Susan Lucci: What Now?

Is the cancellation of All My Children a continuation of the curse of Susan Lucci's 19-year quest for an Emmy? She finally won in 1999, but has continued to be nominated and not win almost every year since. But this year she has just released her long awaited memoir, All My Life, which is largely about her dedication to AMC.

Susan Lucci is, of course, devious high school girl turned diva Erica Kane of All My Children, which, it was announced on April 14, has been canceled its final episode airing in September. Erica Kane is perhaps the most famous soap opera character in history, having been played by the same actress for over 40 years in storylines dealing with abortion, rape, drug abuse, being the parent of a child with an eating disorder who later comes out as gay, and having every kind of adventure imaginable with her many husbands and lovers.

Lucci and AMC have been fixtures on ABC every weekday since 1970. Generations of women will miss their Pine Valley family when the soap opera ends.

I have been watching her, off and on, for just a little longer than my own 35-year marriage lasted. Not that Erica Kane would know anything about long-term commitment, having had 10 marriages, and many, many passionate affairs. But Susan Lucci has been happily married to the same man, Helmut Huber, since 1969. That is only one of the differences between Susan and Erica that are revealed in Luccis new biography All My Life.

The rough outline of Luccis life is known to many All My Children fans. She has her fathers Italian coloring, which was considered ethnic for TV shows in the 1960s. Luckily, Agnes Nixon, the creator of All My Children for ABC, was searching for a more offbeat look for the requisite bad teenage girl on the new show. Born in 1946, Lucci was 24 when the soap opera debuted in 1970. Forty years later, at 65 years old, Lucci/Kane looks better now than she ever did. The only time Lucci was the least bit overweight was during her real life pregnancies. She probably weighs the same now, if not less, than she did when she started. Her tiny frame (shes 52) has never been an issue until she was on Dancing With the Stars in its 7th season and judge Carrie Ann Inaba commented on air that Lucci was too thin, fragile, and delicate to dance, which Lucci felt was unhelpful feedback, having always kept fit (her secret is Malibu Pilates). Lucci explains in her book that she was working her typical 12-18 hour days on All My Children in New York, where her dance partner Tony Dovolani would sometimes have to dance with her in the hallways of the studio to get in practice time before flying to LA for DWTS competition. She was also dancing with an injury part of the time and struggling emotionally with a personal issue: her daughter, Lisa Hubert, had just given birth to Luccis second grandchild two months premature and Susan was longing to be in New York with family to offer support.
The memoir doesnt offer too many surprises to an AMC fan, other than I was shocked to learn that as a teenager Lucci had gone through the windshield of her former boyfriends car in an accident that left her face embedded with glass; she almost lost an eye. There was certainly no sign of that on her face during her years as Erica Kane. No plastic surgery reveals, although she does admit to having her nose cartilage (thickened as a result of the accident) reduced. What does come through is her devotion to family and her marriage. Her Austrian husband -- whom she met when she was a young waitress at a hotel and he was the head chef (previously married and 10 years her senior) -- has been by her side throughout her career, consulting on every decision. Luccis reaction to news of AMCs cancellation included the comment that she is looking forward to all kinds of new and exciting opportunities. Certainly Kelly Ripa, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Kim Delaney, Eva La Rue, and Josh Duhamel have gone on to bigger things after their stints on AMC, which has been a launching pad for many careers, including for Melissa Leo, who won a best supporting actress Oscar this year. Lucci surely has many other irons in the fire, having starred on Broadway in Annie Get Your Gun, performed a cabaret act on the road with Regis Philbin for five years, developed her own perfume and represented a line of skin care products (Youthful Essence) as well as an array of merchandise sold on the Home Shopping Network.After reading All My Life, one almost hopes that Lucci simply retires and enjoys her family after working so very hard nonstop for over 40 years. One thing is for sure, no food-oriented show called The Chew will ever replace All My Children in the hearts and minds of those of us who watched AMC for decades. Erica Kane will never be forgotten by fans of popular culture, nor will Susan Lucci. Third Age contributor Judy Kirkwood will miss All My Children.  
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