If you know anything about Coastal Entertainment and Uncle Vinnie’s Comedy Club, when they do something, well, they do it big. These hosts had been there since the early hours of the morning, and I found out that the long line (read: crowd) outside of the venue started forming since around 8:30am. General Hospital fans packed the place.
Let me tell you about the hundreds of fans that filled the venue that day. These aren’t people who just watch #GH in passing, every other day; or tune in from time to time – they set their DVRs, religiously follow the cast on Twitter, and just can’t get enough of the captivating story lines that these Emmy award winners execute. The devoted General Hospital fans excitedly point and say “There’s Carly!” “Look! I see Ned!”, as actors Laura Wright or Wally Kurth enter the room, for example. To some, the character and the person are seamless in the same breath, as the personality and mannerisms of the real people infuse Duke Lavery or Alexis Davis in a way that is uniquely their own.
I can’t even call General Hospital fans, “fans”; they are “friends” in a sense; they not only love the characters on the television, but they have a genuine sense of admiration, respect, and caring for the cast. In some cases, a chance to meet the daytime television cast is a multi-generational outing, as grandmothers, mothers, and daughters gather to get autographs, hugs, and have a few moments with those who they have followed on the soap for decades. Oh, and there are many men who are watchers of the 52 year old soap that show up as well!
The group of ten talented soap stars: Laura Wright, Tyler Christopher, Wally Kurth, William DeVry, Nancy Lee Grahn, Ryan Paevey, Kathleen Gati, Ian Buchanan, Michelle Stafford, and Rick Hearst descended upon the anxiously waiting group of a few hundred fans, and broke off into smaller sects around the room. They took the time to speak to every single one of them, posed for photos, signed all kinds of pictures, calendars, and someone even had an old yearbook from Rick Hearst’s high school for him to autograph!
Lunch (courtesy of Miami Mike’s Sports Zone) got off to a bit of a late start, but the fans come first. Each of the General Hospital actors was genuinely nice and not willing to rush past anyone who had taken the time to drive, or in some cases, fly, miles and miles to see them.
After a short break, we were back at it again!
Laura Wright and Tyler Christopher kicked things off as co-hosts, as the actors took their seats on stage. Tyler roamed the seated section as the rest of the cast took turns answering questions interjected with humor that kept the crowd laughing. The entire q&a session was live-streamed to those who couldn’t make it to the event, for a small fee, that went straight to the Tunnel to Towers Foundation, which honors America’s bravest military and first responders. Beth Ann Harrington, representing Tunnel to Towers, sold 80 T2T bracelets and helped organize the live streaming for charity, which, with everyone’s help raised nearly $8000.
For starters, Laura Wright asked everyone, “What can we do to make the events better?”
One member of the audience responded kiddingly to Tyler Christopher, “Take your shirt off!” Hmmmm…. A shirtless fantasy weekend? Now that’s an idea! : )
At General Hospital events, you can expect some usual jesting, joking, and banter between the cast. After Will DeVry, who was losing his voice over the weekend, commented how Nancy Lee Grahn is usually late for work, Nancy chided to him in her sarcastically funny fashion, “You’re a good kisser, but I’m still pissed at you!”
Even though Will had a raspy voice, most would agree that it sounded sexy. The night before the event, some of the GH cast went out to dinner and Nancy and her daughter, Kate, went to see a show, and Will told me he actually stayed in to study. Many had early calls to be on set Monday morning, and there was no time to adjust to jet lag, and they still had to learn their lines!
Of course, some in the crowd wanted spoilers about story lines to come, but, Laura and Will looped around that.
“You guys know more than we know! We have to watch what we say. We’re the ones who are going to get fired!” she joked.
Ian chimed in, “Live streaming!” with a large smile.
Rick took out his phone and looked at it, “There’s the text! ‘Don’t bother coming in on Monday!” to round out the fun, duck-and-dodge. Hey, after all, if we knew what was going to happen, why watch? ;)
One fan asked if Nancy Lee Grahn will be on the live show in May. (General Hospital will be airing 2 live broadcasted episodes on May 15 and 18 in honor of its 52nd anniversary.)
Her response in her undeniable Nancy way, “I am not, because I need a five second delay,” as she laughed. She’s one of the most down-to-earth actresses despite her jokes about her high maintenance self.
Did you know Ryan Paevey speaks some Japanese? True! He actually broke out into a few phrases on stage, which you don’t see him do every day! As a multi-lingual gal, I’ll verify that he not only had an authentic accent, but he knew his tenses as well! (Gozaimasu, Paevey-san!)
Someone wanted to know how they can turn on the water works when they have an emotional scene to act out on set, since they only get one take to get it right. Ian frankly kidded, “If I have to cry I think of Nancy. And cry tears of joy because I don’t have to work with her!” But then he revealed, “She’s my best friend."
One of the things that most of the GH stars agreed upon was that one of the best things about these super-fan events is that they all get to spend time together with each other. Many of them don’t even see each other on set unless they have a scene together. If you don’t work with someone in scenes, you don’t hang out with them.
“It's been a really fun weekend for me,” said Wally, as he shared that this was the first time he actually spent time with Laura, since they don’t have scenes together. “One of the saddest parts of leaving the show in a few weeks is that I'm losing these friends. I will be very, very sad to leave."
Kathleen Gati has had so many diverse roles over the course of her career. You can also find her on Winterthorne now, and “Dr. O” on GH is not your typical by-the-book medical practitioner, but she’s also had some more risqué roles. When asked what the next type of roll she would like to portray, of course she had to continue the light-hearted trend and answered, “I want to play floozies again!”
What perpetuates this shared humor is a sense of family between the actors off-stage, too.
“Wally sang at my daughter’s Christening,” Nancy shared. “You’re family. There’s not a lemon in the bunch.”
"If you get to go to work with your friends you're going to have a good day," concurred Ryan. (Oh, and those who were wondering, yes, Ryan is as handsome in person as he is on the screen. But I have to say, the attractiveness factor of all of the actors is very true-to-life, if not more-so. Their warmth and welcoming fashion, coupled with their genuinely real selves, just ups the ante when you see a side of them that shines through in person.)
One of the biggest hits has been the GH-Now digital sideshow, spearheaded by Nancy Lee Grahn. Fans wanted to know if there will be a season two.
“We are looking forward to season 2,” shared Tyler.
“The VP of digital media is looking into that,” related Nancy. “All of the actors did it for free.”
To spice things up a bit, the line-up of spontaneously humorous actors was put to the test with a game of “Would you rather…” well, of sorts, because the first question directed at Rick was what age he would stop aging at if he could stop time.
“I’d stop aging at about 56,” he said, pretty seriously.
Laura had to lighten things up and jested, “Was that like 5 years ago?” ; )
Ian was up next and the question he was chosen to answer was would he rather lick an armpit, or have someone lick his. His response:
“You know I'm completely open to anything and everything, so do you have another question for me?" If you know Ian, he makes himself smile with his quick comebacks.
Ryan was asked if he would rather be a feminine man or a masculine woman.
"I dunno. I could make a pretty fem guy - what do you think?" he responded. Hmmm… how fem are we talking here? : )
I’m sure everyone wanted to know if Wally would rather be the smartest moron or the dumbest genius.
“Well, I'm already the smartest moron," he smiled with his expected humorous and sly response.
Tyler was up next and was asked if he would rather live out in the wilderness alone or be homeless in the city.
“Aw, I was hoping for the armpit question,” he joked. But of course he responded that he would rather live out in the wilderness alone.
The tables were turned, and this time host Laura was in the hot seat, as we wondered what her response would be to if she would rather change a foul baby diaper or go without food for 24 hours.
“I changed some foul baby diapers. I’m done with that!” Then she paused, thinking about what was considered food. “No wine?” she asked as she sipped some from her cup. See, the wine, that could be a deal breaker right there.
Michelle started to ask Nancy her question and only got the first 5 words out. “Would you rather have sex…”
“Yes!” interjected Nancy, as expected.
Michelle continued, “with Will or me?”
Nancy didn’t have to think about her answer long when she said “With you!” of course, getting a rise out of the crowd.
“I wanted the fart question,” said Ryan, trying to claim it.
Then as the cast came to conclude the questions, a fan asked Michelle if she had any more DVDs of The Stafford Project on hand so she could grab one. Ian jumped right in and said, “I’ll give you mine because I am done with it,” making sure to leave the discussion with levity.
Before they all stepped down there was a selfie to be taken. In the audience, Stefanie Panaro had thought ahead and brought a selfie stick – to the rescue! It made this now very iconic photo that sprawled through social media possible.
Stefanie was attending the event for a dual purpose, though. She was raising money for Contractors for Kids. Earlier in the day she held a brownie sale that raised $196, but beyond that was the auction about to take place, led by actor-turned-auctioneer, Wally Kurth.
Among the prizes bid on were tickets to see Port Chuck in New York, signed scripts from GH, Soap Fantasy weekend tickets, and two lunches with Wally in Los Angeles! All raised funds went to Contractors for Kids, as well.
There were still more photo ops scheduled to happen and a new group of fans to greet. The lines were still long. Kate, Nancy Lee Grahn’s daughter was one of those in a line actually!
“It’s so funny. I have to stand in line to take a photo with my mom!” she said to me, looking on in a way where it was pretty incredulous to see how people responded to someone she’s known since birth. Kate was smiling as she said this because that’s how it was! Even as Nancy’s daughter, she didn’t get any special treatment – fans before family (I say with a wink!)
I grabbed a minute with fellow Hungarian, Kathleen Gati, who was there with her husband. Of course, after exchanging a few Hungarian words, the topic turned to food and she told me that her favorite food is peanut butter, ….but of course Hungarian stuffed cabbage, too! (Not necessarily together!)
When the day wound down, everyone had to catch a quick flight out. Ryan and Tyler’s sunglasses somehow switched places and they had to grab their bags and go. The first thing on most of their minds was a way to relax.
Will was pretty focused on saving his voice and learning his lines more.
Rick looked at me and said he wanted to “just sleep!”
Tyler was just thinking ahead to the next moment as he didn’t have much on his agenda other than to “get on a plane.”
Ryan was probably the most optimistic of the bunch when I asked him what he was going to do next to wind down.
“Aw, I don’t know…get on a van,” he thought out loud. “But I’m a pretty hearty traveler.”
And with that, and his own pair of sunglasses, he rode off into the literal sunset with the rest of the General Hospital crew to catch a flight back to the California coast.
If you want to try to catch another Soap Fantasy Event, there are more coming up soon! Be sure to check http://unclevinniescomedyclub.com for their schedule, and stay tuned to @UncleVinniesCC on twitter because the events are starting to crawl across the country, with Cleveland and Chicago in the queue!