One of the last remaining greats from the golden age of soap operas has passed away. Harding “Pete” Lemay, the former head writer of Another World, has died at age 96.
Lemay’s passing on May 26th was reported by the New York Times.
Born in North Bangor, New York, Lemay was the fifth of 13 children. He left home at 17, served in World War II, and then entered the world of publishing, eventually writing his own memoir Inside, Looking Out, which Newsweek magazine called “an American Classic.”
In the early 1970s, Lemay became the head writer of AW where he won the Daytime Emmy for Outstanding Writing in a Drama Series in 1975. At AW, he avoided soap cliches of amnesia, twins, and (whenever possible) murder trials, preferring instead to write stories that were more character-based.
Lemay transformed the character of Rachel (Victoria Wyndham) from a villainess to a heroine, shifting the show from the triangle of Alice (Jacqueline Courtney), Steve (George Reinholt), and Rachel to one with Rachel, Mac (Douglass Watson), and Iris (Beverlee McKinsey).
Lemay wrote daytime’s only 90-minute daily serial when AW briefly experimented with the hour and a half format.
After leaving AW, Lemay wrote a second memoir, this one based on his experiences as top scribe in Bay City — Eight Years in Another World. He also returned to his first love, writing plays, and wrote for other soaps including Guiding Light (where he won his second Emmy), and One Life to Live. He also had other stints at AW.
He is survived by his wife of 20 years, Gloria Gardner of New York City; his two children, a son, Stephen Lemay, and daughter, Susan Pain, (whom he fathered with his late wife Dorothy), and his son-in-law Kevin Pain; and three grandchildren.
Lemay taught drama and literature at both Hunter College and The New School for Social Research.
He also weighed in on soaps in a 1995 interview with TV Guide: “People never said to me, ‘I love such-and-such a story.’ They’d say, ‘I love Rachel. I love Mac. I love Iris.’ It’s the characters that are important… and if you make them credible and exciting, the audience will follow you wherever you take them.”