I'm crying right now. And if someone was to call me right now, they might think I was crazy because I'm crying over the death of a soap opera character. That's right! I said it! Police Chief Hal Munson of Oakdale is dead. And all of his loved ones on "As The World Turns" found out today. And though the actor who played him for about twenty years, soap star Benjamin Hendrickson actually committed suicide at his New York home back in early July of this year, it still brought tears to my eyes.
Though the show acknowledged the 55-year-old actor's passing at that time, they kept the character alive with minimal references until they could write it in. Hendrickson reportedly shot himself after falling into a deep depression following the cancer death of his mother. So, inside of those well-cued tears from his fellow actors, I'm certain there was an identification in their performances that came from a space of authenticity. Art imitates life and vice versa.
Saying goodbye to Hal is more to me than a favorite character gone. I grew up with Hal because my late mother, Queen Elizabeth Riley, raised my siblings (another brother and a sister) and me up on CBS Soaps - "The Young & The Restless" (now hiply called "Y&R"); "Bold & The Beautiful"; "Guiding Light"; and "As The World Turns". You could set your clock and compass by where mom and the kids would be during the windows of time that these "stories" aired (comprehensively during the summer and whatever of the line-up was left once we got out of school.). We would get our after-school snack and watch excitedly alongside mom (on her bed or on the couch in the den). Or, sometimes if she was in her room laying down, we kids would watch from the den and yell back-and-forth on the high drama that may have unfolded on that given afternoon. Perhaps something Victor Newman did on "Y&R". Or did the "Forresters" accelerate the age of another character, making us wonder how Brooke, who just gave birth last year could be attending her child's medical school graduation one year later? Unbelievable, but we still watched tangibly - as if our lives depended on it. On big cliffhanger days (Friday), we might start out watching in separate rooms, but you could rest assured we'd end up watching together as the drama unfolded and then we'd sometimes sit in silence or awe as we were left to wait a weekend to witness the conundrum resolved or delayed (as the twists and turns would sometimes leave us hanging, even on Monday). The soaps brought us much joy and those characters were and are our family and friends. As siblings who couldn't be more different - most in particular, my brother and me, we - for sure - had a jones for this programming in common. And that sometimes kept peace in the house.
And here inside of our adult years, my siblings and I are less likely to be a daily, captive audience to "As The World Turns" or any of the soaps as we have matured and now lead busy lives - hundreds of miles away from each other. But a whoppingly empty and blue twelve years since our mom, the ringleader, passed away, we still check in with the "stories" and then with each other for updates (soap opera's first on the catch up agenda. then, if there's time, we might catch up on our real lives).
REST IN PEACE, BENJAMIN HENDRICKSON.
REST IN PEACE, HAL MUNSON.
REST IN PEACE, QUEEN ELIZABETH RILEY (MOM).