Stars Shine for Fans at Aids Benefit
For the past four years I’ve come to NYC from Massachusetts to participate in the Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS Flea Market. I’ve been a fan of the theatre since I was four and I’ve been watching Daytime TV dramas since I was ten. Why would I mention that bit of trivia? The BCEFA Flea Market is a host to stars from both venues -- theatre and Daytime TV. (Pictured at left: Matthew Morrison of Broadway's Hairspray and Eileen Fulton, Lisa on ATWT)
This year, the 17th Annual BCEFA event was held Sunday, September 21, 2003 in the Shubert Alley of New York City. Upwards of $512,000 was collected. It was by far the most successful year. For a fee of $50, a fan was able to schmooze with theatre legends such as Nathan Lane, BeBe Neuwirth, Chita Rivera, Bernadette Peters and Harvey Fierstein alongside Daytime TV favorites Martha Byrne, (Lily/Rose ATWT), Robert Newman, (Josh GL), Rebecca Budig, Jill Larson, Marc Menard and James Mitchell (Greenlee, Opal, Boyd and Palmer AMC) and former ‘Days of our Lives’ star Charles Shaughnessey (Shane), who was there doing double duty representing both Daytime and Broadway! He is now appearing on Broadway in Urinetown – The Musical.
Fans were also able to have their photo taken with their favorite actor in the ‘photo booth’ for a $10 fee. Spectators and fans were able to walk through the Shubert Alley area and see booths from most Broadway and Off-Broadway shows selling items ranging from a roll of toilet paper from ‘Urinetown-the Musical’ to calendars from the BCEFA Broadway Bares Event.
But the real money was made at the afternoon’s Grand Auction where a walk-on part on ‘Friends’ brought in a bid of $30,000. Other auction items included a trip to LA to meet Reba McEntire on the set of her hit sitcom, a chance to meet Melanie Griffith from the Broadway show ‘Chicago’ along with two VIP house seats and dinner for two, tickets for the shows ‘Take Me Out’, ‘The Producers’, ‘42nd Street’, a chance to meet and greet the cast of ‘Alias’ with a lunch with Victor Garber and my favorite, a day with the ‘Phantom of the Opera’.
People from all walks of life attend and participate at these events. Rosie O’Donnell was in attendance this year at the booth for the upcoming Broadway play, “Taboo.” I personally got make-up advice from two of the drag queens that were enjoying the event!
For 11 years now, Thom Christopher (Col Dax GL, Carlo Hesser OLTL), pictured here with OLTL's Patricia Elliot (Rene)has overseen the ‘Celebrity Table’. This is the area that allows fans to meet and get the autographs from their favorite Daytime TV and Broadway actors. This is where I stood in line with hundreds of enthusiastic, but tired, fans from 10:30 – 4:00. While it sounds so cool to be able to get the chance to talk to your favorite actors, it is not for the ‘weak of feet’. It is a long, long day but somehow Thom makes it fun and exciting with the wonderful actors who volunteer their time to talk to us.
Even when we are waiting in line there is always something going on and last minute surprises, like ‘Days of our Lives’ fan favorite Charles Shaughnessey (Shane) who is now appearing on Broadway in “Urinetown-the Musical.” Believe it or not our sweet Shane is playing the nasty villain Caldwell B. Cladwell. How many of his fans knew that he could sing and dance when he was on Days? I must say that I was surprised. I also have to say that Charles was a HUGE hit with the fans, both by vocal recognition and appearances in the photo booth. He generated as many screams as popular Broadway actors Chita Rivera, Bernadette Peters, Harvey Fierstein and Nathan Lane.
I have to admit that all the time that I was preparing to attend this event, I was most excited to meet Nathan Lane. Who would have thought that he would be a very quiet man? He seemed genuinely humbled by our compliments and affection.
My favorite encounters though were with Daytime TV actors Eileen Fulton (Lisa ATWT), Jill Larson and James Mitchell (Opal and Palmer, AMC) Ilene Kristen (Roxy, OLTL) and the sweetest man I’ve ever met, Thom Christopher. I really do believe that it’s his kind spirit that prompts the actors to give their precious time for the celebrity table. One other thing that really impressed me was the way the actors inter-related. Patricia Elliott (Renee, OLTL) was so happy to see her former co-star, but BeBe Neuwirth was taken with Thom as well. Of course, I instigated that just a little. I did not realize that Thom had safari shorts on and I commented on them. He in turn said ‘but I have nice legs’ right when he was near former Chicago cast member BeBe Neuwirth. They continued to compare legs and butts. I may be biased, but Thom’s legs were nicer while BeBe insisted she had the better butt. Also visiting with fans was AMC's Marc Menard (Boyd), pictured above.
Anyone who is familiar with Eileen Fulton’s character on ATWT knows that ‘Lisa’ is a flirt. Is it any wonder that Eileen just adored posing with Broadway star Matthew Morrison from Hairspray? After the photo, Eileen gushed ‘That was FUN!’ I just love Matthew’s hair and he is soooo very patient with me since I HAVE to touch it every time I see him.
Some Daytime-TV actors seem so very much like their characters when you talk to them. James Mitchell (Palmer) is so very witty but he always seems to keep an eye on Jill Larson (Opal). And check out Ilene Kristen (Roxy OLTL) in this photo! All I can say is that woman loves to party on stage -- and off. But just don’t ask her to be a bartender. Ilene adamantly told me that she is the world’s worse bartender but she is always asked to be a celebrity bartender at charity events. So I guess in that regard she is very unlike Roxy. Another Daytime TV actor that had the women gasping for breath was All My Children newcomer Mark Menard (Boyd). While waiting in line to meet him, so many of us thought he resembled a young Harry Hamlin.
Lastly, the actor reaction that really stayed with me comes from Andre DeShields (Rev Dansby, ATWT) who had a recurring role on ‘As The World Turns’ a few years ago. I met Mr. DeShields last year while he was appearing in ‘The Full Monty’ and when I came up to the celebrity table I greeted him with ‘Hi Horse’. (His character from ‘The Full Monty’) He looked up, smiled and said ‘Busted!’
Five hours later with countless autographs and amusing conversations with some of the most interesting people in the world to remember, now it’s time to limp home knowing that next September I’ll need to be ready for the 18th Annual BCEFA Flea Market. And I think that BeBe Neuwirth, pictured above with Thom Christopher, summed it up for all of us, we were ALL here helping a GREAT cause.
The Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS is the nation’s largest industry-based, non-profit AIDS fundraising and grant-making organization. It provides services for people with AIDS, HIV or HIV related illnesses. But when BCEFA has a fundraising activity the emphasis is really on FUN!
Photos: Phyllis A. Tremblay for Soapdom,Inc.
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