With Guiding Light now officially ending in September, it means many former GL cast members are coming back. The one that makes me a very, very happy camper is Lisa Brown, who portrayed Nola Reardon-Chamberlain, one of the most three-dimensional, funniest characters in daytime.
Nola made her debut towards the end of Roger Thorpe’s (Michael Zaslow) reign of terror. He was staying at the boarding house her mother Bea ran, and she knew there was something up with this mysterious stranger. The second youngest of seven children, Nola helped her mother run the boarding house, but she wasn’t happy about it. In one scene after serving the boarders food, she finally gets to sit down with her mother to eat in the kitchen. A bell starts to ring, meaning another boarder wants something. Bea, tired of cleaning and cooking, asks Nola to see what the boarder wants. Nola heads towards the dining room, then stops for a moment. Only a moment, because time is a wasting. However, just by Brown’s body language you can tell Nola was thinking there must be more to life than this. I have to find it.
Boy, does she try. She gets a job at Cedars Hospital and meets new young doctor Dr. Kelly Nelson (John Wesley Shipp). This was the guy for her. He was handsome, and looked darned cute in Speedos. She could be Mrs. Nelson, the doctor’s wife. However, Kelly had a crush on young Morgan (Kristen Vigard). No problem. She’ll break those two up.
She sabotaged Morgan and Kelly from the get-go, from lying to Morgan about how Kelly thought of her to pushing Tim Werner (Kevin Bacon, yes, you can track Lisa Brown back to him!) on Morgan, but nothing was working. She came up with another idea: She embarked on an affair with Floyd Parker (Tom Nielsen, Brown’s then-husband in real life). One night she got Kelly drunk, then slipped into bed with him naked. He was too drunk to remember anything the next morning, so she lied and said they had sex. Kelly believed Nola. Kelly was a goof. God love him, but he was a goof.
Anyway, Nola gets pregnant, but it’s really Floyd’s baby. If you’re guessing she’s going to lie and say it’s Kelly’s baby, I’m very proud of you, grasshoppers. You are learning the soap opera way.
Kelly was going to have to stop working at Cedars, go to Vegas, and get married to Nola. Nola was now a happy camper, ready to be Mrs. Nelson. However Bea, heartsick how her daughter was manipulating people, finally told Kelly the truth that he wasn’t the father of the baby. Kelly was definitely a bit ticked off, which set up one of the best showdowns ever seen on daytime.
Nola enters the Bauer lanai, looking for Kelly. She’s carrying a suitcase.
Nola: Kelly, where are you? Now Kelly, I know you’re here because I saw your car parked out in back. Come on Kelly, where are you?
Kelly walks in, his face showing rage.
Nola: What’s wrong? I’ve never seen that look in your eyes before.
Kelly: I don’t think it’s ever been there before.
Music swells. We know this is going to be good.
She denies repeatedly Kelly’s claims, saying that they make love, he’s in denial. Kelly’s had it, and keeps at her.
Kelly: So how far along are you really? Not three months, not long enough to go on crying jags running into me at Cedars, and certainly not long enough to be experiencing morning sickness.
Nola: Now Kelly, you know why I told you that. You knew why… I was afraid!
Kelly: You were afraid that I would find out the truth! That you were lying through your teeth! You are the best damned liar I’ve ever known. Yes, yes sirree, I have to give you credit, you almost pulled it off. Then again you were working with a real patsy, I have a basic flaw in my character, I trust people I like. I made big two mistakes, to let you know I liked you, and to let you know I liked you.
Nola: The reason, the reason why you’re saying all these things the reason is, is you feel guilty about the time we made love.
Kelly: We did not make love! Whatever the hell we did, and whatever the hell you want to call it, that baby you’re going to have is not mine…. I feel sorry for you. God I feel sorry for you.
Nola: (near tears) I don’t want your sympathy, and I don’t want your pity!
Kelly: You don’t?
Kelly: Well, I think it’s pretty damned generous to feel sympathy for somebody who nearly ruined my life! And my chances with Morgan!
Nola lets out a frustrated scream.
Nola: God! Oh, I hate that name!
Kelly: How about that? Think of all that time you spent pretending you were her best friend. You never felt an honest feeling in anybody in your life.
Nola: For you. All the feelings I’ve had for you are honest.
Kelly: That is… the sickest lie of them all.
Nola: Everything that I did, was because I loved you. Because I loved you, and because I wanted to prove to you I could make you happy.
Kelly: Including ruining my life, and my chances being happy with Morgan?
Nola: Well Kelly, why don’t you just go back to her? Why don’t you go to her, and see if she can make you happy?
Kelly: That’s exactly what I’m going to do. And I’m going to go down on my knees and beg forgiveness if I have to. For getting involved with you.
Kelly leaves the lanai, Nola follows him.
Nola: Now Kelly, Kelly! Please don’t go now! Please don’t go like this now! Please don’t go right now. Please give me another chance.
She dissolves in tears.
When I watch it now I think how good the two of them were, how even though you knew Nola had it coming, you can’t help but be like Kelly and feel sorry for her.
By then Lisa Brown was getting stacks and stacks of hate mail, so much so CBS had to hire a security guard in case she got attacked. Head writer Douglas Marland knew he had to soften Nola in order to redeem the character and make Brown’s life easier. He had Nola decide she would keep the baby, jilted Floyd in the middle of their shotgun wedding, and accepts a job with a mysterious new stranger in town, Quinton McCord (Michael Tylo). She’s drawn to him, yet he’s so mysterious. She starts to fantasize about him in regards to movies, where she’s always the star.
The fundamental things apply with Rick and Elsa…
He might be a vampire, oh no!
In the Bette Davis role in Now Voyager. According to Guiding Light: A Golden Anniversary, when Davis saw this clip, she wrote a fan letter, and said: “Tell Nola she has it!”
Here they reenact Rosemary’s Baby. Where’s Ruth Gordon when you need her?
Wench Nola tries to kiss Quint in this fantasy of Captain Blood
Just you wait, Henry Higgins! Just you wait!
Here, Nola is in Shipmates Forever. At the time Brown was also starring in the revival of 42nd Street, so singing and dancing matched her talents perfectly.
After Quint and Nola finally married, they had a baby boy. Nola can’t figure out what to name him, so Nola is going to the Wizard to find out.
And look who the Wizard is!
In 1985 after being on the back burner so long, Brown left the show along with Tylo, with Quint and Nola leaving on a archeological dig. She wasn’t unemployed long; she soon turned up on As The World Turns as Iva Snyder, and played her for eight years.
Brown returned to GL in 1995 as Nola, but they wasted her talents. They couldn’t write for her humor, her talents. She disappeared in 1998 without even a good-bye scene.
However, Brown is coming back next month. Lana and I are holding out for a last Nola fantasy, one in which she is the star. There must be grand costumes, singing and dancing? Maybe reenacting the ending of the musical Good News? Either way, there should be a close up of Lisa Brown, a true star. Fade out, then credits.
Causes Jennifer Gibbons Supports
Gilda's Club, Greenpeace, Rosie's Broadway Kids,Westwind Foster Family Agency, Amber Brown Fund, Linda Duncan Fund for Contra Costa Libraries