Queen of the Soaps-and a Publisher Too

As the World Turns, the Young and the Restless Paula King discovers but One Life to Live. The Guiding Light in her Search for Tomorrow glitters only because of Ryan’s Hope. In these Days of Our Lives, Paula teeters precariously on the Edge of Night. It’s Another World for sure. All My Children find it downright incredible The Doctors in Somerset haven’t admitted me to General Hospital, she says. It’s truly amazing I have any Love of Life left at all.

The situation’s not really all that bad. But Paula King has had a glutton’s measure of soaps since she co-founded Soap Opera Review magazine three years ago.

After Emily Jane, now 3, was born, Paula found herself “over-educated to stay home. I didn’t want to teach school again . . . and frankly, folding diapers got tiring and boring.” She searched for something different and challenging. With zero knowledge of writing or publishing, she and a friend, who has since sold out, founded Soap Opera Review, devoted to soap opera news and synopses.

The first issue was “150 foldover mimeographed sheets. We gave them away in shopping centers, to doctors’ offices . . . anywhere. We thought we’d never get rid of them.”

Today the magazine’s circulation is 25,000. There is a small staff of writers and the Review is printed on slick paper with a color cover. It finally looks like a real magazine.

Paula gets a “big kick” out of seeing her own work and that of her staff improve. That’s the only reason she could have survived the embarrassing moments, like the time she tried to put a call through to the head of a TV network in search of some story information. “I didn’t know you couldn’t just call the president of NBC.” And the time she reprinted an item from another magazine. She didn’t know there are legal restrictions to such practices. But she’s learning.

New York finally began paying attention. She and the writers don’t have much trouble now getting information and assistance from network publicists. When they go to New York to gather a backlog of stories, Paula says, they get on the soap sets and can interview almost anyone they choose. If you are curious about the stars, Paula insists “they’re just people. They’re like anyone else. I’ve never had anybody turn me down or be rude.”

If you’re suspicious about the general quality of soaps, there’s good news and bad news. Most of the plots remain knee deep, but there are some new trends – some of daytime television’s loosely-labeled “real life dramas” are becoming more realistic. They’re more educational, entertaining and true-to-life. “Some are portraying people in general and women especially more realistically. They show that being a housewife is a good, important job. But they show the working woman too. They are covering the subject of abortion and one show is covering rape from viewpoints of both the victim and the accused rapist. At this point, however, viewers don’t know who is telling the truth.”

But there’s one soap actor now portraying a Texan, resplendent in boots, cowboy hat and “a twang that’s sickening . . . not what Texans are really like.” Paula intends to “come down hard” on him in an upcoming story.

Paula has gained a great appreciation of soaps as a legitimate art and entertainment form. If you consider the information and statistics she tosses out, soaps may just be turning respectable. Soap writers and performers now participate in Emmy competition. Soap casts are no longer considered “second class citizens” by other actors. And they are able to land additional roles in movies, television and theater.

Some soap superstars today earn $150,000 a year. Established actors including Susan Oliver, Rosemary For-sythe and McDonald Carey lead soap opera casts. Even entertainers such as Mamie Van Doren, Carol Channing and Sammy Davis Jr. play guest shots.

The women who watch soaps today are changing too. They’re not all uneducated, bored housewives or dull gray-haired grannies. A recent Review readership survey showed “subscribers are between 25 and 35 years old. Most have college educations and most are professional women. A third make more than $20,000 a year.” And male addicts aren’t so ashamed to come out of the closet and admit their weakness for daytime drama as they once were.

As an example of just how society and soaps are changing, Paula says the word “soap” is a misnomer. It ought to be dropped because “now the soap commercials are on at night. Mom is working and it’s Dad and the kids who wash clothes at night.”

The local queen of soap opera literature, incidentally, has two favorite soaps – Ryan’s Hope and an upstart Proctor & Gamble detergent called Era.

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