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Highlights from Super Soap and Fan Fest Weekend

All I can say is WOW! What a soaps extravaganza last weekend, November 11,12, 2000 at Disney/MGM Studios and Universal's Islands of Adventure! In fact, I have to say it again. WOW! Soap stars galore. Thousands of happy, if exhausted, ardent soap fans. Lot's of fun, music, amazing theme parks, the world's largest bar of soap, and even Susan Lucci debuting her torch song "It's Alright with Me," from All My Children's Libidozone episode of Monday, November 13, 2000. "Erica Kane lost all her inhibitions and the first thing she did is jump up on the piano and sing," revealed Lucci. "And Erica never sang in public before!" Lucci finished to a wild round of applause to which she commented, "Thank you very much, but remember that when you see Erica sing it, she will be on Libidizone, so it will be a different performance!" Susan sang a total of three songs for her fans, all during the final street party Sunday night at Disney/MGM. But what happened before that? Let's rewind the tape and start at the beginning.

I flew down to Orlando with half of the west coast contingent of ABC Daytime including a number of ABC, Disney and SoapNet executives and stars A Martinez (Roy, GH), Nancy Lee Grahn (Alexis, GH), Thorsten Kaye (Ian, PC), Wally Kurth (Ned, GH), Jon Lindstrom (Kevin, PC), Becky Herbst (Liz, GH), and Michael Saucedo (Juan, GH). The funny part of it was at the boarding gate, I only recognized A Martinez and Nancy Lee Grahn. Everyone else looked just like everyone else, or rather, just like regular folks getting ready to board a plane, and not like celebrities. It wasn't until we were on board that I realized all these other stars were on board, too! LOL It crossed my mind to chat with them about the upcoming SSW festivities, but then thought against it, allowing them their private time with friends and family before they had to be "on" for their fans at Disney/MGM.

TRO's accommodations were arranged by NBC and I stayed at the Radisson Hotel near Universal's Islands of Adventure. However, there was some snafu with my press credentials for FanFest. As of my leaving for Orlando they had not yet arrived, relegating me to securing them at the theme park first thing Saturday morning.

First up at FanFest was the unveiling of the World's Largest Bar of Soap! McKenzie Westmore (Sheridan, Passions) and Nadia Bjorlin (Chloe, DOOL) were on hand to assist in the unveiling and even performed for fans. It really did look just like a Dove Bar, and you could smell that 99.9% pure cleansing cream from yards away. It occupied a place of honor at the foot of Island's of Adventure's Port of Entry all weekend. Both Nadia and McKenzie were wonderful performing in song.

ABC's Talk Show with host Catherine Hickland (Lindsay, OLTL) and stars from All My Children.
Photo credit: Linda Marshall-Smith (c) 2000 turtle-run.com
Meantime, over at Disney/MGM, the first SuperSoap motorcade of the weekend was getting underway and featured All My Children stars, Cameron Mathison (Ryan), Esta Terblanche (Gillian) and Michael E. Knight (Tad). Interestingly, these three were pretty much paired together all weekend. Probably as it should be as they seem to share a true camaraderie off screen.

Back at Universal Island's of Adventure, stars were at their designated areas signing autographs for fans of Days of Our Lives and Passions. Lines were long and wrapped around stanchions several times. It was interesting to see so many guys in line for Days of Our Lives stars' autographs. Many had been watching DOOL for years! Who says real men dont watch soaps? Stars were shielded from the hot Orlando sun, but the poor fans were waiting in long lines in the heat for what could be hours.

Is that an ad for GQ, or A Martinez getting ready to greet his fans?
Photo credit: Linda Marshall-Smith (c) 2000 turtle-run.com
The same thing was happening at Disney/MGM, although I noticed that it was appreciably> cooler at Disney. I met up with several fans of A Martinez (Roy, GH) who had waited on line for over two hours to be near the first to meet him. I thought that these two women were friends and had come to SSW together, as that was how comfortable they were with each other. Wrong. They had only just met on line! One had been coming to SSW from the beginning and commented that ABC should not publicize the event so much as now too many people were coming and the lines were way too long! Fans brought with them an array of things for the stars to sign -- books, photos taken from previous events, scripts, t-shirts, and more.

Although neither theme park will discuss specific attendance figures, so many soap fans visited Disney/MGM on Saturday that they had to close the park in the early afternoon and not allow any other visitors! This was a first for Super Soap Weekend. According to park security, Islands of Adventure clocked 5,000 guests the first hour of operation on Saturday morning, and their totals for the weekend far exceeded the numbers from the same weekend last year. The weekend was a definite success from both theme parks' point of view!

I could go into long, boring detail about every actor who signed autographs and give you a play-by-play, minute-by-minute description of each days events at both parks. But that would make this column scroll forever. LOL. Instead I'll share some of the highlights, special moments, and my own personal observations and favorite things. For example-

  • On the spur of the moment, Kevin Spirtas and Patrika Darbo (Craig and Nancy, DOOL) were called upon to perform an impromptu version of a Broadway duet that they have performed together in the past. Kevin hesitated at first, but Patrika's enthusiasm soon won him over and the two broke out in song. They giggled the entire way through it, and only sang one verse, but if it was any indication of the event they sponsor called "The Wesley's on Broadway" that is part of the annual DOOL Fan Club festivities, I'd say you can't miss it next year.
  • Michael E. Knight (Tad, AMC) offered to pay $20.00 to the lucky fan who had sunscreen and would give it to him. Sure enough, a fan came forward with some Sea & Ski. He whipped it out (his wallet, that is!), handed her a twenty, and then had her apply sunscreen to his face! The crowd went wild. At a later autograph-signing session, he had each fan kiss his white shirt, and strutted around covered in red and pink lipstick marks! Again to the thrill of his fans.
  • Galen Gering (Luis, Passions) and then later Rodney Van Johnson (TC, Passions) and Tracey Ross (Eve, Passions) had the most comfy location for signing autographs - the store at Universal's Islands of Adventure Port of Entry. They were really out of the sun, and then fans could go right into the store and purchase Passions and DOOL products!
  • Seeing double? NBC's FanFest Talk Show with stars from Passions.
    Photo credit: Linda Marshall-Smith (c) 2000 turtle-run.com
  • The Talk Shows at both events were my absolutely favorite part of the weekend. Access Hollywood'sNancy O'Dell was the hostess with the mostest at FanFest. She was having so much fun teasing the actors! Catherine Hickland (Lindsay, OLTL) hosted 13 out of 14 Talk Shows for ABC's SuperSoap along with performing with her singing group Saturday night at the street party. Poor Catherine was totally exhausted by Sunday night! Kelly Ripa (Hayley, AMC) hosted one ABC Talk Show, and it was dedicated to guest of honor, Susan Lucci (who needs no introduction as Erica, AMC)! ABC's Talk Shows will be featured all or in part on SoapNet in the near future, and Access Hollywood will have a special FanFest broadcast sometime soon! Check your local listings.
  • Universal's Islands of Adventure was a breeze to navigate. The circular design of the park made it easy to get around and even easier to find the stars you were looking for! Disney/MGM was more confusing. Even being there on and off for both days, there were still some areas of the park, and therefore some actors' autograph lines, that I never got to cover.
  • Sarah Brown (Carly, GH) is a definite fan favorite. Her autograph lines were huge. On Sunday, she was not feeling very well, but the trooper that she is, she stayed until all her visitors had gotten their photos and autographs. One teenage boy got kissed by "Carly," and the poor kid was in a daze afterward. Meeting Sarah and then getting that kiss was almost too exciting for him! It was all he could do to stare blankly ahead. After Sarah left her podium, another young teen, a girl this time, climbed up on the podium and posed like a soap star behind Sarah Brown's name placard as her parents snapped a photo!
  • Both theme parks arranged for the media to secure one-on-one interviews with the stars at various times throughout the day. ABC Daytime and Disney were smart and had interview sessions set up for both days. NBC and Universal designated Saturday as the only day for interviews. Stay tuned to Turtle Run's Top of the Week next week for comments from the actors!
  • Galen Gering (Luis, Passions) takes a break between signing autographs.
    Photo credit: Linda Marshall-Smith (c) 2000 turtle-run.com

  • At Disney/MGM each star had his or her own autograph line. At Islands of Adventure, stars were grouped together. One of my favorite groupings was Passions' Ben Masters (Julian, who sends his love to everyone at Turtle Run. Right back at you, Ben!), and DOOL's Joseph Mascolo (Stefano). Some of the NBC tables consisted of 3 or 4 stars, which made it easy for fans to get a bunch of autographs by standing on one line.
  • As this was the 5th Annual SuperSoap Weekend, ABC and Disney/MGM offered a wide variety of activities for fans including the autograph lines, the 14 Talk Shows, 12 Game shows hosted by Walt Willey (Jackson, AMC), the motorcades and outdoor Q&A sessions, and the Street Parties both nights. NBC's FanFest didn't have quite as much activity going on this first year. There were the autograph lines, ten Talk Shows, the Days of Our Lives 35th Anniversary party in Toon Town, and an After Party at "the groove (sm)" on Universal's City Walk. Jane French performed at "the groove (sm)" and featured Breathe, the Passions theme song, as a part of her set. NBC stars mingled with the crowd. The only problem was that it was in an interior venue, and there was a limited capacity. Next year, NBC should consider an outdoor concert so that more fans can participate.
  • From fans of both ABC and NBC shows I heard the same accolades in regard to their favorite stars: "He stayed through his lunch to sign autographs." "She was so great and posed for pictures with each of us." "He kissed my cheek." "He gave me a huge hug." "He signed my shirt!" "She held my baby!" All in all, I'd say that the actors bent over backward and worked very hard to accommodate their fans. For those who traveled to Orlando to see their favorite stars, wasn't it well worth the trip? As I accompanied Michael E. Knight (Tad, AMC) backstage to the staging point for the final motorcade on Sunday night at Disney/MGM, he couldn't help breathe a sigh of relief as he said, "this is the last event for me." The poor guy was pooped! He couldn't even venture a guess as to the number of fans he'd hugged and kissed. But not to worry. For those of you who couldn't make it to SSW this year, Michael sends a special hello and hopes that you are able to make it next time! There is still a lot of hugging left in him!
  • Another real highlight for me. Although I have interviewed Cameron Mathison (Ryan, AMC) several times over phone, this was the first time we met in person. He visits Turtle Run frequently and reads and enjoys all the articles that we publish on him! What a sweetie. Not to mention dropdead gorgeous. As soon as he would take to the stage, whatever the event, fans would scream: "Take your shirt off!" He'd smile and blush, and begin to unbutton, but most of the time, he was just teasing. Still, he is a darned good sport! He also had a digital video camera and was taping the fans as they were taping him. He also taped the other actors! One fan, who was suffering from kidney failure, brought her sister to SSW as a thank you because her sister was about to donate one of her kidneys. The fan asked Cameron to please come down from the stage and give her sister a hug and kiss. Cameron didn't jump down, he flew, and embraced both fans and thanked them for coming.
  • Some lucky fans got to see their favorite actors enjoying the theme parks as many went on the rides in their spare moments. Cameron Mathison (Ryan, AMC) is a huge proponent of the Rockin' Roller Coaster at Disney/MGM. Many of the Passions and Days actors loved the Jurassic Park ride at Islands of Adventure. Hillary B. Smith (Nora, OLTL) sent her kids on the roller coasters, but she waited behind. "It's not that they're not safe, it's just that sometimes they do come off the tracks, and I don't want to be on them when they do. But I'll send my kids," she said with a laugh!
  • Things wrapped up at FanFest at around 4 PM on Sunday, but SuperSoap Weekend was still in high gear as it hosted a Sunday night street party, which was a first this year. Here's a quick wrap-up of both SuperSoap Street Parties--
  • Saturday's street party kicked off with High Lonesome, a country/rockabilly band helmed by Jon Lindstrom (Kevin, PC) on drums. Boy, did they rock. I am rushing out to get their CD! Next up was Cassie DePaiva (Blair, OLTL), whose sweet voice and pleasant country lilt proved a stark contrast to the rocking sounds of High Lonesome. There was also an "aw" moment when James DePaiva (Max, OLTL) joined her on stage and they sang a duet. As real twangy country music has never been my personal favorite, I still could appreciate the sentiment behind Cassie's songs. Then, a surprise guest took the stage. A Martinez (Roy, GH) sang a song that he had written for his younger sister. Next up was Catherine Hickland (Lindsay, OLTL) and her singing group. Catherine has a wonderful show voice. She sang a total of four songs, including a soulful rendition of Lennon/McCartney's' "I Will" (from the Beatles White Album), and her last song acappella. I would have loved to see her do a real upbeat number, however, as all of her songs were rather low key. The highlight of her set was "Unchained Melody," which she dedicated to husband, Michael E. Knight (Tad, AMC) who stood at the foot of the stage and whispered "I love you," to his wife. Another "aw" moment. From romance to kicking rock as Coltin Scott (Nikolas, GH) next took the stage. Whoa baby. What a performance! He was so full of energy, and the songs were great fun! Wally Kurth (Ned, GH) and Kurth & Taylor rounded out Saturday's festivities. Then
  • Kurth & Taylor opened Sunday night's street party! Another definite fan favorite. One of their songs titled Let it Go, is extremely uplifting, not to mention, pure old-fashioned great advice. Michael Saucedo (Juan, GH) was the next performer to take the stage on Sunday night. He had two other singers with him. As it turns out, they all used to be part of the same group. He commented on the heat in Florida. "It's hot up here!" One of the other singers suggested he take off his jacket. The girls screamed. "Take it off!" He giggled, and someone screamed out, "I love you Michael." "I love you, too," he replied! Clearly, another fan favorite! The fact that all these actors also got up on stage singing and performing continued to amaze me all weekend. They are all so very talented in so many ways. Saucedo's song By Far, a gentle ballad was a very touching testament to young love, and definitely my favorite from his set.
  • Susan Lucci debuts torch song, "It's Alright With Me."
    Photo credit: Linda Marshall-Smith (c)2000 turtle-run.com
  • Finally, the piece d'resistance for Erica Kane fans. Susan Lucci on stage performing three songs. First up, "You Can't Get a Man with a Gun" her favorite song from Annie Get Your Gun. Lucci then shared that although Erica made her singing debut on Monday, November 13, 2000, Susan has been in love with singing since she was a little girl. "One of my favorite things to do was to listen to all the cast albums of all the Broadway musicals and to learn all that music," she said. "And then just sing all over the house. Jumping on furniture, upstairs, downstairs, everywhere. When I got to high school and college, I started to perform in musicals. One of the most favorite parts I ever played was that of a very sexy ghost in musical version of a Noel Coward play." She finished her set with a song from that play to a round of thunderous applause. Despite her being slightly flat in tone, due most likely to poor acoustics from the performers' standpoint (it was difficult for performers to hear themselves on the stage), and her microphone kicking out at one point and a stage hand having to quickly give her another one, it was a rare treat for fans to see and hear Lucci performing in song! Always so beautiful, she was poised, yet animated, and clearly loving every minute of singing for us.
  • Then special guests BBMAK took the stage to screams and applause of the remaining crowd. They are just too adorable for words. One is cuter than the other! The fact that they are English adds to their charm and charisma, in my humble opinion! (I have always been a sucker for an English accent!) The melodic mixture of their voices, along with their being very at ease with their audience, not to mention a couple of great songs, combined to make their performance a sheer delight. After performing several songs from their current album, they recruited the audience to sing along with them as BBMAK belted out their hit single, Back Here. Then, a spectacular fireworks finale capped off the night to their new single, I'm Still on Your Side.
  • Again, I gotta say it. WOW. What a great weekend. Both events were extremely well organized. Congratulations to ABC, NBC, Disney/MGM and Universal for creating these wonderful venues for daytime fans. My only regret is that I could not be everywhere all the time to capture even more of both events for you. Be sure to read the Turtle Run Message Boards to see what other fans who attended had to say. I flew back to LA on the same flight as Wally Kurth (Ned, GH), his family, and his band, who all looked as happy and exhausted as I felt! Wally was sitting a few rows in front of me, and I couldn't help but notice that at one point during the flight, he took out a script and began to break it down and work on his lines. With all the pomp and glory, all the fan adulation felt by the stars all weekend, it still comes down to being just an actor doing a job. And that job is to entertain you.

    Hope to see you all at SSW and FanFest next year. Who knows. Maybe CBS Daytime will take my advice and schedule a CBS Soaps Extravaganza at SeaWorld in 2001! Wouldn't that be amazing? Time will tell.

    More on SuperSoap Weekend and FanFest in the next Top of the Week, including some behind-the-scenes Inside the Bubble tales and interviews with the actors!

    In other ABC Daytime News

    Congratulations to Finola Hughes and her husband Russell Young who welcomed son Dylan Joseph on Thursday, November 9, 2000. Dylan weighed in at 7 lbs. and is 20 1/2 long. Belated congratulations to Kelly Ripa (Hayley, AMC) and Mark Consuelos (Mateo, AMC) who shocked the world and her bosses when Ripa announced that she too was pregnant on a recent appearance on Live with Regis. At SuperSoap Weekend she was proud to display her little belly, already beginning to show at just two months.


    All My Children: Traci Godfrey has been cast in the full-part role of Mrs. Koisan, Godfrey airs on Wednesday, November 29, 2000. On the same day, Don Sparks appears in the full-part role of cardiologist Dr. Kennelty. Elisabeth Harnois appears in the full-part role of Sarah Livingston. Her first airdate is Friday, December 1, 2000. On the same day, Marianne Tatum appears in the full-part role of Mrs. Livingston, Sarah's mother. Matthew Bomer appears in the full-part role of Ian Kipling, and likewise airs on Friday, December 1, 2000.

    Days of Our Lives: Eve Roberts continues as Annie, Jen's Irish friend, who isn't what she seems. Carl Weintraub continues as Moroni and Bill Stevenson is back as Irish scoundrel, Declan. On Wednesday, November 22, 2000 Tania L. Pearson is Laila, a woman who helps out Brady. On that same day, Jeanette O'Connor is Ethel, another woman who the fugitive, Brady, encounters.

    Port Charles: Ramy Zada has been cast in a prominent recurring role of Harris, a harsh reminder of Ian's not so pristine past. Known to daytime viewers as Jeffrey Morgan on Guiding Light, Zada has a long list of prime time and feature film credits including, The X-Files, NYPD Blue, Melrose Place, and Out of Sync. His first airdate is Wedensday, December 6, 2000.

    Seeing Stars

    All My Children: On Thursday, November 23, 2000 Kelly Ripa and Mark Consuelos (Hayley and Mateo) will be marching in the Fields of Jingle Elf Parade, presented by Target in Chicago. The parade route is on State Street and runs from 9:30 -11:30 AM. For info call: 312 750-7304.

    General Hospital: On Thursday, November 24, 2000, Nancy Lee Grahn and John J. York, (Alexis and Mac) will be marching in 6ABC/Boscov's Thanksgiving Day Parade in Philadelphia from 9 am - noon. The parade route is along Benjamin Franklin Parkway and ends at the Philly Art Museum.

    Days of Our Lives: On Saturday and Sunday November 25 and 26, 2000, Matt Cedeno will appear at Sam's Town Hotel in Las Vegas at 2 PM both days.

    Louisiana Days of Our Lives fans! Make a date to ring in the New Year with Kevin Spirtas (Craig). On New Years Eve, 2000 at the Central School Arts & Humanities Center Auditorium in Lake Charles, LA from 10:00 PM - 1:30 AM, Kevin will pay tribute to Broadway musicals and share his unique stories of how the Broadway stage influenced his life. Mail your ticket request to: Kevin Spirtas c/o New Year's Eve with Kevin Spirtas, 8033 Sunset Blvd., Suite 637, Los Angeles, CA 90046. Single tickets: $85.00. Two or more, $75.00 each. All orders MUST be placed by December 15, 2000. Make checks payable to Kevin Spirtas.

    Passions: Galen Gering (Luis), James Hyde (Sam), Dalton James (Hank), Travis Schuldt (Ethan) and Rodney Van Johnson (TC) will meet and greet fans and sign autographs at the NBC Experience at Rockefeller Center in New York on Wednesday, November 22 from 9:30 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. Jane French will perform the Passions theme song "Breathe" at the NBC Experience at 12:00 Noon that same day. Galen Gering (Luis), James Hyde (Sam), Dana Sparks (Grace), Josh Ryan Evans (Timmy), Deanna Wright (Kay), Rodney Van Johnson (TC), Dalton James (Hank) and Travis Schuldt (Ethan) will all be part of the Macy's Day Parade on Thanksgiving Day, Thursday, November 23, 2000. The Macy's Day Parade will air live on NBC. Check local listings. Juliet Mills (Tabitha) and Josh Ryan Evans (Timmy) will be riding in the 69th Annual Hollywood Christmas Parade, Sunday, November 26, 2000. The parade will be telecast live in Southern, CA from 6-8 PM, with a live pre-show from 5:30-6 PM on UPN 13. The parade is tape delayed to the rest of the country. Check local listings.

    Bubbles Busted?

    Snail mail TPTB!

    All My Children: Audience Information, ABC TV, 77 W. 66th St, NY, NY 10023
    As the World Turns: CBS TV, 51 W. 52nd St, NY, NY 10019
    Bold & the Beautiful: CBS TV, 7800 Beverly Blvd, LA, CA 90036
    Days of Our Lives: NBC TV, 3000 W. Alameda Ave, Burbank, CA 91523
    General Hospital: ABC TV, 4151 Prospect Ave, Hollywood, CA 90027
    Guiding Light: CBS TV, 51 W 52nd St, NY, NY 10019
    One Life to Live: ABC TV, Audience Information, 77 W. 66th St, NY, NY 10023
    Passions; CBS Radford Studios, 4024 Radford Ave, Studio City, CA 91604
    Port Charles: ABC TV, 4151 Prospect Ave, Hollywood, CA 90027
    Young & the Restless: CBS TV, 7800 Beverly Blvd, LA, CA 90036