Erin Byrne regularly dives into the soapy waters of daytime television and tries to make sense of it all. This week she takes on “One Life to Live.”
Sadly, my “Young and Restless” summer had to come to an end. My neighbor Stacey went to junior college and I started high school. Other than watching Carly get buried alive on “Days of Our Lives,” it was years before I thought about soaps again. Then one day in 1992 my sister informed me that a fresh unknown named Ryan Phillippe would be appearing on “One Life to Live” as Billy Douglas, a gay teenager.
Joey Buchanan, son of Clint and the sainted Victoria Lord Buchanan, knew Billy Douglas from school. Billy’s dad was a red-faced, vein-necked bigot who insisted that he could not possibly have a gay son. Billy’s mom was useless. Billy had no choice but to run away and after a night on the mean streets of Llanview Billy discovered an abandoned theater nearby. Billy was able to move into the fully stocked costume loft and I seem to remember a dressmaker’s dummy wearing a fedora, swathed with a hot pink feather boa. Theater! Gay! There may have been a chaise lounge; perfect for the trick turning that would inevitably follow.
As he was the grandson of Asa Buchanan, the Boss Tweed of Llanview, Joey was really worried about Billy. Together with his forgettable girlfriend, Joey set out to find his smooth and sexless friend.
I’ll never forget. It was a Friday. The weekend cliffhanger was Joey banging on the stage door until a wrecked and tear-stained Billy opened the door. I’ve upgraded my memory to where Billy is wearing a stained silk kimono, Eve 120 dangling from his pillowy lips. At first, Joey didn’t recognize him due to the turban. I don’t dare look for the picture today as holding on to the fantasy is so much sweeter. Billy is probably wearing a Coca-Cola rugby shirt
The moment I saw teenage Ryan Phillippe sobbing in the arms of Joey Buchanan I beat a path to my secret notebook and wrote a beautiful love story. Almost as beautiful as the fake “Dead Poet’s Society” story I wrote where I was the only girl at boarding school and my best friend was the gay boy. He’d cry in my arms because he loved the captain of the cricket team. There was no reason why I couldn’t help Billy and Joey with their personal problems as well.
Things get a little foggy after that. I’m pretty sure that Billy he tried to kill himself by jumping off a bridge. I also remember there was a bridge set at the time because Bo and Sarah had run off the road and Sarah died. Money’s tight on daytime. They don’t build an entire bridge set and only use it once. Someone proposed on that bridge later that week.
Before Billy could jump he was rescued by the kindly Reverend Carpenter. Rev-C’s earnest caring bugged the shit out of me. That’s why I was so jazzed when Crazy Marty, fresh off her lupus diagnoses, accused the Rev of molesting Billy. Marty was pissed that Rev-C respectfully told her no, he didn’t want to hump her all around the rectory. Finding out she was lupus positive sent her right off the rails into false accusation town.
That triggered a shit storm. Naturally, nobody believed Crazy Marty. She was quickly shunted further into the pariah ghetto, but that didn’t stop Billy’s dad from screaming back into the picture, slapping Billy around, and threatening to send him to military school. When are bigoted TV dads going to learn sending their gay teens to boarding school is the greatest gift they can give?
Billy was too much of a pantywaist to stand up for himself and in the end, it was Rev-C who took Billy’s dad to view the AIDS Quilt, which just so happened to be in Llanview that day. There Rev-C told Mr. Douglas that Billy was the same son he’s always loved and now he needed love more than ever. Then, if I remember correctly, Mr. Douglas flipped Rev-C the bird and took a piss on Harvey Milk’s quilt square.
Don’t fret; Billy sure didn’t. Daytime is all about pushing the envelope. If a character doesn’t go over the top how will he ever see the other side? Billy took the knowledge that he was now dead to his father and channeled it into something beautiful. Billy was finally strong enough to announce to the world, “I’m Billy Douglas and I’m gay!”
Then he left Llanview without so much as a goodbye and we never heard anything about him ever again. Not even when Kyle and Oliver came to town.
“OLTL’s” next dip into the gay pool came in 2009 when Oliver Fish and Kyle Something-or-Other crossed paths. Oliver was an eager police rookie who just wanted to fight and catch bad dudes. Kyle was a grifter who at the time I started watching, had stolen a bag of stem cells and was holding them hostage. Oil and water, I know! But things get even more complicated when we found out that Kyle and Oliver had not only gone to college together but – wait for it – they were in the same frat.
Kyle was desperate to rekindle their flame. The memory of that one night of passion after Hell Week had grown thin in his mind. As for Oliver, not so much. Not only was he a cop, but his dad was also a cop. It was a well-known fact that Mr. Fish hated queers; therefore Oliver was definitely not gay.
In order to prove it, Oliver went out and allowed himself to be seduced by Staci “Petri Dish” Morasco. Staci was trying to get pregnant so that she could steal her sister’s boyfriend. As you all should know from reading about Will and Gabi from “Days of Our Lives,” any time a gay man beds a woman to prove he’s not gay A) she winds up pregnant and B) he’s still gay.
The tryst with Staci proved to Fish that he really was gay; so much so that when he awoke and saw her in the bed he ran to the bathroom and puked. Though from what I understand that happens with a lot of Staci’s tricks.
Kyle and Oliver finally got together, right about the same time that town doyenne Dorian Lord was running for mayor on a lesbian platform. The guys shared their first kiss during Dorian’s fake gay wedding. It was really cute and I would say that even if I weren’t paralyzed with crippling depression as I was at the time.
Of course, things did not go smoothly for Kyle and Fish. Caliente Spanish teacher Nick Chavez came to town and immediately he set his sights on Kyle. When he found out that Kyle and Oliver were together Nick was completely unable to give a shit. Nick had no qualms about resorting to intimidation tactics. When he spotted Oliver in the locker room at Serenity Springs Nick stripped down to his dance belt and started asking how long they’d been together and if it was really serious. Needless to say, Oliver was well rattled.
One day Nick was wandering around a dark alley and got bashed by some thugs; one of whom was played by Joe, the dork who replaced Steve on “Blue’s Clues.” Right then I felt like daytime television just winked at me and all the people staying home with their kids. It was a warm feeling, one of community.
So Nick is bashed and of course, the only place he can recuperate is in Kyle’s room at the SRO hotel. Oliver is suspicious of Nick’s motives and rightly so. Yes, Senor Chavez did have some broken ribs, but he was totally using them to get Kyle in the kip.
Kyle eventually caught on to the ruse and ran Nick out of town because there’s an ordinance stating that there can only be two gays in Llanview and they have to love each other.
Meanwhile, Staci is hugely pregnant. There were at least three faked paternity tests on that kid, none of which involved Oliver, the real dad. I kept hoping it would turn out that Oliver really wasn’t the dad, but every time the words ‘paternity test’ were mentioned Staci had a flashback to her taking advantage of a very drunk Officer Fish.
Staci gave birth during a blizzard in an abandoned cabin high up on Llantano Mountain. Her sister Gigi was also there and they were into a slap fight over Rex, the fiancé Staci was attempting to steal. Things got so heated that Stacie went into labor. No, I don’t know how they got to the cabin. Think of literally any reason in the world that two people could be in a blizzard cabin and you’re probably right.
Staci named the baby Sierra [Mist] Rose after her and Gigi’s childhood Barbies, and then she passed out due to a sudden onset of childbirth disease. Gigi left to find help in the blizzard. Staci wakes up and, finding her sister gone, wraps up the newborn and sets out to find help as well. I half expected her to trip over her sister’s frozen corpse right outside the door.
Meanwhile, there was other activity on Llantano Mountain that night, a car wreck or something, so the cops were already up there dealing with that when they heard Staci screaming.
Oliver and Brody followed the noise until they came to a frozen pond where they found Staci “Brain Trust” Morasco. She was standing in the middle of the ice, clutching baby Sierra Mist, crying about how she didn’t know how she got there. Seriously, swap Sierra Mist for a bottle of birthday cake flavored vodka and it was every single Saturday night Ms. Morasco ever had.
Oliver, knowing that that was his baby out there, fearlessly tossed his coat out on the ice and convinced Staci to put the baby on there so he could drag it back without having to actually crawl around in the snow. Staci did what she was told and promptly fell through the ice and died.
Now Kyle and Oliver get to raise baby Sierra Mist together! Gays on daytime are nothing if they don’t have a child, right? Now they can really and truly join the community, who then embrace them like family. The story could go anywhere at this point; groundbreaking daytime television. Two men raising a baby just like all the other babies that have come before. There could be a kidnapping, a health scare, maybe leukemia? Oliver would work all hours at the police station, leaving Kyle home with the baby. Tensions arise and then they’d work it out. You know, treat the gay couple like all of the other couples on the show.
But before the guys could bring Sierra Mist home Staci had to be declared really most sincerely dead. Schuyler the dolt shows up ranting about how he’d slept with Staci and the baby was really his. In an attempt to prove this Schuyler took everyone hostage and lost his mind. Even if Oliver hadn’t discovered the original birth certificate with his name on it Schuyler would have zero cred in family court.
Full custody granted! Now Kyle and Oliver could start their lives together. Basking in the glow of their limitless future, Kyle and Oliver say see you tomorrow and disappear from the canvas never to be seen or heard from again.
As they walked away I could hear the bitter cackling of a broken-down old bitch emanating from the abandoned theater.
Erin Byrne can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org