Hollywood.... exciting, kinetic, dangerous; A city where dreams are born, built and destroyed. Earthquakes, fires, floods, O.J, every color of spandex known to mankind; Hollywood has all of this... and General Hospital.
At the ABC studios, nestled in a small corner of this bustling burg, we enter the mysterious, underexplored realm of the daytime drama. We were very fortunate to have been given this rare opportunity to observe soap actors in their natural habitat and we'd like to extend our heartfelt thanks for this kind invitation.
We were accompanied on our Journey by the intrepid Jo Ann Veeder; Aunt, Chauffeur, Soap Enthusiast and now, die-hard Jon Lindstrom fan. Jo Ann would be handling all the more hazardous aspects of the expedition... like L.A. traffic. We did warn her about the enthralling charms of some young actors, to no avail, but that's another story.
Timing was of the essence. The other members of our party, whom we had yet to meet up with, had warned us that if we were too early the native guards would be most unwelcoming; too late and.... well, let's just say, we wouldn't be writing this now. However, when we arrived we found the guards to be much less ferocious than had been rumored. In fact they were eating donuts when we drove up and merely grunted in a friendly manner to acknowledge our presence. Jon Lindstrom, Our Native Guide, had sent word to them of our approach. They pointed the way to a clearing where we could park our vehicle. We proceeded on foot.
The guard then guided us to the lovely azure archway that marked the entrance to the inner sanctum of the General Hospital Studios. As Jon explained, this is the largest sound stage in North America... or the world... or something like that. Since the extinction of the Home Show, GH has exclusive use of the lot, except for the unobtrusvive activities of the ABC news people.
The aged guard inside the studio studied us suspiciously, but again Our Trusty Native Guide, Jon Lindstrom, had cleared the path for us. But what was this? The two experienced explorers who were to have accompanied us had not yet arrived. (i.e. Michelle and Lori were stuck in traffic.) The guard, however, proved to be friendly and led us to the small dwelling of Jon Lindstrom. On the way we passed through what was then unfamiliar territory, and had our first glimpse of an Actor. He was off to one side, studying with what we guessed to be a tutor; it was Jonathan Jackson (Luckyus Spencerus).
Jon greeted us (Oh, The Murrays are here.") and got up from the couch where he'd been reading Soap Opera Magazine. He offered us some refreshment. We refused that, but Teresa asked for a sample of the indigenous waters and Jon Lindstrom, Our Obliging Native Guide, went to the nearby Green Room to get it. While he was gone, Jo Ann asked why there was a large door with a picture frame stuck in it leaning against Jon's wall. We explained to her about Jon's cinematographically fantastic, lucky frame throwing skills. She was impressed with Our Proficient Native Guide.
Jon returned and while we waited for the rest of our party he filled us in on some aspects of the native culture. He had been up very late the night before shooting a scene; specifically the delivery of Felicia's baby (Georgius Jonesius). It had to be shot out of sequence; a little less than two weeks before it aired. They usually have at least a three week gap. They had to shoot around Felecia Bell's (Simone's) schedule. Felecia had a role on Deep Space Nine and, as she has no contract binding her to GH, they could only do her scenes when she was available. He also talked about how sad it was that John Reilly and Sharon Wyatt had left.
By the time our fellow explorers, Michelle and Lori, arrived we were eager to continue our journey. Jon led us down the narrow corridor. We were almost immediately rewarded by the sighting of John Ingle (Edward Q.) coming out of the stage door. He noticed Jon with us. (We must have seemed like a bizarre safari.) John Ingle grasped Jon's arm and muttered something amusing to him, no doubt a comment on the days shooting schedule... or a dirty joke.
John Ingle slipped past us as we went through the door to the Set. There were some stairs to climb and then we came to a second door which had a sign that said not to come in if the light was flashing. The light was flashing; our pulses raced. We waited for a few seconds and then Jon put his ear to the door. "It's okay," he said with his uncanny native insight, and opened the door. Glad he wasn't wrong about that. We'd hate to be thrown out of ABC by the ever alert guard detail.
John Ingle was right behind us as we crowded through. He hugged Jon and said, "This man is a great actor!" Jon introduced all of us to John, behind what must have been Lucy's home. Then we all quietly tip-toed around the sets to the one that was actively being used at the time. They were rehearsing, not shooting the scene yet.
The actors on the set in use, the Quartermaine parlor, were: Anna Lee (Lila), Rena Sofer (Lois), Sean Kanan, (A.J) Wally Kurth (Ned), Steve Burton (Jason) and Treasure (Annabelle). Hanging about were Stephen Kay (Reginald) and Foster (Foster), Stuart Damon (Alan) and now John Ingle (Edward). We walked up to the set cautiously, so as not to frighten the actors or attract the attention of the dreaded... director. One of the crew asked, Our Native Guide, Jon, if he were giving tours again. Jon laughed and said something about needing a sideline. He shephered us into a spot that would be out of the path of danger, between a large fan and a potted palm.
They were rehearsing a scene in which Annabelle's labor was imminent and she was pining for the father of her puppy. The particular movement being rehearsed was Sean Kanan going from the little table on the side over to the terrace windows, which Annabelle was lying in front of, and where exactly he should stand in order not to block the dog. Foster was lying on a blanket near us and the first thing Jon had done was to go over and pat him. Jon had mentioned earlier that he'd seen the puppy.
Stuart Damon wandered by and Jon skillfully captured him so we could get a closer look. Unfortunately, we must admit to being somewhat distracted by the proximity of Stephen Kay (Reginaldus Butlerus), since he has been the subject of several of our scholarly dissertations. We were so stunned by the sighting of this rare creature, that we missed the opportunity to ask Our Wonderful Native Guide to snare him for us.
We were brought back to the scene by a howl. Looking down at the supine Foster, it was obvious that his voice was being dubbed. Howling on command is not in his repertoire. It was, however, his cue. The trainer led Foster over to the terrace and unleashed him. Steve Burton and Sean Kanan went through their lines. First Steve got down by the terrace window to tell Foster how much he sympathized with him, but that there was nothing that Foster could do for Annabelle right now. Sean said something about Jason losing his status as the sane member of the family.
About then, Jon signalled to us and we trailed along behind him. We tried to take a good look at Luke's place as we left. In the dim light it looked like a like a blues club after midnight, silent and lonely.
Jon took us up a foreboding stairway to the Control Room from whence came the disembodied voice we'd heard on the set. Jon pointed out the Director. We lowered our voices. We prompted him to tell us which Director it was. It was Joseph Behar, a powerful vertebrate. We hid our disappointment that it wasn't our favorite director, Scott McKinsey, or Brinkerhoff or the much improved Ludel. The scene playing on the monitors in the control room was a the close up of Foster we had seen rehearsed downstairs.
Behind us was a door labeled "Music Gurus" where the background music was added. Though we were curious about it Jon was giving a run down on the other nearby rooms which we have since forgotten. Lori and Michelle were quietly mentioning something about Rena and "not really pregnant" that went over our heads because we hadn't seen the Soapies.
Jon led us back downstairs to the set, and we returned to our carefully camouflaged, appointed place by the palm tree. Another member of the crew displayed curiosity about our presence and asked Jon, "Friends or family?". Jon told him, "Friends".
Jon said something to another crew member about having to work with dogs and the crew member said, "Yeah, dogs and serial killers." Jon laughed and said soon they'd be handing out music instead of scripts.
They were rehearsing a scene of A.J and Ned arguing. While not doing the scene, Rena reached down to pet the dog and said, "Wally, I want a dog like this," and Wally replied, "But you're allergic to dogs," "Not one's like this," she told him. Then the Voice of Director ordered everyone to stay where they were as the crew worked out something technical. Everyone froze except for the lissome and irrepresible, Rena Sofer, who loudly announced that she wasn't going to stay where she was and then raced off the set. It looked like she had to go somewhere urgently.
Meanwhile the other actors began to wander around the set and Jon snared a few for us. He brought over Sean Kanan and Steve Burton. Earlier Jon, Our Modest Native Guide, had claimed that Steve was the "best-looking guy on television". "Second best," we chorused. And still he asked who was best; him, of course. But there's no doubt that Steve, especially in person, is one fine specimen, as is Sean Kanan. (He is what's known in the animal kingdom as "a smooth operator". We mean that in a nice way.) Both of them shook hands with us. And Sean talked to Michelle and Lori, who reminded him they'd last met when they were with Claire, Sean's fan club president.
After Rena "the flash" Sofer returned to the set, Jon led us out again and down the stairs. Without aid of a machete, Jon skillfully guided us to the green room, which held two people quietly reading. We forged on past the make up room and into the costume department, where the colorful native garb was draped. Hanging on a rack in the front was a black t-shirt with the grey figure of a man playing a saxophone, emblazoned with the word "Luke's" (Cool). Jon took us past the rows of jewelry boxes and less identifiable items, to the back room where racks of clothes were labeled with various characters names. Even Leslie Lu (Littleus Spencerus) had a tiny rack, though she had to share it with Grace's single costume. We asked Jon where his rack was and he pointed it out. It was the one against the east wall. We went back and examined it, but it reavealed nothing out of the ordinary; suits mostly.
Then Jon led us down, what he referred to as, "Bel Aire Road", the classier row of dressing rooms, which you have to pass to get to the commissary, which was our new destination. Lynn Herring's door, however had been ... um, decorated with many pieces of paper wadded up and stuck to it. We asked Jon about this odd native ritual and he said something vague about a game that had been played the night before.
We went outside the building and to the west. The commissary was divided into two parts, a cafeteria and a dining room. We opted for the dining room and went in and sat down. Except for us it was deserted. We discussed a variety of things including O.J., beach crimes, the weather, airlines salary capping travel agents. We were also treated to Jon's description of the Soapies, complete with commentary and amusing imitations.
More on the native culture - Jon, Our Opinionated Native Guide, said how music oriented General Hospital had become, with Wally, Ricky and Mary Mae singing. He emphasized that he wouldn't be joining in. I made some comment about when was "General Hospital: The Musical" going to hit Broadway. Jon mentioned that Ricky Martin was away a lot doing concerts and they often had to shoot around him, but that he was missing at the moment because of a legtimate family emergency.
Jon talked about how strange it was to be taping the birth of Felicia's baby the night before, days after having shot the scene where he visits Felicia and her baby. He described in chilling detail, what it was like to be in the coffin. It wasn't actually a coffin, it was a coffin case, and, despite being that much larger, when the lid was closed it was practically touching his face. Fortunately he doesn't suffer from claustrophobia. He also described the graveyard, which had taken up an awful lot of space on the soundstage. He told us that Amy Benedict (Connius Corpsius) was gone and that Ryan had killed her. Jon told us that Mama Chamberlain would be making an appearance.
He asked us if we had any new top ten lists and who were the targets this time. We had all our most recent ones printed out and neatly bound and I handed these over the table to Jon. I told him that only the last one hadn't been on the boards; that was The Top Ten Reasons We Like Connie, and he read that one aloud.
Jon revealed to us that Ryan was not his first role on General Hospital, that he had appeared on the show ten years or so ago, doing a scene with Brian Patrick Clarke (Grant). He played a car rental clerk who Grant was trying to rent a car from. Jon didn't know what the storyline was, he just came in and did his part.
Jon mentioned that he was going to be doing a Target opening in Phoenix again, on March 12th. He wasn't sure of the address yet. We told him we'd be there for that expedition as well, and we'd call Target if necessary to find out exactly where.
With lunch finished, (Jon had a vegetarian brown rice dish, if anyone cares to know. We had chicken salads.), we went back towards the studio. I handed Jon two more folders and asked if he wouldn't mind giving one to Lynn Herring and one to Stephen Kay. He seemed willing and leafed through them. I told him the folder for Lynn was lists devoted specifically to Lucy and the one for Stephen, lists devoted to Reginald and the Reginald Reports. (The aformentioned scholarly dissertations.)
Michelle, Lori, Jo Ann and us stopped in the green room. Somehow we had temporarily lost Jon. We were somewhat nervous without Our Native Guide, fearing we would be beset by stray actors wanting to give us their autographs. Thankfully there were no incidents. The monitor in the green room was showing the scene that was taping right then; The Quartermaine's discussing Page and Emily coming to stay with them.
Also taking refuge in the green room was an explorer from Soap Opera Magazine, Rosemary Rossi. She and Lori got into the "Rena" discussion. "Let's get this straight, because of something Rena said at the Soapies, everyone thinks she's pregnant, but she actually isn't?" We asked. That was accurate. We were happy to get the condensed version.
Jon, Our Once Reliable Native Guide popped in, wondering where we were. We thought that he knew he was supposed to meet us back here for a mini-photo session, but he had some things in the dressing room for Michelle and Lori. We went back to his dressing room. He had several piles of fan mail for Michelle and Lori to sort through, though it was obvious that he had opened and read all or most of it. He also had a box of flyers, 5x7 size. One side had a picture of him, and the other was a letter that said "Dear Friends," etc. Obviously they were something to be mailed out for people who wrote fan letters to him. He was most unhappy with them, because they said, Dear Friends, instead of Dear Friend as he had requested. He felt that the plural was too impersonal and he was going to take them back to the printer that day to be redone.
It must have been feeding time because actors began passing Jon's dressing room on the way to the commissary. In fact the gazelle-like, Rena Sofer, ran past, hollering "Wally, I'll meet you at the commissary!" That clued us in.
At this point we gave Jon, Michelle and Lori small tokens of our gratitude for their hospitality.
Then we had a little photo session; Jon, me with Jon, Teresa with Jon, Jo Ann with Jon, all of us with Jon, Michelle and Lori with Jon; all in front of the notorious door. Jon mentioned that he was going to be on the cover of Soap Opera Magazine (April 4th issue). We were going out the door, when Jon's phone rang. The dressing room is rather tiny and we had to move out of the way so he could get to the phone. He dived for it, but too late, whoever it was had hung up. We said goodbye to Our Extraordinary Native Guide.
As we walked out, Ron Hale (Mike), Kimberly McCullough (Robin) and Michael Fairman (Harry), went past us heading for their dressing rooms. We obtained a sample call sheet from the holder at the front. It showed that this was the new shift coming in. All the Quartermaines were about to leave. Jon had shot all his scenes before 11:00 that morning.
As we went out the lovely blue framed front door, we ran into Annabelle and her trainer. Annabelle kindly posed for a photo. The trainer kept telling Treasure to put her ears up for the shot, like we could tell if this fluffy creature had ears.
As we were going out of the parking lot we observed John Ingle getting into his car. He waved and we took a picture of him. Because we had to wait for a friend to return, who had not been immunized for this expedition, we had to wait for about a half hour at the ABC gate. We spotted someone drving in that we thought might be Vanessa Marcil.
While Jo Ann and I went to look for the missing member of our party, Teresa continued to wait at the gate. She saw Steve Burton drive up to the guard gate in his little black sports car, wave and smile at the (female) guard, and drive out. Shortly afterwards, Sean Kanan drove up to the guard gate in his little red sportscar, waved and smiled at the (female) guard and drove off.
And that, fellow nature-lovers, was our exciting trek into the untamed realm of General Hospital.
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