Not for a second did his own bedridden mother think her 36-year-old son George was just indisposed when he didn't appear the other afternoon on ABC's One Life to Live. She phoned from Philadelphia and asked straightaway if he had been fired—again. "I worry about you," she said, "because you have a big mouth." Mrs. Reinholt's anxiety was not entirely a mother's overreaction, for despite her boy's top-ten ranking in the popularity polls of the daytime-TV pulp press, George has become the Savonarola of soaps.

Prior to ABC's One Life, he had bounced from CBS's Secret Storm to NBC's Another World. Near the end of his seven-year stand as Steven Frame on the latter he had complained that "the material is so bad, so bland, so insipid, there is nothing you can do." That didn't stop George from trying: he exposed himself in the first nude centerfold ever in one of the daytime fan rags. "I would say it was mild and passé, not pornographic," he judged, but it violated the so-called "scandal clause" in the soap actor's contract, which George reads to mean that anything the network or sponsor "thinks is a 'no-no' is grounds for immediate dismissal." Actually, though, he was eased out of the script by being dispatched to Australia to build a city and then killed off in a chopper crash. "They're so cheap," he quipped, "I couldn't go down in a jet."

As a South Philadelphia street kid, Reinholt's own growing up was more graphic than any soap. George's dad was an Irish Protestant truck driver, and his sister had to pretend to be Catholic to get dates. George, at the age of 9, won a scholarship at exclusive St. Peter's, an Episcopal choir school, where he learned to sing Bach and Handel with open vowels, shed his nasal South Philly speech ("the ugliest sound in the English language"), and now can do Scottish, Irish, French, German and toffy English. He is also learning to play piano and writes doggerel poetry.

Vain enough to hang his portrait over the fireplace and fill one wall of his apartment with mirrors, George lives apparently alone except for a pair of chameleons. He would like—if he couldn't land a Broadway role—to set up a workshop to coach actors in the soap trade. "I think it's the most difficult medium to work in—it really should be taught." There are worse businesses. George has earned up to $70,000 a year. And, if nothing else, daytime drama gets closer to the nub-by-grubby of life than, say, the so-called early evening "family viewing time," under TV's curious code. As for soaps, says nine-year survivor Rein-holt: "What's important is never finalizing any situation. You must leave cliff-hangers. The tiring evening shows give you all the answers in one hour. How often are absolute conclusions derived in real life?"