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Suddenly Susan

After almost three decades portraying Erica Kane, Susan Lucci has—finally—won that elusive Emmy. But the actress still has other roles to conquer.
Mervyn Rothstein
From the Print Edition:
Susan Lucci, Sep/Oct 99

(continued from page 4)

In addition to their Garden City home, she and Huber have a ski villa in Colorado and a 13,000-square-foot house in the Hamptons, on the eastern end of Long Island. "We built it for entertaining," she says. "By Hollywood, or even Hamptons, standards it's not enormous. It's just a nice house." They have two children, Liza Victoria, 23, and Andreas Martin, 19. "Andreas has just finished his freshman year in college," Lucci says. "Liza graduated from college with a degree in film production. She was going to be on the other side of the camera, but we encouraged her to try her hand at acting. And after a few weeks she landed a role on a new show called 'Passions,' on NBC."

Lucci and her husband enjoy traveling, and they are especially passionate about skiing. "The city I really love is Vienna," she says. "Of course, I'm with an Austrian who speaks the language and has a lot of friends there. But we also love to ski in wonderful places. One that's little known in this country is Ischgl, on the Austrian-Swiss border. The skiing is gorgeous--it feels like you're on a lemon-meringue pie. We also go to Lech in the Austrian Alps. And we go to a place outside of Salzburg called Hohe Tauern. That's great in the spring, because it's very high up and the snow comes very late."

It was in the Austrian Alps, almost two years ago, that Lucci first tasted a cigar. "I had been wanting to try a cigar for a long time," she says. "We were at a beautiful hotel, and we walked into the cocktail lounge and sat at the bar next to four men. My German is pretty good, but I'm in a dangerous place with it. But I knew the men were flirting, and they were smoking cigars, and I said to my husband that I think one of the men just offered me his cigar. I thought about taking it. Finally, I said no. But the bartender saw what was going on, and he came over with a humidor and opened it up. And because we were in Europe, all the cigars were Cuban. I could take my pick. So I took a Cohiba. And that was my first cigar."

She liked what she tasted. "It seemed a perfect choice," she says. "It felt great. It was a surprisingly wonderful experience. It was much smoother than I thought it would be. I liked it a lot."

Lucci has since, she says, become an aficionado of the atmosphere of smoking cigars. "I've always been really fascinated by men's clubs, and men's camaraderie," she says. "I love the repartee among men, and I love being around them. I like watching men smoke cigars. The aroma in the room is wonderful. Now, of course, women are smoking cigars, too, so I thought I'd try it. But I still prefer to be around a group of men and enjoy all of what they're doing. I can go to a great place like the Grand Havana Club, which is made for it, and have fun."

About 5 million people daily watch Lucci play Erica Kane on "All My Children." The program used to rank No. 1 among the daytime soaps, but these days it's No. 5 or 6, depending on the week's A.C. Nielsen numbers. The numbers, and the ratings, have gone down in recent years, as have the ratings of the other daytime dramas, because of competition for viewers from the tabloid-television talk shows, cable networks and the Internet. This past June, "Another World," a soap opera staple, was forced to end its run after 35 years and 8,891 episodes.

Another major reason for the decline in viewership was the murder trial of O. J. Simpson, a real-life television drama that for months dominated the nation's TV screens and preempted many of the afternoon soaps. Viewers, television executives say, learned to live without their daily dose of daytime drama; after the O. J. verdict, they filled their days with other activities.

And, of course, there are fewer housewives to tune in on weekday afternoons. More women work today than in the years after the Second World War, when the soap opera medium was born on television. And many of today's women are busy making deals in the boardroom.

For Lucci, this evolutionary process has its pluses and minuses. "After all," she says, "the ratings for prime-time network television are down as well. It's across the board, because of all that competition. But as an actress, it's not bad news. It just means the work is all spread out, that our horizons are broadened. And what's good news for our show is that in terms of demographics, we do very well with the 18- to 49-year-old audience, the most desirable one."

Those broadening horizons permit Lucci to consider her future as an actress. She plans to continue as Erica, she says, at least for the foreseeable future. "As long as I'm happy," she says, "I'll stay. And playing Erica has given me the opportunity to do many other things."


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