Stars: America's Thirty-One Favorite
Daytime Actors Speak for Themselves, 1985
by Ray Manzella
Photos by Diana Whitley
Article Provided By Carol
Ilene Kristen enjoys doing comedy and portraying the kind of character she had in Delia Ryan Coleridge, the troublemaking self-centered character she played on ABC's Ryan's Hope." The fact that Delia was as different from Ilene as she was only made playing her more interesting.
Brooklyn-born (July 30), Ilene made her first profressional appearance
at the age of fourteen on "The Bell Telephone Hour," and did her first
Broadway musical, Henry, Sweet Henry, at the age of fifteen. She
toured with a satirical group, Six New Happenings, while she finished high
school by mail. Her next big break was doing the part of cheerleader Patty
Simcox in Grease. Her real name is Ilene Schatz and she grew up
with her parents and sister Karen on the Upper West Side of Manhattan,
just blocks away from wehre she hangs her hat now.
After doing RH for three and a half years, Ilene decided not to renew her contract and tried living in California for three years. While she was there she became a founding member of the McCadden Theatre Company and played opposite Peter Falk in John Cassavetes' film Knives. She also co-wrote a play entitled Heartland.
After deciding that she was a New Yorker through and through, she moved back to originate another role, Georgina Whitman, on "One Life to Live," only to return later to the part of Delia (from 1982 to 1983).
Ilene has run a foreign film theater, produced and edited a film, performed in numerous rock bands, and been in two off-Broadway shows at the same time (one at eight o'clock and one at eleven o'clock and at different theaters), all while doing a soap. Recently Ilene has been involved in a comedy revue called Strange Behavior, and is the lead singer with the Brazilian rock samba band Pe De Boi. She is the daughter of two artistic parents and is carrying on that tradition proudly in her own life.
priorities were different than most other teenagers when I was growing
up. I knew I wanted to perform. I knew that was going to be my life.
By the time I was fourteen, I had had my professional debut on "The Bell
Telephone Hour." I met Lesley Ann Warren at dance class, and she told me
that if I went to New York's High School for the Performing Arts, as I
was planning to do, that I wouldn't be able to work and go to school, so
I changed my plans and went to the Professional Children's School.
Everyone there was fiercely competitive. We just knew that we had better be good and famous by the time we were eighteen, or it was all over. That attitude caused us a lot of grief, although we never talked about it and weren't even aware of it at the time. Now, looking back, I can tell what a scary time that was.
I used to go to school wearing false eyeslashes. I must have looked ridiculous, but I thought I looked very adult and sophisticated. I would come in from Queens every day on the subway, wearing my old fox coat and pink ballet tights. I got the strangest looks.
In the fall of 1967, I got my first Broadway musical, Michael Bennett's, Henry, Sweet Henry. I was in the chorus, but I was a much stronger performer than I was a dancer, so I had a lot of trouble learning the routines. Consequently, Michael and I had some bad moments. I was only fifteen, on the road for the first time, and I remember going back to my room in tears many nights. I was without my mother, vulnerable, and very young. It was hard, but I learned a lot.
The next part I got was Patty Simcox in Grease, which was wonderful. I got it because I could lindy! I grew up with that dance, and the day of the audition I did the best damned lindy of my life. It was great, and that was the clincher because the part involved a lot of dancing. I knew I had the job because it was hard to find someone my age who could do the lindy.
I was born in Brooklyn and we moved to Manhattan in my teens - to the Upper West Side, a few blocks from where I live now. My father bought a building on Seventy-sixth between Central Park West and Columbus Avenue and renovated it.
I had a normal upbringing - as normal as you can have when your father is a hairdresser. My parents are great, and we were all kind of artsy-craftsy. It was an easygoing artistic atmosphere, and they loved what I was doing. My parents had a lot of show business friends and loved the theater, so we saw a show every Saturday. My whole family was into boat-neck shirts and bebop and that kind of thing. They weren't beatniks, but they were into Brubeck and jazz. It was a very interesting household.
We all used to sit around and watch "Candid Camera" together and laugh and laugh. I watched a lot of television, but never soaps. I watched "My Little Margie" every chance I got, and "I Love Lucy" and "The Ed Sullivan Show."
My sister Karen is younger than I am. We got along fine as kids, but then a lot of competition came into our relationship and we went our separate ways for a while. We got very close again the night I came back for a reunion of Grease years ago. We both really aired everything out - she told me how jealous she had been those years. It was one of the most emotional experience I ever had. Now we're closer than we ever were. We're very proud of each other. We've both taken chances with our lives.
Being on "Ryan's Hope" has been an incredible experience. The first time I read for the part, I love Delia. She's a survivor, she's independent, she's passionate about everything she does. She has a desperate need for love and attention and she'll do anything to get it. I think people respond to her the way they do because she is so outrageous in always trying to get her own way. I think we'd all secretly like to do that a little more than we admit sometimes. She always does everything for the best of reasons as far as she is concerned. No matter how bad it might seem to other people, she does things because she figures it's her God-given right.
After I had been on the show for three and a half years, I decided it was time to leave. I loved it, but there were other things I wanted to do with my life, and I couldn't do those and stay on "Ryan's Hope." It had become a very safe situation, and I've always been afraid of anythign safe. I needed to have challenges in my life - tough ones.
I had always been afraid of L.A., so I thought it was time to meet that fear head-on. I wanted to do lots of different parts; I've got a closet full of wigs and costuems for every occasion Everyone told me I was crazy to leave such a good job, but I have always believed that if you move on from one thing to another, things have a way of falling into place.
As it happened, the trip to California didn't work out the way I wanted it to, but it was a terrific learning experience. I went through a lot of changes in the two and a half years I was there. I literally lived on the edge, emotionally and financially. I was making very little money, so I was living on the little I had saved from being on the soap, and that was strange because I've been able to pay my own way since I was fourteen. As soon as I got my first job, I started paying for my own lessons. There I was, sleeping on a mattress on the floor, with my clothes all packed in boxed because I moved so often. I lived in six different apartments. I sany with a few rock groups, and we were all so desperate for money we'd even play frat parties and pizza parlors.
I should have gotten myself organized, gotten settled, and played the Hollywood game - worn the right clothes and stuff. But I was the total nonconformist while I was there. I had a very perplexing time. I didn't want to do a soap out there. If I was going to do a soap, I wanted to do it in New York. So eventually I came back and took a part on "One Life to Live" for a while. Then I went back to "Ryan's Hope."
It was great being back. They wrote for me. The one thing I always wanted to do was to stop women viewers from ironing while they were watching "Ryan's Hope" and I think I did that.
There is so much I want to do. I want to do more comedy; comedy is my life really. I want to do films, and I want to stay involved with my music. Being on a soap gives you some wonderful economic opportunities too. I want to put money back into the business. There are so many talented people that aren't working. This business has been very good to me, and I'd like to put a little bit back. Sometimes I've gone through a lot of guilt about doing so well all my life, even though I worked and struggled really hard. Nothing has come easy though, and I think that's the way it should be, because you appreciate it all the more when you do get something. When something really clicks you can enjoy it because you've really worked for it.