|Profile : Lenore Kasdorf|
By Michael Logan, Soap Opera Digest, 1987
Your average Hollywood starlet would have to smoke a dozen Havanas, guzzle a hell of a lot sour mash and stay up at least 48 hours straight to merit a voice as husky as Lenore Kasdorf's – but hers is the real McCoy. Though on the phone she's regularly mistaken for being either 55 or of the mal persuasion, the tone is ridiculously sexy, much deeper than it sounds on the tube, and it's also put lots of bucks in the bank. When the raspy newcomer first hit Tinseltown, she got acting work pronto while many of her bubble-headed, bubble-voiced contemporaries waited tables. Of course, there was a catch. "I was always cast as a hooker," Lenore finches, "but at least I was the good hooker – the one with the heart of gold, the one who wants to get out of the business." Every now and again, some insightful show biz honcho would hear that bawdy horse laugh and recognize her true versatility, however. Says the actress : "That's when they'd let me play a stripper who wants to get out of the business !"
Though there have been several good girl stops in between, Lenore is back on old stomping grounds with the part of Santa Barbara's southern belle, Caroline Wilson. A magnolia blossom dipped in brass, she's slept with every guy who's come down the pike. She arrived in Santa Barbara to work out her differences with her daughter Jane and to claim her other daughter Alice, whom she deserted years ago. This is one of the reasons Kasdorf almost didn't take the part. "I was not really keen on playing someone with two grown daughters," she guffaws. "I usually don't play my own age." She also wasn't wild about taking on another soap, having toiled for several years on Guiding Light and narrowly escaping a similar sentence on Days of our Lives.
It's not that she's adverse to work in daytime, but the actress learned from experience that doing so can be a one-way ticket to Siberia. "I left Los Angeles and a pretty healthy career in episodics to go do Guiding Light in New York," Kasdorf recalls. "Six years later, I returned and casting directors said to me : "Oh, my God ! I thought you'd retired !" These people are not sitting home watching soaps at day. They thought I'd taken off the face of the earth. I didn't want that to happen again."
One fateful day, on a plane bound for Frisco, Kasdorf bumped into Jerome and Bridget Dobson, the writers who had created her long-running Guiding Light role as beleaguered Rita Stapleton. They looked frazzled and harried (and with good reason – as producers, they were just about to launch Santa Barbara) but were delighted to put the pinch on Lenore. "They asked me : "Would you like to do another soap ?" and I said : "Nooooooooo," and they looked up from their laps buried in papers and scripts and briefcases and said : "Neither do weeeeeeee !"" The never-take-no-for-an-answer Dobsons continued to make offers every six months or so, just in case Kasdorf had a change of heart. Their persistence paid off. "After a while, I started getting antsy," Kasdorf admits. "Between TV parts, I had done everything around the house there was to do. I was sick of my yard, I hated my flowers, my closets were all organized. I was getting ready to tear them apart and start all over again. There were three copies of everything on file. My girlfriend walked in and said : "This looks like House Beautiful. What's the matter with you ?""
After her escape from New York, and the end of her marriage to actor Phil Peters, Lenore set up housekeeping in San Fernando Valley suburbia with seven year old daughter, Vanessa. "I was in a hurry to get her out of Manhattan," Kasdorf explains. "Every place we went she was all exhaust pipe level. Just getting her to Central Park once a day so she could be a normal kid turned out to be my life's work. Then, when we got there, even with the poop laws, we'd still be stepping over poop." Vanessa has apparently picked up a few tactics to make sure that Kasdorf comes straight home from school, uh, work. "I'm not really single," Lenore winks. "I have a daughter ! If I go out to dinner with a friend, I get in big trouble. Last night I went to have a drink after work, something I never do. But, I couldn't tell her that. I called her and said : "Honey, I'm going to be working a little later than I thought." I mean, I was out for 45 minutes and I was guilt-ridden. And then, as a result, she wound up going to bed late and she was grouchy the next day. It wasn't worth it !"
To be fair, Vanessa is not so much the tyrant as Kasdorf is reluctant to venture out into the singles scene. "I guess I had my fill of Hollywood dating when I was younger," she says. "I went out with my share of "Hey, fellas, look at me ! I've got a starlet and she's young, too !" type guys. Now, the people I see are friends or the people I meet through friends. I don't know anybody I want to marry. There are those periods when I think : "I've gotta go out. I won't meet people if I don't go out. I'll go out with the next person that asks me." Then I will, and half the night I'm thinking to myself : "Gee, I could be home reading a book.""
Although her marriage to Peters lasted but five years, she doesn't consider it a failure. "We were friends before it and we're still friends now. Phil and I will be close until we both die. Even if it had been the most horrendous thing I'd ever gone through in my life, I couldn't possibly be bitter because Vanessa wouldn't have happened – and I do feel the little bugger was destined to be with me. She's just too perfect and too beautiful." As for another shot at marriage ? Kasdorf philosophises. "Marriage is such a nice idea but you've got to have a house with east and west wings." Maybe her greatest challenge, however, is convincing the abovementioned little bugger to stay out of show biz. Claims Lenore : "I tell her that she's expected to become a doctor," but clearly the moppet has other intentions. Says Mom : "Vanessa has seen my head crushed in an iron gate on Murder, She Wrote, she's seen me drown in the shower on a TV pilot, and she saw a ceiling fall and kill me on Moonlighting." But does Baby Kasdorf want to be a star ? Replies Lenore : "No, what she really wants to do is direct."
An army brat born on a post in Queens, New York, the knockout brunette-turned-redhead travelled as far as Thailand during her growing up years. The jumbled existence made her pretty dam adaptable. "Things can crash around me and I'll just pick up the pieces and get going again," she remarks. "There are very few things you can throw my way that I'll get whacked out about."
One of those, apparently, was her now-you-see-it, now-you-don't role as sultry surgeon Veronica Kimball on Days of our Lives. The execs brought her onto the soap in 1983, hoping she'd flirt like gangbusters and break up the ultra-popular marriage of Neil and Liz Curtis (Joe Gallison and Gloria Loring). As a matter of fact, they had her batting her lashes at anybody wearing pants. Suddenly, Kasdorf was dropped like a hot potato. In retrospect, the whole experience seems so awful that the actress doesn't even mention it in her official bio. "Do you think they hated me ?" she low-registers as only Tallulah Bankhead could, "I never did ask." There was barely time, Lenore was in and out there in four episodes, most of which she slept through. "One day, I fell asleep three times in my dressing room", she remembers. "It wasn't because the people were boring – I was so totally stressed. I guess I didn't want to be there. I know that when I fall asleep on a show that's brand new to me, something is definitely wrong. Happy, I wasn't. Nobody introduced themselves. Nobody told me where to go. Somebody came down to give me notes after dress rehearsal and I didn't know if he was the producer, the director or the janitor, I was kind of glad nothing came of it."
Naturally, she was a little gun-shy about signing up for Santa Barbara. "After the Days of our Lives experience, I didn't want to go into it with any reservations. It's kind of like a marriage. You'd better be as positive and certain as you can be before doing it – or sooner or later it's going to show. You start hating yourself. You get depressed. So I wanted to make sure I'd covered all avenues of doubts before I committed myself. And now, I'm delighted." In fact, rarely does she begin a scene with on screen beau Nick Coster (Lionel Lockridge) without her heart skipping a beat. But don't think there's any backstage hanky panky brewing. Reveals the actress : "Nicolas has this habit of clearing his throat right before the camera rolls. It's something like a "HAAAAHHHHHH-RAAAAAHHHHH-RUHHHHH !!!!!" Every time he does it, I jump a foot."