Recently, I had the great pleasure of talking to a man whose character played a huge role on One Life to Live for twenty-three years! Though Dr. Larry Wolek hasn't been around for quite some time, his name still arises from many conversations within Llanview to this day!
For those who didn't know this fun fact, Michael Storm took over the role of Larry Wolek from his real-life brother James Storm in 1969. Curious as to how something like this came about, I asked Michael about this turn of events in his early career. "My wife and I were living and working in Southern California when my brother got this soap opera role in August 1968. He called me one day and said he wasn't happy with what he was doing and had an opportunity to travel to Europe, Russia and North Africa and said, 'I think I'm going to leave.' James suggested that I have my agent contact the show to see if they were interested in extending the role to me," Michael explained. "I was sent a script and did an audition on the set of General Hospital then was personally interviewed in New York. It was supposed to be a short contract, a test, but my wife and I moved everything to New York after the show wanted to tear up the temporary contract and gave me a full contract. I started on January 4, 1969 for what started out at about three episodes per week. I loved the work and was embraced by the talented cast. They made me feel like one of them. I took over for my brother and made the transition into the storyline when my brother, as Larry, rushed into a fire to save another doctor and ended up being burned himself. I, myself, made my début as Larry when the bandages were removed from [brother] Larry's face. And there I was!"
Having been a longtime fan of the show, I was excited to hear how it was for Michael to work alongside some of the show's veteran actors like Phil Carey (Asa Buchanan), Erika Slezak (Viki Davidson), Andrea Evans (Tina Roberts), and Robert S. Woods (Bo Buchanan), but Michael reminded me that his start on the show came well before these guys were considered vets in Daytime's eyes! "No," Michael said of the old days. "Back then, it wasn't about Viki [Erika], Asa [Phil], etc… For a number of years I worked with Gillian Spencer (original Viki Lord), Lynn Benesch (Meredith Lord Wolek), Lee Paterson (Joe Riley), Allan Miller (Dave Siegel) and Patricia Row (Eileen Riley Siegel). What made the show unique was One Life was the first soap opera to have an African American storyline. When the storyline started, the show was threatened throughout the country for cancellation, but ABC said they were keeping it. From the support of the fans, we made it through, and I was proud to be a part of that."
Anyone who's a fan of the show knows when someone in Llanview was in trouble, they'd head to Llanview Hospital to see Dr. Larry. For years, we, as fans, haven't had the pleasure of seeing Michael's character on the scene, and we've missed him! So I asked Michael if he would welcome a full-time return to the show, if there were a chance that Dr. Larry could be incorporated into the storylines again. "That's a real tough question," Michael admitted. "I left the show unknowingly. For the last ten years, when I went to work, I was living in California and would fly back to New York for the storyline. One time I flew back but never heard from the show again. I would like to go back and have some closure. The cast and stage crew, we were all friends outside the studio. We had a great time, we're an extended family. I would welcome a limited contract but full-time, having to move… I don't think I'd do that."