August 16, 2006
When Susan Lucci was a little girl, she put on music in her room and spent the days with stars in her eyes, singing and dancing.
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"I would make up stories and act out all the parts. My parents thought I had other kids in the house, but it was just me. I was actually very shy," she said.
It was the same wide-eyed child who accompanied her mother to Broadway during magical summer days when, after the show, Lucci would stand for hours at the stage door: "I just wanted to catch a glimpse of someone."
But unlike so many young girls who yearn for stardust and are seduced by the siren song of the stage, Lucci's was no pipe dream, no childish pursuit to be packed away into a dusty trunk of worn costumes and crumpled programs once the show was over.
Instead, she auditioned for "All My Children" when she was 15. Her first scene set the stage for a career that's spanned three decades and propelled the actress to stardom as she earned her character, the tempestuous, talented and tenderhearted Erica Kane, international recognition.
Today, not only is Lucci a legendary performer, she's an entrepreneur whose Home Shopping Network products run the gamut from hair and skin care to fragrance, handbags, shoes and jewelry. Most recently, Lucci launched a brand-new romantic lingerie line.
In addition to her role as a devoted mom to Liza and Andreas and wife to longtime husband Helmut Huber, Lucci devotes her heart and time to children through her work with Little Flower Children's Services in Wading River and other children's charities.
When her hectic schedule overwhelms, Lucci anticipates her time on the East End at her family's Quogue oceanfront retreat: "The minute I drive down the tree-shaded lane leading to the bridge, I instantly relax. Every kind of scheduling issue, the stressful living that I do on a day-to-day basis, I literally forget."
Creating serenity for today's stressed women is a goal Lucci's set out to achieve with her wildly successful HSN ventures. Her first foray into electronic media began in 1991, but only after she'd tried the products herself: "I was filming The Bride in Black, playing a woman who worked in a deli. There were no styling tips to hide behind; it was really about the quality of the shampoo and conditioner."
Lucci's hair care line, created with botanical ingredients, won rave reviews from the film's hair stylist, and a new career was born. Most important to Lucci is the impact her creations have on the women seeking romance and fantasy, those who revel in feminine fashions at an affordable price.
"It's great to know that women are feeling taller, thinner and in touch with their inner sexy female," she said.
The pieces in Lucci's collection are designed to ease the frustration of creating a coordinated wardrobe - as a working mother, the actress can relate: "I have stood in the black hole of my closet at 5 o'clock in the morning before work wondering what I am going to wear."
But Lucci's line is about more than just clothing. "I know what it's like to wear a lot of hats. I have a career; I'm a wife; I'm a mother and I've been trying to do it all for a long time. It's been a journey to find a balance," she said.
And imparting learned lessons is one of Lucci's goals. "The modern woman is multitasking to the max. It's really important not to forget ourselves in that mix," she said.
Although she made choices to put her family first, she has no regrets. And when she kept a promise to herself and pursued Broadway after her son went to college, it was life altering. Lucci took over the starring role in Annie Get Your Gun in 1999.
"They asked me to do the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade, and I was on the opening float. Standing there, turning down Broadway, I couldn't stop crying," she said.
Once onstage, Lucci lived her childhood fantasy: "It wasn't enough to fulfill my own dream. I knew there would be other children in that audience, as I was once."
Lucci's Broadway days were busy. "In addition to the music, I had to learn the choreography. I would lie in bed at night and do the dance. My husband would say, 'Are you done now? Can you stop dancing in bed?'"
Other shining moments included Lucci's much-publicized Daytime Emmy win for Best Actress in 1999. "Certainly, I was disappointed each of those 18 years that I didn't win. But so many wonderful things came out of it."
After each loss, letters poured in from the Actors' Studio, from firemen and fans from all walks of life. "Little girls from Pennsylvania sent me their ballet trophies when I didn't win the Emmy."
Lucci's most touching tributes were from her children. "Every year, my daughter would make me a different consolation prize," she recalled. "They'd bake brownies, cakes, cupcakes. I wouldn't have had any of that if I had won right away."
Today, despite a string of accolades and honors, including a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, Lucci still has role models such as Sophia Loren, and still yearns to reach for new stars such as feature films and the Las Vegas stage.
Despite her legendary success, Lucci has remained grounded, her family in the forefront. As the interview drew to a close, the actress planned to spend the day, just as she did so many years before, with her beloved mother: "She can shop me under the table, and that's saying a lot."
And, for the fans that wait for hours outside studio doors for a glimpse of stardom, Lucci remembers the little girl she once was and always has time for a smile. "They're living busy lives and yet they're passionate and warm and take time to express those things to me. That's really remarkable," she said.