Daytime was gutted by two major soap star deaths. Kristoff St. John (Neil on "Young and Restless" for 27 years) and Candice Earley (Donna on "All My Children" for 18 years).
The first-time I interviewed Kristoff, he was 9 years old. He was sweet, funny and open. When he died, all the messages of love let it be known he was the same old Kristoff. According to several sources, he died from alcohol poisoning. The outpouring of messages from all over the world still describe him as the same person.
Here are just two stories:
One day on the set, he saw an extra sitting by himself in the commissary. Kristoff was about to have lunch with another actor, but he went to the guy's table and asked if he could eat with him. Kristoff never wanted anyone to feel like an outsider.
A struggling actress saw Kristoff buying a drink at an LA juice joint. She told him she recognized him. He asked what she did, and she told him she was an actress and had an audition tomorrow. He asked her if she had her scenes with her. She did. And he sat with her for almost five hours, helping her with her scenes.
The cause of his death at 52 would be heartbreaking under any circumstances. But this makes it more tragic. Four years ago, Kristoff's only son, Julian, committed suicide while in a mental health facility. He had been under suicide watch. That means checking on the patient every 10 minutes. Hours went by between checks. The staff found him dead in his room. It crushed Kristoff and his ex-wife, Mia, who blames the hospital for causing the death of both her cherished family members.
Two years after his son's death, Kristoff posted a picture holding a gun to his head. He was placed in a sanitarium for 72 hours. Over the next two years, he posted that he was fine. But Mia said he was not. He was just using his acting skills — skills that won him two Emmys and nine NAACP Image Awards.
Last month, aware that he needed help, Kristoff checked into an LA hospital. Days after release, he died. His final episode aired Feb. 6. On Friday, there was a special tribute show. No word on what will happen to Neil. Luckily, the new writer and executive producer knew the character well, wrote for him and understood the character. The new team wants to do right for the actor and character.
When I first started this column, I was given advice from a columnist: "Never become friends with the people you cover." I heeded the advice — with two exceptions. One was Candice. She was just so amazing — a true friend, as well as talented, caring and giving. She stopped acting when she married and moved away from Manhattan. Eight years ago, she was diagnosed with multiple systems atrophy. So, what does dear Candi do? Last year, she was invited to her class reunion. She could not make the trip; she sent cases of wine.
These two too-soon and horrible deaths have me asking God, "What were you thinking?"
To find out more about Lynda Hirsch and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.