Today the entertainment world lost a true pioneer and a treasure. A lost art is the soap opera or daytime drama. In 1980, there were no less than 16 soaps on television . Several of these soaps have this woman to thank . Agnes Nixon was the self proclaimed Queen of Soaps. She was a student of the late Irna Philips who was responsible for creating the longest running story on television. “The Guiding Light.” Agnes had written for “GL” “Another World” “As the World Turns” and “Search for Tomorrow.” Following her time with Ms Phillips, she created the classic ABC soaps “All My Children” “One Life to Live” , “Loving ” A and E’s “Biography” and “The City”. On each of her shows, she made bold choices with storylines and characters. She also made cameo appearances on her shows as well.
Agnes Eckahrdt Nixon was born on December 10,1922 in Chicago . Illinois to Harry Joseph Dalton and Agnes Patricia (Eckahrdt) Wanting to show her talent, she attended Northwestern University where she began to to work on her craft. While she was attending the educational institution , she also pledged the Alpha Chi Omega sorority. Her career in soaps began as a student of Irna Philips. Philips only had one other student at the time and that was William Bell, creator of “The Young and Restless” and “The Bold and the Beautiful.” Notably, these two shows are one of the only four soaps left on the air.
Nixon was a writer on “Guiding Light.”. Following a friend’s diagnosis, Nixon wanted to educate women about how important it was to get a pap smear. As a result, Bertha Bauer was given a cancer scare and this is believed to be the first medical related story on daytime . It was bold because in 1962, you couldn’t really say words like Pap Smear and Uterus. Here are the members of the Bauer family including Papa and Bert’s two sons, Edward and Michael.
When Nixon wrote for “Another World” she created the pivotal character Rachel Davis . The original Rachel was played by Robin Strasser, who would later go on to play the nemesis of heroine Victoria Lord on “OLTL” . Most people know Rachel Davis Cory as the incomparable Victoria Wyndham. Nixon would use the character for the formation of Erica Kane
Nixon was forced to leave Philips and the strict rules of Procter and Gamble to create her own shows. In 1968, she premiered “One Life to Live.” The show took place in the fictional town in Pennsylvnia of Llanview . It was revolutionary because it told of crossing social structures and cultures. It made its mark because it was the first soap with African American characters.
Today Lawrence Fishburne is the grandfather of the hit ABC show, “Blackish.” In 1973, he was involved in the revolutionary storyline of being the first African American family on television on “One Life to Live.”
The main character of OLTL was Victoria Lord . She was the heroine of the show and her nemesis was Dorian Lord, her stepmother. Vicki’s life was turned upside down when Dorian slept with her son, Joey. Yes, that is Nathan Fillion, known to millions of Browncoats as their “Captain” on “Firefly.” More recently, Fillion was the playboy writer detective who was tamed on “Castle.”
In 1970, Agnes took out her old script and then “All My Children” premiered. One of the most iconic characters in daytime was Erica Kane . Erica was played by the super talented Susan Lucci or “La Lucci. She played the role for the entire run of the show . She also was famous for being nominated for an Emmy for Best Actress in a Daytime Drama the most times with out winning . Lucci was nominated 19 times and finally won on May 21, 1999.Here she is with creator , Agnes Nixon.
Once again , Nixon pushed the envelope when she introduced the character of Bianca. She was Erica’s long lost daughter who came out as a lesbian. This was the first gay character in daytime and Agnes won many awards for the storyline including GLaaD.
Nixon’s next show was “Loving” where she paired off with another soap paramour of the time , Douglas Marland, who coincidentally won the Emmy for “Guiding Light” where Nixon started. Here is future Oscar nominee and Emmy winner for “Breaking Bad” Bryan Cranston as Douglas Donovan
Michael Weatherly took his character Cooper over from” Loving “to” The City .” The show didn’t last long. Today, Weatherly just got his own series on CBS callled “Bull” Previously , he was on the hit series , “NCIS.”
Agnes won many awards and honors in her lifetime. Among her proudest moments was when she was nominated for The Television Hall of Fame and The Soap Opera Hall of Fame. In 2010, she was given a lifetime achievement award by the Television Academy of Arts and Sciences. The Emmy was presented by none other than the actress who created her most memorable character, Susan Lucci. Here she is with her family. Her husband , Robert Nixon is deceased. She is survived by three children, ten grandchildren, and three great grandchildren.
To Agnes’ family Chitownstarconnections sends their thoughts and prayers. Both Jen and I were fans of your work. Jen watched” One Life to Live” and” All My Children.” I was hooked on “The Guiding Light.” to the point of scheduling my classes around it in college. You truly were the master of a lost American art-the soap opera. Soon I will be starting Remember…and feature a different soap each month.