Soap characters typically fall into three categories: the good, the bad, and the shades of grey. Though my personal favorite generally runs towards the grey characters, like in any work of fictional drama, there is nothing like a good villain. This is especially true on soaps where often a storyline depends on a “villain” to drive the drama to the next level, or even to simply move the storyline along. The lifespan of a villain and/or their ability for “redemption” often depends on the response of the viewers to the character. However there are times when a character is just too good at being bad that removing that “bad” factor would actually cause more harm than good.
After so many years on the air, Guiding Light had its share of notable villains. Some are characters that you love to hate, others you downright despise, but there is no doubt that they stick with you long after the storyline is over. These are my Top 15.
15. Ben Reade – When Ben returned to Springfield in 2001 he started off with a mean streak. He made a bet with his frat brothers over “winning” Marah Lewis’ virginity and plotted with her roommate Catalina in keeping Marah and Tony apart. Though Ben would grow a conscience proving he wasn’t a total bad guy. A grey character? Perhaps until he became an escort for Eden August. Ben soon became one of the prime suspects in a series of murders involving people connected to Eden’s Escort service. When Marina broke up with Ben he waited until he heard she was with Shayne and kidnapped her! Though she tried to talk a maniacal Ben down by appealing to the intelligent, sensitive Ben she knew, he merely stated that the man she knew was gone and he didn’t know how to be that again; he was empty inside. Marina’s father Frank burst in, and Ben grabbed Marina, threatening to kill her. Though Frank succeeded in convincing Ben to let her go, Ben stabbed himself with the injector in order to save her from himself. Ben gave Jeffrey his deathbed confession: He killed Brigit Waters after she laughed at him for refusing to sleep with her. Later, upon learning that coroner Jed Simmons found her body, he killed Jed to cover his crimes. Unfortunately, Jed told a female escort Renee about his find and she, after figuring out Ben was connected to it, she blackmailed him and also told her roommate Arianna bringing Ben’s total murder count up to four. I have to put Ben Reade on the list simply because he WAS technically a serial killer in the end…even if it was a blatant character assassination to facilitate the character’s exit from the show.
14. Grady Foley – The character of Grady was introduced in 2006 using the alias Gillespie. He was hired as a professional hit man by Olivia Spencer to murder Ava Peralta. Though the hit was unsuccessful he would become involved in another murder for hire, this time at the behest of Alana Spaulding. Alan hired Grady to run down Jonathan Randall, the father of his granddaughter’s child. Unfortunately Jonathan’s wife Tammy overheard the plot and went to warn him and was instead fatally struck. Adding to his list of crimes was his attack on Bill Lewis, his kidnapping of Lizzie Spaulding, and kidnapping Bill Lewis. Thankfully Grady’s fate was sealed when he threatened Lizzie and Phillip threw him off a clip. Good riddance to an awful character who I dubbed ‘Greasy Grady’. Guiding Light was really lacking compelling villains in the later years so I felt I had to include at least one. Greasy Grady and his murder for hire made the cut.
13. Ben Warren – Ben Warren came to Springfield with one goal in mind, to destroy his half-brother Ross Marler. Ben and Ross had the same mother but she had Ben in secret and gave him up for adoption, which made him feel like he was denied his birthright. Shortly after arriving he propositioned Ross’s wife Blake and dated Ross’s daughter Dinah (yes his half NIECE). He helped Annie Dutton get out-of-town and then turned his full attention to seducing Blake. Blake felt herself drawn to Ben and the two eventually made love. Ross came in and, believing that Ben raped Blake, he tried to shoot Ben, only to shoot Blake instead. Blake would end up paralyzed from the shooting and could not walk until she feared Ben’s life was in danger because her mother, Holly, had poisoned him and he fell in the tub and nearly drowned. Blake and Ben would remain an item until Ross came back into her life. In 1999, Ben’s life would be cut short when he was shot by his lover Carmen Santos who saw him kissing her daughter, Pilar. The killing shot, however, came from Vanessa Reardon who accidentally discharged the gun when Ben grabbed her. Ben Warren was definitely one of the villains you love to hate, and that is entirely attributed to the talent of Hunt Block.
12. Tory Granger– Law Student Tory Granger instantly became the star pupil of her professor, Ross Marler. Tory was deeply impressed with Ross’s career and Tory told him the story of how her husband, a former attorney, was killed in an accident and she was unable to collect any insurance money. Alone and needing money Ross offered her a job as his assistant. Tory grew more and more attracted to Ross which didn’t go unnoticed by Blake, Ross’s ex-wife whom he was reunited with. Blake’s jealousy continued to hurt Tory and she turned to Ross for comfort. Tory decided that the only way to please Blake was to drop out of school and quit her job. However, by this point, Tory found that her feelings for Ross had indeed grown and she learned that he felt the same way. Tory felt that she couldn’t control her passion any longer and she seduced Ross. Feeling that she’d found her soul mate, Tory refused to believe that this was just a one-night stand and followed Ross, despite his pleas for her to stay away. Tory refused to give up him and told Blake about the affair, which Ross denied. Detectives Harley Cooper and Gus Aitoro found out something startling: Ross was a dead ringer for Tory’s late husband, Stewart! Seeing the shrine Tory had devoted to Stewart and Ross, they realized that Tory came to Springfield specifically to seduce Ross. Believing Blake to be her only obstacle from becoming Mrs. Ross Marler, Tory locked her away and set out to win Ross back. Tory decided that the only way Ross could fall in love with another woman was if she killed Blake. The day Tory planned to set the jail and building ablaze, Blake wasn’t in her cell. During this time Tory revealed ugly childhood secrets to Blake, as well as admitting she had killed her husband Stewart after finding out he’d been carrying on with an office temp. Tory set a trail to make Blake, Ross and the police think she was going to kill Blake. Instead, she went to the university and kidnapped Ross. Drugging him, she tied him up in his own bathtub, where he would eventually drown. Blake knocked Tory out then freed Ross. Tory was sent to a mental institution, and when last seen en route there, was developing a fixation on her handsome, male doctor. Poor chap. Tory was a classic psychotic villain. She was pretty, smart, cunning…and behind the facade a completely damaged woman. Dangerous and obsessed she would stop at nothing to get what she wanted. And as her parting scenes show, she wasn’t done yet.
11. Edmund Winslow– We first meet Edmund shocked at the sight of Reva, who was trying to remember her past when she was suffering amnesia years ago. Turns out eight years ago, Reva, as Catherine, married Richard and gave birth to a son, Jonathan. However Edmund tried to kill both her and her son to gain the throne from Richard, so they escape the island with help of Olivia Spencer. Alone, they discussed how they best friends as children and their father’s favoritism of Richard. They also discussed a childhood horse-riding accident that may have been Richard’s fault that left Edmund with splitting headaches and mental instability. His medical condition, plus his overwhelming jealousy of Richard as their father’s favorite son caused him to act out and seek power any way possible. In early 2000, Edmund cooperated with mafia boss Carmen Santos and they helped each other out with their schemes. In exchange for him helping her keep Vanessa Chamberlain unconscious (in order to ensure that Carmen’s daughter-in-law, Michelle was convicted of murder), Carmen helped Edmund sabotaged the project that Richard was working on with Spaulding. And that is just the tip of the iceberg…Edmund stalked Harley in 2003, Stole Michelle and Danny’s baby and passed it off as Cassie’s, Drugged Dinah, etc. Edmund was certainly no prince charming which made for a great Guiding Light villain that certainly made things a lot more interesting.
10. Sonni/Solita Carrera – Josh Lewis’s first wife, she was a brilliant psychiatrist in Venezuela who, after a whirlwind courtship, the pair married. Unfortunately, on their honeymoon, Sonni fell off a cliff to her death or so Josh thought. Somehow, Sonni survived and, in 1987, found her way back to Josh.Shocked at seeing his wife again, Josh’s feelings for her came to the forefront and he remarried her. Soon after the wedding, Sonni started having an affair with Josh’s best friend, Will Jeffries, who kept calling her Solita. Apparently the pair were lovers as teenagers and together they formulated a plan: they would murder Josh and collect his estate. Reva discovered Sonni’s affair with Will and took photographs of them together but didn’t show Josh. She did tell him, however, that she had seen them together. Josh rushed to Will’s apartment and found Sonni with Will, but he believed that it was innocent. In February 1988, Will set Josh up to drive off a bridge but Reva was nearby and jumped into the icy water to save him. Josh survived but Reva suffered a cardiac arrest. Josh felt guilty about this which made a pregnant Sonni furious since she was beginning to develop real feelings for Josh. Sonni went to Reva’s room at the hospital and considered killing her but didn’t have the heart to do it. Instead, she ended up saving Reva’s life as she was choking on an air tube. After a fight with a recovered Reva, Sonni would lose her baby. In December of 1988, Sonni would attempt to bury Reva alive in Venezuela. However it soon was discovered that Sonni had a multiple personality disorder and took on the identity of her deceased sister as a defense mechanism. Sonni spent about two months in an institution and when released divorced Josh and was rehired at Cedars. She would eventually leave Springfield in 1989 after accepting a job in San Fransisco. Mentally unstable or true villainess? That’s for the veiwer to decide. In my opinion it was a great early depiction of mental illness on daytime television. And unlike many other “villains” Sonni/Solita was redeemed and went on to live a productive life elsewhere. Not bad right?
9. Bradley Raines– Bradley Raines arrived in Springfield in 1983 and though he appeared to be just an average guy he was anything but. Underneath the surface lurked a man with a violent temper who often lashed out at his wife Lillian and stepdaughter Beth. When he found out that Alan was not Phillip Spaulding’s biological father he intended to blackmail the older man to keep the secret, until he heard Phillip confess his love to Beth. Thinking that Phillip and Beth were sleeping together Bradley raped Beth in a jealous rage! Phillip and Beth ran off to New York where Bradley followed them, and almost cost Phillip his life. Bradley was ultimately arrested and stood trail for raping Beth. During his cross-examination Bradley admitted his reason for raping Beth was, “No one could love Beth, like I did … That’s why I had to mark her. I had to make sure no one else would ever want her.” He was sent to prison and though he would appear on reoccurring status Beth was informed of Bradley’s “death” in 2001. Bradley Raines will go down in Guiding Light history as one of the truly evil villains, though he was portrayed masterfully by actor James Rebhorn.
8. Maria Santos– Maria looked like a doting grandmother but beneath the surface hid a woman who was both cunning and deadly. It goes without saying that as head of a mob family she was going to do unscrupulous things, the question was how low would she go? The true evil of Maria Santos would be revealed when in 2001 she placed a hit on her grandson Danny whom she felt betrayed her by trying to turn the family legit. She tried to drive a wedge between him and his cousin Tony by offering Tony the power as head of the family. However Tony could not go through with the hit and warned Danny ahead of time. Maria then turned her attention to Tony, particularly his relationship with Marah Lewis. She did not approve of the relationship between the two and instead wanted Tony with fellow Cuban Catalina. She manipulated Catalina into chasing after Tony. Maria’s feelings toward Catalina soured, in 2002, when she learned that Catalina was pregnant, thus trapping Tony into marriage. Not wanting Tony to be trapped by pregnancy to a manipulative wife like her son Miguel was, Maria decided that the wedding couldn’t go on and ended Catalina’s pregnancy by giving her poisoned tea. Maria also agreed to give Romeo Jones more power in exchange for Romeo killing Catalina and framing Marah. Maria Santos was not your loving cookie baking grandma. Her love was conditional and could be quite deadly. And it is her lethal nature that brings her to number 8 on the list. She put a hit out on her own grandson. And expected her other grandson to go through with it. Cold Maria, just cold.
7. Carmen Santos– The only one worse than Maria was Carmen. Carmen Santos’s obsession with removing Michelle from Danny’s life would consume her life and ultimately lead her into a coma. In the early stages of the Danny and Michelle’s marriage Carmen went so far as to have her own house shot up to make it look like she was in danger and draw Danny back into the family. When Danny and Michelle were on their honeymoon Carmen arranged an old friend of Danny’s to give a “wedding present” which were really bearer bonds and she was hoping Michelle would be arrested for smuggling. When Carmen shot Ben Warren? She framed Michelle. In the summer of 2001 Carmen kidnapped Michelle and tried to get rid of Michelle once and for all but was stopped by Danny. Along with Maria, Carmen encouraged Catalina Quesada in her obsessive quest to win her nephew Tony from Marah Lewis. To Carmen, Tony/Marah were just a younger Danny/Michelle, and one was more than enough for her. Although she didn’t immediately succeed in breaking up Michelle and Danny, she
did play an instrumental role in breaking up Tony and Marah when she ordered Romeo Jones (who had murdered Catalina under Maria Santos’s order) to reveal his one-night stand with Marah to Tony. In 2002, Danny began working with the FBI to bring Carmen down. She learned of his duplicity before his plan was complete and one night on the cliffs, they struggled over a gun and she shot him in the stomach. He fell, to his presumed death. Carmen was then sentenced to a lengthy prison term but escaped. On New Year’s Eve, she cornered Michelle alone at the Bauer home. Carmen’s plan to finish off Michelle but was stopped by Michelle’s friend Bill. During the struggle for the gun, Carmen hit her head on the floor. Suffering from severe blood loss, she lapsed into a coma, and was taken to Cedars, where she remains, still comatose. Carmen was consumed with her hatred for Michelle. And the many attempts on Michelle’s life are what eventually put her into a coma. It’s kind of sad really since Saundra Santiago is such an amazing actress and developing Carmen beyond her obsession would have given the Santos family more storyline potential.
6. Brandon Spaulding– Businessman Brandon Spaulding built his empire through deceit and treachery. The ends justified the means and he instilled that philosophy into his children. A cold and controlling man, he pitted his children against one another and did what he felt was best for them. Disappointed that his first child was a daughter he nicknamed Alexandra ‘Alex’ and taught her to be tough businesswoman. Angry when she ran off and became pregnant with poor artist, Eric Luvonaczeck, he located the couple and paid Eric to leave with their child. Brandon also disapproved of young Alan’s relationship with a girl named Jane Marie Stafford, and learning that Jane Marie was pregnant, he forbade her to tell Alan and gave the child to one of his employees, Lucille Wexler, to raise. Years later, Brandon’s disregard for his children would come back to haunt him when Alan ousted him from the company. In 1979, Lucille found Brandon on his deathbed and told him that people suspected that her daughter, Amanda, was his child, something that Brandon would deny. Soon after Lucille learned that Brandon died and Amanda turned out to be Alan’s daughter with Jane Marie. In 1984, a long-buried secret involving Brandon would come to light. That year, Annabelle and Tony Reardon bought a cottage in Barbados and thought it was haunted. Tony, Annabelle, Jim, Claire Ramsey and Fletcher Reade found the “deceased” Brandon! It was then that Brandon told the whole sordid tale involving his late wife, Penelope, who killed Sharina’s brother while trying to kill Sharina, Brandon’s lover. After the shooting, Penelope went into labor with Alan and died. Not wanting to create a scandal, Brandon covered up the crime and left Barbados. Brandon then revealed that after faking his death in 1979, he traveled to Barbados to live with Sharina and their daughter, Victoria. After being discovered, Brandon and Sharina died together. The specter of Brandon Spaulding would return decades later when it was discovered that Brandon lied all along—he was Amanda’s father! Though the details of his affair with Jane Marie are unknown, it is suspected that he did it to get her out of Alan’s life. Some of Brandon’s additional crimes include: Selling information to the NAZI’s during WWII and hiring a man to kill Mark Evan’s father.
Next….My Top 5 best Guiding Light Villains