One hell of a sunset

December 9, 2009

DON HASTINGS

I see by the papers, as Phil Cook used to say, that “As the World Turns” has been cancelled by CBS after 13,661 episodes spread over 54 years – most of the history of commercial television. TV blogger Ava Gacser wrote about a sort of personal tie to the show, and there’s a link to her blog on the right of this page.

Like Ava, I took the news personally, and for a similar reason. I was never a daytime drama fan, but I watched “As the World Turns” several times because  I was prepping to interview performers who appeared on the show.

Chief among these was Don Hastings, who has been playing Dr. Robert Hughes for almost 50 years. Hastings has set some kind of record for hours on television. He started out when he was about 16, and in 1949 he started appearing  as the second banana on “Captain Video and his Video Ranger,” a live sci-fi show for kids – when I was a kid.  Among other gigs, he was on “The Edge of Night” for four years before signing on to “As the World Turns.” He has been one of the constants — maybe the most constant — on the TV screen for the past 60 years.

DON HASTINGS and AL HODGE (Captain Video)

I had lunch with Hastings many years ago. The occasion might have been his 25th annivesary on “As the World Turns.” He was a very pleasant man and had a lot of good stories to tell — including anecdotes about fans who had begun to confuse him with Dr. Hughes to the point that the would ask him for medical advice. As crazy as that sounds, that mentality was validated for me once by Joyce Randolph, who told me folks used to send curtains and table cloths to CBS because they thought the Kramdens actually lived in that drab apartment.

Hastings, who is 75, is the brother of Bob Hastings, who has also had a long acting career. His TV debut, by the way, was on “Captain Video.” Bob Hastings, who is about 11 years older than Don, has 144 credits listed on the International Movie Database site.

I also did a telephone interview with Eileen Fulton, when she was marking some benchmark in her “As the World Turns” resume, and I interviewed the gorgeous Lee Meredith, a New Jersey woman who had a short spin on the soap a long time ago. My interview with Lee didn’t have to do with that show, however, but with her role as the sketch nurse in a major production of “The Sunshine Boys.”

GREGG MARX

I also did a lunch interview with Gregg Marx, who in the 1980s had a recurring role on “As the World Turns” as a member of the Hughes family. He won a Daytime Emmy for that part. Gregg is the grandson of Milton “Gummo” Marx – the fourth of the five Marx Brothers. Like Don Hastings, Gregg is a sociable guy, and he was a pleasure to deal with.

For each of these interviews I had to tape the show for a week or so in order to talk intelligently about it to the actors. Fortunately I was working full-time back then. If I hadn’t been, I think I would have become addicted.

Maybe I’ll buy the boxed set.

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