This is going to be a very different column for me. I am usually not one to let real life into my "reel" life -- these past three years, I have written columns no matter what hoopla has gone on for me personally. But this week, I just can't do that. All week I have struggled with the worsening illness of my friend Christopher -- illness from Stage IV pancreatic cancer. This same week, Stephanie Forrester said her goodbyes to her family as her own Stage IV cancer emptied the sand in her hourglass. Talk about art imitating life.
This morning, I received news that Christopher died. I'd never be able to explain it here, but Christopher was one of my very best friends -- in soap lingo, you'd call him a contract character. I have often viewed my life as a soap -- a habit I've been trying to break -- but Christopher blew into my life like a Santa Ana wind and got intertwined into my own story right away. He was front and center on my canvas for years, and right now, I can't imagine a world without him.
Because of this, I simply cannot watch Stephanie's goodbye episodes. I know the party scenes are supposed to be awesome, and I keep hearing the word "Emmy" thrown around. I'm sure it's all true. The only thing I'll say is that I definitely think Ridge should have been there. Surely whatever happened between Ronn Moss and Brad Bell, something could have been worked out for Stephanie's final appearances. Or, as someone on Facebook suggested, The Bold and the Beautiful could have had Ronn and Susan pre-tape something before Ronn left.
But...it is what it is. Sometimes...you just don't get there in time. Believe me, I know.
So, you'll understand if I forgo commenting on this week's episodes. Instead, I'm going to focus on what I promised in my last column: my Top 10 Favorite Stephanie Forrester Moments. Maybe it's too painful to watch B&B's actual goodbye (I will one day), but I can certainly reminisce about one of daytime's most notorious matriarchs. It's the best I can give you right now...but I'll give all that I've got.
It's fitting, too, because, in the mid-'90s, I had gotten my friend Christopher into B&B. It was right around the tail end of Stephanie's mercury poisoning storyline, where Susan Flannery was turning in these mammoth performances...and Sheila had finally told James about the childhood atrocities that had made her into the villainess she had become.
From there, Christopher would often watch B&B with me, or make sure to tape it for me if I couldn't be there. I still have a whole tape full of episodes he recorded for me surrounding Taylor's "death" in 2002. He and I both had a "show must go on" mentality, and it is in that spirit I write this column tonight.
Now, let's talk about Stephanie. What a complex character! In the beginning, she was the woman you loved to hate, the witch who would manipulate anyone just to keep her husband. Then, you saw she'd do anything to protect her children. She mellowed a bit as the '90s wore on and showed a more loving side, but she could still throw down if someone got in her face. Brooke, Sheila, Sally, Lauren...no one was safe from a Stephanie Forrester tongue-lashing if it was deemed deserved.
I think Stephanie's "gangsta grandma" persona from the mid-2000s on put her a little more into the cartoon category (hell, the whole show got more into the cartoon category), but when the script called for it, Susan Flannery showed us her vulnerable side. And then when we found out Stephanie was a raging control freak because her father had beaten her as a child -- wow! It was harrowing, but a whole new Stephanie. Okay, so the repercussions of her revelations didn't last, but they changed the way we looked at Stephanie forever.
Of course, these last few years, Stephanie was largely backburnered. You knew you were in trouble when the only time you'd see Stephanie was when she was weighing in on who Liam should be with. And I'm sure that's largely why Susan Flannery packed up her marbles along with Ronn Moss. Brad Bell killed Stephanie in more ways that just writing her out with cancer.
Still, we did have Stephanie Forrester on our screens for 25 years. I liked her strength, her fierce loyalty, and her ability to tell it like it was. I could tell she was the driving force of the show already when I first started following B&B in 1988.
I thought the whole "berry" thing last year really demeaned her character, especially since she'd already made peace with Brooke, and I haven't looked at her the same since. But there is going to be a noticeable hole in the fabric of B&B once Stephanie joins my friend, which will either be November 26 or December 3, depending on where you get your news.
My favorite Stephanie moments may surprise you. Sure, she was great when she was a bitch, but it was the nuances that caught my eye, the scenes where Susan Flannery was able to make a little departure from Stephanie's norm. So, you may agree, you may not -- but that's what's wonderful about these things. No two people have to agree on any one point when it comes to a soap. And now, my Top 10 Favorite Stephanie Forrester Moments. (And I've provided links to videos of said moments so you can remember with me.)
10. "Looks A Little Hip-Hop, Don't You Think?" (2003)
Stephanie was upset that Ridge had forced her to accept his umpteenth engagement to Brooke. Longtime fashion rival Sally Spectra was upset that Ridge had bought Spectra Fashions and presented it to Brooke. That the unlikely duo shared a drink together was one thing. But it became something else when Stephanie and Sally got smashed and let their hair down -- literally! Not only was it hilarious to watch Sally give Stephanie her infamous, latter-day hairstyle, but what fun to watch Susan Flannery take Stephanie out of her in-control element: Stephanie laughed, cried for Eric, and then snored on the floor before Sally gave her B&B's ultimate extreme makeover. And what do you know -- the hair of the dog was Irish whiskey. So there may have been something to Stephanie's never-before-revealed Irish heritage after all! (See Stephanie's haircut here.)
9. "I'd Be Happy If We Could Be Friends" (2009)
As a result of more corporate hijinks at Forrester Creations, Stephanie found herself walking away from the company she'd helped create. So what an interesting turn when competitor Jackie M convinced Stephanie to join their team! With an "Eat your heart out, Honey Bear" directed at Eric on live television, the usually cranky La Forrester came alive, smiling with joy and reveling in helping the underdog fashion house to their feet -- resolving differences with former enemies Nick and Jackie along the way. One would never have thought Stephanie belonged anywhere else but Forrester, but she had an unparalleled place with Jackie M's ragtag bunch of misfits...to the point it was a shame when she returned to FC! (See Stephanie and Jackie's truce here.)
8. "What Was Thorne Doing With My Gun?" (1988)
Stephanie's simple peek out the window kicked off one helluva bravura storyline when she saw her youngest son Thorne pop a bullet into older son Ridge's head! While Eric was calling the paramedics, Stephanie found her own gun near the scene and confiscated it, determined to protect Thorne, whose combo of booze and sleeping pills erased his memory of the shooting. (And Thorne always thought he was the Number Two son.) What followed was Stephanie stubbornly standing up to the cops and swearing she thought she'd shot a prowler, a story she stuck to even when the suspicious police lieutenant took her to jail. It was Stephanie's finest mama lion moment, if not L.A.'s finest. (See dozens of clips from this storyline at this fan site.)
7. "Brooke, I'm Trying To Protect Them, Okay?" (2010)
Stephanie and Brooke had battled for over two decades, but neither of them knew the trajectory they'd find themselves on when Brooke happened to be in the room as Stephanie was diagnosed with Stage IV lung cancer. Brooke insisted that Stephanie tell the Forresters, but Stephanie refused, sending them both on a bucket list fulfillment that started with a roller coaster ride on the Santa Monica Pier and ended with a different kind of roller coaster ride on Skid Row. By the time newfound friend Dayzee convinced Stephanie to seek treatment, Stephanie saw how much Brooke had been trying to help and declared a truce with her as she went into surgery. Shame the truce didn't last, but it was satisfying (and more genuine) than even this week's Brephanie love fest. (Wanted to find the video of the truce but couldn't, but you can see Brooke pleading with Stephanie to 'fess up to her family here.)
6. "This Baby Could Be A Turning Point For You" (2002)
Stephanie had long deemed Brooke the "Slut from the Valley," an opinion reinforced when Brooke got pregnant by daughter Bridget's husband. But a funny thing happened when Stephanie and Bridget were forced to deliver baby Hope at Big Bear. Stephanie, who ordinarily would have read Brooke the riot act, was moved by the miracle of birth and instead maternally told Brooke she needed to get her life in order. A shocked Brooke shocked Stephanie back by asking for Stephanie's help; Stephanie amazingly agreed. It was the first time these longtime enemies showed chinks in their armor, and it was a thrill to watch. Of course we know that truce lasted about five seconds, but work with me, people. (See Stephanie offer her help to Brooke here.)
5. "There Isn't An Ounce, A Drop -- A Scintilla? A Scintilla. -- Of Sympathy Inside of Me For You." (1995)
Sally Spectra thought she'd hit the romantic mother lode when suave Eric Forrester wined and dined her, then proposed to her. Stephanie was devastated that her true love had moved on with yet another woman -- until Eric revealed that the engagement was a sham devised to get Sally to pull her stolen Forrester designs from Spectra's showing! In true La Forrester style, Stephanie marched into Sally's office and played the wounded woman for a while before smashing Sally's fake engagement ring with a hammer and rubbing it in Sally's face! Stephanie had always been class, but somehow in this moment of serving up revenge, she seemed classier than ever. (See Stephanie "congratulate" Sally here. And I couldn't find it on YouTube, so this is from my personal collection that I've just uploaded!)
4. "What Is This Place? You Live Here?" (1991)
Queen Stephanie was also the queen of the fashion universe. Until, on the heels of her beloved Eric marrying Brooke, Stephanie had a stroke, wandering out of the house and into downtown Los Angeles with no memory. Street tough Ruthanne protected Stephanie from muggers, then took the amnesiac under her wing and showed her how to live on the streets. B&B's original (and much better) homeless storyline gave viewers a chance to see a different side of Stephanie -- not just by showing the usually upscale Stephanie in tatters, but by letting Susan Flannery show the Queen as vulnerable, confused, and scared. Fans tend to remember the louder, more aggressive Stephanie moments, but Susan Flannery's subtlety here was mind-blowing. (See dozens of clips from this storyline at this fan site.)
3. "Why Did You Let Him Hurt Me That Way?" (2006)
We had always seen Stephanie Forrester as a powerful matriarch, increasingly as quick with the back of her hand as she was with a stinging retort. When she finally went too far acting out on her legendary anger, Stephanie sought therapy with Taylor and started to remember being abused at the hands of her father during childhood. With Eric's gentle support, Stephanie confronted the mother she'd written off as dead 30 years prior and became a little girl again when her mother denied the abuse. It was the perfect way to dig into why Stephanie had been such a control freak all her life, but it also gave Susan Flannery a chance to give her alter ego layers that we still haven't forgotten. (See Stephanie face down her childhood demons here.)
2. "I Want Total Submission!" (1996)
Stephanie moved for custody of Brooke's kids when Brooke went missing in Paris. Sheila, who viewed herself as Brooke's best friend, wanted to help but was afraid Stephanie would have Sheila's parole rescinded. The result was a nightmare of Sheila's in which Sheila ended up begging a comically malevolent Stephanie for help. Watching Susan Flannery exaggerate Stephanie into a cartoon villain was sheer delight, but it was only the beginning. Sheila replaced Stephanie's calcium supplements with mercury pills, driving Stephanie further into madness than Sheila had ever been, to the point it took enemies Brooke and Sally to rally her back into the world of the living. If Susan Flannery didn't win an Emmy for that storyline, she should have. It was crazy! (See Sheila's nightmare here, starting at 4:04.)
1. "You Drive Decent, Fine People To Do Absolutely Asinine Things!" (1993)
Maneuvering to keep the BeLieF formula that Brooke invented out of Brooke's hands backfired when Brooke discovered her "masseur" (really a lawyer paid by the Forresters to spy on Brooke) in the offices of Forrester Creations. Brooke put two and two together and raged at Ridge and Eric. But Stephanie, who had actually tried to be nice to Brooke as part of the ruse, lost it and blew up at Brooke like viewers had never seen before. When Brooke fired back, Stephanie typically responded by slapping her, but Stephanie's shock was palpable when Brooke slapped her back, changing the game between them forever. It's a moment I've always remembered -- how could anyone forget Stephanie telling her favorite son Ridge to shut up? It was Stephanie at her out-of-control best. (See the double smackdownhere, starting at 1:58.)
Again, those are just my favorites. Feel free to write in about your own, and they may end up in a future column. I will return with the December 17 column; as I am playing Lumiere in a production of Beauty and the Beast, I won't be able to Scoop again until then. But Allison and a wonderful guest columnist will be covering all things B&B for you in my absence.
I know there are those of you who had problems with Stephanie's big goodbye for one reason or another, but look at it this way -- we got one. I didn't get one with Christopher, so I write this particular column in honor of him, and thinking back to the many B&B episodes we watched together. It's almost appropriate that I had to write about my favorite Stephanie moments today, because, as I have been reminded in the aftermath of Christopher's passing, it's important to recall the good moments, even in the middle of mourning.
Cherish each other, keep watching, be alert, and most of all, be bold.