October 27, 2009By Marc Wilkofsky Posted: Oct 27, 2009
The GUIDING LIGHT fan weekend in Manhattan was bittersweet, but brought many fun, memorable moments and statements, including some revelations. Here are just a few, to complement Soap Opera Weekly's report in our Nov. 3 issue, which is on stands now.
At the Fan Club luncheon in the Marriott Marquis hotel, Michael O'Leary (ex-Rick), who took the stage with an impression of hard-working fan club president Mindi Schulman, revealed which scene was the toughest scene for him to perform as the show was drawing to a close: "Right before we did our basketball scene, Grant [Aleksander, Phillip] turned to me and said, 'Mikey, this is the last time we're going to do this,' and after he said it, that sunk in. That epitomizes our relationship." He shared a message to the fans: "Thanks for the best job that I've ever had in my life. It gave me the relationships that I'll cherish for the rest of my life." Sitting next to O'Leary in the green room, Aleksander said of his most difficult scene, "For me, it was finding Alan on the bench. It was so sad the whole time. It was an emotional couple of weeks for all of us, as we were wrapping up."
Ron Raines (ex-Alan) noted that there was one emotional scene after another: "There were the ones with Marj [Dusay, ex-Alex] in the hospital. With Phillip, with James; all those little vignettes. There was what was going on in the storyline, and there was also the realization that this is our last scene together; these are our last words together. Even with Rafe, he was going to war, and I'm proud of him," Raines stated in character. "He's doing something I couldn't."
On the subject of how Alan's weak heart, and not just the procedure to save Phillip's life, was the apparent cause of his death, Raines said, "Any time you have an operation, the stronger has to take care of the weaker. My father passed away from a heart attack on the operating table." He opined that there was no reason for Phillip to feel guilt over Alan's death — "He's alive. Can you imagine the guilt I would have had if he had died?" — and was pleased that his last dialogue scene was with Buzz: "Buzz was the one who pushed me: 'You can do this, Alan. You can do this.' So he bucked me up; he was a contemporary, he's a guy that I have a history with, of much respect and then resentment. He put him up — remember when Alan lost everything, and he was staying upstairs at Company? So they were good buddies at that point.
"It was great soap the last three or four months," Raines continued. "When they told me the storyline, they weren't trying to kill me off if the show was going to run. 'Ron, if the show is picked up, we have a way to bring Alan back.' Of course; this is daytime." Regarding the fans, he added, "How do you say, 'Thank you' for all the years? Those words are about all I can say. They've been grieving. It's like losing three or four families in your life. It's a real heavy thing for them, and I'm aware of that. It's something I'm not sure I understand; I have never been in their position, but I know, through the years that I've been here, how incredibly real we are to them, and how opinionated they are about our characters. They know our characters better than we do." For now, he has another character, by the name of Frederik, to handle: "I'm going to be in Detroit in the middle to latter part of November, in Stephen Sondheim's A Little Night Music with Leslie Uggams, at the Michigan Opera Theatre. All of my Detroit fans [can] come see me." For more information on the musical, go to http://www.michiganopera.org/0910/nightmusic.html.
Before the luncheon, another musically inclined GL alum, Karla Mosley (ex-Christina), discussed her song choice at Bradley Cole's (ex-Jeffrey) Fifth Annual Rock Show, "Never Can Say Goodbye": "It was actually Bradley's idea. At first I was like, 'I don't want to do that; that's such a sad song,' and he was like, 'Trust me, I think it's going to be good.' It was fabulous; I loved singing it. I'm adding it to my repertoire."
Lawrence Saint-Victor (ex-Remy), who was Mosley's backup dancer, noted, "I was supposed to dance with E.J. [Bonilla; ex-Rafe], but he didn't show up. But the show must go on." Mosley said, "If Yvonna [Wright, ex-Mel] had been there, we would've dragged her up onstage. I wouldn't have gotten up there without my dancer." The actress said she was very pleased with how her storyline ended: "We talked about [how] we would've loved for [Remy and Christina] to have a baby. We were like, 'It's so perfect.' After all of their comedy of errors, they were finally starting to get it together." Saint-Victor added, "Especially with the baby Max stuff; we were going to name him Clayton the year before, so it's full circle."
On her upcoming Web series, VENICE, in which she plays Ani and co-stars with several daytimers, Jessica Leccia (ex-Natalia) said, "Everyone's well aware that it's going to be around Thanksgiving that it's going to launch. Crystal [Chappell (Gina; ex-Olivia, GL)] has been great about it; she's been really smart. People know that she does good work. I think people will like seeing familiar faces in very different roles; that will be cool for people to see." She was thrilled by the luncheon: "It was extra-special. There are people [for which GL] was a big part of their life." Regarding GL's wrap-up, Leccia said, "It was a very daunting task for the writers to figure out how everything was going to end, and they did a nice job of treating all the characters [well] and giving [viewers] an idea of what the direction was. People got to see what they'd always hoped, even though it was sad." She was delighted with Otalia's closure, noting that the finale featured "happily ever after, babies, children, real love and all that stuff; that was all there."
Robert Newman (ex-Josh), who had been working at both GL and his Sessions musical for months, experienced a particular form of closure when the soap ended, and detailed exactly when his life became easier: "On some emotional level, once we shot that last scene, I remember an overwhelming sense of relief, like it was a whole thing off my shoulders." On the luncheon, he noted, "It's like going to the Emmys; you see people you don't see very often."
One such attendee was Jennifer Roszell (ex-Eleni), who spoke with me about the luncheon at the next day's Daytime Stars and Strikes bowling event, beaming, "A lot of people listened to GUIDING LIGHT when they came to this country, to learn English. We had a Greek family come up and say that they watched the show because we were a Greek family, and that was really moving. We had a lady who [listened to] the first show and watched the last show. She was 89, I think. She needs to be honored; that is really special."
"To think that [the viewers] appreciate us because we are more down-to-earth and real than any other show is quite a compliment," said Kurt McKinney (ex-Matt), who believed the last scene should have been "Josh coming up the steps, Reva turning around, looking at him, boom! Their eyes connect — freeze frame. That to me would have been the end. But all things considered, I thought the ending was beautiful, and everybody had a tie-up."
Gina Tognoni (ex-Dinah) raved about the full-cast shot that was taken on the stage, "Loved that; that was a lot of fun. I was sitting next to Ron Raines, and it was really special. Great group of people." About the luncheon itself, she said, "It was absolutely awesome. I was pleased to see it was sold out. Also, to be able to talk with the fans and tell them how much you've appreciated their dedication over the years, and their acceptance of the good or bad, it was a nice opportunity to say thank you to them." She commented on the final week, "It was such a challenge to tell the perfect story, and I was pleased just to see so many pieces of history remembered. A lot of our favorites were on there — people that we haven't seen in years. It was a great tribute to our show." Tongoni agreed that the light that fell on Mallet and Dinah in their last scenes was beautiful: "I know! That was God. I love that our last scene was at a church — the Gina side of me likes that — and I thought it was very creative." She revealed what Mallet said to Dinah in their final scene, as the music played and he picked her up and threw her over his shoulder: "I believe he said something like, 'What do you say, one last time?' There was no dialogue, and I remember it was Rob [Bogue] improvising."
Onstage, Bogue told the audience, "They can't take away our experiences, and they can't take away the love that we feel for the cast, they can't take away the friendships that you guys have made, they can't take away our closeness to you and your loyalty toward us. That can't be taken away from us."
Cole called the finale "a tough order to fill for the writers: How do you do something like that? How do you wrap up a show? Try to please everybody. What they decided to do with Jeffrey was to leave a few of the ends untied so that people could wonder what the future would hold for Jeffrey, and what would be down the road." He chuckled about Jeffrey's inability to stop Edmund: "I thought Jeffrey was a better shot than that. There was a moment there where Jonathan, Edmund and Jeffrey were in a hail of bullets, and I just imagined them panning out and seeing a hundred bystanders falling down from bullets. Three of the worst shots in the history of guns." On Jeffrey's final rooftop moments, Cole noted, "The stunt scene I had to do, the roll around the rooftop with that guy, was pretty hairy, because there were no safety nets or anything. That was exhilarating. I think it's poetic that David [Andrew Macdonald, Edmund] and I were yelling at each other across rooftops. We came on the show together."
Tom Pelphrey (ex-Jonathan) was satisfied with the show's final days: "I liked the way they ended it; I thought it brought things to a nice close. They left it open, that something's going to happen down the road. You don't want to shake it up too much at the end. That's just mean," he laughed. He revealed his most challenging scene to be the one in which Reva (Kim Zimmer) gave Jonathan Cassie's home, and it happened to be the last one the actor taped. "I was telling everyone I hadn't been that nervous since my first day of work. I [was] crying like a baby. It was just a nice way to end it, to have my last scene be with Kim. [Casting director] Rob Decina was there, offcamera, to give me a hug."
Regarding whether viewers might follow him as Oakdale's Mick, Pelphrey said, "Some people said they would [jump onto AS THE WORLD TURNS]. It's interesting; it's fun what I'm doing. I've been filming there for three or four weeks already. [There are] good people there; it's really similar to this show. [Executive producer] Chris Goutman is a great guy; it's a good, tight ship." He had a few words to the GL fans: "Thank you for all your support. We hope you keep it coming in whatever form this thing takes."
During the cast introductions, after Raines (Should we call him "Ronye" now?) suddenly came out instead of him, Pelphrey corrected Frank Dicopoulos (ex-Frank) when the luncheon's host said, "That was almost a moment": "That was a moment, Frank. That was a moment."
The moments continued as Fiona Hutchison (ex-Jenna) staged a faux catfight over Buzz with Tina Sloan (ex-Lillian) onstage. Hutchison told me, "People are following me on Twitter, but the reason I haven't said a word yet is I have a story I want to tell, and when I'm ready to tell it, then I'll be on Twitter." (She's on as FiFi_Hutchison, but it looks like she hasn't tweeted yet; keep checking.)
Hutchison's former TV son, John Driscoll (ex-Coop; now YOUNG AND RESTLESS' Chance), was the last actor to leave the ballroom as his former show's final fan club luncheon reached its end. He spoke about GL's final episodes: "For me, being emotionally invested in it, it was great to see everyone having closure. It was good to see all those people working together again. For me, that's always Springfield; I'm never going to forget Springfield." That's a sentiment the hundreds of GL viewers who gathered at the luncheon would likely share.