Finally, A Tell-All That Tells All: Kim Zimmer Dishes About Her New Memoir
The irrepressible, irreplaceable Kim Zimmer hits the market August 2 with her autobiography I'm Just Sayin'!: Three Deaths, Seven Husbands and a Clone! My Life as a Daytime Diva (New American Library). It's a startling, provocative and wildly entertaining read, though who'd expect anything less from the gal who won four Emmys playing Reva "The Slut of Springfield" Shayne on Guiding Light? Zimmer, currently back on One Life to Live as the demonic Echo DiSavoy, cut loose with TV Guide Magazine on a variety of topics — from Lucci and Oprah and Alcoholics Anonymous to the precarious state of soaps!
TV Guide Magazine: How's everybody's favorite show killer?
Zimmer: [Laughs] Hey, watch that!
TV Guide Magazine: Well, you've buried two in a row!
Zimmer: It's not just me! What about that writer guy Dave Kreizman? He's a show killer, too!
TV Guide Magazine: That's right. And he's killed three soaps in a row! OK, he wins.
Zimmer: Actually, I'm at three, too. [Laughs] Don't forget that I helped bury Santa Barbara!
TV Guide Magazine: How was it for you when the ax fell on OLTL? Not the same as when it fell at GL, I imagine.
Zimmer: Oh, not the same at all! GL going off the air was so traumatic for me that I never buried my feet in the sand at OLTL. I never really set roots there because I never wanted to be hurt like that again. I didn't do a lot of PR for OLTL. I never moved anything into my dressing room, because when I had to clean out my frickin' dressing room at GL it was 25 years of s--t, which is still sitting in boxes in my garage! I never had any reason to believe that my presence at OLTL was going to be anything more than window dressing anyway, you know? And that was hard for my ego to take at times. But work is work and, hey, I was happy to have the job to keep my medical benefits going, if for no other reason.
TV Guide Magazine: No more star treatment. No more star salaries. Are you in shock at how the soap world has changed since you started out on The Doctors in 1979?
Zimmer: [Laughs] God, yes! If you could see what I'm being paid on OLTL you'd s--t! My agents were freaking out when I said, "I don't care what they pay me, I'm doing it!" I hadn't done a soap in a year and a half. I missed that kind of work. And even though playing Echo again never became what it might have been and should have been, it's still great fun. And I love the people. I've honest to God loved it all... well, until I showed up one day at the studio and they had moved my dressing room! I'm now rooming with Terri Conn. I'm 56 years old and being somebody's roomie! I have never had to share a dressing room on a soap in my life! They didn't tell Terri and they didn't tell me. They even moved Tuc Watkins in there! I went to [executive producer] Frank Valentini and said, "Gee, a little warning would have been nice!" And he says, "Does a dressing room really matter to you?" And I said, "That's not the f--king issue, Frank! It would have been nice to have known it before showing up for work at 7 a.m. and not having a place to put my underwear. Gimme a f--cking break!" He said, "Oh, I'm sorry. That was probably my fault." I love Frank, I really do. That's why I can talk to him like that, because I respect him and he respects me. [Laughs] But, seriously, a little warning. A phone call. Something.
TV Guide Magazine: Let's talk about your future bestseller, I'm Just Sayin'. I remember sitting with you out in Jersey at the end of GL when you were at that lake shooting the double wedding. You were talking about your need to spew some bile in book form — and finally here it is!
Zimmer: Yeah, it took a while. Lucci got hers out in nothing flat — with the help of my frickin' writer by the way!
TV Guide Magazine: That's right, you both had Laura Morton as a co-author. Coinky-dink?
Zimmer: That came as a huge surprise to me. Hell-oooo! Laura never told me she was also working with Lucci, the bitch! By the time I found out, my book was already written, but I have an ax to grind with her. What do you call it when people do this?
TV Guide Magazine: Uh... sin of omission?
Zimmer: It was a s--tty thing to do. When I asked Laura about it she said, "I can't tell you how many times I tried to tell you." And we were like buds! I talked to her every day when we were writing the book! [Laughs] Oh, well. Whatever.
TV Guide Magazine: No worries. Your book and Lucci's are like night and day.
Zimmer: My husband [director A.C. Weary] keeps saying he's going to write his version of my book with his point of view having lived through everything I talk about. You know, I had already written 60 pages — that's what got me my book deal — before I ever sat down with my co-writer. Then I spent about three weeks with her just spewing ugliness and she finally said, "This isn't what people are going to want to read." So we pulled back and made it more of a gift to my fans, an inside peek at what my life at GL was like. I didn't want to stomp on anybody or be ugly. I didn't really want to trash anyone... well, except for one person.
TV Guide Magazine: I'm guessing that would be [GL's final exec producer] Ellen Wheeler?
Zimmer: [Laughs] Gee, ya think? When they vetted the book, the only thing the lawyer called my publisher about was my reference to Ellen crying all the time on the set. Of everything I say, that's what worried them! The lawyer wanted to make sure someone else could verify that fact. [Laughs] I said, "Oh, my God, at least 150 people can verify that Ellen Wheeler was a crier." My publishers are very anxious for me to write another book, although I don't know where I can go from here. A.C. read three chapters of this one and hated it! He wanted it to be more of a teaching book, something that helps actors learn about survival in this business, a book about self-preservation in a business that's basically dying.
TV Guide Magazine: On that subject, few would argue that Wheeler was a disastrous force who killed any hope GL had left, but do you really think there would have been a different outcome if P&G had hired somebody else? Wasn't the writing on the wall long before Wheeler came along? When P&G dropped its programming chief, Mickey Dwyer-Dobbin, and chose not to replace her, the company relinquished all power to CBS Daytime. Nobody fought for the P&G soaps like Mickey did and suddenly the shows had no defender. Wasn't that the beginning of the end?
Zimmer: I do think that was the case. P&G was ready to get out of the business and CBS didn't give a s--t about GL or As the World Turns. Still, that's no reason GL should have fallen apart the way it did at the end there. The fans will probably come after me with machetes for writing in the book that the show should have been cancelled two years sooner. We should have left the air with our heads held high when GL was still a strong and traditional soap opera. Because what we turned into — in my opinion — was s--t.
TV Guide Magazine: I love the anecdote about how you got so mad at Oprah when you appeared on her show that you walked out during a commercial break — and then she came running after you and learned a big lesson about how not to treat her guests! Priceless.
Zimmer: Yeah, but I watched her last two or three episodes when she ended her show and it was like, "Oh, f--k! Now she's Jesus Christ!" And I'm claiming in the book that she learned something from me! I'm thinking, "Oh, man, her people are gonna come after me!"
TV Guide Magazine: Hey, even Jesus learned something from the town slut.
Zimmer: Exactly! [Laughs] I'm gonna remember that when her lawyers call.
TV Guide Magazine: I'm guessing you'll be getting some crap for insisting in I'm Just Sayin' that you're not an alcoholic. You know this right?
Zimmer: No, I don't know that.
TV Guide Magazine: Given what you've revealed in the book — that you drank your lunch at GL, that you were falling down drunk at an Emmy party, that you were arrested on a DUI a couple of years ago and had to go to A.A. — I think some readers may think you're in denial.
Zimmer: Look, after sitting through my 64 court-mandated A.A. meetings after the DUI, I can tell you that I am not an alcohol. What I learned in those meetings is the difference between an alcoholic and someone who just likes to drink.
TV Guide Magazine: Which is what exactly?
Zimmer: Which is that alcoholism is a disease that will kill you. I would never let my drinking kill me, although I did get behind the wheel of a car. That DUI was bound to happen sooner or later and it did teach me a lesson. Listen, I could talk to you for hours about this, what the difference is. But basically my difference is that I can go five days without a drink. I can go 30 days without a drink. And I did just that when I was going through all of those DUI classes, and I didn't get the DTs. I didn't go through any withdrawal at all. It was no big deal, because I have control over it. It's not a disease for me. I still do have a glass of wine here and there and I am not an alcoholic. So there.
TV Guide Magazine: That chapter where you talk about playing Reva's clone was a trip. Of all the dopey stuff soaps have done over the years — from the space alien on General Hospital to Satan on Days of Our Lives — nothing tops the clone, mostly because it was so out of character for GL. The same goes for that story where you kept shoving your keister into that old painting and traveling back to the Civil War. If those stories had happened on Passions, no one would have blinked. But on the much more reality-based and traditional GL, it was one more sign — one very huge sign — of the approaching apocalypse.
Zimmer: How many times have you and I talked over the years and I always say the same thing? I'm a "Calgon Take Me Away" girl! I have always pushed for relationship stories, for romance, for escape. That's what the people want! As much fun as it was, as an actor, to be a clone or to time travel, those storylines did not benefit the show at all. Back in the great years of GL we had no idea we were living in the golden age. It was so wonderful and comfortable and meaningful — the fans really cared about us and the stories that we told. Then soaps got ridiculous. They stopped being what they were created to be — human drama! That's why people are leaving us and seeking out replacements. That's why people get such a kick out of the Stupid Housewives of Wherever. Those shows are today's soap operas!
TV Guide Magazine: So what's next for you when your wrap OLTL? You've been doing lots of theater. How was it reuniting with your GL soulmate Robert Newman in Curtains?
Zimmer: [Laughs] Oh, that wasn't intentional! I pursued the part because Debra Monk had played it on Broadway and I thought it might be a good role for me. I had no idea Newman was already in the production. All I knew was that somebody in the cast was being a stickler about not being paid less than anybody else in the show. I'm like, "Who the f--k is this idiot?" Turns out it was Robert! I just laughed hysterically when I found out. So I made like a dollar less than he did to keep him happy! I just auditioned for the Broadway revival of Funny Girl with that wunderkind director Bartlett Sher who did South Pacific. I went in for the part of Mrs. Strakosh, the role Jean Stapleton played in the original. That's my next goal — Broadway! And of course I'll be all over the place pushing the book. A.C. wants to fill our old truck full of books and drive me around the country on a tour and film the whole thing and put it on the internet. [Laughs] I love that idea! It's brilliant!
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