His new book is a Valentine to his family and fans. Readers are drawn into a personal observation of family dynamics including heartbreak, love and even suicide.
“I’m getting calls from psychologists and radio shows to discuss how families deal with alcoholism and mental illness,” says Ken Corday, author of The Days of our Lives: The True Story of One Family’s Dream and the Untold History of Days of our Lives. The two-time Emmy winner and show’s executive producer wrote this for his three children, who never got to know his parents. “Halfway through, it became a history of the show.”
His folks are Ted and Betty Corday, both pioneers in broadcasting. When Ted passed away in 1966, a year after the show’s inception, Betty, with no producing experience and even without a college education, took over. Think Mad Men era: Women were stuck in the secretarial pool. But with Betty’s infectious charm and street smarts, she produced a hit.
Ken composed for UC Santa Cruz’s symphony orchestra. He intended to teach. “I had a chance to write a few tunes for the show.” The rest is history. He’s been EP since 1985. Betty died a year later.
The mental illness and ultimate suicide of his older brother Chris “were the two bookends, prologue and epilogue. Being an admirer of Hemingway, I try to slip out of the producer/owner voice in the book. More importantly, I deal with a subject that’s often swept under the carpet. Hopefully, I did a service to not only Chris, but also families who struggle with the same thing I did.”
Currently, Corday’s main concern is keeping the show on the air. “The recent cancellation of two Procter & Gamble shows rang close to home. My Dad took The Guiding Light from radio to television and was the director/producer of As the World Turns.” Ted also was a lawyer, a Broadway director and an Army captain.
“In 2009, we made a deal with NBC, which goes through Sept 2011. If it goes to the 50th, then we’d have something to really scream about.”
Someday, he may teach music to either graduate students or kindergarten-aged kids. But not quite yet.
Corday composes all of Days’ original music. The former Julliard student explains how he was blessed to learn music “through sounds, feeling, and texture,” as opposed to skill.
“My mental health break is going to the recording studio and writing whatever is in my head. We take a lot of chances with music, more so than story.”
He’s generous to employees and gifts them with “the little blue box” (translation: Tiffany’s).
The author made a multi-book deal with Sourcebooks, including a coffee table book for the show’s 45th anniversary, romance novels about his super-couples, and two works of fiction. “My first is called The Ladies of the Lake… Toluca Lake!”
He knows a few things about the area. Eighteen years ago, he founded Toluca Lake’s annual July 4th parade and became Drum Major. “People don’t want to hear speeches. They want to hear the national anthem, and a few beautiful drum fanfares.”
The first soap to go from black & white to color, Days of our Lives is always on the pulse. “As a public service, we’re sending some characters to Africa to show how difficult things are. “
“Shows like The Office and 30 Rock are serialized. In a way, they’re the new soap operas.”
Sue Facter writes about all things A-list for publications including USA Today, People, Los Angeles Times, TV Guide and publications worldwide.