I admit it. I've always been a closet soap opera nut. Whether it was Luke and Laura, Cliff and Nina, or Tad and Dixie, I knew and loved them all.
It started when I was little and my mother and I would enjoy As The World Turns together. We watched as stars like Meg Ryan, Marisa Tomei, and Julianne Moore got their starts. Later we bonded over the trials and tributions of Reva Shayne on Guiding Light. That led to a love affair with All My Children that began in college and lasted—off and on—until last year, when the show was axed.
So imagine my surprise when I moved to Montclair in the summer of 2009 and, lo and behold, who do I see at Jackie's Grillette on Valley Road? The amazingly talented Kim Zimmer, who played Shayne and later appeared as Echo DiSavoy on One Life To Life. When I nearly choked on my falafel, I'm sure my companion thought I was insane.
But since then I've found out that others in Montclair also become rattled when they suddenly bump into someone they've grown up with on TV, someone they used to watch an hour a day—every day—no matter how insane the storyline.
Local writer Cynthia Darling said that, a few years ago, she was fortunate enough to meet and talk to Zimmer, her "absolute favorite soap opera star."
Zimmer told Darling that she liked living in Montclair so much that she persuaded Michael O'Leary, who played Dr. Rick Bauer on Guiding Light, to move here too.
"True to her words, a few years later, I saw Rick. Now I see Rick Bauer at my bagel shop all the time. I used to love him on Guiding Light. How amazing it is, then, to see him ordering up his breakfast at my corner bagel store?" Darling said. "I did my best to keep from mooning over him. I also saw Buzz Cooper (real name Justin Deas) from Guiding Light in the CVS in Montclair.
"I kept saying to my friend, 'that guy's famous ... he's from my old soap' and she kept saying I was crazy since he was just wearing sweats and buying stuff at CVS," Darling said.
Darling said that, when she was younger, she bonded with her grandmother, mother, and sister by watching soap operas.
"I knew those characters the way I knew my own family," she said. "My grandmother would be thrilled to know that, 20 years later, I happened to move to a town where these same stars roam the streets happily. Montclair couldn't be a better place for me to live, for this reason alone."
Others around town also said they know of various soap opera stars who currently live—or have lived—in Montclair.
Among them are Vincent Irizarry, who played Dr. David Hayward on All My Children, Eva LaRue, who played Maria Santos on All My Children and is now a regular on CSI: Miami, and Jake Weary, who played Luke Snyder on As The World Turns. Deas is married to Margaret Colin, who played Margo Montgomery Hughes on As The World Turns and Eleanor Waldorf-Rose on Gossip Girl. The two moved to Montclair in the late 1990s.
Some residents say they think they've spotted a soap star—but aren't sure.
"I met a vampire in Anderson Park the other night. I thought he looked familiar. Remember Dark Shadows? What was his name? Quentin [Collins] or something?" one asked.
Someone else said the only star she knows of who lives in Montclair is Patrick Wilson—but he's not a soap star.
Oddly enough, one resident I spoke with, Pamela Schwartz, said she actually played Hope Bauer on Guiding Light in 1968 for less than a year when she was only eight years old.
Anyway, my soap opera obsession has faded away—now that most of them have been replaced by daytime talk shows.
But every once in awhile I still long to escape to the fictitious towns of Oakdale, or Springfield, or Pine Valley. I long to see Erica Kane get married one more time or one of many characters get yanked back once again from the great beyond.
And, when I bump into O'Leary—or Dr. Rick Bauer—at a town meeting, as I did this week, I can't help but think about those times—years ago—when he attempted a kidnapping, assaulted his closest friend, and kept quiet about the fact that the child Beth was carrying was not his.
Anyone else a closet soap opera fan? Tell us in the comments!