Fifteen Years After Her Death, a Tribute to the Soap Icon Who Played Bitchy Better Than Anyone Else
Daytime television couldn’t help but grow dimmer on May 2, 2008. Though Beverlee McKinsey had retired decades earlier, there was always that hope, however faint, that she might return. Those of us who had thrilled to her work as Iris Wheeler on Another World (and spinoff Texas) and Alexandra Spaulding on Guiding Light couldn’t give it up.
All Hail the Ice Queen
If you, too, are familiar with McKinsey’s genius, you understand why. Nobody played bitchy like she did, with a look that didn’t so much kill as make her sparring partners wish she’d finish them off already. And when she spoke, in a voice so impossibly throaty and intoxicating, it could make you feel tipsy, it was with a tongue sharp enough to poke a hole in her cheek.
That alone would have made McKinsey a star for the ages. But the actress, nominated four times for a Daytime Emmy, didn’t play simple villainesses. She imbued them with depth and, however hard, heart. And oh, the sadness that she layered beneath those icy exteriors. Though Iris and Alexandra amassed countless nemeses on their respective shows, never did they have a greater enemy than… well, themselves.
Credit: NBC/Courtesy of the Everett Collection
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Going, Going, Gone
McKinsey wasn’t just brilliant, either; she was also as popular as hell. When she left the Another World offshoot that had been centered around Iris, a million viewers went with her. And when she exercised an out clause in her Guiding Light contract to walk over exhausting hours and story that she likened to character assassination, the powers that be were said to have freaked; fans, even more so.
“They’re going around saying, ‘She’s irreplaceable,’” she laughed to TV Guide in 1992. “What foolishness! Meryl Streep is irreplaceable. Everybody else you can replace. It’s silly. I, myself, can think of 10 women who can play Alexandra.” (Ultimately, Marj Dusay and, briefly, Joan Collins did.)
Credit: Courtesy of Everett Collection
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The Legend in Action
For the uninitiated, you can get a small sense of how amazing McKinsey was in the below clips from Texas. She’s like a frosty volcano that you just know at any moment might erupt.
In the below clip from Guiding Light, Alexandra does her damnedest to convince Nick McHenry that he is indeed her son.
On this somber occasion, walk with us, why don’t you, down Memory Lane as we revisit Another World, the much-missed soap that elevated McKinsey to the status of icon.
Video: YouTube/hfxmusicman, YouTube/Soaps Past