Sept. 18, 2009 -- After 72 years on the air, the soap opera "Guiding Light" is finally saying farewell. "Guiding Light" debuted on NBC radio in 1937 and moved to television in 1952, making it the longest running soap opera in radio and television history.
The saga of four families' lives in the fictional town of Springfield will still be remembered by the show's loyal fans. The show addressed hard-hitting social issues including spousal rape, racism, teen pregnancy and alcoholism over the years.
"For many of us, it was the first show we ever watched," said Lynn Leahey, editorial director of Soap Opera Digest. Unlike prime time shows that came and went, it was a constant in people's lives. "It really is heartbreaking to see something like this go away."
Though the ratings of daytime dramas like "Guiding Light" have been in steady decline, many celebrities today can thank soap operas for their career boosts. These famous faces appeared on soap operas long before they became household names.
Before he got footloose, actor Kevin Bacon played the teenage alcoholic Tim "T.J." Werner on "Guiding Light" from 1980 to 1981. Bacon also starred as Tom Adamson on the soap opera "Search for Tomorrow" in 1979. His first big screen break came as Timothy Fenwick Jr. in the 1982 film "Diner," where he co-starred alongside Steve Guttenberg, Daniel Stern, Mickey Rourke, Tim Daly and Ellen Barkin. The buzz he stirred as Fenwick led to one of Bacon's biggest roles to date, as the foot-frenzied Ren McCormack in the 1985 hit film "Footloose."
Before she made a name for herself as the quirky Ally McBeal in 1997, Calista Flockhart had a minor role in 1989 as the babysitter for one of "Guiding Light's" most memorable characters, the diva Reva Shayne Lewis (Kim Zimmer). Flockhart went on to win a Golden Globe for her role on "Ally McBeal" in 1998.
She currently stars as communications director Kitty Walker on the ABC show "Brothers and Sisters," and is engaged to actor Harrison Ford.
Other celebrities who have appeared on "Guiding Light" include Ruby Dee, James Earl Jones, Hayden Panettiere, Melina Kanakaredes and JoBeth Williams.
He currently plays the slick-mouthed Jack Donaghy on the TV show "30 Rock," but Alec Baldwin's acting career had more humble beginnings. His first role was as Billy Allison Aldrich on the soap opera "The Doctors" from 1980-1982. The Emmy-winning show took place in the fictional Hope Memorial Hospital, and focused on a hospital team and the medical emergencies they faced.
Baldwin got his big break on the nighttime soap opera "Knots Landing," as the lunatic preacher Joshua Rush from 1984-1985. The show focused on five married couples living in the fictional town of Knots Landing. Rush returned to his mother Lilimae, played by Julie Harris, who abandoned him as a baby. He attempted to kill his wife Cathy, played by Lisa Hartman, but in the process ended up killing himself.
Baldwin's film career began in the 1980s, with roles in movies such as "Working Girl" and "Beetlejuice." His role as Jack Ryan in the 1990 film "The Hunt for Red October" gave his acting career a huge boost. Baldwin's satirical comedic approach earned him a role as the host of "Saturday Night Live" 14 times and landed him on "30 Rock" in 2006. He has won an Emmy and two Golden Globes for his role on "30 Rock," which he also co-produces.
Anne Heche became well-known because of her highly publicized relationship with television host Ellen DeGeneres, but it was her role as the good and evil twins Marley and Vicky from 1987-1991 on "Another World" that many soap fans remember her for.
"Another World" took place in the Midwestern town of Bay City, and focused on its residents. The show debuted in 1964 and was created by William J. Bell and Irna Phillips, who was also the mastermind behind "Guiding Light." Other celebrities, such as Morgan Freeman, Lindsay Lohan, Kelsey Grammer and Kyra Sedgwick also had roles on the show.
Heche won a daytime Emmy for her role as Vicky in 1991. On the big screen, Heche has starred in "Donnie Brasco" and opposite Harrison Ford in "Six Days, Seven Nights." She had a reccurring role in the shows "Ally McBeal" and "Men In Trees." She currently stars as the slightly neoritic housewife on the HBO show "Hung."
Long before he was nominated for two Oscars, became the father of six and the headline of magazine articles, Brad Pitt played a recurring role on the CBS soap opera "Dallas" in 1987.
"Dallas" told the tangled tale of the wealthy Ewing family. Pitt played Randy, the boyfriend of Charlie Wade, played by Shalane McCall.
But it was Pitt's role as the hunky drifter J.D. in the 1991 film "Thelma and Louise" that put him in the public eye. Since then, Pitt has become one of the biggest names in Hollywood, starring in such films as "Fight Club," "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" and most recently "Inglourious Basterds."
Before she graced Wisteria Lane as Edie on "Desperate Housewives," Nicollette Sheridan played the manipulative Paige Matheson on "Knots Landing" from 1986-1993.
During her time on the show, Sheridan's character managed to fake her own death, accidentally kill her boyfriend, and get shot and kidnapped. She won the Soap Opera Digest award for Outstanding Lead Actress: Primetime in 1990.
Sheridan became the adulterous housewife Edie Britt on "Desperate Housewives" in 2004. Edie died in a car accident on the last episode of this season. Sheridan is set to star as the voice of Zenna in "Noah's Ark: The New Beginning."
David Hasselhoff began his acting career at age 22, as Dr. William "Snapper" Foster Jr. on "The Young and the Restless" from 1975-1982. "Young and the Restless" centers on the competition between two wealthy families, the Abbots and Newmans.
Hasselhoff's character was put through college by his mother and manicurist sister, played by Jill Abbot, who is still on the show.
''I was so green on the audition,'' Hasselhoff told Entertainment Weekly.com. "They told me the director was in the booth, and I said, 'What's a booth?''' Hasselhoff went on to star in two other major television shows: "Knight Rider" and "Baywatch." In the late 1980s, Hasselhoff reinvented himself as a pop singer, becoming a hit in Europe.