News & Rumors

In Memoriam: Honoring The Soap Opera Press Who’ve Died Over the Last Year

Many reporters and writers who have written about soap operas have died.

photo collage of soap opera press magazines.Various covers of soap opera magazines.

There’s a group of dedicated journalists who cover daytime dramas. Sadly, over the last year, many of the incredible writers and editors from the soap opera press have passed away. You may or may not know their bylines, but Soap Hub is giving some insights into these people now. Read on to learn about late journalists Katie “Caelie” Haines, Robyn Ann Nelson, Robert Rorke, Nick Brandi, Robert Schork, David Johnson, and Nelson Branco, who helped bring you news about, and insights into, your favorite daytime stars.

Soap Opera Press Suffers Too Much Loss

Katie “Cailie” Hanes, Soap Opera Weekly, Soap Opera News, co-author, Guiding Light: the Complete Family Scrapbook

“Here I am again, mourning in public the death of a beloved member of our Soap Opera Weekly family. Our darling Katie Haines ‘Caelie’ Haines passed away Saturday night, September 9. She was a bright and shining light who brought joy and credit to our incredibly tight-knit work family. She left us, and her mother, dear daughter, sisters, and all who loved her, too soon and still full of life and promise. This is how I’ll remember her: a young woman with her whole life ahead of her, doing what she dreamed of, surrounded by love and joy. Rest in peace, my dear friend. I was proud of my work ‘kid’ and will miss your presence on this earth.” – Mimi Torchin, former editor-in-chief, Soap Opera Weekly.

“Back in 1990, Caelie Haines was a role model for soap fans who wanted be to journalists. She joined the Weekly staff shortly after graduating Emerson College (she was such a proud alum), and we all knew her byline and fine handiwork. We ate it up (with a spoon!) when she did a feature on what it was like to be an under-five on Guiding Light and marveled at her passion and knowledge of history. A little later on, as her co-worker, I was thoroughly impressed when she conceived, pitched, and wrote a sprawling feature on women working behind the scenes on the soaps. From boom operators to lighting designers (just to name two crew positions), Caelie celebrated them, showcased their hard work, and educated our Weekly readers about how they fit into Daytime’s big picture. So impressive…but I would expect nothing less from Caelie.” – Jonathan Reiner, former assistant managing editor, Soap Opera Weekly.

“Caelie befriended me almost immediately when I started as an intern at Soap Opera Weekly in 1996. What resulted was more than two and a half decades of friendship that was based in our love of soaps, our love of baseball, and our love of giving each other crap whenever my Cleveland Browns and her Baltimore Ravens — literally the former Browns, who’d been stolen away to Baltimore — played each other.

“Like it was for me, working at Soap Opera Weekly covering an industry she adored was literally a dream come true for Caelie. It was through Caelie that I came to appreciate Guiding Light, as my entry into the soap world came via the NBC soaps. Caelie hired me to do research on a book she co-wrote, Guiding Light: The Complete Family Album, which was released in 1997, and it was with Caelie that I made my first set visit (to Guiding Light, of course). When I needed a full-time job after my internship at Soap Opera Weekly ended, it was Caelie who put me in touch with the folks at another soap publication in New Jersey, where I worked briefly before returning to Weekly on staff. If I ever had a question about Guiding Light history, Caelie was the one and only person I ever needed to go to. Caelie earned the admiration and respect not just of her friends and co-workers but of members of the GL and ATWT casts who knew her, as well as fans of the shows who came to befriend her through fan and charity events. Her love of Guiding Light‘s Quint [Michael Tylo] and Nola [Lisas Brown] was legendary, and she was known for the ‘Quola’ tapes she held onto well past the era when ‘taping’ your shows was still a thing and there were VCRs aplenty to play them on. In her honor, I named one of the entries in the NFL pool I do every year ‘Quola.’

“Personal memories of such an amazing person are unending. Caelie never, ever gave up, even during the times when life dealt her a rough hand, and she always — always — put her daughter, Rybeth, first. In fact, her unwavering devotion to her daughter is just the most admirable in a long list of qualities that made Caelie the consummate professional, friend, sister, daughter, and, most of all, mother. Please keep her family and friends in your thoughts in the coming weeks, as her absence will be deeply felt by everyone who had the pleasure of knowing her. And the next time you pass a lighthouse, the symbol of GL that Caelie loved, think of her and smile.” – Travis Kinsey, former staff editor, Soap Opera Weekly.

“It’s just terribly depressing to hear that kind of news, but I remember her as just being a gentle, sweet, kind soul and somebody who was always available. I really, really liked her a lot.” – Michael O’Leary (ex-Rick, GL).

Robyn Anne Nelson, staff editor, Soap Opera Update, Soap Opera Update Yearbook, Executive Editor, Soap Opera’s Best Weddings; staff editor, Soaps In Depth.

“I first met Robyn when I joined the staff of Soap Opera Update in 1999. We were a tight-knit group and all worked closely together. Robyn welcomed me to the team with warmth and kindness. She quickly impressed me with her encyclopedic knowledge of everything related to soap operas. I worked alongside her in the Soap Opera Update office in New Jersey one summer when we were putting out a special issue along with our regular work. I wanted to fact-check something and asked out loud in the office where were Guiding Light‘s Josh [Robert Newman] and Annie [Cynthia Watros, now, Nina, General Hospital] going to live after they got married. Someone said, ‘Vanessa’s house, right?’ But Robyn knew the real answer — without looking up from her work, she said with absolute certainty, ‘The Land of Wishes, Hopes, and Dreams.’ (IYKYK).

“In addition to putting out 26 issues a year of Update, Robyn practically single-handedly wrote and edited the Soap Opera Update Yearbook, which was a year-end issue encompassing everything that had gone on that year. There were other special issues, too. Robyn and I stayed in touch over the years. Hers was the first holiday card I’d receive each year. She was lovely and a loyal friend. She is missed.” – Michael Maloney, Sr. West Coast Editor, Soap Hub; former West Coast News Editor, Soap Opera Update.

“I met Robyn in 1998 at Soap Opera Update. Along with the editor-in-chief and the managing editor, there were about three of us. Robyn taught me the importance of caring and investing in the show you were covering. You needed to judge it honestly. One of the most amazing things about Robyn was she was a walking encyclopedia. You need that to cover a show. Robyn was able to reference quite quickly and navigate quickly. She was always gracious and willing — no matter how busy she was — to help another editor. I was assigned to cover As the World Turns but I didn’t know the history all that well. I could turn to Robyn on any given day and ask a question. She’d know the answer, take the time, and share her knowledge. She wouldn’t make you feel small or that you should already know this. We quickly became friends. Robyn and I stayed friends till the day she died. We knew each other for over 20 years.

“Robyn pretty much put out the Soap Opera Update Yearbook by herself. She knew what the right picture to include was the way a chef would know which wine to accompany a dish. She did those yearbooks all on her own every year. This was all before the Internet had copious amounts of information available at your fingertips. Each holiday season, Robyn baked dozens of cookies — all different kinds — and brought them into the office. She and her mom would spend the entire weekend baking. She continued to send me cookies each year after Update ended.

“She was one of my best friends. I still miss her. Robyn was a contestant on an episode of Jeopardy! She didn’t tell me how she did but I don’t think she could have. She came in second. I thought she did really well on it. That buzzer is tricky!” – Laura DeBrizzi, former staff editor, Soap Opera Update.

Robert Rorke, Senior Editor, Soap Opera Digest

“I was very sad to learn of the passing of my former Soap Opera Digest colleague Robert Rorke. He was gifted with a great, biting wit. He wrote some of the funniest material I’ve ever read that I can still recall today. He penned a fashion column under a well-known nom de plume. About Dallas‘s matriarch he wrote (I’m paraphrasing), ‘Miss Ellie, you may find the wearing of a housecoat to every family affair to be appropriate. Well, I do not! I saw what you wore to Pam and Bobby’s wedding. Did you want to be there?’ He critiqued fashion maven Felicia Gallant (Linda Dano) for (again, paraphrasing) wearing ‘hats that were three sizes too big for her head, dresses that looked like living room drapes, and furs that looked like the death of entire species.’ He advised Felicia that ‘Less is more.’

“To be honest, I was a little intimidated by him when I first met him. We worked on different coasts so I only saw him a few times while we worked together and later, when he’d come to L.A. or Pasadena for TCA [the Television Critics Association press conferences]. I saw him in Beverly Hills at a TCA one summer when he kindly made an introduction and gave a great recommendation to an editor, which helped lead to a great gig. I saw Robert again at Book Soup a month or so later where he had a signing for his novel Car Trouble. He gave me career advice that I can’t repeat, that I’ve tried to follow, and was both biting and spot on. #RIP.” – Michael Maloney, former West Coast Editor, Soap Opera Digest.

Nick Brandi, copy editor, Soap Opera News Magazine

“Nick was a serious and talented copy editor who didn’t know soaps when he came to Soap Opera News. But he had me give him soap lessons, and was a very quick learner. He also learned to love the genre during the time I worked with him.” – Hope Campbell, staff writer, Soap Opera News; writer, Soap Hub.

“I will remember Nick for some of the deepest conversations I’ve ever had. He was incredibly brilliant and had searing insights into people. We worked in the same bullpen but at different magazines. He was incredibly kind and always helpful. The true standout quality about Nick though was his incredible pride in his son, who meant everything to him. He is missed.” – Diane Brounstein, editor-in-chief, Soap Hub; Senior Editor, Soap Opera Magazine.

Robert Schork, Soap Opera Magazine; Soap Opera Weekly

“Robert Schork was brilliant, and quite the renaissance man, but Daytime was his true passion. As an intern at Weekly, he pitched and then wrote his own column catching up with former writers and producers who had been forgotten or gone missing (this was before the modern Internet made it easy to find people). This was no easy feat back then, and but he pulled it off. His devotion to the art form was matched by his huge heart and warm personality. He cared about the soaps and the folks who toiled in them. Our world is a less joyous place without his hearty laugh and sharp wit.” – Jonathan Reiner, Soap Opera Weekly.

“Robert Shorck had a love for this genre unmatched by most. We’d get into silly fights over some plot on GH or Passions — and sometimes I think I hated something in order to piss him off…just to hear his laugh. As an aside, I once mentioned I hadn’t had a steak in a while (caviar tastes, chicken budget), and a few days go by, and a box of Omaha Steaks arrives at my door. I thought the mail must have the wrong address. But that was Robert. Thoughtful, kind, disarming, and passionate.” – Alan Carter, former West Coast Bureau Chief, Soap Opera Digest.

“Robert was someone who loved life as much as he loved General Hospital. He was a great friend who introduced me to the beauty of the Berkshires. He is very much missed!” – Diane Snyder, copy editor, Soap Opera Magazine .

“Robert’s heart was almost as big as his 6’7” frame. I remember when I worked with him at Soap Opera Magazine, and my apartment building had caught on fire. When I eventually returned to work, he handed me an envelope filled with cash and a list of everyone who’d donated. It was an immense help in starting over. I was floored. That’s just the kind of amazing and thoughtful person Robert was.” – Diane Brounstein.

David Johnson, Soap Opera NOW!, Soap Opera Weekly

“David Johnson was easily the nicest guy in soap journalism — no hyperbole. He’d insist he was no different than anyone else, but he surely was. At one of my first soap events, every network had stars there. I was an ABC guy and put my foot in my mouth with several stars from NBC and CBS. I was spectacularly unprepared. David could have let me sink, a lot of reporters would have. But he pulled me away and helped me immeasurably— plot lines, personal tidbits. The truth is he made a lot of us better journalists. He made me a better human.” – Alan Carter.

“David was the first person I reached out to to pick his brain after I was offered my first job in the soap press. I knew him to be kind and trustworthy. We were acquainted as I worked on Bold and the Beautiful, and I was a great admirer of his reporting skills going back to Soap Opera NOW! Before the Internet came along, that newsletter which was delivered to your mailbox via the U.S. mail, told you everything you needed to know. David kindly provided a sounding board as I weighed my decision, and later, we hung out two to three times a week for years. I always enjoyed talking to David at press days at the studios (mostly CBS) and at events. I could count on him to give a wry smile or a piece of biting wit when someone said something that didn’t make sense.

“A very popular actor once backtracked some on-the-record comments about being unhappy on their soap and financially strapped — otherwise, it’d be quitting time. When the performer later said this simply wasn’t true, David privately quipped, ‘Oh, no. They’re happy and solvent!’ For about five years before the Web exploded and other magazines debuted, it was often just David, myself, and one other reporter at events. There were a lot of fun times, late-night and remote tapings (we both got to go to Barbados in 1996 with B&B when Brooke had her brief reactive psychosis), hanging out at fan gatherings and bowl-a-thons. I saw him in recent years at an on-set tribute to Melody Thomas Scott (Nikki, Young and the Restless) and right before COVID at a play that Bobbie Eakes (ex-Macy, B&B; ex-Krystal, All My Children) was appearing in. I was happy to hear he was pursuing his dream of singing. Check out a clip of his talent here where he is introduced by none other than GH’s ‘Helena Cassadine’ herself — Constance Towers.” – Michael Maloney.

Nelson Branco, TV Guide Canada, Toronto Sun

“Nelson Branco was the kind of friend that while he was complimenting you, later you would wonder, ‘Hey, hey was that an insult?’ That’s not a criticism; I think it’s a gift. He liked people to think he was caustic (a nicer word than mean), and I know most of our conversations usually began with ‘Who have you pissed off now?’ He was fearless, funny, feisty. He enjoyed being in the spotlight, and I used to tell him he should be an actor on camera. That was a compliment, of course. Hours later, he wrote to ask — ‘Did that mean I’m not a good journalist?’ He was a terrific journalist.” – Alan Carter.

“Everyone knows Nelson Branco was passionate about Daytime and was quite the newshound, and he was determined to put his own spin on things from a very early age. For example: At his interview to be an intern at Weekly, he brought along a scrapbook. This wasn’t just any scrapbook. In fact, he had painstakingly (and very successfully) cut-and-pasted old Weekly covers, so the stories and photos he thought deserved importance were highlighted on the cover rather than the stories and photos we actually published. This was almost 30 years ago, long before modern technology made it easy to do such a thing. I mean, who does that? Nelson, that’s who.” – Jonathan Reiner.

These members of the soap press made an indelible mark on the magazines and websites that they wrote for but also on their many co-workers, who still remain in shock at so many losses over this past year. We loved them dearly, and our thoughts are with their families and friends as they continue to grieve, as do we.

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