I love the performing arts, and the people in the industry, so most of my articles are written about traditional and digital celebrities.
80s Soap Opera Actresses and Their Diva Characters
If you were an 80s teen, a member of Generation X, or anyone who loves soap operas in general, you know that daytime soaps were rampant with straight-up divas who commanded the screen. I speak in the past tense because the heydays of daytime soap operas are gone and they have mainly been replaced by reality TV.
It could just be me, owing to the fact that I am a member of Generation X who also happened to be an 80s teen...but it seems like the 1980s were especially ripe with soap opera divas.
The characters who were considered to be the divas of the daytime soap world were so popular that you didn't have to be a regular viewer of their specific shows to recognize them instantly. In this article, we'll take a look back at some of the ladies most of us just loved to hate...
1. Lucinda Walsh, Played by Elizabeth Hubbard
If you lived anywhere near the vicinity of the fictional town of Oakdale, depicted in As The World Turns, you probably knew not to mess with Lucinda Walsh. She came to Oakdale in the 1980s and she immediately fell out with the show's other diva, Lisa Grimaldi, over the death of Walsh's husband; their feud lasted for decades.
Throughout the 80s, we saw Lucinda manipulate the relationships between her daughter, Lily Walsh, and Dusty Donovan and then Lily and Holden Snyder. She messed with Lily's birth mother, Iva Snyder, and let us not forget that incident with her real daughter, Sierra Esteban, whose birth Lucinda kept a secret...
I could fill 10 articles with her diva-tastic antics, but through all of her fire-fueled moments, she truly loved her family and she fought to keep her version of their happiness intact. Know that throughout the run of the show, Lucinda Walsh remained the chief diva of As The World Turns.
2. Dorian Lord, Played by Robin Strasser
Dorian Cramer first appeared on One Life to Live in the fictional city of Llanview in the 1970s as the private doctor, and eventual wife, of the wealthy Victor Lord. This was after she had an affair with someone's husband and her sister tried to kill her... Victor Lord died under mysterious circumstances, and his daughter, Victoria "Vikki" Lord, suspected Dorian from the start. And so began their decades-long feud.
Throughout the 1980s, we watched Dorian try to steal Vikki's then-current, and even future, husband. She eventually lost claim to Llanfair, which is the Lord family's mansion she had previously stolen from Vikki. She had a daughter turn up, whose birth she tried to keep a secret (Cassie), she was married and divorced (Herb), she killed the man who attempted to rape her daughter, and she went to prison for murder, where she got involved in a drug operation.
Dorian eventually became exonerated for the murder (self-defense). She finished out the 1980s by leaving the show to fulfill her duties as the U.S. Ambassador to a fictional German town called, Mendorra...Whew! Diva status secured, what else do I have to say?
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3. Jill Foster Abbot, Played by Jess Walton (also Deborah Adair and originated by Brenda Dickson)
We first met Jill in the mid-70s when she was a manicurist, struggling to support her family. Eventually, she fell in love with the wealthy and very married Phillip Chancellor II. Eventually, Jill became pregnant with Phillip's child and Phillip died.
Now, if Phillip had been just about anyone else's husband, Jill might have stood half a chance at having a breezy life, but the man's wife was none other than one of the biggest daytime divas of them all, Katherine "Kay" Chancellor. The rest of the story tells the four-decade-long, uphill battle between Jill and Kay.
Throughout the 1980s, we saw Jill Abbott share center stage as a savvy, but manipulative woman who eventually went on to marry another wealthy man, John Abbott. She had an affair with her husband's son (Jack). When he was presented with the pictorial evidence, he threw Jill out, divorced her, and fired his son from the company business (Jabot Cosmetics).
Eventually, John and Jill remarried, but that didn't last long, because Jill cheated on him when he couldn't "get it up." John found out and he divorced her yet again; this time he threw her out for his first wife (Dina). Although Jill battled back in forth with serious heavy hitters, she always managed to come out on top and even her decades-long battle with Kay Chancellor ended in a weird, loving relationship.
4. Reva Shayne, Played by Kim Zimmer
There can be no discussion about 80s soap opera divas without the inclusion of Reva Shayne. Unlike most of the other soap operas, the storylines on The Guiding Light always seemed a little wackier than usual, even by soap opera standards. It's hard to untangle the mess that is Reva Shayne and isolate it down to one decade, but through the years we witnessed her do some crazy stuff.
Reva jumped into a public fountain and she baptized herself as the "Slut of Springfield." Indeed, Shayne had gone through her share of men, including sleeping with both fathers and sons. She married H.B. Lewis and then his son Billy Lewis II, but the love of her life was yet another man in the same family, Joshua Lewis, whom she eventually married as well.
Reva has tried to smother her child, she's fought with her clone, she was presumed dead after she drove off a bridge and then resurrected, she's traveled through time and lost her memory. Through it all, she's had five children, and three grandchildren.
The Guiding Light is the longest-running drama in American television history and Reva Shayne uttered the final words ever spoken on the show; she said the word "Always" as she drove off to an unknown future with her son. Indeed, I broke the rule about sticking to the events of the 1980s for this character, but I needed it to be known that Reva Shayne was the diva with the final word.
5. Erica Kane, Played by Susan Lucci
Erica Kane, where do I begin? I suppose, since this article is about 80s soap opera divas, we'll begin in the 1980s. But understand that by the time the 80s rolled around, Erica Kane had already been creating messes through the 1970s.
Much like the other soap opera divas on this list, Erica Kane's main issues stemmed from her relationships with men—many, many relationships with men. Like most of the other divas, Erica also had a daughter who rolled up on her out of nowhere.
During the 1980s, Erica Kane was married four times. The decade began with her marriage to Tom Cudahy. All he wanted was a family, and she promised him she was on board, but she was secretly schlepping down birth control pills.
Next, she actually fell in love with Mike Roy, but she married Adam Chandler for vane reasons. When Adam reneged the deal he had with Erica, she was stuck in their loveless marriage for a while, but she eventually made her way back to Mike.
Erica and Mike's relationship was finally coming to fruition, but he was gunned down and he died in her arms during their nuptials. It wasn't too long after Mike's death when she started romancing politician Travis Montgomery.
Of course, Erica married Montgomery and the couple had a baby, Bianca. However, Erica being Erica, got bored with Travis and she moved on to his brother, Jackson, and that is how she ended the decade.
Erica Kane is said to be one of the nastiest soap opera villains of all time, and she is by far the most recognizable character, man or woman, in all of daytime soap opera history. I could never do her justice in the short confines of this article, but Erica Kane is easily the greatest soap opera diva of the 1980s.
© 2019 Rachelle Williams