As The World Turns, Edge of Night, Go on Pretending, Guiding Light

Go On Pretending: From Radio Soaps To Television

He commits villainous acts, seducing married women, attempting to murder his father and brother, but he does not see himself the villain.

Go On Pretending

Rose spent her days surrounded by men. For a woman’s genre, daytime drama — save Irna — was certainly dominated by men. Men at Procter & Gamble, men at the network, men at the advertising agency, men in the production booth, and men on the studio floor. There were men in tailored suits and men in shirtsleeves. Men in fedoras and men in caps. Men wearing the latest No. 89 by Floris cologne and men who smelled of the Ivory P&G gifted each employee at Christmastime. There were men wherever Rose looked. So why was she still alone?

The obvious answer was that a majority of those men were married. And Rose wasn’t ready to go the mistress route yet — though she knew Irna had quite a stable of such men in her life. Irna preferred doctors and lawyers, just like on her shows. The other answer was that, if Rose were 20, the pickings might have been broader. But men her age were interested in younger women. And older men were either divorced – which came with children and alimony…and bitterness – or…well, Mama said Rose was picky. As tall as she was, she had to accept that some men would be shorter. As opinionated as she was, she had to accept that silence could be golden. And certainly, she must never talk about how much money she was making. No man would stand to be emasculated in such a manner. Yet, after all that, remember, he had to be Jewish. Anything less would be unthinkable.

The worst part was, Mama was right. Rose was too picky. She could put up with short. She could put up with poor. She could put up with old. The one thing she could not put up with was: boring. Compared to the hustle, bustle, constant crises, and close calls of production, the conversation proffered by the majority of men Rose met for dinner dates left much to be desired. Mama said it was because Rose challenged them. She should be sitting quietly and listening politely. Yes, even when the men were wrong. Especially when they were wrong. A good man, Mama lectured, didn’t expect the woman across from him to know more about a given subject than he did – and he certainly didn’t appreciate her demonstrating it. When a man waxed poetic about a film he’d seen, he didn’t need Rose breaking down the dialogue and scene structure. When he talked facts and figures about his job, he didn’t need to know that Rose also oversaw a budget – and that it was greater than his. And he certainly had no interest in anything she had to say about politics! Rose found the men she stepped out with boring. She could only imagine what they thought about her.

Luckily, she had very little time to dwell on it. Irna lived up to her promise. She kept Rose so preoccupied that the only love lives she agonized over were Bill and Bertha Bauer, battling that floozy, Gloria, and whether widowed reporter Joe Roberts should choose Nurse Peggy, who his children preferred, or ex-jailbird Meta. These days, Irna was thinking bigger than radio. She’d already produced one television soap opera, These Are My Children, which sputtered out after less than a month of episodes on NBC. But Irna remained convinced the fledgling medium was her serials’ future. To that end, she was trying to convince Procter & Gamble to resettle Guiding Light on the small screen. To assuage their doubts about its viability, Irna used her own money to produce a pilot. When it failed to convince her sponsors, she set to work on a second one.

All this meant Irna had less time for the radio version. Outside of writing, which Irna still guarded ferociously, the bulk of responsibilities was now Rose’s. She raced from advertiser meeting to rehearsal to casting session. When the latter was plunked into her lap, Rose had switched all auditions to the telephone. It allowed her to sift through paperwork at the same time without the actor noticing her distraction and getting — rightfully — offended. It also kept Rose from basing her decisions on personal appearance. It was difficult to picture a dashing, romantic leading man when the applicant was balding and barely came up to Rose’s chest, or an ingenue when the lady reading for the part looked more appropriate for grand opera. Since the only thing that mattered was how they sounded, Rose holding auditions over the phone was more likely to yield optimal and unprejudiced results.

On the schedule for today were auditions for a new role, that of ne-er-do-well Edmund Bard, who’d be coming to town to set every young and not so young lady’s heart aflame, toy with them mercilessly, then be revealed as the illegitimate son of a pillar of the community. It was a fun, juicy role, and Rose was looking forward to hearing her candidates’ takes on it.

The first six proved a disappointment. They were playing it too evil right from the start. There was no tension, no surprise, nothing to reveal or learn. Rose couldn’t imagine listeners at home not seeing right through the literal bastard and wondering why the women of Guiding Light couldn’t do so as well.

For the seventh applicant, Rose didn’t even glance at his name until after he’d been speaking for almost a minute. She didn’t even listen to the words — she’d heard them so many times — until she realized that — what was his name, now? Cain…Jonas Cain — was offering a completely different interpretation from the men who’d come prior. Where they’d snarled, he purred. Where they’d bellowed, he murmured. Where they’d insisted on seduction, he made the listener want to be seduced. No, he made the listener ache to be.

“Mr…Cain,” Rose needed to clear her throat, lest her voice crack.

“Yes, Miss Janowitz?” His speaking voice was the same as his auditioning voice. Which meant he was either always on, or always himself.

“That was…that was quite…good.”

“I thank you for saying so.” Yes, he was definitely always…something. Impossible to believe he didn’t realize what effect his speaking voice had on the listener.

“May I ask what inspired your take on this character? It’s so different from how every other actor saw him.”

“Is it now?” A drawl? A bass clarinet? A full-throated pipe organ? Just what was it about this man’s voice that made Rose vibrate from hip-bone to hip-bone as sure as if he’d plucked a string, and feel like she just might melt through her desk chair, down to the carpet?

“Yes.” This time, she swallowed instead of coughing.

“Well, it’s obviously Shakespeare, isn’t it?”

“I’m sorry, what?”

“Edmund Bard?” His laugh rolled in like a fog permeating her senses. “You gave the whole game away right there. He’s Edmund the Bastard from King Lear.” He quoted, “To both these sisters have I sworn my love; each jealous of the other, as the stung are of the adder, which of them shall I take?” When Rose didn’t reply quickly enough; primarily because she’d run out of coughs and gulps and felt pressed to come up with an alternative; speaking was out of the question, Jonas Cain’s confidence appeared to waver. “Did I get it all wrong, then? How terribly embarrassing.”

“No.” Rose found her voice, because his had briefly tottered. “You’re 100 percent correct. When Irna — Miss Phillips — when she told me about the character, I suggested the name. As sort of a little joke between the two of us.”

“Ah! So you’re the Shakespearean scholar.”

“Hardly!” Her snort was instinctive. If utterly unladylike.

“It was precisely the guidance I required to understand this man. He commits villainous acts, seducing married women, attempting to murder his father and brother, but he does not see himself the villain. After being cast aside for an accident of birth, he feels righteously justified to top the legitimate. I grow; I prosper: Now, gods, stand up for bastards! Surely, a sentiment we’ve all experienced. Whether or not we’d admit it.”

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Click here for Chapter #5!

To start Go On Pretending at the beginning, click here.

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Alina Adams is the New York Times best-selling author of the As the World Turns tie-ins, Oakdale Confidential and The Man From Oakdale, and Guiding Light’s Jonathan’s Story. Check out her new historical fiction, My Mother’s Secret: A Novel of the Jewish Autonomous Region, out now!

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