CLEVELAND - Lynda Hirsch was, and continues to be, the “Queen of the Soaps”.
She talked daytime dramas on Cleveland TV for more than two decades.
Talking is something that comes naturally to her. As a four year old, growing up on Cleveland’s east side, her mom got so tired of her constant talking, she enrolled her in kindergarten a year early to get her out of the house.
“I got on the 'Morning Exchange' (MX) because my boss had stage fright,” Hirsch told me recently.
After graduating from Kent State University with degrees in journalism and English, she worked for the small publication Soap Bubble.
"I was a hired lackey," she said of the small-time operation in which she had to do nearly every job.
The magazine was trying to get publicity by getting on the MX. The magazine's owner doubted they could do it, but Linda kept pursuing it.
“I never take no for an answer,” she said of her tenacity for reaching a goal.
When they finally broke through and with the first appearance booked, the owner was too frightened to talk, so Hirsch stepped in and her TV career was off and running.
“I guess it worked, because they kept on asking me back,” she laughed.
She began getting $50 per appearance but proved so popular, she would command a much higher rate, plus a contract that had her on the WEWS morning three times a week.
She writes four columns a week: three syndicated to newspapers and one for her syndicator’s website, Creators.com.
In the pre-VCR days, Hirsch had to watch all the soaps she wrote about in real time.
“I got the producers to start releasing their storylines in advance so I could write my columns.” The move helped out Hirsch, but also got the shows more publicity.
Hirsch bounced back and forth from WEWS to WKYC during her Cleveland TV career. She also traveled to four ABC affiliates and two stations, then owned by Westinghouse.
“I did Oprah’s show in Baltimore when it was a local show.”
She had a half-hour show called “Soap Talk” on WEWS that ran before the noon show.
On WEWS, she appeared on "Live On Five" and its predecessor "The Afternoon Exchange." More than just a guest appearing on the MX, she would occasionally fill in as co-host.
Her WKYC credits included “AM Cleveland” with Scott Newell and its predecessor “Patterson” with host Dave Patterson. She also appeared on their noon news.
WEWS once lost Hirsch to WKYC over a VCR.
Her contract negotiations hit a snag because she wanted WEWS to provide a VCR so she could keep up on the stories. In those days, VCRs were much bulkier and more expensive.
“A manager said,’You’d leave over a VCR?’ and I said, ‘You’d lose me over a VCR?'”
She was off to WKYC but would later return to WEWS.
In the late 90s, her WEWS run came to an end.
“As much as I loved it, I’ve moved on,” she said of her local TV experience. “I miss the viewers.”
Hirsch laments what network executives did to the fortunes of the soaps, nearly killing the genre, but those remaining offerings are enjoying a resurgence, she said.
“'Young and the Restless' has grown to 5 million viewers and 'General Hospital' has the most viewers it’s had in seven years.”
She thinks viewers may be growing tired of talk and reality shows, plus with the cyclical nature of TV, soaps may be poised for a comeback.
Viewing the clip I’ve posted to our video player, Lynda Hirsch on the 10th anniversary celebration of the "Morning Exchange" (MX), I was amazed how much Lynda knew about soaps.
The segment is fun and informative; it seems to just fly by.
Lynda mentions the character Luke, played by actor Anthony Geary, from "General Hospital." Geary was not likely to be appearing at any Morning Exchange live remote shows any time soon. He was so in demand, he was commanding five figures for appearances.
Fred Griffith quickly points out that the mall operator, not WEWS, pays the actor for appearing at their venue.
Randall Park Mall was often the spot where thousands would show up for a soap-centric MX.
Hirsch also took her soap/mall show on the road. Thousands would swarm malls all over the country where promoters would put soap stars in the shopping venues. Hirsch would emcee those not-for-TV events.
As for our Jan. 7, 1982 show celebrating the MX’s tenth anniversary, Lynda answers questions from callers and studio audience members.
Asked if she ever gets tired of soaps, she laughs and says has hoped for an occasional presidential news conference to give her a chance to catch a breather.
The clip is roughly 10 minutes in length. Near the end, you’ll hear Lynda, Jan Jones and Fred Griffith allude to getting Fred another gig on a soap.
It was a common practice top have local TV personalities do cameo appearances on soaps.
Hirsch told me she did four soap appearances: as a juror and later as a waitress on “One Life To Live,” as a police officer on ABC’s “Loving” and as a store patron on NBC’s “Santa Barbara.”
A soap producer arranged for her to get a surprise kiss from one of the show's very attractive male stars. The scene was cut but the kiss remains a very pleasant memory.
She said Fred Griffith and Joel Rose had cameo roles on “One Life To Live;” Rose played a crusty TV reporter — type casting?
Lee Jordan, who was also an MX co-host, told me she was once in a scene with soap opera legend Susan Lucci on “All My Children.”
It was a way to promote the soaps and in return, many soap stars came to Cleveland to appear on the MX in person.
Hirsch and former MX executive producer Terry Moir both said a trip to the Morning Exchange in Cleveland was often the first exposure for many ABC stars. It was known they were treated well by the staff and especially the affable host Fred Griffith.
"I was very fortunate to have great co-hosts," she said of those with whom she shared the TV talk couches.
Writing columns doesn't pay all the bills, so she has occasionally taken other jobs.
You may have run into her as she sliced turkey breast at a local Heinen’s deli counter or may hear her voice answering calls for a national hotel chain.
“Thank you for calling Marriott Worldwide reservations, this is Lynda,” she said smartly as she jumped into her profession phone voice.
At one time, the Lyndhurst resident went back to school to get her degree in education. She taught in an urban elementary school.
But it’s the daytime dramas that are her love and something she has done better than anyone.
Let’s turn back the clock to enjoy this look back at Lynda Hirsch, truly soap opera royalty.