Kate Linder Celebrates 40 Years as Esther Valentine on ‘The

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“Dinner is served!” With those three words, Kate Linder made her debut on The Young and the Restless 40 years ago on April 16, 1982. Esther was the loyal maid to the late Katherine Chancellor (Jeanne Cooper) at the Chancellor mansion for decades. TV Insider sat down to chat with the soap opera veteran about her storyline highlights over the years and her memories of working with the late Cooper.

Also, Linder, who received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2008, is going to be honored on April 21 at The Hollywood Museum when her character’s maid uniform, feather duster, and other items will be placed on display. The tribute to soap opera’s most popular maid will remain open to the public for three months.

Do you remember your first day?

Kate Linder: Yes. I remember going up to Jeanne Cooper and saying that I’d be playing her maid. She looked at me, took a beat, as only Jeanne could, and said, “It’s about time!” When I finished my first day, Ed Scott, the producer at the time, came up to me and said, “Are you available tomorrow?” I said, “Sure!”

Jeanne later named you Esther, correct?

Yes. One day, Jeanne just called me “Esther” when we started taping. That was actually my grandmother’s name. I don’t think it was that long before the scripts stopped saying ‘MAID’ on them and started saying ‘ESTHER. Later, there was a national contest in a magazine to choose Esther’s last name. The final choices were “Diamond” and “Valentine.” [Late Y&R creator/head writer] Bill Bell let me choose and I went with “Valentine” because my [late] husband Ron and I were married on February 14.

Esther took those famous photos of Jack (then, Terry Lester) having sex with his stepmother Jill (then, Brenda Dickson)?

Yes. I remember wardrobe saying to me, ‘You’re going to wear something different.’ I got the script and it said, ‘Esther dresses up like a bag lady.’ Later, the photos were made into a puzzle. I don’t recall how but Kay got involved later. Esther messed it up (laughs) — as only Esther can do!

Esther’s has some romances over the years – there was Tiny, Esther’s one-night stand, who fathered her daughter Kate?

Esther’s never seen Tiny again since he said goodbye to her. It’d be interesting if he were to come back so he could meet his daughter.

This was around the time that Esther quit working for Katherine and went to work for Nina (Tricia Cast).

Yes. Nina promised her she wouldn’t have to wear the uniform anymore and that she could go out! That’s when Esther met Tiny. Esther got pregnant and had her daughter, whom she named ‘Kate’ but later, she changed it to ‘Chloe.’

Kay and Esther were kidnapped so that Clint Radison (James Michael Gregary) could plant Kay’s double Marge (also played by Cooper) in the mansion and abscond with Kay’s money. Kay and Esther’s captors were Morey Amsterdam (Morey) and Lilyan Chauvin (Lil).

I enjoyed working with [them]. Ron and I went out to dinner with Morey and his wife. I loved listening to Morey’s stories about Hollywood and how he started out.

Esther realized she was pregnant courtesy of her fling with Tiny while she and Kay were being held captive.

Morey and Lil got her some maternity clothes but it was just a larger-sized maid’s uniform!

What’s your take on that maid’s uniform? You’re so identifiable in it.

In the beginning, I’d see everyone else wearing these great clothes [and wished I could, too]. But Esther wore her maid’s uniform or her formal maid’s uniform all the time. I look back now and realize it was iconic for her and identifiable. It was a good thing.

In 1994, Esther met Norman (Mark Haining, Knots Landing) through a singles ad and she wanted him to think that she owned the mansion.

Yes. Esther talked Katherine and her husband Rex [Quinn Redeker] into being the maid and the butler. That was funny and that’s when Esther got to wear great clothes. I think Jeanne and Quinn really had fun with that.

Alas, Norman turned out to be a thief and he fatally shot poor Rex after trying to rob Katherine’s safe. Esther felt guilty and wanted to leave.

Yes! Esther was horrified. She felt responsible for Norman killing Rex. She wanted to go. I remember standing at the door with a suitcase and holding little Kate in my arms and was ready to leave. Esther thought she had ruined everything. Katherine said, “Esther. Don’t go.” That you brought that up is amazing. I can still remember that feeling!

Later, Esther really stood by Katherine when Jill sued for half of the house. What are your memories of that time?

I remember when they were fighting up in the attic and the show put the rats up there!

Y&R revisited the Kay/Esther kidnapping storyline in 2009 only this time they were kept captive by Annie (Marcia Wallace, The Bob Newhart Show) and Roger (David Leisure, Empty Nest).

I loved it because I got to work with David and get married [to his character]! (laughs) But marriage never works out for Esther!

Y&R had lots of characters come back for ‘Katherine’s’ funeral — but it was really Marge who died.

It’s always great when people come back and you haven’t seen them in a while. It’s like they never left. It feels that way for me. I imagine it feels that way for them. Things change but the mainstay of Y&R — the stories and the characters — are still there.

Esther’s daughter Kate changed her name to Chloe because she was embarrassed by her mother’s occupation. Nobody knew who she was initially, but when Esther walked into the Chancellor living room with a tray of champagne, she dropped it upon seeing her daughter [played by Elizabeth Hendrickson].

I was a nervous wreck because I knew they weren’t going to tape that one again! I wanted to get it on the first take. Esther saw her daughter again after so long. That was great to play. I was so happy that I dropped the tray at just the right time! I really lucked out because Elizabeth is such a fabulous actress. I’m excited that she’s playing my daughter (laughs) whether Chloe’s proud of Esther or not!

How has Esther and Chloe’s dynamic evolved?

Chloe now realizes that whatever Esther did was for her own good. She wanted the best for her. She wanted her daughter to have a better life. I also remember when Esther thought Chloe was dead and saw that she was alive! I remember that like it was yesterday. Kevin [Greg Rikaart] said he had something for me to see. And Esther turned around and saw Chloe whom she thought was gone forever. I also remember that like it was yesterday.

For the first 25 years of Y&R’s run, the show had one captain of the ship – William J. Bell, the show’s late creator, senior executive producer, and head writer. What’s it been like for you now that almost another 15 years have passed and you’re still with the show?

I’m not good with change. Esther’s very loyal and so is Kate. I’m so proud of our show and proud to be a part of it. Things happen for a reason. You don’t know why. I try to think that things will turn out OK. I’m really excited that I have some dates coming up on the show. We’ll see what that’s about. I think it’s important to remain positive and to keep moving forward the best that we can.

Jeanne passed away in 2013. What memories do you have of her?

We were family in so many ways. I went to Chicago for her daughter Caren’s graduation. Jeanne and I did appearances together. There was a line in the Masquerade Ball storyline that we did in 1991. Katherine, who was hosting the gala, introduced Esther’s musical act. She said, ‘Here’s someone you may not know that well but I’ve known her for a long time….I give you my…’ and she started to say, ‘maid,’ but then switched it to ‘friend.’ I think that sums it up.

Young and the Restless, Weekdays, CBS

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