The queen is dead. Long live the queen.
Agnes Nixon, who died at 93 earlier this week, truly was the queen of the soaps. She served as head writer for "Another World," "All My Children," "Loving," "One Life to Live," "Search for Tomorrow" and "Guiding Light." And with one "Guiding Light" storyline, Nixon may have literally saved thousands of lives.
Nixon had lost a friend in real life to ovarian cancer. After learning a medical test (a Pap smear) might have saved her friend, she decided to have beloved "GL" character Bertha Bauer undergo the test. Bertha found out that she had some cancer, and she got it treated and lived a long life.
The show's network, CBS, did not make telling the story easy. The words "Pap test" and "cancer" could not be uttered. While today the Pap test is a regular part of a woman's physical, that was not the case when Nixon wrote her groundbreaking storyline.
On "One Life to Live," she had the character of Carla, a black woman passing as white. She also told an amazing story of a young man coming out to his homophobic father, putting a human face on the AIDS epidemic. On "All my Children," she had a character protest the Vietnam War. The character Ruth Martin's speech about sending young men to war won a best daytime acting Emmy for Mary Fickett.
Her character creations included Rachel on "Another World" and Erica on "All My Children." She loved her characters. She was so enamored with one of the male characters she created, she wanted the actor who played him to marry one of her daughters in real life. Since Nixon could not write the script for real life, that never happened. Nixon was protective of her characters and storylines.
An interview with her was always pleasant. She would talk about the soap opera as an art form. She offered tips about how to write a soap. She would never reveal upcoming storylines. There was no point in asking, but of course we still did. The answer was always the same: "Just tune in."
As much as she loved the actors who played her characters, they loved her back. Many of them took to social media to gives tributes.
From Bryan Cranston: "Talented and kind, she gave me my start 33 (years) ago on 'Loving.' Sweet passage, dear one."
In an Instagram post, Susan Lucci offered: "I am devastated to learn that we have lost Agnes. I adored her and admired her — and I am forever grateful to her! May this liveliest and loveliest of women rest in peace."
Sarah Michelle Gellar posted: "This incredible woman, Agnes Nixon, not only created my incredible character Kendall Hart, she created 'All My Children.' And more importantly she was the epitome of class. I learned a lot from you, Agnes. RIP."
Four years ago, Nixon suffered a very compromising stroke, but she fought back. A day before her death she completed her memoir: "My Life to Live." Random House is set to release it next year. Her son Bob Nixon said of his mother: "She was really a great wife, mother and human being — but above all, a writer. She was writing up until last night."
For Agnes Nixon, that would be the perfect ending to her real-life soap opera.
To find out more about Lynda Hirsch and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.