By Mark Edward WIlows
Fan events, or the 'meet and greet,' are a mainstay in the world of daytime dramas and have been for years. The fans love the chance to get out and see their favorite stars, and the stars enjoy meeting the fans. Being able to get away from the sound stage and talk to the viewers in person is something the actors enjoy almost as much as the fans love meeting them.
Recently, cast members from Days of our Lives visited Chicago for a day of fun and excitement, and then headed to Atlanta for shall we say... a little 'Southern Hospitality.' On board were Chandler Massey (Will), Casey Deidrick (Chad), Blake Berris (Nick), and Jen Lilley (Theresa).
The events were coordinated by Elite Fan Events, which is run by Nicole Fields. Although a relative newcomer to the business, Fields put the events together with style and class. And since yours truly was the host in Chicago, I may add that everyone from the actors to the fans had a memorable day in Shytown.
It's great to be a fan
It began in the early morning and continued into the evening. Our venue, The Marriott O'Hare in Chicago, couldn't have been more perfect. Ranging in age from 20s to 70's, there were about 75 fans in attendance, about ten of who were men. Although outnumbered by the ladies, the guys, it seemed, were bigger fans! It was a nice crowd, but manageable enough for everyone to have a chance to spend quality time with their favorite star.
As the festivities kicked off, I introduced the actors one-by-one to great anticipation of the waiting fans. You could hear the ooo's and ahh's as each star was announced. After everyone settled in, the Q&A began.
Most questions were about the show and the stars' personal lives. Fans wanted to know how the actors liked their storyline and who they liked working with. Jen Lilley revealed she has a major crush on Shawn Christian (Dr. Dan). Massey and Deidrick disclosed that they are roommates. Massey joked that Diedrick is neater. They also talked about a CD they are in the process of producing. Proceeds from its sale will benefit cystic fibrosis. It is a labor of love that they are still working on. Berris shared that his new film, Meth Head, will be coming to major cities soon. As the actors were so hungry, they ate breakfast at the Q&A table, having bacon and eggs.
After the Q&A, a fabulous lunch was served at the hotel, and then on to an autograph session and auction. The day ended with a delicious dinner at Carlucci's Restaurant n Rosemont, IL where fans and stars were treated to a menu of chicken, roast pork, and tilapia. The meal was served with salad, white or red dinner wine, with cheesecake or tiramisu for dessert. Fans had the choice of participating in certain events, or getting a ticket for the full day of activities. Tickets prices depended upon what you chose.
The big idea and a little swag
Leave it to the ladies to be so inspired. The idea for a Days of Our Lives fan event came about between Fields and Days' star Jen Lilley. Fields is head of Lilley's fan club and the two got talking and before long, things were set in motion.
Lilley also helped with coordinating the event. "I enjoy the fans," she said. "Traveling and getting out to see everyone is great. This is about bringing actors and fans together. I'm so proud of the group I brought here."
But what's an event without some swag? Lilley arrived with a treasure trove of Days of our Lives memorabilia, available for purchase with a certain amount of proceeds going to Lilley's favorite charities. There were autographed scripts, mouse pads, a Days of our Lives goody bag, and photos galore.
A photo shoot was held prior to the event, which resulted in beautiful framed portraits of the cast in attendance. Each was an original and was auctioned off.
The highest bidder received one of the original portraits, autographed. But that's not all. They then got his/her picture taken with the stars recreating the same pose! There was also a silent auction where bidders bid on a private photo shoot with the stars. (Which was amazing – just like a real Hollywood shoot).
Where are you from?
Fans came from far and wide to meet their favorite Days of our Lives star. Johnny Kurtz traveled from Des Moines, IA, and said that he had the time of his life. "It was well worth it. I've heard about these events, but never went," Kurtz said. "When I saw this was pretty close, I thought why not? And Chandler, Blake, Casey, and Jen are my favorites. The actors were awesome in what they did. I also like the intimacy where there are not hundreds in line to see the star. Here you actually interact."
Kurtz along with Roxanne Michaud of New Brunswick, Canada were the highest bidders in the silent auction and won the private photo session. "The photo session was the best thing I ever experienced, " Michaud said. "To be able to get your photo taken with the best actors was a chance of a lifetime. I will now have these photos to cherish."
Michaud said that when she first saw the stars in person she couldn't say two words, but once she started talking to them she realized they are down to earth people like everyone else. "They were beyond amazing. I must say...this Canadian lady is very happy."
Happy Birthday to you!
The lunch was delicious and extra special because it was also a surprise birthday party for Blake Berris -- complete with a carrot cake and of course, singing Happy Birthday to the birthday boy. There wre no gifts exchanged, but Berris' fellow actors gave him cards and each received a Chicago shot glass.
Although, at times Berris seemed a bit taken aback and amazed, he really had a good time. "I thank everyone for coming. You should not of done this," he said in regard to his birthday celebration. "This is a moment I will remember. Again! Thanks."
Berris also added that seeing the fans and everyone having fun is what it's all about, and it made his visit worthwhile.
A great time was had by all
Mary Ann Voltra of Burr Ridge, IL, agrees. "I had a ball. Oh my God, Jen is gorgeous! All the actors are beautiful on TV, but I think in person they are even better looking," she said. "When Chandler Massey walked in, it was like he could be everyone's son. I admire them all. Casey is so tall, and Blake looks like a character," she said laughing.
The actors were very gracious. After lunch, each actor left their respective table and sat with the fans taking turns at the other tables. Each chatted, took, pictures, and were very candid on their personal lives. Some star entertainment was watching Jen Lilley balance a spoon on her nose, and to the amazement of Chandler Massey, who couldn't do it, he jokingly replied, "Must be your nose."
My kind of town
As the fan event wound down in Chicago, me being the host and a native Chicagoan, I took the stars on a whirlwind tour of Chicago nightlife. We saw the fireworks from the Navy Pier and went to The Bean at Millennium Park. Our limo drove us down Michigan Avenue, we walked by Lake Michigan, stopped for photos with a some fans who recognized us, and went to Rocket Ranch Productions Bar and Grill in downtown Chicago. Massey danced with a few ladies – lucky girls -- and when the actors used the rest room at Rocket Ranch, they were stopped by fans for pictures, which of course...they graciously accommodated. Deidrick also invited some friends from his hometown in Colorado that now live in Chicago and they had a good time catching up. We made it a full night.
At the end of the evening it was hugs and goodbyes, and the actors learned that I have nine cats. That's right! And Deidrick, Massey and Berris never let me hear the end of it.
Upon dropping them at their hotel, I thought to myself, boy I spent an evening with some of daytime's TV's hottest stars, something that most people would dream of. Its times like this I love my job.
Onward to Atlanta
But the stars still had to board a plane for their next destination and do the whole thing over again!
The next day in Atlanta, Soapdom learned that the setting was pretty much the same. People also came from far and wide to see their favorite stars and a good time was had by all. In the coincidence department, there were two people who travelled all the way from Germany to Atlanta for the event that did not even know each other beforehand.
"I went to the event to see Chandler, Blake, Casey, and our beloved Jen," said Anja Aretz of Germany. "It was wonderful. I met all kinds of people and new friends as well. I love the "Wilson" story line, aka Will and Sonny. Chandler was such a sweetheart. My heart was pounding. I was nervous, and he loved my gingerbread heart from Germany. And I must add that Casey was so wonderful and funny."
The Atlanta event was very special and bittersweet because two fan favorites, Chandler Massey and Casey Deidrick, appeared together for Days of our Lives for the last time as both actors are leaving the show.
"You know...I love Days, but it just was time to move on," Deidrick said. "For me personally it's about being able to grow as an actor. That's what it's all about."
And for two-time Emmy Award winner, Massey, he plans on going back to school to earn his college degree. This is something very important to him. "I look forward to it. Education is an important part of my life. I still believe I can fit in with the bit younger crowd," he jokingly said. (He's 23). He will also be focusing on options with his acting career and plans on broadening his horizons, and is open to new possibilities. With his many talents, versatility, and accolades, Soapdom believes he'll land on his feet sooner than later with a new acting gig.
More fan events planned
We asked Nicole Fields why she thinks these fan events are so special. "I believe it's the coming together, " she told Soapdom. "We all watch these people everyday and they are a part of our lives. To see them out and about and to be able to talk to them is a dream come true."
Far as her part in coordinating the weekend, Fields noted, "I really enjoyed putting this together. It really is fun. It takes many weeks and hours of preparation and arranging, but in the long run, it is well worth it."
Fields also noted that several more fan events in other cities are planned for next Spring. To find out more on upcoming events:
Elite Fan Events
|< Prev||Next >|