Ask Clint: The First Five Years

Editor’s Note: Clint was in his twentieth year portraying “Clint Buchanan” when, in honor of his achieving that milestone, he graciously agreed to let me interview him about his memories. The first segment of the interview focused on his first five years on “One Life to Live,” from September 1979 through 1984.

September 10, 1979: Clint's first appearance on "One Life to Live" (with the late Lee Patterson as "Joe Riley").

Q. Describe your first day on the set of “One Life To Live.”

A. Staggering. Cameras with wheels that would pull out of a set during the scene and travel to the next set, all within your line of sight. Pages and pages of dialogue. A one-hour show (a hundred-plus pages of script) to be done in one day! Co-starring in “St. Valentine’s Day Massacre” (120 pages) was shot in ten weeks! I was shell-shocked — for weeks!

Q. Is it true that “Clint Buchanan” was originally “Chris Buchanan?” If yes, is it true that you suggested the name be changed to “Clint?” If so, why?

A. The character was originally “Chris Logan.” I arrived in New York City on September 6, 1979, about midnight. The next day, I discovered that the name had been changed to “Chris Buchanan.” So I got to thinking that with my father being named “Asa,” my little brother being named “Bo” (they hadn’t been cast yet) and the family being from Texas, the name “Christopher” didn’t sound, to me, very Western. I called the studio and told Barbara Duggan, assistant to the producer, Joe Stuart, that since they were changing the last name of the family, maybe they would want to change “Chris’s” first name to something more Western. She asked what name I had in mind. I said I had no name in mind, just that I didn’t think “Chris” was a strong enough name for the character they had written. She persisted, asking me to suggest something. I said that she was putting me on the spot, but that I thought my own name had more of a Western “feel” or taste to it. She said that wouldn’t work because it would “confuse the audience.” We hung up. I went into the bathroom, lathered up, and started shaving. (My face, not my legs.) Halfway through shaving, the phone rang. It was Barbara — she said that she had talked with the head writer (Gordon Russell) and Joe Stuart and, if I didn’t mind, they would like to use my name for the character. Maybe I should have said “no,” but that is exactly and precisely how that name change came about.

Q. What were your initial impressions of Erika Slezak?

A. I thought she was beautiful, talented, professional. A no-nonsense actress who wanted to do the job and go home — get on, say her words, get off and go home.

Q. What were your initial impressions of Bob Woods?

A. A good-looking, young leading man, eager and anxious to work and do a good job.

Q. What were your initial impressions of Phil Carey?

A. I was a Phil Carey fan long before he joined the show. I was delighted that he was playing my father. He, of course, insists to this day that I should be playing his older brother.

Q. Any memorable practical jokes that you, Phil and Bob played on each other during those first five years?

A. Too many, and some way too raw, to relate.

Q. What was your favorite storyline within the first five years you portrayed “Clint Buchanan?”

A. The work schedule and all that dialogue kept me from much “enjoyment” of the job at that point. I didn’t dislike any of them.

Shades of television's then-most popular prime time program, "Dallas," are evident in this early publicity shot including Jeremy Slate as "Chuck."

Q. What was your favorite scene? Or does a particular scene within the first five years you portrayed “Clint Buchanan” fondly stand out in your memory ?

A. No. It’s way too long ago, blurred by the years between then and now.

Q. Who were your favorite co-stars within the first five years that you portrayed “Clint Buchanan?”

A. Phil Carey, Bob Woods, Jeremy Slate and Tony Call.

Q. How long did you anticipate staying with “One Life to Live” when you first signed on?

A. Six months.

Q. How and when did you get the nickname “Bucky?”

A. Near the end of my first option (six months), I used to walk into the make-up room and say, “Pretty soon you won’t have poor Bucky to kick around anymore.” It stuck.

Q. Was there anything significant that happened in your personal life during those first five years on “One Life to Live” that you’d care to share with your fans?

A. About 1981, I met Candi Earley on a personal appearance and we were very close for two years. She played Donna on “All My Children.” She traveled to Happy Horse Ranch once, but was not a ranch type — but a lovely lady.

With Candace Earley, then one of the stars of "All My Children."

Q. What year did you purchase Happy Horse Ranch?

A. December 1980 or January 1981.

Q. Describe the Ranch when you first purchased it.

A. Trash. Uncared for. The big question about the house was whether to torch it or remodel. I chose the latter. The remodel turned into three remodels and additions over the next four years. I’m happy with the finished product. The rooms are large. It measures 4,300 square feet but is only three bedrooms, three baths.

Q. “Clint Buchanan’s” ranch is also known as Happy Horse. Which came first — Clint Ritchie’s ranch bearing that name or “Clint Buchanan’s?” How did you decide to name the ranch “Happy Horse?”

A. The show “borrowed” the name from me. I named it Happy Horse because that’s the way I wanted my horses to feel. In almost 20 years, I have never heard 1 horse complain . . .

Q. You said that you initially only planned to stay in New York City for six months or so. What changed your mind?

A. The money. Strictly the money!

An early publicity shot of Clint at Happy Horse Ranch.

Q. Describe your first year living in New York City.

A. A fish out of water. Complete culture shock.

Q. Has your lifestyle while you’re in New York City changed over the years? If so, how?

A. Yes. I have more money.

Q. Were there any projects that you were particularly interested in doing that you had to turn down during those first five years? If so, what were they? Any regrets about bypassing them for “One Life to Live?”

A. No. I was on too heavy a schedule for my agent to even submit me for anything. In retrospect, I probably should not have returned to the show after the tractor incident. I returned to work September 9 or 10 of 1993. That may have been a mistake.

Q. Any co-stars from those first five years who are no longer with the show that you stay in touch with? If so, who? And what are they doing now? Any that you wish you stayed in touch with?

A. No. I’m pretty much a loner and prefer it that way. “He who travels fastest goes alone.”

Friends for life: Clint and "Woodsy" (Robert S. Woods), his on-screen little brother, "Bo."

Q. Any comments you’d like to share about your co-stars from the first five years?

A. The whole list of actors . . . I have only fond memories of them. “Herb Callison” and “Chuck Wilson” should still be on the show. We need them, in my estimation.

Q. You stated that when you joined the show, the ratings were terrible and it was on the verge of cancellation. Obviously, things turned around and the show was a hit in the 1980’s and early 90’s. The show is again languishing and has recently posted some of the worst ratings in its history. It is presently mired in eighth place. What lesson(s) could the current “powers that be” learn from the folks who saved the show in the early 1980’s?

A. The answer is so simple, it boggles the mind that they haven’t done it. Look at a ratings chart over the years. Compare with what stories/characters were on at high ratings times. Compare low ratings with what stories/characters were on. To try and feed an audience lemons when they demand oranges doesn’t make sense to me. And for five to seven years?