On Friday, September 23rd, the last network airing of All My Children began at 12 Noon Central Standard Time. An hour later, it was over. The scheming, the lying, the loving, the surviving, the happy, the sad, the highs, the lows, the tragedy and the triumph.

Erica Kane, the Diva of Pine Valley, finally got her comeuppance when Jackson Montgomery finally, after years of pursuit, responded to her plea that she needed and loved him with an homage worthy of Gone With the Wind.  (“Frankly, Erica, I don’t give a damn what you need.” Aaaand exit – stage left). David Hayward, the Scourge of Pine Valley, resurrected several dozen people (at least it felt that way), including Dixie Cooney-Martin and Stuart Chandler, both done in via terrible writing by past writing regimes and approval of the Executive Producer (*coughJulieHananCarrutherscough*) and Zach Slater, half of the Zendall Supercouple both beloved and reviled across soapdom. Bianca Montgomery, the Moral Center of Pine Valley, finally, seemingly, got a happy ending. Adam and Brooke returned, as did Joe and Ruth.  And Jamie, albeit briefly. Tad and Dixie got back together, Jake and Amanda stayed together, David knocked up Cara and JR got a gun…

The show ended with a cliffhanger of sorts, as JR, mad as hell and apparently not going to take it anymore (no matter how stupid, selfish and alcohol-fueled) hid in the Chandler Mansion’s infamous tunnels and fired one single shot into the crowd of PV revelers as the screen faded to black. Who was shot? We don’t know. Why? Because the show will move on-line in January and Agnes Nixon, creator and headwriter, and Prospect Park, new owners of the venerable soap, wanted it that way.

While I didn’t agree with the ending, I understand why they did it. I’m just sad that such a time-honored icon went out with more of a whimper than a bang (no pun intended).  I understand that the cliffhanger aspect will hopefully keep people guessing until the show re-appears, it also could have the opposite effect in that as time passes, it’s possible no one will care what happened to whom by the time January rolls around. I think a finale tied up in a nice, neat bow would have worked just as well. Because while the cliffhanger keeps people guessing, the time that passes between now and January, in real time, would also allow the characters’ feelings to change, lives to begin and end and the world to continue turning (with apologies to another great, yet canceled, show). The show could then pick up from there, re-booting with an explanation of who and why without having to deal with death and destruction from the outset.

But that is neither here nor there.

What IS here and there is that this venerable show was removed from our airwaves after 41 years. Saying good-bye to such a dear friend has been hard. For every Daytime Television Executive intent on killing daytime serials one long-running, scripted show at a time for cheap, boring, horrible “reality television”, there are hundreds, possibly thousands, of long-time viewers who have incredible memories to share about their “stories”.  Women who grew up watching with their mothers, grandmothers, friends, family. Men and women who remember scheduling college classes around their favorites. An entire generation of teens struggling with their sexuality…

All My Children wasn’t just entertainment. It told the story of us, our neighbors, our families, our friends. It was timely and relevant. It told the story of legalized abortion (Erica had one in 1973, the first legal one on daytime television following the passage of Roe v. Wade- ridiculously undone in 2005), opposition to the Vietnam War (for which the late Mary Fickett won Daytime’s first Emmy Award), teen homosexuality (delicately and beautifully written by show creator Agnes Nixon and portrayed by Eden Riegel) and the stigma of Aids (heartbreakingly performed by David Canary and Ellen Wheeler). The show handled both drama and comedy, many times excelling at the latter at the expense of the former. It taught tolerance, respect and love.  It bridged generations and taught us all a few lessons we sorely needed to learn.

For me, All My Children was a lifetime friend. I began watching during the scorching hot summers of my youth, hiding in the air conditioning during the heart of the day and losing myself in Pine Valley, before following that up with the rest of the ABC Daytime line-up.  My senior year of high school, my schedule allowed me to be home by 11:30 where I would watch the shows before returning to school at 3:30 for basketball practice. I watched during my lunch hour all through college and as often as I could when I joined the workforce in a time before DVR’s- or even VCR’s. I grew up with Jenny and Greg, Angie and Jesse, Liza, Amanda and the entire teen set from the early 80’s. I loved the Cliff and Nina love story, the hilarity of Erica, Janet, Skye and Marian trying to hide the supposedly dead body of Dr. Jonathan Kinder and the incredibly told story of Stuart and Cindy.

I watched Tad and Dixie’s relationship evolve into one of the most enduring on Daytime television, persevering through 2 deaths (both Dixie’s) only to be reunited in the end, as it should be. I watched almost all of Erica’s marriages begin… and end.

I made it through chemotherapy sessions in the summer of 2005 with the help of Kendall and Greenlee (Alicia Minshew and Rebecca Budig), affectionately known as Kenlee, watching them work their way through hatred and friendship, humor and tears, and equally tormenting Erica Kane in the process.

I cheered when couples I loved finally got together, I railed when poor storytelling made my favorite characters seem so foreign to me. I wrote the press, I wrote the show, I wrote the actors. I’ve watched through good times and some really bad clunker stories. I admit to walking away because of the reign of horror we were subjected to by one Charles Pratt and his offensive, insipid, insulting and ridiculous vision for the show. I came back because, like a long-lost friend, I missed it so much.

I’ve been lucky enough to meet so many stars of the show, Alicia Minshew, Thorsten Kaye, the irrepressible Michael E. Knight.  Michael even gave me 20 Disney bucks when he heard we had arrived at the park at 3am so I could grab some breakfast when I was done. I used the money to buy a Mickey Mouse t-shirt, instead…

I met some the of the best friends I’ve ever had at a Message Board dedicated to the pairing of Bianca and Maggie (the Supercouple known as BAM – portrayed by Eden and Elizabeth Hendrickson).  They were there for me as I battled cancer and hugged me tightly whenever we got together.

I’ve been honored to find myself one of the founding members of Eden Riegel’s Official Fan Club (AbsoluteEden.com) and have had the opportunity to know Eden and her husband, Andrew Miller, as well as her mother, Lenore.

I watched the final week of All My Children alternating between laughter and tears, finally coming to that realization that, come Monday at noon, there would be no need to make sure my television was on and tuned to ABC. I thought of the friends I made way back in the late 70’s during those hot summer days, who came into my house every day to entertain me, the ones who have long since passed and those we have recently mourned. I admittedly wept when thinking of those who I may never see again as they have been to me for 30+ years.

I sighed when I dried my tears and prepared myself to do this again in a few months when we say good-bye to another life-long friend.

And I smiled when I remembered what All My Children has meant to me for more than half my life.

Good bye, my dear, dear friend. I thank you for all that you have given me.

May we meet again soon.

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Here’s Part 2 of my exclusive Q&A with Imaginary Bitches star Eden Riegel. Eden was kind enough to answer questions about more than just her incredibly popular web series, including her time on All My Children as much-beloved, incredibly put-upon icon Bianca Montgomery, where she managed to open many narrow minds with her effective, sensitive and wonderful portrayal of daytime’s first front-burner homosexual character, things she would have changed, things she wouldn’t touch, her chemistry with Elizabeth Hendrickson, the life of BAM and her newly minted marriage to husband/writer/director Andrew Miller (or as we call him around here at SS&D… God).

I hope you enjoy.

SS&D: Now, taking a step back in time…Bianca… How different is it playing goodie two-shoes, sweet and innocent Bianca and smart-talking, not-as-crazy-as-she-seems “Eden”? How different is that mind-set?

Eden: Not that different, actually. It’s a different type of earnestness, but both ladies are incredibly earnest. In fact, the comedy comes from the fact that “Eden” is the least likely person to have such a raunchy, bitchy subconscious. So, on the surface, she and Bianca are the same. It’s just underneath that things get a bit choppier.

SS&D: Let’s face it, playing a lesbian is rife with possibilities… How did Bianca end up being so virtuous? She is quite possibly the most angelic character, well, ever. (The one night stand with Leslie caused some outrage because that just wasn’t Bianca’s style and even the refusal to talk to Maggie caused some resentment among hard-liners – and don’t get me started on the Babe forgiveness)

Eden: Yeah, I think maybe the fans were experiencing growing pains at the idea of Bianca growing up. I agree that that was completely out of character. But, as you mentioned, Bianca’s been through a lot of crapola and is decidedly NOT a saint — that’s why her struggle is so relatable. So she’s trying some new things, to see if they fit. Or she’s so sick of people letting her down that when the person she loves more than anyone on earth does it she can’t forgive her. Or the reality of her best friend letting her believe that her daughter is dead drives her bat-s***-crazy. She’s not perfect. What makes her virtuous is that she tries damn hard.

SS&D: Was it sometimes hard to play such a character, that everyone in Pine Valley thought was all sweetness and light, while you had to watch their characters gettin’ busy with each other on a daily basis?

Eden: Yeah, that sucked. But at the same time, like you mentioned in the last question, that’s just not Bianca. She would never do that. So the writers had to get creative. And because of that I had amazing, compelling stories to play.

SS&D: Bianca was frequently called the moral compass of Pine Valley. Did you ever want to see Bianca just snap and go on some kind of amoral spree that would scandalize even the most jaded citizens of Bianca’s home town? (the Bada$$ Bianca fantasy episode comes to mind) What would you have had her do to shock the good people of Pine Valley?

Eden: I’m not sure. I think it might have been a cheap thrill. At that point Pine Valley was pretty morally bereft, and they needed a compass, desperately. The fantasy episode was fun, but usually when Bianca lost control it was because something traumatic pushed her to it (remember drunk Bianca dancing on the pool table? Really badly? Like, totally embarrassing herself?) For her to lose her sense of morals she’d have to have a severe head injury. Or be an evil twin. That would be super fun! But in the end I would want Bianca back, untarnished and with her little heart pointing to true north.

SS&D: To be honest, I think that’s the only way all of Bianca’s fans would want her to be. But would you have liked to have seen more romance in Bianca’s life? Not necessarily love scenes, because, well, those can be so over-the-top on soaps, even among heterosexual couples (I’ve seen some seriously cringe-inducing scenes on ABC soaps, Ryan/Greenlee anyone?), but possibly mornings-after, cuddling, natural displays of affection?

Eden: Yeah, that would have been fun. I had one scene that I remember, waking up with Lena the morning after. I think she gave me a little peck when she said goodbye, too. That was sweet.

SS&D: It’s obvious you and Elizabeth Hendrickson are close friends and you’ve played some incredibly heavy, emotionally charged scenes opposite each other. Even though Bianca and Maggie were just as close (some would say even closer, considering their eventual relationship), did you ever find it hard to get into character? Did you ever look at a script and think, oh, there is no way we’re going to get through this scene…?

Eden: Not really. Is that weird? I have total faith in us. I think we’re awesome. There’s nothing we can’t do!

SS&D: I don’t think that’s weird, I think that shows what tremendous chemistry you have and that you trust each other completely when it comes to your work. And if you could actually bring Bianca and Maggie back to Pine Valley, how would you do it? Because, you’re right that we BAM fans are all imagining that they’re back together in Paris, raising Miranda as a family… as it should be. (and, by the way, Miranda loves hockey)

Eden: Maybe we’d come back to the town to make Miranda’s adoption legal, have Maggie get inseminated by Josh, and have a huge splashy wedding at the Valley Inn! (Or maybe something smaller and more intimate at the boathouse). By the way, Miranda’s a Leafs fan. Not a Detroit fan like her Uncle Zack and cousin Spike.

SS&D: (*blinks at the thought of Maggie being inseminated by Josh… artificially, of course*) I never would have thought of that, but I’d love the idea of Bianca getting her heart’s desire and seeing AMC tell the first same sex marriage storyline on daytime television. Although, I have a feeling Erica would take complete control of the whole thing, much to Bianca’s dismay. (um, and I’ve heard Mimo is a Rangers fan) Other than the excellent (I’m running out of adjectives to describe the show here) web series, your new life as a married woman and mom to a puppy, I’ve heard that you like to figure skate. Did you begin at an early age or is this a relatively new hobby?

Eden: I started at the age of 10, and stopped at, like, 15. So it was tough getting back to it, but it is so fun and great to challenge yourself in a new way. Like being a kid again. I haven’t made it to the rink in a while. I gotta get back to it!

SS&D: And Andrew likes to practice his hockey moves? Does he play in a league in LA? I know there were several celebrity teams out there at one time. Is he a winger or a defenseman? Are you one of those skaters that goes out to center ice and does spins and jumps while the rest of us mopes who are lucky enough to be able to go forward without doing a faceplant skate around in a big oval? (although I like to think I’m somewhat capable on the ice)

Eden: I’ve been known to show off a little. The worst is when you attempt something and people are watching and fall on your butt. Andrew doesn’t play for a league, but he grabs pick up games at a couple of rinks. He started as an adult, despite the fact that he was born and raised in Canada. Unfortunately Cam and his other friends were more skiers than hockey players (I understand it’s one or the other) so Andrew just got into it recently. He loves it.

SS&D: Skating is excellent exercise; I go weekly in the winter. Your newest family member is the adorable little puppy you adopted. Have you taught Riley to do any tricks? Does he rule the house yet? The most telling question, actually, would be: Where does he sleep? On your bed with you or relegated to a bed of his own?

Eden: Bed of his own, I’m afraid. I so wish we could cuddle with him at night (he is VERY cuddly and loving) but once you let ’em in it’s sort of the end of the honeymoon period, if you know what I mean. Riley sits, downs, heels and comes… sometimes. When he feels like it. We’re working on it.

SS&D: I feel like I must ask you at least one James Lipton question and I’ve previously asked you what your favorite curse word is (same as mine, by the way, nice choice), so… If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?

Eden: Ya done good.

SS&D: Eden, it’s obvious you married a keeper… Does he have any brothers?

Eden: Sadly no… but he’s got a couple of hot sisters!

SS&D: Thank you, again, Eden for taking the time to answer these questions. You know we wish you continued success with Imaginary Bitches and all your future endeavors. And congratulations again to both of you on your marriage, your new family and all your cinematic achievements.

Eden: It is truly my pleasure. I can’t thank you (and Tracy) enough for your support, enthusiasm, and general happiness-making! You are amazing. I thank my lucky stars every day that I thought your eyebrows were Michael Knight’s, and was dumb enough to say it out loud. Andrew and I look forward to your comments every week. Because you just get it, Lady! Thank you so much. And keep in touch.

SS&D: Well, I do what I can. And I think the tables just turned and now I will never live that down… Well played.

There are 4 new episodes left to season one of Imaginary Bitches, airing every Friday at 11:00 pm Eastern, 10:00 pm Central, 8:00 pm Pacific time. You can catch the new episodes of Imaginary Bitches at http://www.youtube.com/user/ImaginaryBitches. Or you can visit the IB website at http://www.imaginarybitches.com/Home.html.

And you can shop for fashionable IB apparel at http://www.cafepress.com/imaginaryshop.

Check out IB Message Board at http://imaginarybitches.yuku.com/.

Recently on All My Children, the writers have been featuring the older, established characters. The venerable veterans who made the show so incredibly popular back in the 90’s, and even waaaay back into the 80’s. Adam, Erica, Jack, Tad, Dixie (albeit dead), Angie, Jesse, Opal, Julia (albeit killed)…

These are the characters we have a bond with, a connection. Long-time viewers grew up with Tad, Dixie, Angie and Jesse. We watched Palmer and Opal fall in love, Adam steamroll his way through the business world, Erica and Jack spend 17 years in an on-again, off-again relationship (mostly off, but when it was on… it was ON).

So, um… WTF?

Why are you teasing us like this?

Don’t you know there are young, nubile characters going to waste on AMC? Didn’t you SORAS Colby (from 5 to early 20’s) just so you could give us more youth angst? (and dumped an ever-evolving Ambyr Childers in order to cast a poor man’s Ambyr Childers lookalike in the role) You’ve brought back Frankie Hubbard (twice now in recent years), cast a young woman to play a street-smart hooker to get involved with the military vet to mine some angst out of that pairing. There’s the Ryan/Annie debacle that’s looming on the horizon, Kenlee/Zachlee/Aidlee/Zendall drama to explore…

So WTF are you doing? Why are you giving us these wonderful stories with veteran stars, all of whom are doing spectacular work? David Canary and Cady McClain during Adam’s haunting… Susan Lucci playing Erica in the Big House (which has been a ton of fun when you let Erica and her fellow inmates interact)… Michael Knight and Cady McClain, living out the life every Tad and Dixie fan wanted to witness (albeit over years, not a single episode), Darnell Williams and Debbie Morgan bringing Jesse and Angie back to Pine Valley after way too long away. Ray McDonnell as Dr. Joe Martin, the Chief of Staff at Pine Valley Hospital as son Tad fights for his life in one room while Joe must deliver devastating news to a friend in another. And Sydney Penny as a dying Julia Santos, knowing there was no way she would survive, wanting to make sure Kathy was taken care of, giving Krystal instructions on what to do, even as her very life slipped away.

That was All My Children as I remember it from my youth and over the decades. Intriguing, emotional, well-script, brilliantly acted… We cared about these characters. We anxiously awaited each new episode to see how they would react, how they would cope, what they would say…

What are you doing getting my hopes up again? That I might think this could become a daily experience once more? That you’d have us believing it will always be this way and we’ll never get mired back in the same old tired storylines that have been hashed and re-hashed over the last year or so…

Seriously… WTF?