Where were you when Shemar Moore trumpeted, “The streak is over!”?
It was 20 years ago this week, on May 21, 1999, when the Daytime Emmys delivered their most memorable moment. All My Children star Susan Lucci was, finally, a winner.
Hosted by Oprah Winfrey and held at The Theater in Madison Square Garden (and airing in primetime on CBS because, well, it was a different time then), the ceremony’s antepenultimate award found The Young and the Restless‘ Jeanne Cooper, As the World Turns‘ Elizabeth Hubbard, AMC‘s Lucci, Y&R‘s Melody Thomas Scott and Guiding Light‘s Kim Zimmer vying for Outstanding Lead Actress honors.
At that time, Zimmer was 3-for-5 in career nominations, Hubbard was 2-for-9 and Cooper was 0-for-4. Scott was looking to convert on her first Daytime Emmy nod ever, while Lucci was facing no less than her 19th attempt to grab gold.
Lucci was part of AMC‘s original ensemble when the ABC serial made its debut in 1970, and she was first nominated for a Daytime Emmy in 1978. Over the first decades of her run, she in grande dame Erica Kane created what TV Guide Magazine called “unequivocally the most famous soap-opera character in the history of TV.”
Yet as of May 1999, all she had to show for it — other than an industry-leading paycheck that reportedly exceeded $1 million per year — was a Best Soap Actress title per a People magazine poll and Soap Opera Digest‘s equivalent of a lifetime achievement award.
But that all changed minutes after Y&R star Shemar Moore took the stage to present the Outstanding Lead Actress award, as seen in the video clip above.
What resulted was tears (from Lucci as well as many famous faces in the crowd) and a standing ovation that lasted for several minutes. Even in the press room afterwards (where I was based; Ausiello as Soaps in Depth’s news director was in the audience), the soap opera vet received a huge round of applause.
What pushed Lucci across the finish line that year of all years? In past competitions, she tended to submit scenes from two unrelated storylines and sometimes featuring too much melodrama. But in 1999, Tom O’Neil (now the president and founder of sister site Gold Derby, then at the Los Angeles Times) observed, “She submitted two continuous episodes that showed off a diverse range of her acting skills, including, of course, three crying scenes and a diva’s best slap, but also convincing displays of tenderness, fear and love as she hovered over anorexic daughter Bianca in the hospital.”
You can watch the Bianca intervention episode below: