Daily News of Los Angeles (CA)

February 4, 2008


I have to confess: I was a die-hard fan of ``Knots Landing,'' the series on which Joan Van Ark played sweet Valene Ewing for 14 years.  So when Joan called the other day to chat about her guest spot on Tuesday night's episode of ``Nip/Tuck,'' all I wanted to do was talk about ``Knots,'' the show many people think was a bit of a precursor to ``Desperate Housewives.''``We were ahead of our time in a way,'' Joan said. ``Enough time has passed that, heaven knows, a lot of people might not be familiar with `Knots.''' Valene was a best-selling author but her personal life was always a mess. She had her husband, Gary, stolen by another woman who then got pregnant by him, her twin babies were kidnapped by a crooked doctor, she was given a drug overdose at gunpoint by her ex-husband's fiancee, and she racked up enough marriages to give Elizabeth Taylor a run for her money. ``She was one sandwich short of a picnic,'' Joan said of her TV alter- ego. ``The more problems, the better off Valene was.''   But she and Gary Ewing (Ted Shackleford) made for one of television's most beloved couples, and the audience never stopped rooting for them to get back together. Joan keeps in touch with Ted, Michelle Lee -- who played her best friend Karen -- and the great stage star Julie Harris who played her mother. ``Julie is the love of my life. We were family. No way it could have lasted 14 years without that true love.'' Ted is now a regular on ``The Young and the Restless,'' where Joan herself appeared for more than a year. But the rigors of a daily soap were not for her: ``It was a nice place to visit but I wouldn't want to live there. Ted is loving it.'' So instead of daytime, Joan, 64, is in prime time in a ``Nip/Tuck'' episode that reunites her with ``Knots'' nemesis Donna Mills, who played the scheming Abby. They are both playing women of a certain age who undergo various cosmetic procedures. ``We each had a surgery with Julian McMahon,'' Joan revealed. ``We were all in bed with him (in a dream sequence). It's so un-Valene, barely any clothes on bouncing around with Dr. Christian. ``I love anything for women who are past 40 and they're still hot. Now, we are redefining all of it. It doesn't mean you become Mrs. Sees on the box of candy, Grandma on the porch knitting and going into the kitchen to bake cookies. You don't have to put on a warm-up suit and take long walks in the woods.'' Why do that when you can be a ``cougar,'' an older woman who is still attractive who dates younger men? ``What I've always done is basically goody two shoes. Abby was the cougar.''