, Fred Willard, Michael Franks, P.F. Sloan, Billy Drago, Otis Sistrunk, Rodger Beckman, Anna Deveare Smith, Chris Hedges, Tim McInnerny, Don Geronimo, Mark Romanek, Ryne Sandberg, James Gandolfini, Mark Olson, Joanne Catherall, Holly Robinson Peete, Ricky Bell (Bell Bev Devoe), Aisha Tyler, Lance Armstrong, Jada Pinkett Smith, Adam Cohen, James Marsden, Damon Jones, Travis Schuldt, Xzibit, Jason Sudeikis, Ronaldo, Alison Lohman, and Patrick Schwarzenegger.
There have also been a couple of celebrity deaths that took place on September 18. Jimi Hendrix passed away on this date in 1970. In 1986, Coronation Street star Pat Phoenix lost her life. And in 2001, Canada mourned the loss of Ernie “Mr. Dressup” Coombs.
Here are some of the other events that took place on this date.
1502 – Christopher Columbus lands at Costa Rica on his fourth and final voyage
1679 – New Hampshire becomes a county of the Massachusetts Bay Colony
1739 – The Treaty of Belgrade is signed
1759 – The British capture Quebec City
1793 – The first cornerstone of the Capitol building is laid by George Washington
1809 – The Royal Opera House in London opens to the public
1812 – The 1812 Fire of Moscow begins to die out after destroying nearly 75% of the city
1837 – Tiffany & Co. is founded as a “stationery and fancy goods emporium”
1850 – The Fugitive Slave Law of 1850 is passed by U.S. Congress
1851 – The very first publication of the New York Daily Times...later to be renamed The New York Times
1870 – Henry D. Washburn gives the geyser in Yellowstone its official name, “Old Faithful”
1873 – American based bank Jay Cooke & Company goes bankrupt, resulting in the “Panic of 1873”
1885 – Riots occur in Montreal following a protest against compulsory smallpox vaccinations
1895 – The “Atlanta Compromise” address is delivered by Booker T. Washington
1906 – A typhoon causes a tsunami which kills ten thousand people in Hong Kong
1911 – Russian premier Peter Stolypin is shot at the Kiev Opera House
1919 – Fritz Pollard becomes the first African-American person to play professional football
1927 – The Columbia Broadcasting System goes on the air
1948 – Margaret Chase Smith becomes the first female elected to the U.S. Senate without completing another senator's term
1962 – The nations of Trinidad & Tobago, Burundi, Rwanda, and Jamaica are admitted into the United Nations
1973 – Three more nations join the United Nations – the Bahamas, East Germany, and West Germany
1975 – After spending a whole year on the FBI's Most Wanted List, Patty Hearst is arrested
1977 – Voyager I takes the first photograph of the Earth and Moon together
1982 – Christian militia begin slaughtering six hundred Palestinians in Lebanon
1984 – Joe Kittinger completes the first solo balloon crossing of the Atlantic Ocean
1990 – Liechtenstein joins the United Nations
2001 – One week after the September 11 terrorist attacks, letters laced with anthrax begin appearing in the United States mail
2011 – Anti-bullying activist Jamey Rodemeyer takes his own life at the age of fourteen
So, what date are we going to be focusing on this week? Fear not...we aren't going back that far in time.
In fact, we're only going to take a look back three years in the past to September 18, 2009.
Three years ago, one of the world's longest running television programs aired its final episode, and with that episode ended seventy-two years of stories involving romance, joy, pain, and heartbreak. For seventy-two years, millions of people tuned in to watch the trials and tribulations of the residents of a mid-sized town as they interacted with each other. It was a show that began on radio and transitioned to television fifteen years after it began. And while the later years of the show were just a shadow of what the show used to be like (according to many fans of this program), one thing remained the same. The show was all about family and relationships.
Although the show has been off the air for three years, the show still remains the longest-running soap opera of all time, and will likely hold that record for some time (at least until the year 2033 when “Coronation Street” surpasses that record).
Today we are going to take a look back on the CBS soap opera “Guiding Light”.
The above opening that you watched was used between 1991 and 2002, but the program actually used several opening sequences during its run.
“Guiding Light” began as the radio program “The Guiding Light”, which initially began on NBC Radio. Debuting on January 25, 1937, the program was created by Irna Phillips. The show was created based on the personal experiences of Irna Phillips, and initially began as a way for her to cope with the grief that she carried with her as a result of a personal tragedy. When Phillips was just nineteen, she had given birth to a baby that was stillborn. Devastated by the loss, Phillips began to listen to radio sermons given by Preston Bradley, the founder of the People's Church in Chicago. The church was one that promoted the brotherhood of man, and Phillips was so inspired that these sermons that they formed the core of the show that would come to be known as “The Guiding Light”. I suppose one could say that the sermons also inspired the soap opera's long-running tagline, which aired during the opening credits of the television soap opera during 2007 and 2008.
Wasn't that nice?
Initially, “The Guiding Light” aired on NBC Radio as 15-minute programs until November 1946. After that, the show switched networks to CBS Radio a few months later in June 1947. By 1952, the decision was made to begin airing the long running radio show on television. The premiere episode of the television adaptation of “The Guiding Light” began airing on June 30, 1952. What was interesting about the show begin broadcast on television was the fact that the radio program continued broadcasting as well. For the first four years that “The Guiding Light” aired on CBS television, the radio station aired the same program. The actors who were in the series at the time had to act out their scenes twice...once for television, once for radio. This continued until June 29, 1956, when the radio program was taken off the air, and aired solely on television. And “The Guiding Light” did incredibly well on television at first, being the #1 ranked soap opera between 1956-1958.
TRIVIA: In 1958, Irna Phillips left “The Guiding Light” to work on the newer soap opera “As The World Turns”, and her protege stepped in as head writer. That head writer? It was Agnes Nixon, who ended up creating the soap operas “All My Children”, “Loving”, and “One Life To Live” for ABC. She stayed on the position until 1965.
As the program entered the 1960s, several changes occurred that made the show stand out even more. In March 1967, the show began broadcasting in colour, and in 1968, the show was expanded to a half hour in length. In 1975, the show's title was slightly changed, dropping the word 'the', becoming just “Guiding Light” and in 1977, the show was expanded to an hour long broadcast, which remained until its final episode aired in 2009.
The show ended up winning its first Daytime Emmy Award in 1980 for “Outstanding Achievement in a Daytime Drama”. The show would end up winning a grand total of 38 Emmy Awards between 1980 and 2008. The show also kickstarted the careers of several big-named stars. Below is a list of the celebrities who appeared on Guiding Light, as well as the characters that they played on the serial. How many do you recognize?
Kevin Bacon – Tim Werner (1980-1981)
Laura Bell Bundy – Marah Lewis (1999-2001)
Matthew Bomer – Ben Reade (2001-2003)
Joan Collins – Alexandra Spaulding (2002-2003)
Ruby Dee – Martha Frazier (1967)
Mark Derwin – A.C. Mallet (1990-1993)
Taye Diggs - “Sugar” Hill (1997)
Calista Flockhart – Elise (1989)
Paula Garces – Pilar Santos (1999-2001)
Rick Hearst – Alan-Michael Spaulding (1990-1996)
Allison Janney – Ginger (1993-1995)
James Earl Jones – Dr. Jerry Turner (1966)
Melina Kanakaredes – Eleni Andros Spaulding Cooper (1991-1995)
Harley Jane Kozak – Annabelle Sims Reardon (1983-1985)
Bethany Joy Lenz – Michelle Bauer Santos (1998-2000)
Nia Long – Kat Speakes (1991-1994)
Hayden Panettiere – Lizzie Spaulding (1996-2000)
John Wesley Shipp – Kelly Nelson (1980-1984)
Brittany Snow – Susan “Daisy” LeMay (1998-2001)
Sherry Stringfield – Christina “Blake” Thorpe Marler (1988-1992)
Paige Turco – Dinah Marler (1987-1989)
Christopher Walken – Mike Bauer (1954-1956)
Cynthia Watros – Annie Dutton (1994-1998)
Michael Zaslow – Roger Thorpe (1971-1980; 1989-1997)
Ian Ziering – Cameron Stewart (1986-1988)
Kim Zimmer – Reva Shayne Lewis (1983-1990; 1995-2009)
That's quite a list of names, no? A lot of them ended up being forever associated with their roles on the show, such as the case with Kim Zimmer, who played the fiery Reva Shayne Lewis for several stints. After all, with scenes like the one below, it's easy to see why she made such an impression on the show.
However, Reva was also known for some rather “interesting” storylines throughout her time on “Guiding Light”. Her one true love was her beloved Josh Lewis (played by Robert Newman), but there were a whole lot of marriages in between the seven or eight that Reva and Josh ended up having on the show. I don't know how many to be honest...I'm too lazy to research it. But my sister, who was a huge fan of “Guiding Light” in her teenage years has told me that it was a lot!
Let's take a look at some other storylines Reva's been involved in. Okay, she ended up getting pregnant with her first child, and it was a Maury Povich type storyline where she didn't know who the father was. Then she had post partum depression and drove off a bridge where she was presumed dead for five years. Then she became Amish. Then she wasn't Amish. Then Josh's new wife tried to kill Reva in plane crash where she was presumed dead again. Josh, for some unknown reason decides to clone her. Reva comes back. Reva's clone commits suicide. She finds out she was a princess while she was away from Josh the first time, and is reunited with her son that she had with the prince of the country. And then she went back in time, and...
...yeah, apparently the last few years of “Guiding Light” sort of resembled an episode of “Doctor Who”. At least Kim Zimmer made it seem more believable than it was.
In all seriousness though, “Guiding Light” had a lot of groundbreaking, memorable stories that really kept audiences glued. It also had cast members that really tied the history together, such as Charita Bauer as the matriarch of the Bauer family, Bert Bauer.
Perhaps some of the most interesting characters were the villains of the program. Fans of Guiding Light must remember Roger Thorpe (Michael Zaslow), who was the epitome of evil. In the classic scene below, he ends up attacking his wife (or love interest? I don't know, I wasn't alive in the 1970s), Holly.
But, Michael Zaslow was such a great actor, and continued to be so despite being diagnosed with Lou Gehrig's Disease in 1997. Sadly, the producers decided to let him go shortly after (a move that angered just as many fans of the series as it did when popular character Maureen Bauer was killed off), but Zaslow found work on another soap, “One Life To Live”, where he worked until his death in 1998.
And Cynthia Watros as Annie Dutton was just scary to watch...however, her portrayal of the damaged, crazed nurse helped her win a Daytime Emmy, so she must have been quite convincing. Take a look and see what I mean (it starts around the 3:16 mark).
Before “Guiding Light” ended its run in 2009, the show touched upon some real issues. Drug addiction, racism, sexism, abortion, mental illness, alcoholism, AIDS awareness...these were all issues that the soap tackled, and they managed to do a brilliant job with it. In later episodes, the cast would film scenes out of character, showing them working on Habitat for Humanity houses, or going on cast tours.
TRIVIA: Believe it or not, “Guiding Light” was even involved in a partnership with Marvel Comics, where the character of Harley Cooper (Beth Ehlers) was turned into a superhero called...wait for it...”The Guiding Light”. Yeah...I know...it sounded a bit lame to me too...but at the same time, for Marvel Comics to take interest in a soap opera, it had to have some cultural impact.
It's been three years since the longest running soap opera dimmed its lights forever, but for those of us who sat down in front of the television to catch up on what Reva, Josh, Harley, Roger, Holly, and the other residents of Springfield, Illinois were doing, the memories will always remain.
That's our look back on September 18, 2009.