Kim Zimmer bids goodbye to her iconic "Guiding Light" character

Kim Zimmer played Reva on "Guiding Light."
Kim Zimmer played Reva on "Guiding Light."

The farewell tour has become quite the new showbiz tradition. Just ask Cher and KISS, who have had farewell tours - and then returned for more, giving the lie to the whole notion that it's really a farewell.

In the case of "So Long Springfield," though, it truly is goodbye.

Stars of "Guiding Light" have been crossing the country for shows that celebrate the soap's 72-year legacy and, since the series was canceled and last aired on Oct. 5, give fans one last soap-happy fete.

"So Long Springfield" comes to Mohegan Sun Sunday, with a trio events - a brunch; an afternoon Q&A, followed by a chance for fans to meet and get photos taken with the actors; and an evening show that's a bit of everything - concert, behind-the-scenes stories, and even recreations of famous scenes with selected audience members.

One of the actors on this tour is "Guiding Light" star Kim Zimmer - that's Reva to you - and she talked by phone last week about all things "Light," including her fiery, bold character.

The joys of being Reva: A lot of people have asked me, "Why would you do one thing for so long?" and my response was always, "Where will I ever have the opportunity to play a character like Reva Shayne again?" I mean, she was everything. I got to do everything I could possibly want to do with a character with her - between time travelling, I played the dual character with the clone story, I had ESP, I was stranded on a deserted island, I got to fall in love with, you know, nine different men. Who could possibly turn that gig down?

Her favorite "Guiding Light" storyline, part one: I think Robert (Newman, who played Reva's true love Josh) and I always agree on the same thing. We call it our "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" storyline. That was early in the '80s, not too long after I started on the show. We had the triangle between H.B., Reva and Josh, where we always thought of Larry Gates, who played H.B., as Big Daddy, and Josh was Brick, and I was Maggie the Cat. Any time you had a scene with Larry Gates as H.B., it was gold.

Her favorite storyline, part two: The first Josh and Reva wedding, I would have to say, ranks right up there, and the wonderful experiences with having the camaraderie that we had during taping. We were up in this campsite somewhere in Pittsburgh, I believe, or maybe in the Catskills. .... We all stayed on location for like four days, and it really was like a family wedding. At night, when we were done shooting, we all ate together and then we'd play poker and throw back a couple beers and laugh and giggle and then wake up hung over in the morning and go to the wedding. It was like the real thing, you know what I mean?

Execs rethought "Guiding Light" as they tried to cut costs toward the end, with one change being that episodes were shot primarily with hand-held cameras on location, and often outdoors, in Peapack, New Jersey: I'm an outdoor girl. I love being outside. I don't think we did it as well as we could have. I think that we were put in such a terrible
position to try to do this show as cheaply as possible, and I think that's exactly what we did. (She laughs.) I had problems with the lighting and the sound and the costumes we were forced to wear because we had to deal with the elements outside. I think it was interesting to the fans. I don't believe if you took a cross section of votes that they liked it. But I think it was innovative. It was a good attempt at trying something new. ... Maybe with time we might have succeeded, but we weren't given time to make it right.

As for viewers ending up thinking more about the actors looking cold outside rather than the content of the scenes: You start crossing the line, where you do have your fans worrying more about the fact you've got snot freezing as it's rolling out of your nose, and you're so cold you can't get the words out. There were days when it was so cold literally you couldn't speak.

On the future of soaps: I think if someone can figure out how to do these soaps on a wing and a prayer. The people who pay the bills, they don't want to spend the money on them any more because the advertising dollar isn't there like it used to be. Because of the DVRs and the VCRs taping the shows, they know people aren't watching the commercials anymore. Until somebody can figure out an aesthetically pretty way to do it and still make it good, I think we'll continue to lose soaps. ...

I know that CBS is very invested in its other two soaps ("The Young and the Restless" and "The Bold and the Beautiful"), but I also know they're being told to cut their budgets as well. The same thing at ABC. I don't know how much longer that one soap in New York is going to last, "One Life to Live." There's all kinds of rumblings that that will be the next one to go because New York is too expensive to produce in.

Getting a chance to say goodbye: To be able to go out to different areas in the country and say hello and so long to our fans who have been so loyal to our show over the years has really been quite special. There have been a lot of tears and a lot of laughter. It's been wonderful for the fans, and it's been wonderful for the actors who have been participating in these events because we've gotten to spend time with each other as well.

How can she top playing a character as rich as Reva? Well, the only thing I can possibly think of is all the great ladies of Shakespeare theater. Going back to my roots, which is the stage and exploring Eugene O'Neill, Tennessee Williams, Shakespeare - that's really what I'd love to do, but those roles are few and far between. And a lot of us over-50 women are vying for those parts.

If you go:

WHAT: Farewell to "Guiding Light"

WHERE: Mohegan Sun Arena

WHEN: Sunday, with sessions 1-5 p.m. (Q&A, photos with fans) and 8-10:30 p.m. (concert, game show, behind-the-scene stories)

COST: Daytime only, $80; evening only, $70; combo, $140 (with brunch, which is at Birches and open only to people who attend at least one of the other sessions, it's $190, $180, $250, respectively)

TICKETS: celebrityeventsgroup.com, 1 (866) 364-0330

A stop at 'Seinfeld'

Kim Zimmer guested on an episode of "Seinfeld" in 1995. She played Mr. Pitt's lawyer, who thought that Elaine and Jerry were plotting to murder Pitt.

"They didn't have a live audience for my episode, but you know who was my audience, every day, every second I stepped on that set? Jerry Seinfeld would sit on the side of the camera and watch my performance, watch the scene, and he'd clap and he'd laugh," Zimmer says.

"I had no scenes with Jerry, but he was so supportive of the actors. The actors on that show made it so easy. It was such a fun group of people to work with. I had nothing to do with Kramer, either, but I would watch him when we were doing our table reads, where you read through the script before you start shooting. He would be off in the corner, working on all his physical humor, you know, all of those entrances he'd make. It was fascinating to be a part of that."

- Kristina Dorsey

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