Editor’s note: Michael Fairman is the founder of Michael Fairman On-Air On-Soaps. He spent two decades producing the Daytime Emmy telecasts for Dick Clark Productions, ABC Television Network, and Associated Television International.
As the countdown begins for the Daytime Emmy Awards to air for the first time on HLN, let’s look back at five of the most memorable Daytime Emmy moments in the history of the broadcast.
I have been a part of the Daytime Emmys for several decades, either as one of the producers of the telecast or as a journalist covering the big night on the red carpet and backstage. Many times, I was also in the audience, watching the show and felt the energy in the room and the undeniable camaraderie that the daytime community shares.
From my vantage point, it was hard to select just five top moments, when so many heartfelt, emotional, and yes, some jaw-dropping moments where you say to yourself, “What were they thinking?” moments exist. But here are some of my favorites:
1. Susan Lucci finally wins a Daytime Emmy
The most memorable moment happened on May 21, 1999 when Susan Lucci, who played Erica Kane on “All My Children,” finally won the Outstanding Lead Actress in a Daytime Drama Series award after losing in this category 18 consecutive times! When presenter Shemar Moore uttered the now famous line, "The streak is over!" everyone realized Susan had won the gold. I was actually inside the Felt Forum (inside Madison Square Garden) in New York City, where the ceremonies were being held when the moment happened, and it was electrifying! It was the longest standing ovation I’ve ever seen at any awards show. The applause, the cheering, and the screaming felt like the roof came off the building. And then… who could forget the cutaways of Rosie O’Donnell, Oprah Winfrey, and so many daytime stars in tears for La Lucci! THE ultimate moment. Hard to top that one!
Rosie O’Donnell picked up the Emmy for Outstanding Talk Show Host for the first time at the 1997 Daytime Emmys. I think she gave the most emotional and genuine acceptance speech. The awards were being presented that year at Radio City Music Hall in New York, and the place held a very special place in Rosie’s heart. In her speech, she began to cry, saying “My mother used to bring me to this theater with my sister and we ate lemon drops. We watched the Nutcracker Suite, the Christmas Show and I feel like she is guiding me in my life.” There was not a dry eye in the house -- everyone needed hankies by the time this was over.
“Guiding Light"'s Kim Zimmer (Reva Shayne) won the first of her four Daytime Emmys for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series in 1985. What made this so memorable was her award show get-up, complete with shocking spiky hair (perhaps patterned after Cher at the Oscars?). After Zimmer's name was called and she headed toward the podium, one of her shoes fell off. Then, Zimmer took off her other shoe and threw both of them up in the air as a sign of celebration before she began her speech! She's one of the greatest performers ever to grace soap opera screens, and this was one moment that is just as fun to watch now as it was 27 years ago!
Perhaps the classiest speech delivered in the history of the Daytime Emmys was that of Oprah Winfrey upon receiving the Lifetime Achievement Award from NATAS in 1998. After an amazing clip illustrating why Oprah deserves the academy’s highest honor, Barbara Walters -- Oprah’s mentor -- presented the award to her. And as Oprah talked through tears, she thanked Steadman, the man in her life. Viewers got a glimpse of their love for each other when the camera caught Steadman in tears in the audience as Oprah said, “Steadman, you are the sweetest man with the greatest integrity. Thank you for helping me be all that I am, and all that is to come.” Oprah also punctuated her thank you speech with humor and insight and showed the grace we have all come to admire.
He had been the star of “General Hospital” since 1993, but despite being nominated several times, he didn't take home an Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actor until 2003. His long overdue trip to the podium finally came at the ceremonies held at Radio City Music Hall in New York. When Benard’s name was called as the winner by six-time Daytime Emmy winner Erika Slezak of “One Life to Live,” the house went nuts! The audience gave him a huge standing ovation to acknowledge all his hard work during his run on the show. And just as his character would probably do on "GH," Maurice told the producers to hold off the walk-off music so he could finish his speech. If there was ever a true daytime star, it is the charismatic Benard who plays the loveable mobster Sonny Corinthos (and who is again a nominee this year). With stirring words to his wife Paula as one of his daughters slept in her mom’s arms, and as all the mayhem was playing out on stage, this was one for the record books.