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Cathryn Damon, Co-Star of ‘Soap,’ Dies of Cancer

Times Staff Writer

Cathryn Damon, a co-star of “Soap,” television’s ribald and revolutionary parody of daytime melodramatic programming, died Monday of cancer at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. She was 56.

The actress arrived in Hollywood with an impressive array of stage credentials. But Miss Damon became best known to millions of fans as Mary Dallas Campbell, wife of Burt Campbell, the “Soap” working stiff, everyman counterparts to the series’ wealthy and pompous Chester and Jessica Tate.

Although the 1977-81 series had a loosely structured plot line, its thrust was to titillate viewers with hilarious references to sex--incest, adultery and homosexuality. In an example of some of the more bizarre episodes, Miss Damon’s TV husband was captured and cloned by outer space aliens who sent the clone to spend several intimate evenings with her. He proved a far better lover, she discovered to her wonderment.

Miss Damon, who won an Emmy in 1980 for her zany portrayal of Mary, subsequently found her character impregnated by her ersatz husband and future episodes dealt with who really was the father of the baby.

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In addition, she and Burt had to deal with their two sons’ attraction to bisexuality and organized crime.

Although the five-season series seems controversial in retrospect, it was even more startling when launched by ABC. Hints of the series’ subject matter brought 32,000 letters of protest to the network before the first show aired on Sept. 13, 1977. And though most religious groups eventually made their peace with the series as a showcase of satire as opposed to a display of pornography, many condemned it as morally objectionable.

Trained in the legitimate theater, Miss Damon worked until shortly before her illness incapacitated her.

On television she was seen in the “Matlock,” “Mike Hammer” and “Murder She Wrote” series. Earlier she had been the next-door neighbor on “Webster” and was featured in a TV movie, “Not in Front of the Children.”

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On Broadway Miss Damon appeared in “Flora the Red Menace,” “Prisoner of Second Avenue,” “The Last of the Red Hot Lovers,” “Sweet Bird of Youth” and “The Boys From Syracuse.”

A memorial service will be held for her Friday at Pierce Brothers’ Westwood Village Mortuary.

She is survived by her mother, M. Cathryn Springer; a sister, June Ferol Damon, and a niece, Sheila Graham, who ask contributions in her name to the Actors’ Fund.


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