Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thanks…and Glory Be!

Well, it wasn’t quite the happy Thanksgiving DiDi had expected, but she was determined to make the most of it.

Her plans had been to spend Thanksgiving with Calvin, Jr. and his new fiancee at her parents’ home in Wichita. But an unexpected snowstorm had canceled all planes landing and taking off from Monticello Municipal Airport.

Looking out the window and the continuous downfall of snow, DiDi recalled how -- when Cal had introduced her and Calvin to his new girlfriend, Nikki -- her “mother’s intuition” immediately told her that Nikki was “the one.” Two years later, she was proven right when the couple announced their engagement.

The plan was for the parents of the prospective bride and groom to spend Thanksgiving together as an inaugural celebration of the blending of their families. DiDi thought about how much Calvin, Sr. had been looking forward to this Thanksgiving…and how much she was dreading going to Wichita without him.

But God works in mysterious ways. Thanks to the unforeseen circumstances of the weather, she’d been spared having to make that trip. And thanks to Skype, she’d been able to have a wonderful “virtual visit” with all of them earlier that morning.

After that, she watched an episode of All My Children she’d DVR’d the pevious day. Ironically, it was an episode where one of the main characters had to deal with the unexpected death of her husband right before Thanksgiving.

Somehow, watching the actress express the character’s grief, helped DiDi feel better able to cope with what she, herself, was going through.

“That’s probably why soap operas are so popular,” she thought, “because the audience gets to know the characters and can relate what they’re going through with something they’re experiencing - or have experienced - in their own lives.”

Snuggling up on the couch in front of the fireplace, DiDi reflected on her own “soap opera” of the red-headed woman she’d seen twice now -- the last time was the previous week when DiDi’d been out jogging and saw the woman entering the gated community of Wonderland Estates.

DiDi had immediately called Chris Egan and driven over to talk to her about it….

“You really think that was Alicia Van Dine?!” Chris had asked, incredulous at the possibility.

“Well, I thought so after seeing her the first time outside the UNICEF benefit, but after seeing her the second time…I’m certain of it,” said DiDi.

“R-r-r-r-ing!”

The telephone snapped DiDi out of her reverie. “Hello…and happy Thanksgiving!”

“Hi, DiDi, I thought you might still be in town.”

“Sky?”

“Yes! I was watching the weather report and thought it might have derailed your Thanksgiving trip, so I’m calling to invite you to have Thanksgiving dinner with Raven and I and our family.”

“Well, uh…that’s very thoughtful, but I don‘t want to intrude,” stammered DiDi at the unexpected invitation.

“Come on, that’s the least I could do for my newest employee,” said Sky.

DiDi had finally decided to accept Schyler Whitney’s offer to write a weekly column for his newspaper, but she and Calvin had never really socialized much with the Whitneys…and quite honestly, she was fine with leaving it like that.

“Look, DiDi, this is going to be your first holiday without Calvin. I remember what it was like for Raven and me our first family holiday after our son Gerald died, so, if nothing else, please come just for the diversion…besides, it’s Thanksgiving…you have to eat. And the holidays always inspire Raven to make a “guest appearance” in the kitchen. Her pumpkin pie is not to be missed!”

“Well, I wouldn’t want to miss Raven’s pumpkin pie,” laughed DiDi. “So…what time, what do I bring and what’s your address again?

“Three o’clock…and you don’t need to bring a thing,” said Sky. “But, we’re starting a new tradition this year, our daughter Charlotte and her husband are hosting Thanksgiving. Her address is 9787 Wonderland Lane.... "

Cue the music!



***
Mariann Aalda played DiDi Bannister-Stoner on Edge of Night from 1981 to its final episode on December 28, 1984. She also played Grace Battles on Guiding Light and Lena Hart on Sunset Beach on daytime and starred in the primetime series The Royal Family and First & 10 and recurred or guest-starred on such shows as Designing Women, Grace Under Fire and The Parkers, among others. With a penchant for comedy, she's also done stand-up in clubs across the country and is the co-creator of M.O.I.S.T.! -- the "sex-istential" comedy-with-music celebrating the seasoned woman -- which she co-wrote/produced/performs with Iona Morris (ex-Fiona Griffin, As The World Turns).

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

SLAY Bells Ring… Are You Listenin’?


Wonderland Estates was a gated community built on what had been forest preserve not more than five years ago. An enclave of spectacular mansions, it was where many of the young “shakers and movers” of Monticello society now made their home.

Not all of them were to-the-manor-born, however. Many had made their millions in the technology and video-game industries and were new to Monticello. The demonic Louis Van Dine was actually the one responsible for bringing them there.

Louis Van Dine and his ego-maniacal scheme to take over the world by wiring workplaces (beginning with Monticello’s Isis Building) and cable television systems to deliver subversive subliminal suggestions became an urban legend of sorts. The incident ended up capturing the vivid imaginations of a legion of impressionable young techies and gamers who, when they became adults, moved to Monticello for the lore and ended up staying for the lifestyle.

DiDi shuddered as she stood before the imposing gates of Wonderland Estates and watched the shadowy figure that had just jogged past her punch in the security code and enter. There was something uncomfortably familiar about the slender build and flaming red-haired chignon fastidiously nestled between the mink earmuffs.

The temperature had dropped at least ten degrees in the hour or since she’d set off on her run, and snow was starting to fall… but it wasn’t the cold that was causing DiDi to continue to shiver. It was the memories of what had happened to her beyond those gates.

DiDi was one of the early victims of Van Dine’s evil plan. Her heroic attempts at trying to convince friends, colleagues and anyone else who would listen that she could sense something was terribly wrong and warning them of impending danger, had led to a diagnosis of paranoiac hysteria and being committed to an institution.

Until it was bulldozed to make way for Monticello Estates, that institution had stood on the property a scant mile behind those gates.

Now it was known as a community of great brains who had married great beauties… a place with perfectly manicured lawns and perfectly behaved children. Its residents had a reputation very similar to another town of legendary lore…Stepford.

DiDi turned on her heels and, as fast as she could, ran down the hill to get to her car…reaching for the cell phone in her pocket to call Chris Eagan as she ran.

“Hello, Chris? This is DiDi - you’re not going to believe this…”

To Be Continued…

In the meantime, check out Mariann's contribution to the conversation discussing Diversity in Daytime and share your own thoughts on the subject at www.SoapOpera451.com!


Another Remembrance:



***

Mariann Aalda played DiDi Bannister-Stoner on Edge of Night from 1981 to its final episode on December 28, 1984. She also played Grace Battles on Guiding Light and Lena Hart on Sunset Beach on daytime and starred in the primetime series The Royal Family and First & 10 and recurred or guest-starred on such shows as Designing Women, Grace Under Fire and The Parkers, among others. With a penchant for comedy, she's also done stand-up in clubs across the country and is the co-creator of M.O.I.S.T.! -- the "sex-istential" comedy-with-music celebrating the seasoned woman -- which she co-wrote/produced/performs with Iona Morris (ex-Fiona Griffin, As The World Turns).

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

EYE FOR AN EYE?

It had been more than a week since the big Halloween bash and DiDi had a lot to think about…

First of all, the huge success of Monticello’s annual fundraiser for UNICEF during the ten years that she’d worked on its committee as a volunteer had captured the attention of the organization’s national headquarters. They were so impressed that DiDi had been offered a paid position!

While deeply moved that her efforts had been noticed by the head honchos -- and enticed by the fact that the job’s required move to New York would give her an opportunity to be closer to Calvin, Jr. -- DiDi couldn’t see herself leaving Monticello…at least, not yet.

Then there was another job offer she had to consider, as well…and DiDi had to admit that she found this one very intriguing…

Like many other mid-sized cities, Monticello had been faced with economic challenges over the last few years -- which was the primary reason that Schuyler and Raven Whitney decided to move back.

Their move to California more than twenty years earlier had increased their (already sizable) fortune because of heavy investments in Silicon Valley technology and Southern California real estate.

When their son, Gerald (named after Sky’s beloved Aunt, Geraldine), was killed in a tragic, unsolved hit-and-run accident in 2005, the Whitneys, after setting up generous trust-funds for their older children, Charlotte and Jamey, decided to divest the remainder of their wealth through philanthropy.

Their pursuit of noble causes had taken them all over the world, but with when the economic downturn hit Monticello, Sky and Raven decided that charity should begin at home. With strong roots in the community, they wanted to be more than just investors and money-lenders, they wanted to be hands-on…which is how Sky discovered his latent knack for journalism.

After rescuing The Monticello Times from bankruptcy, his plans were to turn it over to somebody else to run. While Vance Swift, chairman of the board of directors of The Whitney Charitable Foundation headed up an executive search team to find a new managing editor, Sky decided to take over the job, himself, until the position could be filled.

As the search dragged on, Sky discovered not only was he good at his “temp job,” but that he loved it. After three months, the search was called off and “Schuyler Whitney, Managing Editor” went up on the newspaper’s masthead.

DiDi had been more than a little surprised when Sky called to offer her a position with the paper.

“Gee, I really appreciate the offer, Sky, and the fact that you’re even considering me,” said DiDi, when he called. “But for the life of me, I can’t understand why.”

“DiDi, I watched you at the fundraiser the other night and observed how you interact with people. You know all the shakers-and-movers in this town and they all seem to know you,” said Sky. “More importantly, they seem to trust you, and for a journalist that’s gold…especially for the job I have in mind.”

The job was for Didi to write a weekly column that would appear both in the print newspaper and online.

“It’ll be equal parts news, entertainment and gossip,” he said. “I’m thinking we should call it ‘Eye on Monticello’…how does that sound to you?”

She told him she’d mull it over and get back to him…which is what had gotten her out jogging in the rain at 5:30 that morning.

DiDi did her best ruminating and problem-solving in the morning. Jogging around the reservoir, she couldn’t help but think about some of the wonderful conversations she and Calvin used to have when they’d be out jogging together. She hoped he would have some good advice for her today.

It was now 6:30 and still dark out with the street lights on. Suddenly, DiDi became aware of footsteps pounding behind her. Since she was already in her cool-down and had slowed her pace to a mere brisk walk, she moved to the side to let the other runner pass -- while also gripping the spray can of mace in her right pocket and, with her left hand, feeling for the whistle around her neck.

Although the runner wooshed past her uneventfully, DiDi felt a shudder when she recognized it as the same shadowy figure she’d seen outside the Halloween ball the week before!

Stopping dead in her tracks, DiDi looked up at the street sign and realized that she was on the infamous Wonderland Lane.

To Be Continued…

***

Mariann Aalda played DiDi Bannister-Stoner on Edge of Night from 1981 to its final episode on December 28, 1984. She also played Grace Battles on Guiding Light and Lena Hart on Sunset Beach on daytime and starred in the primetime series The Royal Family and First & 10 and recurred or guest-starred on such shows as Designing Women, Grace Under Fire and The Parkers, among others. With a penchant for comedy, she's also done stand-up in clubs across the country and is the co-creator of M.O.I.S.T.! -- the "sex-istential" comedy-with-music celebrating the seasoned woman -- which she co-wrote/produced/performs with Iona Morris (ex-Fiona Griffin, As The World Turns).

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

FINE & DANDY and JUST SUPER...

“See, aren’t you glad you decided to come?” shouted Chris over the din of 80’s disco music.

At Chris’ instance, DiDi had joined her and Gavin Wiley at Monticello’s annual Halloween fundraiser for UNICEF (click here to find out how you can participate, too). This year’s theme was “Back to the Future,” and included an actual DeLorean as the centerpiece among the fifty or so items included in the silent auction.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Back_to_the_future.jpg http://damox.com/cars/wallpaper/Delorean/1981_Delorean_DMC12.htm

Using her skills as a private detective, Chris had easily been able to track down several owners of the prized cars. But it was her artistic talent that had actually secured one for the charity event when she persuaded one of the owners to take one of her paintings for it in trade.

“Yeah,” said DiDi, “thanks to you, we’re on our way to setting a new record…and you were right, I wouldn’t have wanted to miss it.”

DiDi had served on Monticello’s UNICEF fundraiser board for more than ten years and this was the first year she was attending their big Halloween event without Calvin. Calvin loved to dance and this was one of his favorite shindigs… mostly because everyone wore costumes instead of the usual stuffy formal attire.

“But, you know, I think I’m about partied out, so I’m going to take a cab home.”

“Oh no, DiDi, Gavin and I will drop you off just as soon as he gets back from helping put some of the silent auction items in people’s cars,” said Chris.

“That’s very sweet of you,” said DiDi, “but you both live downtown, here, and I’m a good twenty minutes away. You’ve both already worked so hard in making this event a success -- not to mention babysitting me -- that you deserve to come off the clock, now… you’ve earned time off for good behavior.”

“Hmmm…or maybe a little bad behavior?” said Chris with a twinkle.

“That, too,” laughed DiDi, “and maybe you can put your handcuffs to some good use?”

“Why, DiDi, whatever do you mean?!” exclaimed Chris, feigning shock and embarrassment.
As if on cue, a Rick James song started playing to punctuate the innuendo and the two women burst out laughing.



“Well, the deejay either has perfect timing, is a real smartass…or maybe he’s psychic,” chortled Chris.

“Or maybe all three!” chuckled DiDi. “Did you know that Calvin was planning on coming to the dance this year as Rick James?”

“You’re kidding!”

“Nope,” said DiDi. “So I’m going to take that song playing at just the right moment as a sign that Calvin’s spirit is watching over us; that you get to keep your sense of humor in Heaven, and that he’s managed to hook-up with Rick James on the other side.”

“A perfect way to end the evening?” asked Chris.

“Perfect,” said DiDi, giving Chris a good-by hug. “Listen, there are plenty of people waiting for their cars out front, not to mention the fact that there’s a taxi stand right in front of the hotel. You wait here for Gavin…I’ll be fine.”

“Okay,” said Chris. But promise to call me when you get home.”

“Promise.”

***

Getting into the cab, DiDi immediately took her off her shoes, just as she would have if she’d been going home with Calvin…and in an odd, but comforting way, she almost felt that she was.
As the taxi rounded the corner of the hotel, however, she spotted a shadowy, caped figure out of the corner of her eye that made her suddenly sit up and stare out the window.

“No,” thought DiDi, “it couldn’t possibly be…or could it?!”

To Be Continued....

To learn about the connection between Rick James and actor Irving Allen Lee (Calvin), go to: http://soapopera451.com/


Mariann Aalda played DiDi Bannister-Stoner on Edge of Night from 1981 to its final episode on December 28, 1984. She also played Grace Battles on Guiding Light and Lena Hart on Sunset Beach on daytime and starred in the primetime series The Royal Family and First & 10 and recurred or guest-starred on such shows as Designing Women, Grace Under Fire and The Parkers, among others. With a penchant for comedy, she's also done stand-up in clubs across the country and is the co-creator of M.O.I.S.T.! -- the "sex-istential" comedy-with-music celebrating the seasoned woman -- which she co-wrote/produced/performs with Iona Morris (ex-Fiona Griffin, As The World Turns).