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Sunday, October 09, 2016

The City - The Secret Life of Azure C

To all of my friends in Canada, I wish you a very Happy Thanksgiving!  Enjoy your turkey, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce - and if you have some room, a nice big slice of pumpkin pie.

I know I'm thankful for all of you who read this blog.  And thank you for helping me keep it going for five years and counting!

So, last Sunday, I was talking about how soap operas could sometimes do storylines on social issues long before they became mainstream, and since I haven't done a lot of focus on daytime dramas on this blog, I thought I'd make every Sunday in October a "Soap Suds Sunday". 

I know, it's lame, but it works.

Now, these days, it seems as though soap operas all over the world are becoming more and more open to having transsexual or transgender characters on their shows.  On "The Bold and The Beautiful", you have Maya Avant Forrester who shocked audiences with the revelation that she used to be a Myron.  On "Coronation Street", the romance between Roy Cropper and his transgender spouse Hayley lasted over fifteen years before Hayley passed away from cancer.

However, one soap predated both of these shows when it came to introducing a transsexual character - and while the storyline came to an abrupt halt due to the controversy surrounding it, I do appreciate the show for at least trying to get a storyline off the ground.

Interestingly enough, this storyline was featured on one of the shortest running daytime dramas in North America.

How many of you remember the soap opera "The City"?  I'm guessing not a lot of you.  Don't worry, I'll fill in the blanks.  Back in 1995, ABC made the decision to cancel the soap opera "Loving", as it had been last place in the ratings for nearly its entire dozen year run.  But rather than let it die, showrunners James Harmon Brown and Barbara Esensten made the decision to keep a few "Loving" characters, and move them into a building located in Manhattan's SoHo District.

That show became "The City".  And "The City" broke new ground in how daytime soaps were filmed.  In November 1995 - when the show began - the show used the FilmLook method of taping instead of the traditional videotape, which caused the show to look as though it was filmed for a motion picture.  More handheld cameras were used as well, making "The City" resemble MTV's "The Real World".  And with Morgan Fairchild heading the new cast of the show, ABC was definitely firing on all cylinders.

Sadly, despite ABC's attempts to keep the show going, it was cancelled after just sixteen months - the last episode airing on March 28, 1997.

However, in its short run, the show featured a lot of storylines that pushed the envelope.  In 1996 alone, we had a bombing, racial tensions, prostitution, and even a serial stalker storyline.

But perhaps the soap's most daring storyline involved an up and coming fashion model that had a secret that would set forth a scandal, a strained relationship, and that stalker storyline that I briefly talked about earlier in this piece.

The story begins shortly after "The City" debuted.  "Loving" transplant Tess Wilder (the one wearing the tiara) had opened up her own model agency and hired several people to work for her.  These included photographer Ally Bowman, male model Danny Roberts, secretary Molly Malone, and female models Stephanie Brewster and Azure C.

Within a couple of months of the show's debut, Stephanie gave birth to a child and moved to Paris to be with the child's father, leaving Azure C as Tess' protege.  According to Tess, Azure C was going to be the next top model of the 1990s, and she was going to be a star.  And if the promotion of Azure C was going to help Tess get internationally recognized, all the better, right?

And certainly Azure C was a stunner.  She was very photogenic, she looked great in most clothes, and although she was painfully shy at times, you'd never know it from her pictures.  Certainly one man who took notice was the superintendent of 212 Greene Street - the building that housed the Wilder Agency and most of the residences where the cast lived.  Bernardo Castro had developed a crush on Azure C, and he certainly did everything he could to get her to notice him.

But Azure had three secrets that Bernardo wasn't aware of.  The first secret was that Azure C wasn't her real name - it was Lee Chen.  But Bernardo didn't see it as much of a revelation.  After all, many models use a professional name in the business.

Secret #2 was that Azure told Bernardo that she attended the same high school that he did, and that she always liked him back then.  But this confused Bernardo, as he never remembered going to school with a girl named Lee Chen.

And with good reason, as secret #3 was the biggest one of all.  The reason why Bernardo didn't remember attending school with a girl named Lee Chen was because Lee Chen was a boy!  Yes, sometime between Bernardo and Azure's high school graduation and Bernardo first meeting Azure at the Wilder Agency, Lee Chen transitioned from male to female.

She paid for the surgery herself, and she had mistakenly believed that she had covered up her tracks so that nobody would ever suspect that she used to be a man.  And while she had every intention of telling Bernardo the truth, the relationship between them deepened.  And the more that Bernardo fell in love with Azure, the harder it became for Azure to reveal the truth.

Well, that is until someone revealed the truth in perhaps the cruelest way possible without any regard for feelings whatsoever.

You see, while all this was going on, the owner of 212 Greene Street, Sydney Chase, was trying to deal with the fact that her billionaire husband Jared was not dead as she had believed.  Jared was very much alive, and he was definitely causing trouble.  He knew that the building contained a secret stash of gold inside the walls of the Wilder Agency, and he wanted to claim it all for himself.  But in order for him to do that, he had to find a way to close the agency once and for all.

And with the help of one of his cronies, Jared discovered Azure's secret...and proceeded to publish it all over the New York tabloids.  The shock waves created a scandal at the agency as Tess had no clue about Azure's past at all, and Bernardo didn't find out about Azure's past until after he spent the night with her and read the newspaper on his way to purchase some orange juice!

The fallout from the revelation was huge.  Because of the scandal that Jared manipulated, Jared managed to gain full control of Tess' agency through methods of trickery.  Tess was left to pick up the pieces of her shattered life.  And after having her secret exposed to the world, Azure contemplated taking her own life in a seedy motel.

Fortunately, Bernardo got over his shock and anger from the scandal and he was the one who convinced Azure that she had a lot of life left to live.  But as far as the romantic relationship between Bernardo and Azure went, it more or less fizzled.  Which was a shame too, because I think had the show pressed ahead with the storyline, it could have been told with dignity and respect.

Though, the storyline did lead into the soap's only mystery storyline - not long after Azure's secret was exposed, Jared Chase was shot and killed in the very agency he had a hand in destroying.  But don't worry...Azure wasn't a suspect for long.  No, the real killer was someone that had a real hatred for happy women...but that's another tale for another day.

I do wish I had more to show you, but episodes of "The City" are few and far between.  In fact, a lot of the information I grabbed for this blog, I borrowed from a Tumblr blog that had old soap opera summaries for cancelled soaps!  But, for a soap that didn't last all that long, it certainly was ahead of its time.

As for Azure C?  She left the show in the summer of 1996 to start over again - but her seatmate on the plane was her old friend and lover, Bernardo Castro.  So, maybe Azure received her happy ending after all.

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