Pushing Soaps and Johnny Cochran

I found a very interesting article in the March 7, 1999 issue of New York Times. It focused on Renee Ickson Young of New Rochelle, New York (where Dick Van Dyke and Mary Tyler Moore lived on his TV show). Young was a publicist for CBS Daytime, including Guiding Light. She planed  parties, coordinated award shows and magazines. Young read the scripts for all the shows and looked for a way to use it to get in the general news. Soap magazines are handled by an outside public relations firm “because there are so many of them and they are so desperate for information on a weekly basis” (as if that was a bad thing?). She also points out the Proctor and Gamble had an in house PR department  to  work soap press. The Bell soaps also had a separate outside PR firm.

Young described how Johnnie Cochran appearance came about during Ben Warren’s defense of Annie Dutton at her trial.

So the Johnnie Cochran appearance came about because I was reading the script several weeks ago and I saw that the character of Annie Dutton on Guiding Light was going on trial for all of her crimes. I read the “breakdown,” which is the detailed synopsis that the scriptwriters get to write the script. I saw that she was going on trial, and I thought of O.J. Simpson. She’s so hated and the talk of the town in the world of Guiding Light — it reminded me of the whole O.J. scenario. So I picked up the phone and called Johnnie Cochran’s office and said: “We have a main character who is going on trial for a whole host of crimes. Would he be interested in appearing as one of her attorneys?” I got a yes right away. Then I called the executive  producer of , and he thought it was a great idea. The shows are terrific to me, and this is an industry that I don’t think is considered very generous. It’s a very competitive industry. But my experience is, everyone is open to ideas and suggestions.

Johnnie and I have to work out the schedule. The writers have to rewrite. We work out the scheduling, pass on the information to the show and then we pass the ball to the show, and they work out the actual time he is available. After that is all confirmed, what I did was first “shopped” the exclusive to Michael Logan at TV Guide. I would say in the world of daytime his column is the most important for us. He wanted to break the news. After he did, it went out on the wire, and we had nine television crews, four newspapers and photographers.

Young says whether it gets picked up or not is determined on whether the story is good, the press release is good, and if you can time it out on a slow news day. Young then described the actual day of shooting.

Cochran…arrived at about 9:30 am; the press was already there at 9 am. Cameras got him getting out of the car, going into the studio. We just had had Mayor Giuliani on  a couple of weeks before. The Mayor had married two of our main characters. Things worked out. The Mayor was available. His press secretary is a huge fan of the show.

With Johnnie Cochran, we brought him up, the casting people were waiting for him and then we went right into blocking and rehearsal. That was an open press call. That is where everyone got their background material.

After we finished with that, we did the photo op and one-on-one interviews. All reporters don’t want the same thing. Part of the job is to see that even though everyone is there covering the same event they all walk away with something different. I know the soap press is interested in a more plot-related story. I know the mainstream press is interested in a more generic story.

In a related bit, the actors involved in the case appeared in character on Johnnie Cochran’s show on Court TV the same week. I’d love to find that somewhere. And now you know why Cochran seemed added on and didn’t accomplish anything. Find the whole article in several online databases.

Greene, Donna. “Q&A/Renee Ickson Young; Selling the Soaps (as if They Were Real).” New York Times. 7 March 1999: 3.

UPDATED March 5, 2016: I did one correction and then clarified the quotes by making them italics and standardizing the purple color that somehow got off. I also added my signature block.

Robansuefarm is the handle of one of Manny and Guiding Light‘s biggest fans following in her family’s footsteps of Guiding Light fandom since 1939. This blog is an effort to make it easy to find Guiding Light and especially Manny online. Check back here for her blog, find fanfic previews and fake WSPR newscasts on her YouTube, find podcasts that look back to old shows and audios of her fanfics on Blog Talk Radio, and finally follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

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One Response to “Pushing Soaps and Johnny Cochran”

  1. glmanny Says:

    Reblogged this on Glmanny's Blog and commented:

    Revisiting when Johnny Cochran came to “Guiding Light.”

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