By Rachel Singer
Victor fears Ashley is losing her mind!
Katharine is alive! It was her evil twin in the car crash!
Nicky is planning revenge on Esther for stealing her baby!
Bits of gossip overheard at our latest book club gathering?
Chit chat between friends?
Snippets of a stranger’s life?
Hardly! They could be story lines from a soap opera… More specifically, a soap opera aptly named “The Young and the Restless. ” This Emmy award winning daytime drama has been a 36-year mainstay on CBS Television.
One of the reasons for the show’s immense popularity lies with the actors. One of those actors is a lovely lady and my friend, Beth Maitland Banninger. For 27 years, Beth has been bringing to life the character of Traci Abbott on “The Young and the Restless.”
Though times in her life have had all the ingredients of a daytime drama, she is a down to earth country girl at heart. It is my pleasure to give you Beth’s “Hometown Story”.
The road to Hollywood began simply enough along the country roads of South Dakota on an Indian Reservation. Beth lived, as she puts it, “A Walton’s way of life with her extended tight knit Irish-English family.”
The household consisted of her mother Dottie, younger sister Dannelle, Grandmother, Aunt Eileen and Uncle Floyd. Beth smiled as she said, “I was raised by strong women, and we were definitely a matriarchal household.”
Torn between the strong bonds of family and wanting bigger and better opportunities for her daughters, Dottie and the girls headed west to Scottsdale, Arizona.
The nearby “big city” of Phoenix was considered very metropolitan and Beth, at the ripe old age of seven, was enamored. Dottie made sure the girls were exposed to all that the downtown Arts had to offer. It turned out to be a very wise choice.
Beth immersed herself in artistic endeavors. At 13 years old, the theatre universe had her in it’s gravitational pull. She began acting on the stage as well as discovering her creative side within the world of costume design and make-up.
Today, designing, creating and sewing using a multitude of textiles is still a passion Beth holds dear. My mouth dropped last year when I was shown her vast costume closet.
When I asked what led her towards stage and film, I was surprised at what was revealed.
“I was painfully shy and insecure as a child.” Most actors are attracted to the craft for reasons that reflect their insecurities. I was always more comfortable in someone else’s skin rather than my own.”
The confident lady that sits before me today has certainly left that mindset behind.
Lana Turner had Schwab’s Drugstore and Beth had a temporary position in a casting office! In 1982, Beth had been in Los Angeles for three years. She was a temp in a casting office by day and moonlighting as a singer. It was at a Hollywood nightclub that she was approached by a talent agent who remembered her from dropping off pictures at the office where she worked.
“He told me about a part in a soap opera they were casting. He thought that I would be perfect for the role. I read for the part on a Tuesday and less than one week later, I was on-set as Traci Abbott in “The Young and the Restless.”
Beth said, “It must have been my signature “one downstage tear” that cemented the deal.” Huh? She laughed as she shared with me the actor lingo for a “slight tilt of the head which allows one tear to come out of the eye that is on camera.” Who knew?
The city was New York. The year was 1985, and on a stage in front of her peers, Beth accepted the Daytime Emmy for Best Supporting Actress! “It was the first Emmy for any actor on our show,” Beth acknowledged.
Though “Traci Abbott” makes occasional appearances on the show for weddings and funerals, Beth said that she misses not being a regular on “The Young and the Restless.”
“The cast and crew are like a family (albeit sometimes a very strange family!). I rejoice when I get invited back to reprise my role in the Abbott household. I long for that environment.”
In “real” life Beth has a wonderful family in her husband Christopher, who is both a soundman and pilot.
Christopher and Beth’s mutual love of horses brought them together and brought them to Santa Clarita over 25 years ago. The two met while she was boarding her horse near Six Flags Magic Mountain. He was a sound mixer and she had a record project. The two hit it off and gathered together a group of equine loving friends and could be found every Saturday morning hitting the riding trails of Santa Clarita under the name of “The Prairie Dogs.”
Smart and beautiful are fitting descriptions of Beth and Christopher’s daughter Emelia. At age 14, she is an exceptional musician who plays the bassoon and flute in Honor Band. When I asked Beth about the unusual spelling of Emelia’s name, she explained that she was paying homage to Amelia Earhart reflecting Christopher’s love of flying, but more importantly, “I wanted to honor the memory of my Aunt Eileen, who I had lived with as a child.”
The Banningers’ currently live on a “ranchette” in Canyon Country that is also home to Beth’s four horses and a myriad of goats and chickens. I certainly enjoyed the fresh eggs she recently brought over! Though, Canyon Country has been their home for many years, Beth said, “We have lived in almost every city within Santa Clarita!”
In 2005, the Banninger’s life took a dramatic and unexpected turn. Christopher was hired as a soundman and bush pilot for a documentary to be filmed in Africa. A four man, one-woman crew arrived early to scout locations. The group was taken by helicopter to a remote area. They were dropped off on a Friday and were to be picked up on Sunday. Due to an unfortunate mix-up, the helicopter never returned. No radio contact and no mobile phones…. The group wandered for almost 10 days in the African heat and had to hike over 100 miles in search of civilization.
The film company that had hired Christopher was keeping Beth updated. It was a week and a half that felt like a year and a half until she finally heard his voice on the phone.
Christopher relayed to Beth that after hiking and traversing the African desert, he made it to a photo safari destination. The Austrian man, who owned the five-star resort, had been sending out employees to join the search for the lost film crew. It was a welcome end for both rescuers and those that were rescued.
The shock of this story was evident on my face and Beth quickly explained that during those ten days, she was never afraid for Christopher’s life. “He is a keen outdoorsman with superior survival skills.” The real ordeal was trying to put on a stoic face for Emelia.
If waiting by the phone for reports on your missing husband wasn’t enough excitement, did I mention that Beth rode horses in the circus? I am not kidding. It all began with a television series from days gone by, entitled “Circus of the Stars.”
Always up for a challenge, Beth told me she accepted the offer to ride for the television show and “ended up excelling because of my love of animals and about 15 years riding experience. For me, never a formal athlete, it was a personal best. I was asked after the filming to continue in the riding act for the circus trainer’s personal performing group. I carried on for another 6 to 9 months and loved every minute of it.”
Beth is never one to sit idle, as “idle hands are the devil’s workshop.” She loves to present friends with her handmade quilts, handbags and home accessories. Our book club has often been recipients of her exquisite embroidered bookmarks. Beth has a gallery of her work on her website BethMaitland.com.
As we were wrapping up our visit, Beth told me she was going to change out of her dress and don her overalls. In a scene reminiscent of Eva Gabor in “Green Acres,” her tractor was waiting to be fired up and there were many more railroad ties that she needed to lay in her horses’ training arena.
Ahh, the glamorous life of a Soap Opera star!