Editor’s Note: Tina Sloan is best known for her 26-year run as Lillian Raines on CBS’s “Guiding Light.” While acting, Tina has also found time for myriad other activities, including running marathons, mountain climbing, marriage, mothering and mastering her fears about aging. With the conclusion of “Guiding Light,” Tina is beginning her new life as an author, playwright and theatrical actress. Click here to visit Tina’s website. For more information on her one-woman show, click here.
I watch the last episodes like every fan, in pain for the glory that was this show, this “Guiding Light,” this history of storytelling that was America’s emotional consciousness. It stops broadcasting on CBS this Friday, September 18, after 72 years — and that cuts like a knife. We got the word on April Fools’ Day that we were canceled, and we were all in shock. We are being replaced by a game show, which costs a lot less money — but to take off the historical time capsule of our country is devastating to all of us. You can dip into any show and find out what was going on in our country over the past 72 years. Seventy-two years!!! Dip into 1943 and see the country during World War II, dip into 1966 and see the country becoming hippied and Vietnam, 1980 and see us spending money, 2001 and see us mourning 9/11 victims. We are our country’s emotional history and we are a multigenerational “family,” all putting out the “Light” on this Friday. At the moment we have a lesbian couple and a black powerful family — which never would have been there 15 years ago. This is storytelling.
I am now 66 years old and, since the age of 40, I have been “Lillian Raines,” head nurse at Cedars Hospital, Beth’s mother, Lizzie’s grandmother and, as of yesterday, Buzz Cooper’s wife — a wonderful way to end a glorious 26 years. The show has been a huge part of all our lives. I would get up and walk to CBS and be surrounded by all my friends, who are the actors and hair and makeup and wardrobe and production. To be doing intimate scenes with one another 52 weeks a year, five days a week, is a tremendous amount of closeness. In real life, I am the godmother of my soap opera daughter’s son Luke. We shared our real lives and our pretend lives every day and that is going to be a tremendous loss. The loyalty we feel to one another and to the show is tremendous.
The writers and producers and crew are all gathering together on Thursday night to watch the final show together. The young kids are as close as we are, who have been there for so long. We nurture them as they are our children, grandchildren or whatever role they play.
I am one of the lucky ones as about six years ago, as I saw the diminishment of aging quite closely (in soaps, we age fast), I started to write a book about aging and now a play I wrote, called Changing Shoes, (from pink Capezios to black heels to strappy, sexy sandals to black, comfy flats — you get the idea) is opening in Atlanta on September 25. This was in place before the show was canceled, so I have a place to go. I am so grateful for this place as the loss of the show is huge in all our lives. It was our life for so long, for 26 years for me, and I will miss it greatly. But I am now changing my shoes and becoming a theater actress. All my soap family are flying to Atlanta to see me. What a group, what a run, what a light.
To all the fans who have watched with their grandmothers and mothers and daughters — we shall miss you most and are so grateful to have been with you for so many light-filled years. To CBS — you will miss us too, I hope. The game show that is replacing us will save you money and we understand that but you will miss us — and we will miss you.