Soap Stars Shine on Broadway for Great Cause

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Actors from all ranks help out Broadway Cares/Equity Fights Aids

Soap and Stage Celebs Come Out for the 18th Annual Broadway Flea Market and Grand Auction

Photo Gallery

It may have been New York City but with the fierce winds and cold temperature it felt more like the windy city, Chicago.  On September 19, Broadway Cares/ Equity Fights Aids , (BC/EFA), ran their 18th Annual Broadway Flea Market and Grand Auction in the Shubert Alley section of Midtown Manhattan.  Every year fans from all walks of life make the pilgrimage to the little area off Times Square for this wonderful event. BC/EFA is the nation’s leading industry-based, nonprofit AIDS fund raising organization.  They have donated over $85 million to pay for critically needed services for people with AIDS, HIV or HIV-related illnesses. 

This year, at the Celebrity Table alone, over 80 actors shared part of their day with the fans.  The daytime TV community was represented by 18 actors who seemed to enjoy meeting the legends of theatre right along with us.  Fans got to meet and schmooze with theatre greats Bernadette Peters, Brian Stokes Mitchell, Bebe Neuwirth (who will star in the mid-season prime time series -- and the most recent addition to the Law & Order franchise -- Law & Order: Trial by Jury to air in early 2005) and Andrea McCardle just to name a few of the crowd pleasers.  Seated amongst then were OLTL’s Kathy Brier, (Marcie) and Nathaniel Marston, (Michael), GL’s Marj Dusay, (Alex), ATWT’s Mark Collier, (Mike) and AMC’s Eden Riegel, (Bianca).  And if that is not enough to warm the undecided, fans were also given the opportunity to meet Richard Thomas, yes, John Boy from the Waltons, Peter Scolari, formerly from Bosom Buddies and 60’s singing sensations Lesley Gore and 98 Degrees Drew Lachey.

So, for the 5th consecutive year, I staked out my position in line for the Celebrity Table.  The rules for the Celebrity Table line were changed this year.  In the past, we were able to pay a one-time fee of $60 that enabled us to go through the line as many times as we needed to get our photos and autographs.  This year, the fans had to pay $20 for each time going through the line to the Celebrity Table.  While some photographers took photos of the empty line area and a table of celebrities with no fans, I just tried to keep warm.  The list of actors at the table would change every hour and the fans would go through the line to the table when most of their favorites were present.  To be perfectly honest, I can see trying to control the line in order to give everyone a chance to meet their favorites but the rules should have been modified when they saw such an empty space.  Last year the Celebrity Table brought in over $12,000.  I don’t think that it was as successful this year.

While in line, you can really strike up some interesting conversations with the fans.  For instance, there was the young Afro American man behind us named Marcus.  He was so entertaining and he wasn’t even trying to be.  Marcus is a huge Guiding Light fan and he really wanted to meet Scott Bailey who plays Sandy.  When they announced that Scott was going to the photo booth, he froze with trepidation.  Finally, with a lot of coaxing, he went up to have his photo taken with Scott.  He said it was all worth it.  We have the photo to prove it.  Behind me was Rondi from a town not too far from my city of Salem, Massachusetts.  She is a big ABC fan and she had the photos to prove it.  She had her digital Nikon in hand as was showing me photos from the All My Children luncheon and she was just a wealth of information about upcoming events. But, if you think that everyone in line was there to see the Daytime TV actors, you are sadly mistaken.  There was this retired woman Mary, from the Bronx who felt that they only actor is a stage actor.  She went on to say just how television programming has suffered by showing daytime dramas.  “It just ruins everything” she told me. 

It was fascinating to see how many of the actors that we see in our homes every day have traveled from Daytime to Theatre or vice versa.  How many fans are aware that the young and talented Kristen Aldersen, (Starr) on OLTL played Molly in the Broadway production of Annie?  Diehard Another World fans got a chance to meet Kaitlyn Hopkins who played Dr. Kelsey Harrison from 1992-1994.  She is now in rehearsals for the play ‘Bare.’ I didn’t get a chance to ask her if she is indeed bare in the show, but actors John Hill and Michael Arden, who are also in rehearsal for the show, imparted information on who is bare and who is not.  “You’ll just have to see to the show to find out just now bare.”

Several of the daytime actors that attended the Flea Market today have very busy schedules.  No one is busier than Kathy Brier (Marcie, OLTL).  She was starring on Broadway in Hairspray while she and Nathaniel Marston were sharing a front burner storyline on OLTL.  Even now, Kathy was in rehearsals for the one night celebrity-filled performance on Hair that was held on September 20.  She is truly remarkable.  Tonja Pinkins (Olivia, AMC) also pulled double-duty when she appeared in the title role in Caroline or Change.  She even performed at the Tony Awards.  Matt Cavanaugh who plays Mark, one of the Love Crew kids on OLTL, was recently in an off-Broadway production and appeared in the original Broadway Production of Urban Cowboy.  And we thought that all he could do was dance!  Wrong!

As cold as it was to wait in line to get a glimpse of our favorites, Bernadette Peters, Brian Stokes Mitchell, Tom Hewitt and even Broadway newcomer Drew Lachey warmed our hearts.  When the fans had their posters or books signed, these people asked our names and made sure that our autographs were personalized.  That meant so much to me.  I was also thrilled to see Katherine Helmond, from Soap and Who’s the Boss fame at the event.  She is so tiny and so precious.   Who would have imagined that Richard Thomas of the Waltons would make an unannounced visit to the Celebrity Table.  He is now appearing in the Broadway production of Democracy.  My favorite Bosom Buddy, Peter Scolari is now appearing in Hairspray.  But while we may have started our conversation with that fact, we were more excited to find out that we are both Virgos. 

While the Celebrity Table thing is going on, every once in a while an actor is taken from the table to appear in the Photo Booth.  For $10, just like Marcus did, a fan can have their photo taken (with either their camera or the Polaroid camera) with the actor of their choice.  Sometimes, if you are lucky, you can take photos of the actors between shots.  While Bernadette Peters may have been the biggest Photo Booth draw, our Daytime TV favorites fared pretty well.  You can see for yourself in the photo gallery.

While standing in line waiting to see your favorite actors, you are bound to miss a few sightings.  It seems that Boston’s own, Joey McIntyre, formerly of New Kids on the Block and now appearing on Broadway in Wicked was at the Wicked booth in full Red Sox attire.  The Red Sox were in town to play the New York Yankees and while you can take the kid out of Boston, you can’t take Boston out of the kid.  Oh well, we did get to meet Drew Lachey from 98 Degrees and we got to schmooze with Dan Gauthier (Kevin), Jay Wilkison (Riley), Kathy Brier (Marcie), Nathaniel Marston (Michael) and Matt Cavanaugh (Mark) from OLTL and fan favorites Mark Collier (Mike) and Bailey Chase (Chris) from As The World Turns.  It was wonderful to see Bobbie Eakes (Krystal, AMC) again.  I had met her several years ago in LA and she was amazed that I knew that she was a former Miss Georgia.  I also got to meet Jeff Branson, (Jonathan, AMC). ABC and CBS were very well represented at this event.  I only wish that the true theatre fan would realize just how talented our Daytime TV actors need to be to appear on a show every day with new scripts every day. 

It also seems that the daytime actors are much more appreciative of the fans.  They realize that without us, the show might just not go on.  While rudeness exists in all walks of life, it should be left home if you are doing a public appearance.  I know that everyone is different but even after a week; this encounter is still fresh in my mind.  After Michael McKean, (Lenny) from Laverne and Shirley and now in the Harvey Fierstein part on Broadway in Hairspray, signed my poster, I asked him what it said.  I told him that I couldn’t read it.  He answered “that’s your problem?”  I told him that I frame the poster every year and it’s a center of conversation in my living room.  Again he said, “that’s your problem.”  If that wasn’t enough he went on to say that I must write in block letters or something.  I said yes, that people need to read my writing and he said, “that’s boring.”  He just would not let up. 

But hey, not everyone who gives of their time for this great cause is a jerk.  However, if anyone plans on getting this man’s autograph, just note that you will not be able to read it and maybe you should just forget the whole thing.  While that encounter was memorable for a bad reason, there was Tom Hewitt, now appearing in Dracula but formerly Frank n Furter from Rocky Horror Show.  I told him that I had the misfortune of having 3rd row seats for the show and it got cancelled before I got a chance to see him.  He just got up and started singing Sweet Transvestite for me.  Then he informed me that he was wearing fishnets under his pants.  He not only thrilled me but he thrilled many of the fans in line.  Now that’s a STAR. Another quotable quote was from John Tartarglia from the Tony Winning show Avenue Q.  I was upset that it was so cold that I could not show my cleavage.  I had a nice top and it was hidden.  While I was covering up John said that it really didn’t matter at a BC/EFA event.  “No need for cleavage here, we won’t notice!!!”  I guess that with all the beautiful drag queens that were attending the event no one WOULD notice me.  Oh well.

The BC/EFA Flea Market is run solely by volunteers.  This year, I really feel that the volunteers went beyond the call.  Poor Keith, an interior designer who was posted as the security sentry at the Celebrity Table all day, was so cold.  After 4 times in line, I felt like we were long lost friends.  I was lucky enough to stand in line in the sun for a while and gave him the longest hug I could to warm him up. 

Actually, I think that the chilly temperature and strong winds may have contributed to the smaller amount collected for this event.  While $419,464 is a wonderful total, it pales to the $512,000 collected last year.  I think that people just didn’t want to hang around for the Live Auction or were just too cold to reach into their wallets.  The good news is that the money collected will be going to the many patients and families that need it.  AIDS is a horrible killer.  Not only does it kill people, it damages the families as well.  I especially like the BC/EFA mission statement.  The Mission of BC/EFA is to mobilize the unique abilities within the entertainment industry to mitigate the suffering of individuals affected by HIV/AIDS.  While fans may have been attending this event to meet the stars, we also made lives better for many families thanks to BC/EFA.  Not a bad thing at all.

Related Features     Broadway Cares/Equity Fights Aids 2003