By Michael Logan
Mary Beth Evans is the kind of gal who’d drop everything, move two thousand miles and set up housekeeping with a guy she’d only dated twice.
It’s not really as trashy as it sounds. Evans did wind up marrying the guy and her impulsive, impetuous escape from Los Angeles to Chicago didn’t involve a whole lot of sacrifice. When romance called, all the would-be actress had to her name was a beat-up car, a barren beach apartment flooded with sea water, and ninety bucks. Her best friend and roommate, Carrie, who’d been supporting them both by waitressing in a pie house, probably didn’t put up a squawk, either.
“If I hadn’t been drowning,” she laughs, “I might have said to him, ‘Why don’t we just write for a couple of months?’ ” Love, you see, may have blossomed in the Windy City but Evans withered. She didn’t know a soul and, with Schwartz’s nose permanently buried in his medical school textbooks, Mary Beth recalls, “At first it was like playing house. Then the reality set in.” The Pasadena-born performer lost her enthusiasm for acting, turning to waiting tables in a local dive and battled Chicago’s 80 degree below zero wind chill factor. The town’s get-up-and-go attitude didn’t thrill her, either. Says Evans, “Everybody there is trying to achieve, achieve, achieve and if you’re not high-pressured and as outgoing as everybody else, you get left behind.” The entire experience was one big black hole, with Mary Beth claiming she really can’t remember anything about it except, “It was the worst. If I had to do it over, I wouldn’t do it again for anybody.”
Schwartz grabbed a residency at the University of Southern California Medical Center in Los Angeles, and Evans was rescued from her funk. Back on her old stomping grounds, she pursued her acting career with a vengeance, immediately landing a guest-starring role on FATHER MURPHY, opposite her future DAYS co-star Lisa Trusel (Melissa Jennings). The part called for Evans to play a 16 year old girl who got pregnant by a married man, attempted suicide several times, got thrown out of the house by her wicked father and died giving birth to the baby–all in the course of an hour. “It was probably the best part I ever had,” sighs Mary Beth happily. Soon, episodic roles on REMINGTON STEELE, RIPTIDE, KNIGHT RIDER and other series came fast and furious, but were nothing to write home about. “I was always the girl from Wisconsin, your basic informer-type. The hero would always come to see me for information, solve the case and save me,” she sighs.
Soaps, however, give her a real kick in the pants. “After all this episodic stuff, being on a soap is like tasting a fine wine. In just the first couple of episodes on DAYS, I got tormented by Patch and had my apartment trashed!” Gushes Evans. “Now that would never happen to a girl from Wisconsin!”
The steadiness of the gig also keeps Mary Beth from going stir-crazy. “I’d rather die than sit around waiting for my next job. It’s the worst, especially when you live with somebody who goes off to work everyday and you stand there saying, ‘Well….well….bye!’ It’s touch when it’s never you that’s leaving first.”
Consequently, Mary Beth has been so tickled pink with her two contract roles–as tasty starlet Dakota Lane on the now-defunct soap RITUALS and, currently, as nurse Kayla on DAYS–that she hasn’t bothered getting into a tizzy over the uncomfortable prospect of replacing another actress. In both cases, that’s precisely what she was required to do.
On RITUALS, Evans took over for the fired Claire Yarlett. Nowadays, with a role as Bliss on THE COLBYS, nobody’s shedding tears for Yarlett but, at the same time, the remaining, super-nervous cast members didn’t exactly roll out the red-carpet for Mary Beth. She particularly remembers the reactions of the female stars. “I felt like they were looking at me as if I’d slept with their best friend’s husband, you know what I mean?” With heads rolling and the ratings rocky, good-natured Evans chalked it all up to actors’ insecurity. Still, she’s pleased by her welcome from the cast of DAYS which was considerably warmer.
Although Catherine Mary Stewart was a most popular Kayla Brady, the importance of the character has lingered longer than the memory of the actress. The role hadn’t been played for two years–and Mary Beth hadn’t seen Stewart’s work–so she wasn’t haunted by The Spirit of Kayla Past. “I kind of feel that, in a way, she’s come back as a new person,” says Evans, who to the admitted disgruntlement of the other DAYS actresses, did score a coup. All of them, studio chit-chat has it, desperately wanted a story line with actor Stephen Nichols, who plays the one-eyed Patch. Not only did Mary Beth get one, she got a potentially scorching romance to boot.
The off-beat match thrills Mary Beth to no end, especially because it mirrors her own attraction to slightly left-of-center types. “Who wants Plastic Man?” she demands. “I don’t find that classic good-looking, stereotypical male very attractive at all.” Mary Beth’s enthusiasm for the DAYS’s numerous ragged antiheroes does have its limits, however. “I think they’re all cute on the show”, she says. “But personally I like a guy who shaves and cuts his hair.”
Of course, when it comes to the romance department, not one of the serial’s matinee idols can hold a candle to Mary Beth’s hubby. Having lived out-of-wedlock with Schwartz for five years, the actress sort of assumed they might never get around to tying the knot. But one night, shortly after they arrived for a swanky dinner at Beverly Hill’s Bistro Gardens, Michael quickly downed a Scotch, claimed he had an urgent call to make and ran off, leaving Mary Beth alone at the table for several minutes. Eventually, the maitre d’ informed her that there was someone on the restaurant’s patio who wanted to see her. The puzzled Evans was shocked to discover an authentically costumed knight in shining armor. Mary Beth assumed she was the victim of a singing telegram, until she realized the voice was Michael’s. He gallantly popped the question and she, appropriately playing the role of the fair-haired damsel, promptly swooned and accepted. The black-hearted villain, by the way, was the city of Beverly Hills. Schwartz tried to get a horse to make the fantasy-come-true complete but was denied a permit.
They married at sunset on a bluff overlooking Santa Monica Bay and honeymooned in Hawaii, but Evans was so exhausted from the wedding that she slept through the first two days. Michael occupied himself by snapping shots of Mary Beth snoring.
Just as in her TV love life, Mary Beth claims she and her husband are worlds apart. “He went to prep schools, I couldn’t be bothered with college. He’s very educated, very conservative. I’m very street smart. There are pictures of him in second grade wearing blue blazers and striped ties. My mother shopped at K-Mart.”
She may not have grown up sporting the dandiest duds, but Evans did grow up on the run. “We moved all over the place. My mother still loves to move,” says Mary Beth. “She’ll move from one apartment to another in the same building, just for a change of scenery.” In sixth grade alone, Evans attended six different schools. As if things weren’t confusing enough, she’d change her name in each new spot. “Mary Beth seemed so long. Sometimes it was Mary. I changed it to Beth at one school but that kind of reminded me of a fat person. I changed it to Mindy for a while.” Eventually, her own family couldn’t even keep up and her social life suffered. “My friends would call up and my sister would say ‘Sorry, there’s no Mindy, here,’ and hang up.”
Today, her mom, Dianne S*****, a Los Angeles-area nurse, is her biggest booster—and critic. Mary Beth winces, “She’ll call me on the phone and say ‘That pink eye shadow you had on the show today was THE WORST! You tell those people to stop doing that to you!’” Mom also has a major crush on Mary Beth’s co-star Drake Hogestyn (Roman Brady), but her spoilsport daughter put a damper on any potential rendezvous. Laughs Evans, “I told her it was a closed set!”
**Please note Mary Beth’s mother’s last name was not listed to protect her privacy.**
Photos by Jonathan Exley/LGI