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Daytime nightmare 

What the hell am I doing here?

; ;

It's 10 in the morning, and I'm pouring slowly -- like sand through an hourglass -- to the end of a Walt Disney World Dolphin resort corridor, on a strange pilgrimage to see another symbol of my own personal shame: y'know, daytime television. Just dragging nails and bumping along the walls like a call-girl out too late, hoping that at the end of this pink-and-blue hotel hell, the lovely Deidre Hall -- 25-year goddess/matron of soapy stalwart "Days of Our Lives" -- isn't going to try to peddle me something. Especially not something to do with the General Nutrition Centers franchise conference that she's lent her prized demure to. I'm too skinny for this.

Then, there she is. A portrait of frozen beauty -- my favorite daytime ice queen -- sitting aglow halfway up on a glamourous side couch. Tellingly, she's reading a Woman's World magazine with herself on the cover; it is her world, after all. I'm thinking, maybe she's just the milky Marlena that I've come to revere -- if only for her soft-lighting and Prozac stare. Maybe this isn't such a bad idea.

"Well, you don't look like a writer," she flutters.

I love her. Sensing our kinship, I cozy up to her side, as we both pensively remove our eyewear at the very same time, as if to say, "It's Drake and Snow ... They've lost their twins and are planning a jump off the yacht." I could get into this.

Why the hell are you here, Deidre?

"Well, I'm the spokesperson for Scan Diet," she glosses, crashing my party. "Which is a soy milk-based weight-loss drink."

I hate her.

"Scan Diet was originated in Scandanavia, hence the name ‘Scan' Diet," she starts to rattle. "They were bringing the product to America, and needed help in getting it promoted. They asked if I would do it -- for their audience and my audience. I realized it was a pretty healthy thing, and I'm pretty proud of it."

But what about Drake, Snow, the yacht!?

Realizing I have to get things out of the milk and back into the soap, I quickly revert to tragic complimentary drivel and cast myself as a pudgy Joy Behar on "The View."

"I feel like I'm sitting here with somebody I've known for 25 years," I bloat. "How do you keep yourself fresh in this industry?"

"We change writers every few years, it seems," she says, diminishing my chosen career, and not winning any friends. "Marlena's a character everybody seems to love writing for ... "

Oh, do we!

"She's also timely; she stays topical," she continues. "When I began the show 25 years ago, she was a professional woman trying to find her place in her field. In the '80s she was getting married and having her family. In the '90s, she was getting divorced and struggling to keep her children's lives healthy and her own life together. And now, she's dealing with problems with her stepson as a teenager -- that's what a lot of people are going through now."


"She's a role model for people. Young girls want to grow up and be her. Which is fabulous. We don't have enough role models in the world, and I'm happy that I get to play one."

That's nice, Britney, but what about the devil? One of my favorite Days memories involves a weird crack in the pop-culture psyche that found our matronly role model possessed by Beelzebub himself, wearing yellow contacts and burping groans like "I am the Desecrator!" It was like watching Blair Warner get fat on "Facts of Life." You had to root for the dark side.

"Actually, I loved doing it," she swishes. "It was very powerful, and it gave me the chance to step outside what I'd done for 20 years and play somebody who's really rotten to the core. I could do anything I wanted."

Then she glazes over in devilish reflection.

"Sometimes we do things in daytime that we don't really have a chance to fully explore. It's usually not as seamless as it should be."

Sometimes we do the same thing in journalism, I sympathize.

Like now.

At least I'm not drowning my iniquities in soy milk and franchise froth, though. Deidre, however, is possessed. Her face conveys a strange insistence on some overriding purpose and it's starting to freak me out. So I rinse the soap away, and rush to my conclusion ... like water through an hourglass.

"You're beautiful," I shoot.

"You're sweet," she scores.

Then, alas, it's time to hit the stop button on the recorder. Only, the Desecrator's not having it. She reaches over and grabs my wrist in one swift, chilling movement, and pierces with a purposeful stare.

"This country has over 55 percent of adults that are overweight, into obesity," she brimstones, wasting it on the stick figure before her. "We've picked up a bad habit in this country of picking up weight and not dropping it. This is a great healthy way to do it, and add soy to your diet."

I let her know that I used soy-milk shampoo just this morning -- with all the charm of a skinny girl who can eat anything -- but she doesn't hear me.

"And you should get this in the article," she sternly commands. "GNC is the only place to get it."

The devil may care.

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