Heading Back to Llanview for Fan February
Clint Ritchie on Ranching, Roping & Heading Back to Llanview for Fan February
Soapdom, February 4, 2003.
It was Tuesday morning, January 21, 2003. There I was getting ready for a morning meeting when the phone rang. “Hi, is Linda there,” a familiar voice said on the other end of the line. “I got this fax here that said to call you. My name is Clint Ritchie.”
How delighted I was to hear from him. But imagine my chagrin when I had to tell him that I was on my way out the door. We arranged a mutually convenient time later that afternoon for me to call him back. Needless to say, as the time got close, my anticipation grew. I was about to interview one of Llanview’s most beloved citizens! Not only that, he was on his way back to One Life to Live for a one-day stint because that’s what One Life to Live fans wanted to see as part of ABC Daytime’s first ever Fan February! I could hardly wait.
I got back to the office as fast as possible and called him. The first thing we discussed was how he was keeping busy since he left One Life to Live in February 2001. [That should read April 1999.] “I’ve been working on the ranch,” said Ritchie. The ranch in question is his 60-acre spread called “Happy Horse Ranch.” It’s situated near Grass Valley in northern California, about a 6-hour drive north of LA. “Gold country,” said Ritchie.
You can tell how much Ritchie loves being a rancher. “I’ve been out there with the bulldozer, back hoe, and working with the horses,” he said beaming. “I did some clearing on new piece of property that joins the main ranch, and put in a new irrigation system.”
He was most proud, however, of the recent additions to his herd. “We had some new baby horses,” he said. “I adopted two Mustangs after I returned. It must have been the first or second year back. They were two-years old at the time. Two mares.” Ritchie put the Mustang mares with a pair of stallions, and now they have a few ponies. “One is 17 months old now, one is 11 months, and the youngest is 7 months,” he shared.
We got a chuckle over the fact that I have a Mustang, too. Ford Mustang. Vintage 1995. It’s lazer-red and it’s a convertible. Not quite the same, but it doesn’t need any hay! On second thought, hay would be a lot cheaper!
Having all those horses (the herd totals 34), I wondered how often Ritchie got out to ride. “I haven’t been able to ride as much as I want to,” he said, “but that’s the whole idea. I hope to be back on the endurance circuit this year. It’s strictly a sport, 100 and 50-mile races. No prize money.”
Ritchie couldn’t pick a favorite horse. “It’s like having children,” he said. “Can you pick a favorite child?” He loves them all.
So, what else is out there on those 60 acres besides 34 horses? “I grow pasture grass for horses,” Ritchie replied. “I’ve got some fruit trees, but that’s just because they were on the property when I bought it. I have one duck and four dogs — Bear, Sheila, Molly and Lucky, all rescue dogs.”
Although we know Ritchie best as one of Llanview’s elite Buchanans, he really is a cowboy. Born in Grafton, North Dakota, his nickname is “Bucky.” (His nickname for Robert S. Woods (Bo, OLTL), is “Woodsy!”) When One Life to Live wrote in a ranch for the character of Clint, they named it “Happy Horse Ranch” after Ritchie’s real-life home.
“One Live to Live bought me the ranch,” Ritchie noted with a laugh. Well, not really, but thanks to Ritchie’s longevity with the show, he was able to first purchase, then add to, his spread. “I started on OLTL on September 10, 1979,” said Ritchie. “I got the first part of ranch in December of ‘80 and slowly added adjourning property. (The ranch) started out at about 10 acres and now it’s about sixty acres.”
Ritchie reminisced about his days on One Life to Live. It was hard work, but it was gratifying. He spoke of his cast members with great respect. “I recall one day when we did a 101-page script,” said Ritchie of the demands of daytime. “Erika Slezak (Viki) and I did 50 pages of it and we got out on time.”
Okay, now it was time to get down to the nitty gritty. How did he first hear about his return to Llanview? “Frank Valentini called,” said Ritchie. Then he digressed. It seems that Ritchie predicted Valentini’s rise to the top.
“I remember when Frank started at the studio as an intern, then a gofer, then an assistant director, assistant stage manager, stage manager, director, and in 1988 when we did the 1888 storyline, Paul Rauch was producing, and Frank was holding the script. He was wearing several hats. It was during that shoot that I told Bob Woods (Bo) and Phil Carey (Asa) you watch, Frank is going to be running the studio. Forget the studio, he’ll be running the network. He has a brain in his head and he uses it. He is one sharp cookie.”
It is obvious that Ritchie has a great admiration and respect for Valentini, OLTL’s current Executive Producer. “Also, when I got injured on a tractor accident, he and Bob Woods came out to see me,” Ritchie shared, still touched by the memory of the concern of his two good friends.
Interestingly, this isn’t the first time OLTL contacted Ritchie and asked if he’d consider a return to Llanview. “Before Frank called, (former OLTL EP) Gary Tomlin called and asked if I’d consider coming back for five maybe 10 shows, and I said, to be honest, I wouldn’t get on a plane for five or 10 shows. Then eight months later, Frank called and asked me to come back for one show, and I said I’d do it for him. I’m not into flying,” Ritchie confessed.
But thanks to his fondness for Valentini, Ritchie is on his way home to Llanview. “I am supposed to tape on Feb 5th,” he said. He had to shave his beard and mustache for his return, which he did gladly. But as far as the current story material goes, he’s not all that enamored with it. “I find the storyline a little hard to believe. Two sperms, two eggs, whatever. I don’t like the fact that Clint isn’t Jessica’s real father.”
Still, the response he received after he had agreed to return was very rewarding. “A very exciting thing happened the Friday night (after we’d worked it all out). Al Needleman, stage manager, called and he had a cameraman with him. They were still at the studio. They called me on a break. Al was very excited. They had just heard the rumor (that I was coming back for a day). The next morning, Bob Woods called, and then Frank called again, saying how many emails he’d gotten.”
Finally, it was time for the big question. If Valentini asked Ritchie to return for three months, six months, a year, would he agree to come out of retirement and return to Llanview on a more long-term basis?
“If Frank wanted me back, it would be hard to say no to him. Three months would be okay, but a longer contract would entice me away from my animals and life in Northern California..” Ritchie admitted that a big part of his even entertaining a more long-term return is hearing the response from fans. “And getting the calls from Frank and the stage manager and cameramen, and Woodsy. I am really looking forward to going back and seeing them.” He is also eagerly anticipating working with old friends and castmates, Phil Carey (Asa) and Robert S. “Woodsy” Woods (Bo), along with daytime newcomer Bree Williamson as Jessica.
“The Buchanans Ride Again” aired on Wednesday, February 19, 2003, as part of ABC Daytime’s Fan February.