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History of As the World Turns (1976–1980)

This article is about the history of As the World Turns (ATWT), the second longest-running American television soap opera.

1980 - 1989

Like many daytime dramas of the period, the show entered into a mixed experiment with heavily youth-oriented action-adventure storylines in the early 1980s under producer Mary-Ellis Bunim and writers Bridget Dobson Jerome Dobson. One of their juiciest stories centered around the various and sundry traumas endured by Jennifer's daughter Barbara Ryan (Colleen Zenk Pinter) - during the years of her marriage to the charismatic criminal James Stenbeck (Anthony Herrera) (This was after she had left Tom Hughes at the altar in June 1980). James would be involved with smuggling both illegal drugs and stolen art work through Barbara and her partner Lisa's dress shop to show off Barbara's fashion designs, Fashions, Ltd.. James had various affairs while married to Barbara, and tried to drug her and kill her on more than one occasion so he could get sole custody of their young son, Paul (played as a child by Danny Pintauro). Then Barbara had a star-crossed romance with Gunnar Stenbeck (Hugo Napier), whom she first met through visions of a past life. Gunnar was revealed to be the true Stenbeck heir with James the son of the nanny. After marrying Barbara, Gunnar learned he had a terminal illness and, wanting to explore the world with the time he had left, bid adieu to Oakdale via hot air balloon.

The Dobsons centered the melodrama around a limited set of characters. One of their favorites was John Dixon, who regained his malicious streak after a few years of dormancy. But John's newly refound maliciousness started out somewhat innocently and at first was seen as being part of another new character's maliciousness. In the winter of 1980, coal mining company owner, Brad Hollister (Peter Brouwer) arrived in Oakdale and conned the Hugheses (Chris and Nancy), the Stewarts (Ellen and David), and Lisa Colman out of land to start mining (with both of the families and Lisa unaware of how profitable their land was). Dee Stewart (played in the 1980s by Jacqueline Schultz and Vicky Dawson, despite Brad's con game, fell in love with him, but she was hesitant to make love after a bad experience with another man. A frustrated Brad turned to her sister, Annie (played in the 1980s by Julie Ridley, Randall Edwards and Mary Lynn Blank), and Dee married a supportive John (who had kept Dee's secret about the true nature of the death of Ian McFarland) which was seen as a scandal by the pure-hearted Stewart family. Brad also had to contend with some concerns of safety at the mine, and also Melinda Gray coming on to him. Melinda would die in a freak drowning accident after the Hollister's mine July 4, 1980 picnic. Betsy Stewart overheard Brad and Melinda arguing before the drowning, but for a couple of months blocked the incident out. When Betsy recovered the memory, the D.A.'s office was sure Brad had murdered Melinda, but it was later ruled an accident. Dee got a job at the mine (Brad's version of paying back the Stewarts), and a couple of times John came by and started arguing with Dee, convinced she was having an affair with Brad. And then in October 1980 there was a cave-in at the mine, and one of those killed was mine worker Jay Stallings!

One night, mistakenly believing John was Brad, Dee allowed John to make love to her. When she realized what had just happened, a horrified Dee believed John had sexually assaulted her and took him to trial for rape -- a knockoff of the Dobson's highly successful marital rape storyline on Guiding Light in 1979. Dee hired recently-arrived back in town, Tom Hughes (played at this time by Justin Deas) and John hired recently-arrived in town attorney Maggie Crawford (Mary Linda Rapelye) (seen as a scandal, by many, in and of itself that a woman would defend a man in a rape trial). Tom and Maggie had been lovers and continued after Maggie moved to Oakdale. Maggie would get John acquitted when Dee had to admit on the witness stand both her past with the death of Ian, and also her love for Brad. Brad and Annie divorced shortly after this revelation by Dee. Shortly after his acquittal, David tried to run down John with his car but didn't succeed, and then David left Oakdale and suffered from temporary amnesia and adopted the name Donald Saunders. During this time, in the summer and fall of 1981, David as Donald got involved with the widowed Cynthia Haynes (Linda Dano) and adopted as his own, Cynthia's unruly and conniving teenage daughter, Karen Haines (Kathryn "Kate" McNeil). David might have married Cynthia if it had not been for John tracking him down and bringing Dee to the wedding! John also faked his own death, battled blindness, feuded with James Stenbeck, married Stenbeck's conniving sister Ariel Aldrin (Judith Blazer), and later Karen Haines (who first would find out the truth about James not being the true Stenbeck heir and blackmail him into a loveless marriage, with James telling the reverend at the wedding ceremony, "No, I do not want to kiss the bride.") John also would learn along the way that he had a daughter he never knew (Margo) via a long-ago affair with nurse Lyla Montgomery (Veleka Gray, then for a decade, Anne Sward), who was Maggie Crawford's sister. Margo began an affair with James Stenbeck which broke up his marriage to Barbara. Dee left town, in 1983. James supposedly accidentally plunged to his death when he tried to kill John, Karen, Ariel, Dusty Donovan (Brian Bloom) (who was revealed to be the true Stenbeck heir; and Gunnar's biological son) and Gunnar on a small cargo airplane leaving the Caribbean while he and Gunnar were struggling, in February 1984 (but James was wearing a parachute). Annie, after having quadruplets with Dr. Jeff Ward (and after Jeff suffered briefly from drug addiction, when he nearly killed a patient, with John faking death stepping in to save Jeff's hide), did the same in 1984 (Dee, Annie and Jeff did return for a couple of episodes in 1985 and 1986. Cynthia Haines was last seen in 1982 and Karen after she got a divorce from John left in the fall of 1984.

The Dobsons' most lasting legacy was pairing Lisa and Bob's strait-laced son Tom with the sluttish Margo. Justin Deas and Margaret Colin thrilled viewers with their witty banter and subtle eroticism (Colin and Deas apparently enjoyed their work -- they married in the early 1980s and remain married to this day). Bob Hughes surprised everyone by marrying an Italian woman, named Miranda Marlowe (Elaine Princi) who was working with James Stenbeck and a man only known as Mr. Big (actual name Bernard Ignatius Grayson; played by a dwarf named, Brent Collins) in smuggling drugs and stolen art work. Margo and Tom would be caught up in the intrigue involving James, Miranda and Mr. Big, and be kidnapped by Mr. Big (twice) and nearly lose their lives. Margo and Tom though would learn that Miranda had been separated from her teenage daughter, Bilan Marlowe (Kathleen Rowe Horton) who Mr. Big had kidnapped Bilan after murdering Miranda's former lover. Mr. Big would get eaten by a crocodile while trying to struggle with Tom and Margo to keep Bilan in his clutches in Africa. Miranda would leave Bob and follow a French man to Paris after Bob tried to get her to act like a "normal" housewife (something Miranda was not happy about). Maggie would lose Tom to Margo, but would later marry policeman Frank Andropoulos (Jacques Perrault), a member of a large Greek family transplanted to the U.S. Maggie and Frank would later adopt a baby girl Maggie named, Jill, but would have to fight Jill's biological father, Cal Randolph (Luke Reilly). Cal at first seemed to be a former alcoholic who seemed to be a drifter with no purpose, but it would later be revealed he was an F.B.I. Agent. When it was revealed that Cal was with the F.B.I., Maggie and Frank were certain they would lose custody of Jill. But Cal finally let it be known to the court that his profession was probably not the best job to be in raise Jill (especially since Jill's mother couldn't be located), and agreed to let Maggie and Frank raise Jill as their own, with Maggie and Frank agreeing to a generous visitation rights for Cal. Kim Stewart also married an Andropolous, Nikolas "Nick" (Frank's cousin; played by Michael Forest), a restaurant owner who took Kim on a beautiful honeymoon in Greece (with many location shots of several Greek ruins). Also introduced was Margo's younger sister, and Lyla's other daughter, Cricket Montgomery (Lisa Loring) who Lyla seemed to have even less control over than Margo. Cricket while still in high school got a job working as an assistant for a movie company and got pregnant, but tried to pass off the child as Brad Hollister's handsome younger brother, Eric (played by Peter Reckell). But after Eric's life was saved by Karen Haines when she discovered that some of the illegal drugs being smuggled through Fashions had nearly killed Eric, Eric developed feelings for Hayley Wilson (Dana Delaney) who was a temporary ward of John Dixon's. Eric and Hayley would marry before the end of 1981 and leave town, but Eric would return for the birth of Cricket's child she named William "Billy". But Karen and Jeff Ward (the brother of the young movie maker that had actually gotten Cricket pregnant) knew that Eric wasn't the father, and blasted Cricket into telling the truth. Eric would then leave town and he and Hayley haven't been heard of since. Cricket would later get involved with computer geek, Ernie Ross (J. Marshall Watson) who was a virgin for a long time, nervous around the very beautiful Cricket. But after he got his nerve up, Ernie became a wild man in the bedroom, and on his "first time" with Cricket he got her pregnant. Ernie left town because he though Cricket would never marry him. But he returned short time later and see that she was pregnant and would marry her. Ernie adopted Billy as his own child, and the couple left with their daughter, Suzie, and relocated to Oregon. Cricket would return for a short time in 1984, but except for Billy's return in 2001, Cricket, Ernie and Suzie would not be seen again.

The Dobsons departed after a few years but the show managed to remain a strong Emmy contender, while increasingly sagging ratings and introducing the world to actress Meg Ryan as well as Marisa Tomei. Tomei played ditzy teen Marcy Thompson, who briefly accused Bob Hughes of sexual harassment. Marcy would go on to marry a real prince, who turned out to be Paul Stewart's long lost son, Lord Stewart Cushing, and move to England and become Lady Cushing. Ryan was a more SORASed Betsy Stewart, who struggled through a marriage to Margo's bad-seed brother Craig Montgomery (played by heartthrob Scott Bryce, and years later by Hunt Block) while pining away for blue-collar Steve Andropolous (Frank Runyeon), Frank's cousin. Nick was opposed to his stepdaughter, Betsy, being in relationship with Steve and one day Nick died of a heart attack during an argument with Steve, leaving Kim a widow yet again. This also set up a year and a few months storyline where Betsy was forced into the marriage with Craig, and then Craig doing everything he could (illegally of course) to keep the Betsy and Steve apart (he even tampered with paternity tests to show that he was the father of Betsy's daughter, Danielle, and not Steve as was the truth). When Steve and Betsy married in June 1984, the show soared to #1 in the ratings for the week. Steve's friend and best man, trucker turned private investigator, Tucker Foster (Eddie Earl Hatch) was introduced, and he was the first major African-American character in As The World Turns's history. Tucker had a romance for a while with gospel singer, Heather Dalton (Tonya Pinkins) who sang at Steve and Betsy's wedding, but as Heather became more popular as a pop singer, Tucker and Heather's relationship suffered.

Some longtime fans were dispirited, however, by the show's dwindling emphasis on the core Hughes and Stewart families, and were angered when Bunim's relentless emphasis on youth storylines at the expense of established characters led longtime favorite Eileen Fulton - once the undisputed star of As the World Turns - to quit the role of Lisa in disgust. (Fulton returned several months later. Betsy Von Furstenberg played the role while Fulton was gone). Although introduced through Lisa was the McColl family. Before Fulton left in 1982 she got married to rich businessman, Whit McColl (Robert Horton), who had three children from his previous marriage to Joanna: Diana McColl (Kim Johnston Ulrich) (who would open a nightclub, and get involved with Craig Montgomery, Steve Andropoulos — by whom she got pregnant, but would miscarriage the child — and Cal Randolph), Brian McColl (played by Robert Burton, Frank Telfer and Mark Pinter), and Whit and Joanna's youngest, Kirk McColl (Christian Jules LeBlanc). Kirk would get involved with both Frannie Hughes (before she went away to college) and Marcy Thompson (before she got married). But Kirk was a ruffian who was involved with several robberies and also became an alcoholic for a while, until his brother, attorney turned newspaper man, Brian helped get him into recovery. In August 1984 after a benefit concert given by Jermaine Jackson, Whit would be found dead from a blow in the head by Lisa (a returned Fulton) in his study. A murder mystery was begun by the Dobsons where there was many suspects, but in the end the real culprit would turn out to be the McCall's long time housekeeper Dorothy Connors (Nancy Pinkerton Peabody), who had a teenage boy named Jay Connors (Breck Jamison) a couple of months older than Kirk and would compete with Kirk for the affections of Frannie. As it would turn out, Dorothy had accidentally killed Whit by striking him in the head with a crystal decanter while they were having an argument about the upbringing of their illegitimate child, Kirk McColl.

From 1985 to 1993, the show was written by Douglas Marland, whose tenure is widely considered to be the second golden age of As the World Turns. After what had been several years of standoffs between Bunim's production office and the cast over long-term story direction, the program was finally returned to its roots under Marland and executive producers Robert Calhoun and later Laurence Caso. Marland wrote the matriarch and patriarch of the Hughes family back into the storyline, bringing back original cast members Helen Wagner and Don MacLaughlin, who had left after a spat with Bunim. Marland's back-to-emotional basics writing — characterized by psychological authenticity and a deep understanding of family dynamics — coupled with the successful integration of a new farm family, the Snyders (based on Marland's own large and close-knit family), brought enormous approval from fans and critics alike, and caused the show's ratings to approach the level they had once reached in the 1970s. Marland's storytelling placed the highest value on character development and realism, and he consistently drew fresh material from the show's rich history. Long-unseen characters like Penny Hughes (with Rosemary Prinz returning to the role after a seventeen-year absence) and Susan Stewart (Marie Masters, returning for the first time since 1979) were seen once again, and new storylines rippled from events far in the show's past. Daytime viewers heartily approved of Marland's mining of new twists from storylines and characters they remembered from as far back as the 1960s and 1970s. One history-rich storyline shone a spotlight on Kim, who began receiving notes and flowers from a secret admirer. The attention became more and more threatening as Kim tried to decipher who the mystery person was. Meanwhile, Bob's daughter Frannie, played by this time by future movie star Julianne Moore, fell in love with mysterious restaurant owner and widower Douglas Cummings (John Wesley Shipp) and nearly married him. Cummings was revealed to be Kim's stalker and killed three characters who knew his secret, a young woman named Marie Kovac (Mady Kaplan), Cal Randolph and his psychiatrist Henry Strauss (who was run into in front of the Hughes home). Cummings also nearly choked to death Heather Dalton when she came upon his secret. Cummings then kidnapped both Frannie and Kim when they stumbled upon his secret shrine room to Kim. And then Cummings nearly killed Frannie, but Frannie's former boyfriend Kevin Gibson (played by later primetime star Steven Weber; Frannie and Kevin had broken up because Marie Kovac had falsely claimed she was pregnant by Kevin and had paid for an abortion for her) jumped in front of the bullet when the right hand woman of Cumming's, Marsha Talbot (Guilia Pagano) -- who ended up stabbing to death Cumming in her jealousy (Kim would go on trial for this murder, but it would be revealed at the trial that it was indeed Marsha, who went to prison, but escaped for a few days and held Frannie hostage in a cabin until two young men, Seth Snyder {the eldest child of the Snyder clan played by Steve Bassett} and Dr. Casey Peretti, played by Bill Shanks came to rescue her). Douglas Marland cited this as his favorite storyline. He then dipped into history yet again to have Kim and Bob track down the daughter they long believed was dead, Sabrina, played originally by Julianne Moore in a dual role and then solely by Claire Beckman from 1990-92.

Marland breathed new life into ever-distraught heroine Barbara Ryan. She dated Brian McColl (played by Mark Pinter, her real-life husband; Marland would write out both Diana and Kirk within the first year of his writing the show in 1985) but when he dumped her for another woman, Shannon O'Hara (real name Erin Casey, played by Margaret Reed), Marland decided to have Barbara abandon her goody-two shoe ways and become a vixen. She tried to break up Tom and Margo but then became involved with, arguably, the love of her life: police detective Hal Munson (Benjamin Hendrickson). Barbara also broke up Brian and Shannon by bringing Shannon's long thought dead husband, the Scottish Duncan McKechnie (Michael Swan) to Oakdale. Duncan and Shannon became a super couple on their own, and Brian would end up marrying Duncan's grown daughter from a previous affair, Beatrice McKechnie (Ashley Crow).

Barbara would get the scare of her life when James Stenbeck returned from the "dead" hiding in Duncan's castle that Duncan had transferred from Scotland to Oakdale. James would reveal himself to Barbara by saying, "Hello, Barbara...!", to the delight of many audience members.

Much later, after a one-night stand with Darryl Crawford (Rex Smith), Barbara was forced to admit that the baby that was conceived (Jennifer, named after her mother) was not Hal's, and he divorced her. In the 1990s, however, Barbara and Hal were to be married two more times, though their happiness was never long-lived. For the better part of three decades, Barbara's turbulent personal life has seldom strayed from center stage. If her aunt Kim can be said to be one of the great heroines of As the World Turns, Barbara is certainly one of its great anti-heroines: spoiled, selfish, at times cold and haughty, yet underneath it all a painfully wounded and vulnerable woman, and a deeply loyal and loving parent.

In 1988 Marland introduced the first gay male character, Hank Elliot (Brian Starcher), to daytime. Hank was a masculine man who was introduced to the town before revealing his homosexuality. The characters, particularly young slightly SORASed teenagers Paul Ryan (played at this time by Andy Kavovit) and his friend, Andy Dixon (played by Scott DeFreitas), then had to struggle with their feelings over being around him. Ultimately, when Hank was shot after saving Paul from his nefarious father James, Paul realized what a true friend Hank was. When Hank was written out of the show, Marland almost gave him AIDS, but felt that would send a stereotypical message. Instead he gave Hank's off-camera partner the virus.

Marland had a rule never to introduce new characters until he had been at a series for 6 months and knew the canvas, but many of the new characters that Marland introduced often became every bit as beloved as the old favorites. Many of the stories during this period revolved around Lucinda Walsh (Elizabeth Hubbard; she had been created shortly before Marland arrived at ATWT), a tough-as-nails businesswoman whose tremendous confidence, savvy and success in the boardroom masked a deep pain and vulnerability over her failings as a mother and romantic partner. Her adopted daughter Lily (Martha Byrne) became, in many respects, the emotional centerpiece of the program, as she entered into a series of star-crossed love affairs that took much precedence in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Although Lily was raised rich, she'd had quite a tough childhood, having seen at a young age Martin Guest, the man she'd believed to be her father, commit suicide. One day, Lily was told that her close friend and by then brother-in-law Craig Montgomery's airplane had gone down. Thinking him dead, Lily ran to a barn at the Snyder Farm and wept. Farm hand Rod Landry (William Fichtner) found her here and shook her, asking what was wrong. At this moment, Lily's biological mother Iva Snyder (Lisa Brown) happened to enter the room. She thought that Rod (whose real identity was Josh Snyder) was trying to rape Lily as he'd raped her, so she grabbed a pitchfork and blurted out that Lily was Rod/Josh's daughter. Emotionally charged scenes like these were characteristic of Marland's tenure.

One of the more puzzling aspects of the Snyder family involved near-incestuous relationships, the most confusing of which involved Lily and Holden (Jon Hensley). Lily was dating safe, kindhearted Dusty Donovan (then played by Brian Bloom) in 1985 when brooding stable boy Holden Snyder taught her how to ride horses. Sensing a palpable chemistry between Byrne and Hensley, Marland paired them up. The problem was that if Iva was Holden's sister and Lily was Iva's daughter, then Holden was Lily's biological uncle. To straighten out the mess, Marland had Iva learn she had been adopted by Emma (Kathleen Widdoes) and Henry Snyder at a time when they believed they could not conceive children. Another, more controversial story aspect was Meg Snyder (then played by Jennifer Ashe) falling in love with Josh Snyder in spite of knowing he had raped her sister. Marland revealed Josh had been brutally beaten by his father for years, but some fans still never warmed to the Meg/Josh relationship. Another Snyder story involved real incest, when Angel Lange (Alice Haining) arrived in Oakdale. She had been Holden Snyder's brother Caleb Snyder's wife while he lived in Chicago, and had aborted his child. On the rebound and angry about Caleb's shoddy treatment of Angel, Holden married Angel and they moved to Europe. When they returned a year or so later, Angel refused to give him a divorce even though everyone knew he was in love with Lily. What seemed to be selfishness was actually abject terror of what her father Henry Lange (James Rebhorn) would do to her if she were alone. Sure enough, one night Henry crawled into Angel's bed and forced himself on her, as he had been doing ever since she was a little girl. When Caleb learned the baby Angel had aborted was her own father's, he confronted Henry, who then killed himself out of shame. Caleb stood trial due to his unwillingness to expose Angel's secrets to the world, but finally Angel took the witness stand and confessed her father's brutality. A few years later, Angel married the eldest Snyder brother, Seth (Steve Bassett) and they moved to New York City in 1993.

Marland often delved into realistic portrayals of controversial, socially-relevant topics in his storylines. During his tenure, the citizens of Oakdale encountered AIDS, homosexuality, Native American land rights, incest, euthanasia, and menopause, in addition to the more typical soap opera tribulations. Marland always centered his stories around beloved characters and steered away from preaching. As a result, viewers accepted the heavy emphasis on social issues.

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