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Sunday, October 23, 2016

Guiding Light - The Brent Lawrence/Marian Crane Story

Halloween weekend is coming up very quickly - next week, as a matter of fact.  And since I've decided to come up with a special month of Soap Suds Sundays, I thought that I would use the last two weeks to talk about some of the scariest soap storylines that have ever aired on daytime television.

Well, okay, maybe scary isn't the right word to use.  Campy, ridiculous, and unbelievable, yes.  But I imagine if you were the people who were heavily featured in this week's look back at soaps of yore, you'd probably be scared out of your wits.

First a question for you.  How many of you remember the 1960 film, "Psycho"?  It was the classic Alfred Hitchcock film that starred Anthony Perkins and Janet Leigh.  It's the movie infamous for Leigh's character Marion Crane tragically meeting her end in a shower by way of stabbing.  The stabber is Perkins' character of Norman Bates, who kept his mother's deceased corpse hidden away while pretending to be her.  It's a movie that is really screwed up, but brilliant at the same time, and thanks to "Bates Motel", a new generation is being introduced to the macabre mind of Norman Bates.

Well, in 1995, the now cancelled soap opera "Guiding Light" decided to borrow some elements of "Psycho" to tell a story that lasted almost a whole year.  These days, soaps wrap up storylines in less than three months, so this was mighty impressive.  In fact, some may say that the storyline completely ripped off the film right down to character names.  But I think what saved this storyline from being completely farcical was the extreme talent of all the actors who were on the show at that time.  They helped viewers believe that something like that could happen.

This is the story of Brent Lawrence - and by the end of it all, three people would die, three more would almost die, and he would end up in a mental institution for dual identity disorder.  But I'm getting ahead of myself here.  By the way, keep an eye out for links...clicking on them will let you watch part of the story!

Brent Lawrence moved to Springfield in February 1995 to work for Spaulding Enterprises.  His main job was to be an accountant for the company, but really he was hired by Alan Spaulding to do some rather unethical things.  Nothing really major, though.

During the first few weeks of his job, he started to attract the attention of Lucy Cooper, who was working as the secretary of Alan's son, Alan-Michael Spaulding.  Lucy also has developed some feelings towards Alan-Michael, but Alan-Michael didn't seem interested.  As a result, Lucy started to go out with Brent, thinking that it would make Alan-Michael jealous.  But to Lucy's surprise, she found herself developing feelings for Brent, and both of them had some good dates together - including one where both of them were arrested for skinny dipping at the pool in the country club!

Unfortunately, the romance between Brent and Lucy would permanently end just a few weeks later when Brent drugged Lucy's drink and raped her.  And for weeks, Lucy refused to talk to anybody about it because she felt ashamed.  She shut everybody out of her life, including a concerned Alan-Michael.  But Alan-Michael wasn't about ready to give up on Lucy, and he made the decision to visit Lucy at the Springfield Boarding House to find out what was going on.

He arrived just as he overheard Lucy and Brent having a confrontation where Lucy admitted that Brent had raped her.  This sent Alan-Michael into a rage and after he physically assaulted Brent and threw him out of the house, he took Lucy onto his private yacht where she finally summoned the courage to tell Alan-Michael all about the rape.  Alan-Michael also gave Lucy the courage to tell her family about what happened, and her father Buzz and brother Frank (who was a police officer) vowed to protect her from Brent.  Lucy also found a sympathetic shoulder to cry on in Nadine, Buzz's ex-wife, who shared with Lucy her own tale of being raped.

Of course, finding a way to prove that Brent raped Lucy would prove difficult.  Lucy never reported the rape when it first happened, so any DNA evidence would have disappeared long ago.  Alan-Michael was really left on his own to trap Brent himself.  He thought that he could tape Brent confessing the rape, but since the tape couldn't be ruled admissible in court, it would only serve to help Brent instead of hurt him.  Of course, Brent did everything to try and avoid prosecution, even kidnapping a journalist and forcing her to write an editorial about what a great guy he was!

But when Brent returned to taunt Alan-Michael and Lucy armed with a gun, there was a struggle between both men, and Brent ended up getting shot.  When Alan-Michael and Lucy called the police to report the shooting, Brent had disappeared.  He was later found by Alan-Michael and Lucy near death on the docks and he seemed to be remorseful for his actions towards Lucy before he breathed his last breath.

Now, you would think that would be the end of the story, but here's where things get a little bit on the creepy side.  You see, Brent didn't actually die.  With help from his sister, Cassie, and Alan Spaulding, Brent left town and Alan used Brent to usurp control of Spaulding Enterprises away from his own son.  I'm guessing Alan Spaulding never won a father of the year award, huh?

A few months passed, and Lucy began to try and get her life back on track.  She and Alan-Michael grew closer and a real bond of love began to grow between them.  Lucy was concerned that she may have contracted a sexually transmitted disease from Brent when she was raped, and started attending a support group for people who were infected with HIV.  One of those people, Susan Bates, became Lucy's closest friend, and it was through Lucy that Susan began dating Alan-Michael's cousin, Nick McHenry Spaulding.

Lucy also began to get close to a new employee at Spaulding Enterprises - a middle-aged woman who was named Marian Crane.  Lucy and Marian bonded over their experiences, and Marian told Lucy a story about how she herself was raped, and how traumatic the experience was for her.  Lucy soon began to confide everything to Marian.

But what Lucy didn't realize was that Marian was not the woman she thought she was.  Marian Crane was really Brent Lawrence in disguise!  It appears as though Brent was inspired by the film "Mrs. Doubtfire" and secretly dressed himself up as a woman in order to get closer to Lucy so he could plan his revenge.

TRIVIA:  To get prepared for the dual role, actor Frank Beaty - who played Brent/Marian - enrolled in a charm school for men who wanted to be women!  Now that's taking your craft seriously!  And to be fair, he did a phenomenal job in those roles.

But as Brent began to play Marian more and more, he became extremely unhinged, out of touch with reality, and just plain dangerous to be around.  He hacked into the hospital records for Cedars Hospital and changed Lucy's HIV test to a positive result - though Lucy would have a second test done which confirmed that she did not have the virus.  And when Brent tried to rig that test, he was caught in the act by Reva Shayne.  Fortunately for Brent, Reva was living in an Amish paradise when he raped Lucy so he let her go - and yes, I realize what I just typed, but that's another story for another day.

Of course, that's not to say that Brent didn't have it in him to kill people.  Dressed as Marian, he silenced three people permanently.  His first victim was a random stranger named Lucky Fowler who ironically enough tried to rape Marian the same way Brent attacked Lucy! 

His second victim was Nadine, who had suspected that Marian would be in grave danger.  But after Brent/Marian caught Nadine snooping through his belongings, he took a candlestick and beat Nadine to death with it.  He disposed of her body in the water by the docks, thinking that nobody would suspect that she was dead as she had made plans to leave Springfield prior to her death anyway.

His third victim was Detective Patrick Cutter - who never suspected that Marian was Brent Lawrence.  In fact, Cutter tried to go out on a date with Marian!  This lead to some confusion when Cutter tried to write his killer's name in his own blood, but he only got as far as writing the first three letters - which made some suspect that Lucy's friend Marcus Williams was really the culprit.  Fortunately, Marcus was proven innocent not long after.

Still oblivious to the fact that Marian was Brent, Lucy invited her to spend Thanksgiving with her and Alan-Michael, and Marian accepted, thinking that this would be the opportunity to get rid of both Lucy and Alan-Michael once and for all.  But in the midst of sabotaging Alan-Michael's car, Alan-Michael and Lucy accidentally run over Brent!  And you can imagine what sorts of questions the doctors would be asking if they discovered that their female patient was really male.

Certainly, Dr. Rick Bauer was concerned about it, but Marian claimed that she was undergoing gender reassignment surgery and that as a doctor he needed to abide by the patient-doctor confidentiality agreement and not tell anybody.  Rick agreed, and the charade continued.

And poor Susan ended up in the crossfire as Brent tried to kill Susan in - of all places, a bathtub.  Susan managed to avoid getting murdered, but she slipped and fell and hit her head so hard she was unconscious for several days.  Susan would recover from her ordeal, but she wouldn't be able to tell anyone who attacked her until it was too late.

That's because Susan woke up around New Years Eve, and Lucy was kidnapped by Brent at the New Years Eve party at the country club.  Brent held Lucy captive in the old lighthouse (largely abandoned since a fire burned down part of it two years earlier).  It was here that Brent revealed to a horrified Lucy that he killed Lucky, Nadine, and Cutter, and that he tried to kill Susan all while befriending her as Marian.  Lucy also discovered the reason why Brent suddenly went insane.  When Brent was a child, his mother would be verbally and physically abusive towards him, and as a result of this, he found himself becoming unusually violent towards women as a side effect.  While this certainly didn't redeem Brent in Lucy's eyes, Lucy did take advantage of this fact by trying to break down Brent's psyche and pretend that she was his abusive mother.

Of course, Alan-Michael tried to rescue Lucy from Brent but Brent shot him in the arm and kept both of them hostage.  Once Alan and Buzz realized this, they knew they had to work fast before Brent did anything to harm them.  Alan worked out a deal with Brent.  He would give him ten million dollars plus a jet to anywhere in the world he wanted, but he had to let Alan-Michael and Lucy go in exchange.  And thanks to Reva, she managed to follow Brent to the lighthouse and alerted everybody of their whereabouts.

This, of course lead to the epic struggle between Alan-Michael, Lucy, and Brent - and if you click HERE, you can watch the February 15, 1996 episode of "Guiding Light", which featured Brent's takedown.

In the end, Alan-Michael and Lucy were saved, and Brent reverted back to his Marian persona - likely to avoid getting put in jail and instead being housed in a mental asylum for the rest of his life.  We never did see him come back on the show before its cancellation in 2009, so that's the logical conclusion.  And Alan-Michael and Lucy got married at Universal Studios and left the show as a married couple shortly after the show celebrated its 60th anniversary (the show debuted in 1937 on radio).  Sadly, the marriage didn't last, but it was nice to think that they were happy together for a few years.

Now, as far as any lasting repercussions of the Brent/Lucy/Alan-Michael storyline - well, there weren't really any - though the lighthouse was eventually restored and reopened to the public over the next few years.  But during the 1995-96 season, this was one storyline that had just as much fright as there was camp.  And it was one of the main reasons why "Guiding Light" stayed on the air as long as it did.

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