Soap Opera Digest editor Lauren Flynn event-hopped for the action-packed annual OLTL Fan Club weekend and shares the behind-the-scenes details.Friday, August 14
3 p.m. — After my OLTL recap for soapoperadigest.com, I slip out of the office to catch the second half of Hillary B. Smith‘s (Nora) luncheon at Playwright Tavern. Smith takes a break from entertaining the fans to gab with me at her table and immediately wants to know what I thought of the Bo and Nora kiss, which seems to be the main topic of conversation among the fans. “They all want Bo and Nora together; they don’t care how it happens,” she reveals. A slice of ridiculously rich, chocolate-mousse cake arrives, which Smith promptly slides over to me, saying, “I have an Emmy dress to fit into!” I slide it back, reminding her, “I have a wedding dress to fit into!” She offers a compromise: “Okay, we’ll split it.”
Saturday, August 15
10:30 a.m. — The longest day begins with a walk from Port Authority to the waterfront at Pier 81. I spot OLTL publicist Lauri Hogan‘s leopard-print dress and signature red lips right away, and we head to The Dutchess.
11 a.m. — Stars are trickling in to the dining room, while fans are lining up outside to board the yacht. Scott Clifton (Schuyler) shares a few iPhone pics of his adorable new kittens, brothers he named Desmond and Sawyer. “I’m a huge LOST fan,” he geeks out. “It’s the greatest achievement in television ever and my cats will be the greatest achievement in felininity forever — I just made up that word for Soap Opera Digest.” It’s only fair that I show him a picture of my kitten, Daisy, who happens to be a white calico, too, and could easily be their long-LOST sister!
11:30 a.m. — Scott and I join Crystal Hunt (Stacy) for breakfast. I ask Crystal if she was stoned by any Stacy haters on her way in, and she jokes that some friends suggested she wear armor to the event. “Could you imagine me walking in armor?” she laughs. Um, no. More actors arrive but there’s no motion on the boat … yet.
12 p.m. — I visit the “kids’ table,” where Shenell Edmonds (Destiny), Jack Rovello (Justin), Austin Williams (Shane) and Carmen LoPorto (Jack) are eager to talk to the press. I ask Edmonds what has been her favorite part of playing Destiny so far, and she laughs, “Pouring the water on Justin. I could tell the water was cold, too, ’cause there was a chunk of ice in there. But it was fun.” When I ask what working with Eddie Alderson (Matthew) is like, she cracks, “He’s like the hilarious cousin that you only see once a year.” Who knew? When I finally get to LoPorto, I have to admit, I’m a little starstruck. Can that kid hold his own with Trevor St. John (Todd) or what? “He gives me great ideas,” remarks LoPorto. “He told me to act like a bad boy and stuff like that, like to not be afraid to talk to him like that. If I talked like that to my real parents I’d get grounded!”
12:30 p.m. — Before I whip out the video camera to record this momentous occasion, I ask Lauri Hogan to introduce me to Sean Ringgold (Shaun), who I’ve only chatted with on the phone. When he extends a hand for me to shake, I blurt out, “That is the biggest hand I’ve ever seen … or touched!” (No, really, it was the size of my head). We talk a little story, he expresses his gratitude to the fans for helping him stay on OLTL, and I am shocked to hear that with all his recent story, he’s still on recurring. Someone give this guy a contract ASAP! If the fan response at his third luncheon is any indication, Ringgold is a star viewers want to see more of.
1 p.m. — The fans have boarded and this ship is ready to set sail. Once everyone is seated downstairs and the actors have been fed, Stage Manager Alan Needleman introduces each star to the crowd. Jerry verDorn (Clint) reads a letter to the fans from Executive Producer Frank Valentini, who encourages the fans to not be shy about expressing what they like and don’t like on the show. Afterward, the stars are free to mingle with the fans. I take that as my cue to head up to the deck for some air (it’s getting a little choppy with everyone running around).
1:30 p.m. — We’re cruising now, and an announcement is made that for “safety reasons,” the fans must return to their seats. “The stars will come to you!” Needleman shouts. I go downstairs to see if anyone’s listening. Not so much.
2 p.m. — Soap Opera Weekly editor Gabby Winkel and Soaps In Depth‘s Kambra Clifford join me for coffee and cake (yes, again) on the upper deck, with surprise guest Michael Lowry (Ross). Since he hasn’t start airing yet, he’s not being bombarded with fans, but when one lovely lady tracks him down and asks for a photo, he retreats to the downstairs to mingle.
3 p.m. — We’re starting to get a little pink and the boat is circling the dock. Looks like it’s time to pack up and head out. Back in the VIP dining area, the stars are taking a load off. Having survived her first fan club luncheon, Crystal Hunt has kicked off her Christian Louboutins and has got her little feet up.
7 p.m. — After a midday rest to feed the cats, I head back to midtown for what is possibly the coolest thing I’ll do all year: Catherine Hickland‘s (ex-Lindsay) “Mind Journey” at New World Stages. I’ve heard about her hypnosis act for a while now, but this is the first time I’ll see it firsthand. I contemplate volunteering to be one of her hypnosis subjects, but the stage fills up fast. Hickland kicks it off by doing a little test to see who will be her “superstars,” and finds at least three people who are clearly going to respond well to her hypnotic suggestions. She puts everybody under, and suggests to one guy that each time Irish music plays, on the count of three, he will jump up and channel his inner Michael Flatley from Lord of the Dance. Holy crap, it works! A few minutes later, this guy is step-dancing like it’s his job. Another girl is told to imagine she’s Christina Aguilera, and when “Lady Marmalade” comes over the stereo, she pops up and does a split! This is no joke. Hickland then gets every guy in the lineup to literally fall asleep while she waltzes with them, and one guy even thinks he’s in love with her. Smart gal.
8:30 p.m. — The show is over already and my face is tear-stained from laughing. While waiting to say hi to Hickland, I meet John Campbell, the Irish Step Dancer, who swears he’s never done step-dancing in his life and that he saw Lord of the Dance once, you know, “when everyone was into it in the ’90s.” (You can see the video here.) The Christina Aguilera dancer claims, “I’m actually quite shy!” I pick up a “Stop Smoking Now” hypnosis CD for my fianc&eecute; and finally catch Hickland, who gives me a tight hug and thanks me for coming. I thank her, telling her this has been the most fun I’ve had in a long time.
Sunday, August 16
2 p.m. — There’s only one other event I’m committed to, and that’s Robin Strasser‘s (Dorian) auction at Housing Works on the Upper East Side. Strasser, who is suffering a stress fracture and is a little too claustrophobic to get on a boat, has planned this event at the last minute to get her fans together and raise money for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. When I arrive, the actress is captivating a group of fans gathered around a sofa and is telling stories about various items she cleared out of her house. While auctioning off a few scripts, she inadvertently drops a story spoiler (which I won’t repeat) and has everyone in stitches when she realizes what she’s done. Afterward, I look through some of her old baubles and clothes and she offers me a beautiful frame just for showing my support. I promise to use it at my wedding reception, pick up a vase as well, and head back to Brooklyn to put my feet up. It was a whirlwind weekend, but I survived!