Many of the younger women and men on daytime serials hope to use the soaps as steppingstones to superstardom. Almost like a litany they recite the names of soap stars who have gone that route: Charlton Heston, Jack Lemmon, Barnard Hughes, Jan Sterling. Later there were Cicely Tyson, James Earl Jones, Blythe Danner; more recently, Mike Farrell, Brad Davis of "Midnight Express" fame, Chris ("Superman") Reeves, Susan Blakely and dozens more.

Among the most attractive of the new stars are Sherry Mathis (Liza on "Search for Tomorrow"), Genie Francis (Laura on "General Hospital"), Jaime Lyn Bauer, Victoria Mallory and Brenda Dickenson (Lauralee, Leslie and Jill respectively on "The Young and the Restless") and Susan Lucci (Erica on "All My Children").

The most attractive men include Rod Arrants (Travis on "Search"), William Gray Espy (Mitch on "Another World"), David Hasselhoff (formerly Snapper on "The Young and the Restless") and Tom Ligon (Lucas on the same show), Richard Dean Anderson (Jeff on "General Hospital") as well as "Hospital's antihero, Anthony Geary (Luke) and Richard Shoberg (Tom on "All My Children").

Ron Arrants describes his character "as a romantic with dimensions, a combination of Rhett Butler, Howard Hughes and Citizen Kane the younger. On "Lovers and Friends," I was just a millionaire. Now I'm a billionaire.'"

A native Californian, he has transplanted comfortably for a good economic reason: "I work 305 days a year, and have for 10 years. Even though there's nothing here for actors except daytime and the stage, it's good experience, and I'm grateful for the work. It's a good life and I feel a responsibility to stay in daytime, after barely getting by for so long.

"Actors who think of themselves as artists, who have an inpulse to stretch and grow, find an excitement and challenge they can only experience in soaps. There is no beginning, middle or end in daytime. You never have that sense of completion you get in their theater."

His attitudes are shared by Colleen Zenk(Barbare in "As the World Turns"): "I went through the mill getting on this show. For the first three years I was in New York, I had 14 tests for 14 different soaps. I wanted daytime so bad because it's a three-act play every day. There's nothing like it for an actor. It's the best challenge. In the theater, you can get stale in the most wonderful part. I don't have a wonderful part-every day on our show, but I can do things."

A Chicagoan, Zenk started dancing at 3, modeling at 9, doing commercials at 11, and was the Dr. Pepper girl and the 7-Up girl. She's done a total of 100 commercials. "I love what I'm doing now. I'm part of people's everyday lives, and when I go home to visit, I'm mobbed in shops. I don't want to be a star, you see. My private life is too important to me. I don't want the notoriety that goes with being Farrah or Cheryle Tiegs. I want to have a family, all those wonderful Midwest things."

Tom Ligon, who plays Lucas on "The Young and the Restless,"says, "At the studio, what counts is your attitude. If you're a pain and not brilliant, you'll leave. I've got six months more to go on my contract, and I'm uncertain if I want to stay. I'm prepared not to be making a steady salary. I keep a couple bucks in the bank. I do like the show, because I don't see another actor like me on other shows."

Ligon can be bitter at the difference between daytime TV and prime time. "Three's Company" tapes across the hall from "The Young and Restless" studio. "They take a week to do a half-hour show," Ligon says. "We do an hour a day. That's work. I'd make twice as much on a nighttime series, but being on a soap means that you work regularly and get paid."

Over at "General Hospital," an anti-hero is one of the reigning heartthrobs. Anthony Geary (Luke) raped Genie Francis (Laura) and yet is adored by the viewers.

"Actually, I hope he [Luke] never turns completely good." Geary says "The challenge is not making him despicable. Jack Albertson once told me when you play a 'villain,' the worst thing is to believe he's bad. My character has a high sense of moral character and he's in love with Laura."

A rumply-haired blond who committed the first rape on daytime TV, on Trish Stewart's character of Chris in "The Young and Restless," he agrees he's probably in a casting rut. "But on 'Y&R' I was psychotic. This character is a good guy, and after the rape he has to live with his guilt."

The object of Geary's affections is petite Genie Francis, who was 14 years old when she started playing Laura. She was 18 in May and now says, "I grew up real quick before my time. There wasn't room to be a child. It was a lot of responsibility. Sometimes I feel gypped not knowing people my own age.

"This show has been my life for the past 3 1/2 years. I'd be in school if I weren't here." She attends Los Angeles Valley College two days a week, studying psychology and philosophy.

"My first job was a two-parter on 'All in the family,' and this was my second. The biggest demand on me was when I was 15. The writers wanted [Laura] to grow up and have a love interest. I was very young and naive, and it was very difficult at my age. I worked on it privately, trying to find the woman inside me. I'd sit and think quietly and picture myself in 10 years."