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Saturday, October 11, 2008

Myrtle the Turtle

(Eileen as "Myrtle", on "All My Children" with Susan Lucci, and in her younger days)

Myrtle the Turtle has passed to that great carney in the sky. Eileen Herlie, the actress who played Myrtle Fargate on ABC's long running soap, "All My Children" died on Wed., Oct. 8.

Most of you won't know her, so let me explain. All My Children has always been one of the best things on television, period, but there was a time in the early '80's in which the storylines and characters were so good, the show reached a popularity of mammoth proportions. Remember Greg and Jenny and Liza? Jessie and Angie? Erika Kane tangling with grande dame Phoebe over similar party dates, and Erika telling her, "Okay, have your party on the same day as mine. I'll blow you out of the water!"? Oh, those were the days.

The show was so popular at that time, it easily could have moved into prime time. And in the midst of all those delicious storylines came one of the strangest and funniest ones of all. Estelle, a reformed prostitute found her way to Pine Valley, soon followed by her boyfriend and pimp, Billy Clyde Tuggle. My memory's a little fuzzy, but I think that's the same story line that created Tad and Opal, who still dominate the show today. Anyway, one of Billy Clyde's nemesis' was Myrtle "the Turtle" Fargate, a former carney worker, who helped to protect Estelle from Billy Clyde's attempts to take her back to the darkside. Two of the most famous yells in entertainment history involve the name Estelle; Marlon Brando's "Stella!" in "A Streetcar Named Desire" and Billy Clyde Tuggle's plaintive wails for his squeeze, "Honey Stell!!" Oh God, there was nothing better. Billy Clyde became a cult hero at the time; on college campuses everywhere, even football teams gathered around their t.v. sets at Noon everyday to watch Billy Clyde, Honey Stell and Myrtle's crafty maneuverings to outwit Billy Clyde.

Eileen Herlie was nominated three times for an Emmy Award, never winning, and was nominated for a Tony Award for her performance in the 1960 Broadway musical "Take Me Along". She also played opposite Laurence Olivier in the Oscar-winning "Hamlet". Eileen was 90 when she died, and she worked up to the very end. It's a sad day in Pine Valley.

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