Ask Clint: The Second Five Years

The Second Five Years: 1984-89

Editor’s Note: On a rainy Sunday afternoon in January 1999, I traveled to Clint’s exquisitely beautiful Happy Horse Ranch near Grass Valley, California to interview him. Clint was recovering from bronchial pneumonia, but in excellent spirits and far more relaxed than when I had seen him in New York City in early December 1998, just a couple of days after he filmed what he thought then would be his last scene on “One Life to Live.” As his answers demonstrated, the time period which was the focus of this interview was his happiest as “Clint Buchanan.”

Q. As to the Viki/Niki storyline: Did you do any research on dissociative identity disorder (DID) or take any other steps to prepare to play Clint during Viki’s crisis??

A. No, although Erika did some research. She had some knowledge on the subject. She could tell me more about it than I wanted to know (said with a big laugh). ABC did give me some research materials about blindness which I read during that storyline. But I sort of took the coward’s way out. The reason I wore the sunglasses was because I had my eyes closed.

Q. What, as an actor, did you do, if anything, to adjust to playing opposite the same actors who had now assumed different roles? This would apply not just to the DID storyline, but also the Buchanan City storyline.

A. Not a thing.

Q. During this time period, Barbra Luna joined the show as “Maria Roberts.” Any thoughts about Barbra and that storyline?

A. It was great dramatic stuff to play. And the story about finding a son was a pleasure. Barbra and I had known each other before she worked on “One Live To Live.” We had the same acting coach in Los Angeles, Estelle Harmon, and we would see each other at parties. There was a mutual attraction. When she came to “One Life To Live,” we did see each other for awhile. When I was hurt, she sent some cards and we spoke. We haven’t spoken for quite some time now and I’m not sure if I have a current number for her or not. She did re-marry.

Jesse Vint played “Al Roberts,” the man “Maria Roberts” had married. He raised “Cordero” as his own son. Jesse and I were both in “Centennial,” filmed on location in Greeley, Colorado. Although we didn’t have any scenes together, we had seen each other on location there. He was playing “Al Roberts” as the character of “Al” was dying. Remember the old Orson Welles movie — I can’t remember the name of it — where he’s dying at the end and he whispers “Rosebud?” Well, my name is “Bucky,” you know. So during rehearsal, Jesse kept saying “Rosebuck.” And I told him, “I’ve got a new little strawberry filly out at the Ranch and you just named her.” And I did. I named her “Rosebuck.” She’s graying now, but she’s still here.

Clint with his on-screen son, "Cordero" (John Loprieno).

Q. What was happening at Happy Horse Ranch during this time period?

A. I believe it was during that time that I made another attempt to complete the Tevis Cup (100 mile endurance horseback race) to get my second belt buckle. I was on the horse of a good friend of mine, Hank Cook, and I had four people on horses of mine: My niece, my nephew, Hank’s daughter, Jan, and Jeff Fahey who played “Mario Corelli” on the show. I pulled the horses. It was a voluntary pull. A couple of the riders and a couple of the horses could have gone on, but I couldn’t accompany them and I didn’t trust the person best mounted to care for the horses, so I pulled the whole bunch.

I’ve remodeled the main house at the Ranch three times, so some of that could have been going on during this time period. That also might have been when I was remodeling the number two house (one of several rental properties) long-distance from New York.

Q. Weren’t you also breeding horses here at the Ranch during that time period?

A. Yes. I’ve always had a stallion on the property up until the last year or perhaps it was the year before.

So there was definitely a lot going on then.

Q. You spoke in one of the past newsletters about one of the horses that you neglected to geld and he remained a stallion. Have you had any new arrivals yet?

A. No, not yet. It’s too soon to tell without having a vet check the mares. You can’t really tell that they’re expecting until they “bag up” (their milk comes in). These horses are all so fat it’s impossible to tell until just before they deliver! (Said with a smile)

Q. Were you getting a lot of fan mail from women during the period we’re talking about today, 1984-88?

A. Yes.

Q. What kinds of things were your female fans writing to you?

A. I got very respectful mail. Clint Buchanan was never what you would call a “sex symbol,” I don’t think. I didn’t get bras and panties in the mail. And I never got any critical mail at all until the “homophobia” storyline. I got a lot of mail from young girls — teenagers — saying that they wished their father was more like “Clint Buchanan.” And I got mail from married women who identified with “Clint” and “Viki’s” relationship. I got mail from divorced women, too.

Q. Did they throw in their phone numbers? (Said teasingly)

A. No, it really wasn’t like that. I got very respectful mail.

Q. Why do you think that women were so attracted to the character of “Clint Buchanan” back then — and still are today?

A. It was the “values” thing. He was loyal, honest. He had a temper, but he didn’t slap his wife and kids around.

Q. You were a very convincing father as “Clint Buchanan,” yet you have no children. Aside from the obvious answer, i.e. you were acting, what do you think made you so convincing as an adoptive father and later, after “Jessica” was born and “Cord” arrived, a biological father?

A. You “play the wardrobe.” I got that phrase from Brian Keith. When we were filming “Centennial,” some of the actors were sitting around talking about how they got “into a character.” Brian Keith was listening, not saying a word. I was listening, and I would look at the actors talking, then back at Brian Keith. Finally, he said, “You just play the wardrobe. If you’re playing a cavalry lieutenant, they give you a cavalry lieutenant’s uniform, right? And you become a cavalry lieutenant!”

Q. Obviously, the 1888 story is your all-time favorite storyline, right?

A. Yes.

Q. Why? What made it so special?

A. The old west theme, the clothing, the chance to be outdoors and on horseback.

Q. I read that you drove six horses of your own to the set and used them on the show. Tell me about that.

A. Actually, it was two. Oakie was my horse, Oakie-Dokie. He’s still here at the Ranch. He was born March 30, 1975, so he’s almost 24. The white horse I rode in the story was Bunny, although on the show they gave her another name. It started with an “M,” I believe. A woman’s name. A name no cowboy would give their horse. (Said with a big laugh) Bunny was born in 1971 and died about 6 years ago or so. She’s buried here on the Ranch.

Q. How did you first hear about Buchanan City? Whose idea was the story? Was it something you had pitched or did it come about because the folks in charge knew you were cowboy?

A. I have no idea how they came up with the idea. It’s not something I had suggested. It’s possible that they decided upon it based on their knowledge of my love of horses and the outdoors, but I don’t know. The first time I heard about it was 4-6 weeks ahead of when we went on location.

Q. The story was shot in Old Tucson. How long were you there? Was it a difficult shoot?

A. How long were we there? Not long enough. About two weeks or so. I had more dialogue than anybody else, and I was wrangling my own horses, working on less sleep than anybody, trying to keep up with my lines.

Q. But was it your happiest time ever on the show?

A. Yeah.

Q. Who directed?

A. David Pressman and the others directed the interior shots in New York City. All the location direction was done by Tommy Schlamme (he is married to Christine Lahti).

I think it was about this time that the practice started of having the producer give notes to the directors to give to the actors. Before that started, the directors had much more control. That just destroyed all creativity on the show.

Q. Any tales you can repeat about your co-stars during the shoot?

A. Erika (Slezak) always plays the lady. And when she became “Miss Ginny,” she really became “Miss Ginny.” I think she really got into it and she seemed to enjoy it more than I expected she would. That’s just my observation. She loved riding in the stagecoach. I believe they worked her all day in New York, put her on a plane to Arizona that night and she was on the set the next morning.

Friends for life: Phil Carey portrayed "Buck Buchanan" in the 1888 storyline.

Phil (Carey) bitched and moaned the whole time! Being in Arizona was o.k., but he wanted to have a golf club in his hand and be in Phoenix. Even Tucson would have been o.k., but not Old Tucson!

There was one night (at this point, Clint starts laughing and tells the entire rest of this story through uproarious laughter that brings tears to his eyes) when it was freezing cold. I’m talking cold. And we were all wearing long johns to stay warm; even the women. We were shooting in a canyon and we had our dressing rooms, trailers, etc. there. The dressing rooms had heat, but the minute you would step outside, you would just freeze. Phil and John had had an easy day. They’d been sitting around back in an old hotel in Patagonia all day. They’d been bored, but they were warm. So it was about 11:00 at night and it was time for them to come to the location. They (the crew) drove them out. They had to be on horseback, up on a ridge above the canyon where we were shooting. I don’t think they were smart enough to put long johns on. And the horses had been standing out, saddled up, waiting for the scene to be shot. Well, they yelled, “Quiet. Shooting.” Just then Phil got up in the saddle and all you could hear was “F*^k!!!!!” echoing through the canyon. I was half-asleep and I jumped up! He said sitting on that saddle was like sitting on ice cubes!! And I said, “What do you expect? Its leather.” Well, the crew and everybody lost it.

Q. Were you disappointed that Robert S. Woods didn’t have a role to play in the old west part of the story?

A. Yes, but Bob came out to the set. He filmed the scene where he gets out of the helicopter and returns to help look for Clint there.

And he was on the set with us. There was one scene (at this point, Clint again starts laughing and continues laughing as he tries to tell the story) where Phil had a monologue and he was really concerned about getting it right. They had gone out into the desert and found a pile of bones, but the cowboy boots and sunglasses were intact. [Editor’s Note: “Clint Buchanan”was presumed dead after he rode Oakie out into the desert.] And these were some brand, spankin’ new $20 Acme boots or something, but there they were with not a scratch on ’em!

Anyway, Phil was supposed to do this monologue over the bones. It became known as the “Bones Buchanan” speech. When he was about to film it, I was standing off-camera with Bob, saying “Show the world how much you care about me, Pa,” and some other things. Phil looked up and said, “Will somebody get this prick out of here!? You’re not supposed to be here, anyway. And take your little brother with you!”

We laughed about those bones and those boots. I think there was also something in the script about the animals getting to him. We joked that that have been some hungry coyote to eat an actor!

Q. The years we’re talking about today, 1984-88, were pretty much the heyday of “Clint” and “Viki.” From your perspective, what was it about “Clint” and “Viki” that made them so popular?

A. I think it was family values. “Clint” and “Viki” were about the only couple on daytime t.v. making a positive statement about marriage. It was family. The kids were raised well and weren’t getting into trouble.

But they couldn’t leave it alone. They had to have “Viki” go out and do the things that female characters on other soap operas were doing. Things that Viki would never have done.

Q. Even after “Clint” and “Viki” were split up, fans kept waiting for them to get back together. I have my own theories about why. What are yours?

A. Even before I saw the ratings, I was very comfortable working with Erika. It just came naturally. She was a professional. She was on time, she knew her lines, she didn’t trip over the furniture. We had chemistry. Some people might call it “magic.” I think the audience watching had the sense that they had sneaked up to the window and were watching two people really having a relationship, not just two talking heads. People listening to each other, like in real life.

Q. Erika Slezak was very vocal last summer about not wanting a “Clint” and “Viki” reunion.

A. She’s entitled to that.

Q. Have you discussed the issue with her?

A. No.

Q. Do you have any idea why she was so dead-set against a reunion?

A. I have my suspicions, but I wouldn’t put a $20 bill on the table betting on them.

I would have liked to see them go a different way with the storyline than they did. But if Erika has personal reasons for not wanting to do it, while I’m sure she’d act her ass off, it would be hell for her if she didn’t want to do it. And maybe the “magic” wouldn’t be there again.