Vampires and the Women Who Love Them by
Vampires! They’ve got vampires in Port Charles, New York!
2001 GH fan weekend
Thirty-some years ago, when
the Vietnam War was still winnable and all moms were housewives, I would
periodically play hooky from school for all the wrong reasons.
As I lay on the couch, wheezing through another bout with asthma, I
would be treated to NBC’s entire daytime lineup, starting with the Today
show (Hugh Downs and Barbara Walters were the hosts back then) and
finishing with a pre-Trebekian version of Jeopardy.
And at 12 noon, as reliable as sands through the hourglass, so were
the Days of Our Lives.
In those days, soap operas
were about love—love triangles, love quadrangles, an occasional love
trapezoid. Back in the early
70s, the big question on Days was whether Mickey would ever
discover that his son Mike was really the offspring of his brother Bill,
who had once raped Mickey’s wife Laura on her hospital bed.
Then, as now, soaps treated rape as a courting ritual, and Bill and
Laura were, of course, secretly in love.
So what was my point here?
Oh yeah, for about two years, every time I would miss school, poor
clueless Mickey would always be that close to learning the truth
about little Mike’s paternity. All conversation would stop when he’d enter the room.
He’d find hospital records missing.
He’d see Bill and Laura holding hushed, anxious conferences out
on the patio. And he would
still have no idea! On
the show, Mickey was a lawyer, but if this guy had been Perry Mason,
we’d all be watching reruns of Hamilton Burger, D.A. I think maybe Mickey finally learned the truth some time
during the first Bush administration.
And now, instead of love
triangles and suspicious pregnancies, they’ve got vampires on a soap
opera called Port Charles! It
is obvious that I have quite a bit to learn about soaps in the new
millennium (aren’t you sick of people using that rhetorical crutch?).
So I made my way to Los Angeles to meet the fans and actors of General
Hospital and Port Charles—GH and PC to the soap
cognoscenti—to learn what happened in the years between blood tests and
If Port Charles is
the current offender in the world of the supernatural, it was General
Hospital that lit the fuse. GH
was, of course, the show that gave the soap world its first “super
couple”, Luke and Laura, who were wed in a Charles-and-Diana ceremony
back in the days of Pac-Man (prior to which, you may have heard, Luke
raped his beloved, an untidy bit of pre-feminist business that the show is
still grappling with today). But
even before the two exchanged rings, GH decided to unveil a story
line about an evil man who had a machine that was going to freeze the
entire planet. They followed
up that little Batman interlude with an even less believable tale
of a decidedly Caucasian young blonde who was supposedly an Indian
princess (her mother’s name must have been “Dances With Swedes”).
Anyway, in late July, I
packed my bags and headed to Studio City for “General Hospital Weekend”,
a celebration of both ABC’s venerable daytime franchise and Port
Charles, a GH spin-off set in the same city.
It is actually my second pilgrimage to the event, but I knew much
less when I came out in 1999, and now it is time to get some answers.
As I did before, I will talk to the fans, sneak into a few events,
down a couple of Budweisers, and contemplate the world through the smoggy
metaphor that is Los Angeles.
What makes someone a celebrity?
Are there different levels of celebrity?
Does Desi Relaford qualify? And
why am I pondering all this in the parking lot of a Ralph’s supermarket
at nine in the evening?
The last question is the easiest to answer.
I have just seen Bernie Mac.
Or, more correctly, I have just seen Bernie Mac’s clothing. His back was turned to me and he was wearing a long coat and
a big hat, so I had to trust the cashier’s word that this was the one
and only Mr. Mac. You can
certainly appreciate my immediate response:
Who in the hell is Bernie Mac?
It turns out that he is an actor/comedian who has been a sitcom
regular on both the WB and UPN networks. As
you are no doubt aware, these are the networks that fight it out for last place in the television ratings and will continue to do so until
one or both of them take their place alongside 1950s entry DuMont in the
TV graveyard. In other words, Bernie Mac’s television career to date has been viewed by an
audience roughly the same size as the number of people who still believe
that Nicole Brown and Ron Goldman were killed by Colombian drug lords.
Soon, however, he will have his own show on the FOX network, meaning
that his ratings are about to skyrocket from virtually non-existant to
pretty damn bad.
Does the fact that a couple of check stand clerks at Ralph’s
recognize him make Bernie Mac a celebrity?
Exactly how many people have to know your name before you attain
that status? Was Gary Condit
a celebrity back when his only televised appearances were on C-Span?
And what about the folks who are going to be showing up in the next
few days across the street at the Sportsmen’s Lodge Hotel?
Are the actors on GH and PC celebrities?
Every one of them? Even the guy who just plays the cop on General Hospital and
appears on camera only to interrogate and arrest? Sure, the actor, Réal Andrews (his réal name, I’m told),
has a fan club. But is he
actually a celebrity?
Which brings me to Desi Relaford.
Desi is a backup infielder for the New York Mets, which means that
he’s a better ballplayer than all the people you’ve ever met in your
life (unless you live next door to Mike Piazza or something).
But I am willing to bet the cost of a guided tour of the General
Hospital set—which will be auctioned off this weekend for over
$3,000—that almost none of the attendees at GH Weekend have any
idea who Desi Relaford is.
Now, given the overall
ratings of most soap operas, it seems safe to say that more people have
seen Relaford play ball than have seen Andrews perform on screen.
Yet when I punch up “Desi Relaford Fan Club” on the Google
search engine, I get zero hits; when I type in “Réal Andrews Fan
Club”, I am rewarded with 38 different web pages, one of which
breathlessly, if a little ungrammatically, informs me that “Réal
Andrews more than just a man…He’s a IronMan”.
Clearly, celebrity has a number of
components, and visibility is just one of them.
Another is devotion. Today
and tomorrow, scores of women and a handful of men will be flying in from
all over the world and paying hundreds of dollars to spend a few hours
with actors and actresses from two soap operas, one of which (the
ratings-starved Port Charles) may be canceled at any time.
Meanwhile, Relaford’s dreadful Mets can hardly convince New
Yorkers to cross the Triborough Bridge and pay ten bucks to see them lose.
What we have here, I suppose, is something
called niche celebrity. To
hardcore soap followers, these actors are celebrities.
Meanwhile, at Shea Stadium, eager young baseball fans line up for
Desi Relaford’s autograph. There
are, to be sure, transcendent celebrities, people everybody knows and
recognizes like Madonna or Jerry Seinfeld or Monica Lewinsky.
But there are a lot more of the other kind, folks who can travel
unnoticed on any airliner unless just the right sort of fan happens to be
The dividing line is clearly not talent.
Without having seen him on TV, I can still say that Réal Andrews
is almost certainly a better actor than Madonna.
Probably a better singer, too.
Seinfeld? Come on,
without George, Elaine, and Kramer, that show would have tanked even on
the WB. And we won’t
attempt to speculate as to the quality of Ms. Lewinsky’s talents.
The fact is that the most celebrated modern artist in America or
the most accomplished opera singer will never hear his or her name called
out on Entertainment Tonight.
Where all of this leaves Bernie Mac, I have
after lunch, I find myself surrounded by three soap opera fans tooling
down the Ventura Freeway in a minivan.
We are discussing, naturally, vampires.
True soap fans are always on guard for hints about who might be
leaving the show. Death is
obviously the most common form of exit, usually resulting in a cast member
departing for prime time, unemployment, or prime time followed by
Fans hate it when the actors leave, but it is
one of the few constants of daytime television.
At the 1999 GH Weekend, one of the featured events was a
session with two performers named Julian Stone and Jackie Zeman.
Within a few weeks of that event, Stone had been replaced by an
actor called A Martinez. That’s
Hollywood—one day you’re on top and the next day you’re pushed aside
by a vowel.
Anyway, it has occurred to the women in the
van that vampires are, by definition, dead.
Thus, when the current story line concludes, a lot of the
characters will find themselves deceased, including some fan favorites.
How will this dilemma be resolved?
Will all these people have to leave the show?
Should we start writing letters to the producers, the sponsors, the
writers, our congressional representatives?
(“Dear Congressman Condit: I
hope you can find time in your busy schedule to…”)
Fortunately, these ladies have some ideas.
Maybe it’s just someone’s dream, and they’ll wake up to find
that it didn’t really happen after all, and the characters can laugh
about it over a bowl of Count Chocula cereal. But no, the dream idea was discredited when they used it to
erase Bobby Ewing’s death on Dallas back in the 80s. Again, dejection, followed by another insight.
Isn’t it true, someone asks, as though debating a scientific
theorem, that if you kill the head vampire, then all the other vampires
return to human form? This is
apparently a device that has been used in movies, and it gives the women
here a small degree of hope that not all who are dead will remain so.
Maybe that’s the way it will turn out, but I don’t like it—I
much prefer the idea of a bunch of attractive young vampires showing up in
Pam Ewing’s shower.
We might have continued with this
dissertation on vampirology, but a more pressing matter attended us: we
were scheduled to take the 1:30 tour of the Warner Brothers’ Studios.
If you like seeing large warehouses, then this tour is for you.
It was expensive, it was hot, and it was interminable.
The centerpiece of the tour was a studio museum that contained old
costumes, props, and even the Academy Awards that Warner Brothers won for
their motion pictures (“See,
those dummies really did give us an Oscar for Driving Miss Daisy”).
We also saw the sets of Friends and The Drew Carey Show,
but most of the furniture had been moved or packed away, so it didn’t
feel very familiar. For me,
the highlight of the afternoon was when a young woman, glassy-eyed and
very pregnant, insisted to the tour guide that she had never heard of
For those who are less amused by gaping
cultural illiteracy, the real highlight of the tour was probably an
unexpected opportunity to view the filming of a scene from The Gilmore
Girls, a recent addition to the WB network’s prime time lineup.
If you’re a fan of this show, I can now give you a sneak preview
of the action as it was committed to videotape.
During this pivotal scene, which will air some time in the fall,
two attractive teenage girls cross the street and enter the diner.
I saw it with my own eyes, so you know I’m not making it up.
I hope it doesn’t spoil the episode for you. It was clearly a critical moment because they spent something
like twenty minutes to capture approximately six seconds of television.
A couple of women on the tour remarked that they will now have to
start watching The Gilmore Girls to see what happens, but I am not
similarly inclined. Now that
I know that the characters don’t get run over crossing the street, all
the suspense is gone.
By the time we return to the Sportmen’s
Lodge, it is clear that most of the fans have arrived.
They are immediately identifiable by their t-shirts and buttons,
many of which sport pictures of their favorite actors.
But the fans are not alone. Another
group is here, too, about twenty wannabe performers who are enrolled in
some sort of actors’ workshop. All
are young and two or three are even as attractive as they think they are.
To kill time while sipping beer by the pool, I divide them into
three categories: future waitresses, future bartenders, and future parking
valets. The warmth of the
Southern California afternoon has put me in a good mood, so I leave out a
fourth category: future porn stars.
I join seven GH fans for lunch at a
converted Denny’s on Ventura Boulevard that is now known as Twain’s
Diner. One of the common
pastimes at General Hospital Weekend is complaining about the
writers. The head writer has
changed since 1999, but the complaining has not ceased.
Apparently, the new writer, Jill Something-Hyphen-Something, is
stacking the show with actors from her previous gig on Another World,
and the fans are worried that long-time faves are about to be squeezed out
of the action. The new faces
are dismissed as “Friends of Jill” or “FOJs”.
Someone even wishes out loud that the previous, much-maligned head
writer were still with the show. I
guess soap operas are no different from anything else.
You get Clinton, you want Reagan; you get Bush, you want Clinton.
I’m guessing that by next year’s get together, after the new
characters have been fully integrated into the cast, fans will be waiting
excitedly in line, clamoring to have their pictures taken with the former
In the meantime, someone is explaining to me
the latest gimmick employed by the producers of Port Charles, who
remain desperate to save their flagging soap from daytime’s dustbin.
The writers are now using “story arcs” that begin and end in a
set amount of time, say six weeks. This is, to say the least, quite a departure from the tried
and true soap opera practice of weaving plot lines and characters together
in intricate ways that make it seem as if the story never ends.
The vampire plot is the third such arc and is due to conclude
shortly, which is why fans are so nervous about the post-Transylvanian
aftermath. For some reason,
these story arcs are being labeled with names from old pop songs.
The last one was “Time in a Bottle”; the current is “Tainted
Love”. I’m pulling for
the next arc to be titled “Ballroom Blitz”.
excitement fills the air. We
are, it seems, seated just adjacent to none other than Charles Keating.
Now, I know who Charles Keating is.
He’s the guy who swindled all those little old ladies out of
their retirement money in the Lincoln Savings scandal a dozen or so years
ago. I am just about to go
spit in his Caesar salad when I learn that I have the wrong man.
This Charles Keating is an actor, played Zeus
on the show Hercules and is rumored to be joining the cast of Port
Charles in just a few weeks. He
is spending his lunch hour studying a script, which everyone at the table
assumes must be from the new story arc.
There is some debate about whether or not to disturb him and ask
for autographs, but some of the fans vehemently object to doing so, and
the others figure he’ll be at the PC reception scheduled for this
evening (he won’t, as it turns out).
So now the way I figure it, if you count the
two actresses from The Gilmore Girls, I have seen four celebrities
in three days and I have never heard of a single one of them. I don’t know if that says more about the nature of
celebrity or about my shaky acquaintance with modern pop culture, but it
does leave me feeling a little behind the curve.
But at least I know who Humphrey Bogart was!
Armed with that small reassurance, I join the
brunch bunch as they gather around a table at poolside back at the
Sportsmen’s Lodge. In a few
minutes, Réal Andrews will be on hand to sign autographs.
He may not be the biggest celebrity on the planet, but the crowd by
the pool is clearly smitten. I
suspect that if Bill Clinton suddenly waded into the shallow end (would
the Secret Service guys still wear suits as they followed him in?), he
might well go unnoticed.
Clinton does not show, of course, but Réal
Andrews does and grown women swoon at the sight of this tall, handsome
actor. Andrews is wearing a
sleeveless t-shirt bearing the slogan, “Jesus Is My Sponsor”.
Not only is he incredibly buff, he is also, I am informed, the
owner of a black belt in Tae Kwon Do.
The next time you think that life is fair, consider this: Réal
Andrews can not only beat you to a pulp, but he can also pull your heart
out of your chest and show it to you before you die (not that he would).
All I can think as I watch this living, breathing Greek sculpture
is this: “Réal Andrews more than just a man…He’s a IronMan.”
Andrews’s appearance is followed by an
autograph session featuring Brad Maule, a good-natured Texan who has been
on General Hospital since the 1980s.
The fans seem to like Maule just fine, but he generates none of the
buzz that Andrews did despite his much longer track record.
Note to Jill Something-Hyphen-Something: you’ll be just
fine—all you have to do is to stick some well-toned pecs in front of
these folks and they’ll forget all their old loyalties faster than you
can say “sweeps month”.
And now a word from Réal Andrews’s
sponsor: “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the Earth.”
Judging by the behavior of many of the fans
at the Port Charles dinner, the crowning event of the evening, some
of the most ardent PC supporters have an especially large
inheritance coming. From a
distance, they speak of these actors as though they are old friends; but
when faced with actually meeting them, some can barely vocalize a
greeting. Don’t they
realize how badly the actors need them?
Hell, given the show’s sorry ratings, it’s possible that
two-thirds of PC’s entire fan base is gathered in this very room.
The fans may not realize how important they
are, but the actors clearly understand.
Even the meekest fan is made to feel welcome by the entire cast,
including Kin Shriner, who appeared to treat the 1999 fan event like a
trip to the dentist. They say
that a near-death experience makes you appreciate everything you have, and
the actors and actresses of Port Charles are currently sharing the
TV version of a near-death experience.
They desperately want to be at this event next year and they know
that these devoted fans are the people who stand on the front lines
between employment and cancellation.
I have no particular interest in the fate of Port
Charles, but I have a significant stake in the health of my own ego,
and right now it’s taking quite a beating.
There’s nothing like standing in a room full of soap opera actors
to cause a normal looking person to feel like a troll. The experience makes you want to smash every mirror you’ve
ever owned. Even the older
actors are gorgeous. I feel
like running outside and warning the acting students over by the pool what
they’re up against, but I’m pretty sure they already know.
Besides, I’d probably just interrupt them while they were
studying their lines. But
having seen how high the bar is set, I can think of only one line that
most of them should bother learning: “Would you like to Super-Size that
big event of the morning is the Quartermaine family brunch in Universal
City, featuring all the members of General Hospital’s leading
clan. When you speak of
family on soap operas, you have to remember that you’re talking about
grandparents, parents, children, bastard children, stepchildren, the
bastards who married the stepchildren, and so forth.
How they keep this all straight without violating society’s
incest taboo is beyond me. And
beyond them, too, as it turns out. One
of the jokes of the afternoon involves Monica Quartermaine’s intimate
relationship with a man who was later discovered to be her nephew (though
only by marriage).
of the fans wins a raffle and receives one of Edward Quartermaine’s old
ties, which she promptly donates to my wardrobe.
The Quartermaines are the wealthy family in town, and the tie is,
appropriately enough, from Bergdorf –Goodman of New York.
Unfortunately, it does not go with any of the jackets I own, so I
jokingly suggest that the fan should enter another raffle so she can win
Edward’s suit for me, too.
at the pool, the conversation turns to Maurice Benard, the actor who
portrays gangster-with-a-heart-of-gold Sonny Corinthos.
All of the fans at GH Weekend are, of course, true
believers. But Benard’s
fans are the poisonous snake handlers, the speakers in tongues, the
They are the devotees against whom all other devotees are measured,
and many of the other fans find them both annoying and more than a little
fair number of Benard’s flock have signed up for Réal Andrews’s fan
club event, scheduled for this evening, after hearing that their hero will
also attend (he and Andrews are apparently close).
Now comes word that Maurice has decided instead to take in a boxing
match downtown. The
disappointment is palpable, but nobody blames Benard. “Maurice is very
shy,” one fan explains to me, as if she’d have any idea.
But not all is lost. Benard
has scheduled a surprise fan event for Monday (the day after GH Weekend
officially ends), and some women talk about paying the airline penalty and
changing their flight reservations in order to see him.
Others take comfort from the fact that the actor will at least be
in attendance at the General Hospital brunch tomorrow.
women are walking around handing out buttons, the sort you often see
during a presidential election. They are apparently campaigning to get Sonny and Alexis
together. Two years ago, the
Maurice fans were vehement in their desire to see Sonny reunited with
Brenda (who was, at the time, inconveniently dead).
This time it’s Alexis, but it probably doesn’t matter. The writers could pair Sonny with Janet Reno and Benard’s
fans would defend the former Attorney General as the epitome of womanhood
(“Janet has so much more character than those young bimbos do!”).
in a line of people waiting to enter the Réal Andrews event (I’m not
going inside, but I enjoy milling with the fans), I discover another
unpleasant truth. The actors
are not only better looking than the rest of us, they are also better
Andrews is selling “Jesus Is My Sponsor” t-shirts, with the proceeds
to go to his charitable foundation, which gives money to researchers
fighting cancer. And he is
not alone. A number of the
performers participate in charities devoted to such worthy causes as AIDS
prevention and helping terminally ill children realize their fondest
wishes. It would be as if, in addition to building houses for the
poor and bringing peace to the nations, Jimmy Carter also had a face like
Tom Cruise and a body like Mel Gibson.
I think I’m due for another trip to the poolside bar.
I miss the evening’s main event, a concert
by a band called Kurth & Taylor, Kurth being GH actor Wally
Kurth (aka Ned Ashton, the Quartermaine nephew who got it on with Auntie
Monica). I have no idea who
Taylor is, but he is apparently not a soap star so nobody here really
cares anyway. It turns
out that K&T are hawking a self-produced CD called Freedom, and
I’m sure the profits will go toward healing the sick or raising the dead
or something equally magnanimous. One
of the fans plays the CD for me. It’s
not bad, but if I were Kurth, I wouldn’t let my character get too close
to any vampires, if you know what I mean.
The high point of GH Weekend is the General
Hospital luncheon, a huge affair that takes place in the main ballroom
and lasts for several hours. Tickets
go for $100 and I’m told that some are even auctioned off on E-bay.
Security seems especially tight here.
For the first time this week, someone asks me to see the bracelet
identifying myself as a paying customer.
Since I don’t have one, I stammer something about looking for
somebody and walk away. The
guards are not really there to ensure that everyone pays up; rather, their
main duty is to keep the stalkers out.
This would not, for example, be a good time for me to stare wildly
at the security guy and insist that I am secretly married to one of the
actresses, only she doesn’t know it yet.
While I eventually do manage to sneak in, I
get most of my reports on the luncheon from some of the fans already
inside. Unlike the happy and
solicitous cast of Port Charles, the GH folks spend a lot of
time bitching about their story lines and their time (or lack of it) on
camera. Also in contrast to the PC dinner, not all of the
actors from General Hospital are in attendance. Some of the biggest names get a free pass. The no-shows
include Luke and Laura (Tony Geary and Genie Francis, to their
accountants), as well as Kristina Wagner, who plays Felicia, the one-time
Indian princess. For you
aficionados of 80s trivia, Kristina was, until recently, married to one
Jack Wagner, a former GH and Melrose Place heartthrob who
earned one-hit wonder status in 1985 with a forgettable little number
called “All I Need” (imagine a less bouncy David Cassidy singing a
particularly wimpy Lionel Ritchie song, and you get the idea).
I spend about an hour in the lobby waiting to
make my move, passing the time by eavesdropping on various fans’
conversations. Mostly they
swap stories about their meetings with the stars, or they talk about
what’s being said in the internet chat rooms.
One woman is trying to decide whether or not to attend an evening
gospel concert being organized by Réal Andrews.
She wants to go, she tells her friend, but she can’t stand all
the preaching. (Preaching at
a gospel concert! Go figure.)
About that time a small entourage of
attractive men whisks right by and heads out the door.
I immediately recognize their leader from the t-shirts.
He is the real life image of Sonny Corinthos, Maurice Benard
himself. He is a man on a
mission, and his mission seems to be to get the hell out of here.
Actually, I am probably being a little unfair.
Benard is not the first performer to leave, and at least he had the
courtesy to show up for this thing (unlike a certain early 80s super
couple). Still, many of the remaining actors stick around for quite a
while after Benard departs.
Shortly after Maurice’s exit, I notice that
the security guards have become preoccupied with a wedding party next
door, so I make my way into the ballroom.
I immediately recognize A Martinez, who is chatting amiably with a
couple of star-struck fans. He
poses for their disposable cameras, signs a couple of photographs, and
sends them on their way. I
wonder if he signs his full name or only his first name.
(And if he just signs his first name, does he ever have kids come
up to him and say, “Hey mister, can you autograph my algebra
Maybe it’s just my imagination, but the
atmosphere in here seems rather businesslike when compared to the smaller,
more intimate Port Charles gathering.
The actors are friendly enough, but the strong connection between
performer and fan that I noticed on Friday night just doesn’t seem to be
here this afternoon. It might
have something to do with the fact that General Hospital, unlike Port
Charles, is in absolutely no danger of extinction.
Or it could be that my PC experience was filtered through
several bottles of Bud.
The best line of the day comes from a veteran
soap actor, new to this show, who has been asked by one of the fans if he
would like her to do an official web page for him.
He politely declines. “Because then,” he adds, “I’d have to
take this shit seriously.”
As they leave the GH luncheon, after
three days chock full of events, the fans look positively spent.
Nevertheless, they will dutifully endure two more lines for the
final activities of the day, Réal Andrews’s gospel hour and a session
with Rebecca Herbst, a pretty young actress who seems to be something of a
favorite. I will sneak into
neither of these events (I, too, am pretty exhausted), but I do stand in
the line for the gospel show.
Mrs. Andrews, who is approximately nine
months pregnant, is working the crowd and selling still more t-shirts.
(“When are you due?” one fan asks. “Wednesday,” she
replies.) I would have
guessed that the spouses would not care to watch their loved ones being
ogled by a couple hundred women, but Réal’s wife seems unfazed.
Besides, surely nobody would leer at her husband during a gospel
concert. And if you
believe that, then you have obviously never been to GH Weekend.
There will, of course, be many Christians in the audience who will
derive much spiritual satisfaction from the music.
But there will almost certainly also be an atheist or two who have
simply been drawn to the body (and I don’t mean the body of Christ).
By 6:30, the gospel hour is well into
overtime and a joyful noise continues to ring out from behind the locked
conference room doors. This
causes no small amount of discomfort to the organizers of the Rebecca
Herbst event, and they are not looking happy.
But there’s not much they can do about it.
I mean, what are they going to say?
I can just hear it now: “Hey guys, quit singing about Jesus so we
can bring a teenage starlet in here to talk about her on-screen sex
life.” A little after 7:00,
it’s finally over and the renewed spirits emptying out of the room pass
the weary souls who have been waiting in line for nearly ninety minutes.
I spend the rest of the evening talking to
fans, and I am pleased to report that the sine qua non of the soap
opera is still love in all its many physical and emotional forms. It is not always the sort of love that would pass muster with
the Ten Commandments, but it is no different from the love that drove
Bill, Mickey, and Laura into their destructive triangle three decades ago.
You can have your ivory-colored Indian princesses, your visits from
the undead, and your evil geniuses who want to make the world their Sno-Cone.
Without the romance, these fans would not be here.
Without the romance, there would be only Jerry Springer and Maury
Povich to fill the hours between the farm report and Final Jeopardy.
And it is love that establishes the pecking
order on each show. If you
are not sleeping with anyone, you get very little time on camera. If you are sleeping with your spouse, you get only slightly
more. Sexually active
boyfriends and girlfriends probably claim the lion’s share of each hour.
But the real stars are the characters who are bedding someone
else’s boyfriend or girlfriend, husband or wife, the architects of those
romantic triangles that are to soap operas what zany neighbors are to
sitcoms. Maurice Benard’s
fans may want Sonny to live in eternal bliss with Alexis (or Brenda or
Janet Reno), but deep down they know that a happy couple is a boring
I won’t be here next year. I’ve had all of my questions answered, and I would have to
spend hours reading Entertainment Weekly and learning who’s
famous these days before I could do any serious celebrity watching. As I write this, UPN’s three biggest stars could be passing
right by my window, and I wouldn’t even know it. Is one of
them a German shepherd?
Soap operas do nothing for me, but they
apparently make a lot of folks very happy, and in a world marred by
violence, disease, and frequent celebrity appearances by Carrot Top, what
could possibly be wrong with that? So
my hat’s off to Maurice, Réal, Rebecca, and all the rest.
Who cares if they are better looking, richer, nicer, more generous,
and happier than the rest of us? That
doesn’t bother me one bit. No
sir. Oh, and make sure to watch out for the shards of glass from
all those broken mirrors.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go see
if The Gilmore Girls is on. If
the camera moved just right, my left hand might be a TV star. Watch out, Bernie Mac, whoever you are!
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