General Hospital News & Gossip

News for the week of 27-Sep-2004
by Carol Banks Weber

The master speaks again, for Soap Opera Digest’s September 28th special feature, “When Good Shows Go Bad” (of course OLTL’s Santi family is smack dab in the middle of the examples). Former associate writer Patrick Mulcahey lent his considerable, credibility and common sense expertise to the Elaine G. Flores piece, on how to write good soap. He used to work under a soap opera legend, former GL head writer Douglas Marland (who also penned for GH), many years ago. Under Marland’s tutelage, Mulcahey learned to appreciate and apply whenever possible several tenets of outstanding, riveting soap storytelling. Among them, “write for the characters the audience wants to see.” He doesn’t care about the revolving door of new head writers, executive producers and network presidents who may disagree, who may even question why a particular beloved character is still around. Their job is to showcase those beloved characters, Mulcahey explained, because it’s what the audience wants. Another former GH writer, Linda Schreyer, added that the producers and executives should stay out of the writing process, period. Let the writing team pull together and perpetuate its vision for the show without interference. Such interference, however well-meaning, only serves to “dilute” and derail a show’s potential excellence. Usually when writers are given carte blanche to see their stories through (are you listening, Frons?), “then usually the show goes very well. I don’t think writing a show is a democratic process.” Quick, hire these two back.

The latest ABC Daytime marketing campaign features a cross-promotional, four-week series of interstitials (those promo spots before, in between and after soap episodes; but in this particular case, only before) – called Primetime Hosts Daytime – involving about 11 handpicked primetime actors. The primetime actors will be seen in the interstitials promoting interesting parts of their upcoming stories, while also talking up interesting parts of the stories on the three soap operas on ABC Daytime. Already aired since September 13, primetime’s According to Jim, new shows Rodney and Complete Savages, with daytime’s previews, GH’s ongoing saga of Sam’s unborn baby, Sonny’s parental rights and Jason’s stake in it all, OLTL’s Santi mystery unraveling for Antonio, AMC’s montage of greatest hits to come. The campaign—the first of its kind in terms of scope and magnitude—aims to give much-needed publicity to the new fall primetime line-up, as well as the best of the network’s daytime dramas. Other primetime shows on tap for cross-promotion: 8 Simple Rules, Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, George Lopez, Life As We Know It, Desperate Housewives, Less Than Perfect, Wife Swap and The Bachelor. The cable alternative, SoapNet, will also show the same interstitials when it airs the soap episodes later in the day.

Don’t let the title – Show Me On The Doll Where The Bad Man Touched You – fool you. The newest, hottest play to debut in Hollywood, California isn’t a sobering, serious look at child molestation, but a hilarious look at making it in show business, and stars Denise Alexander (Lesley). The one-hour show goes live on Wednesdays, 8 p.m., next month (6th, 13th, 20th, 27th) in the Egyptian Arena Theatre, 1625 N. Las Palmas Avenue. The play will be workshopped for a more extended run early next year. At present, tickets can be purchased for whatever amount any interested parties would like to contribute. Reservations: (323) 634-4779.

In the September 18th SoapNet episode of 1 Day..., host Wally Kurth (Ned) spent a rather awkward day with his on-screen brother Scott Clifton (Dillon) eating breakfast, going on rides and playing games at what appeared to be Six Flags, sitting around at Clifton’s parents’ house and walking around their backyard in Valencia, CA. The two seemed unsure of how to progress or behave in front of the camera, at a loss without the rehearsals and the lines and at times, vainly attempting to be spontaneous, wacky and interesting. Most surprising, the usually natural, engaging Clifton coming off quite shy, tentative, clearly waiting for host Kurth’s next prompt on how to be or what to say. Only when the two started jumping on pogo sticks, Clifton’s an expert, once sticking his booty out while showing off, did they almost forget the cameras and forget to be impromptu.

The new SoapNet series is based on the premise of catching soap actors being themselves on their home turf, as if the cameras weren’t on them for 24 hours. Yet, the host, Kurth, must keep the interest level, and some substantive information, pouring forth from his exchanges with his guest stars as they go about doing whatever they normally do that day. It often feels like Kurth is forcing conversation and steering his guests into doing something interesting, even if it may not be on their normal schedule. More interesting would be just having him follow them around, whatever they do (can you imagine Tamara Braun/Carly buying some tampons and toilet paper at Costco, John J. York/Mac just sitting around in his living room half-dressed, crud in his eyes, watching golf?).

That said, Kurth did manage to learn a few previously unreported bio tidbits about Clifton while strolling the amusement park, the same amusement park Clifton not so long ago worked at, inventorying visitors for time shares.

When Clifton was about 10, his family moved to Valencia shortly after an earthquake. He’d been sleeping on a pull-out couch which had a large mirror hanging above it. The quakes caused the mirror to shatter and fall on top of the couch. In the nick of time, Clifton’s father dove on top of the boy, covering Scott’s eyes with his arm – just as a shard of glass sliced through. Had that not happened, Clifton would’ve been blind or dead.

At the Valencia home of his parents, Clifton took Kurth to the backyard of cliffs, hills and hiking trails, describing what he and friends used to do growing up, especially when the power went out, jumping around, hiding, throwing rocks, being boys. The view is quite breathtaking, although I wondered how little boys didn’t slip and fall off some of those cliffs.

After going on a roller coaster (“You will black out!”), having their cartoons drawn (“Which one’s which?”), grabbing onto the metal handles of an odd-looking game where the two actors seemed to be shocking themselves –or receiving tazer zaps (“What is this?”), trying out another carnival-type game shooting water into holes (“No, not the hair!”), and getting splashed on a water ride – which then had me re-living my time at Six Flags on the very same ride, sitting on a huge black rubber donut thingie while waves crashed all around me – Clifton settled down from amping around to talk humorously about his time at the amusement park as an employee.

Serving as a warning and an anecdote, Clifton said a lot of visitors sign up for what they believe is a free gift. But what they’re really doing is giving away personal information to help people like him stalk them for eternity about buying into time shares. Sometimes someone will pass by and yell, “You’re selling your soul!,” then the person filling out the form will buy a clue and ask what this is about really, Clifton shared with Kurth. Or other times, the person will come in wanting to know about time shares, he added, incredulously.

Next week, Wally Kurth (Ned) interviews... I mean, pretends to follow Rick Hearst (Ric) around while doing a bunch of impromptu things under the guise of interviewing, like cooking up an Italian meal.

ps. Sick of the 1Day... one forefinger salute. Like to stick that forefinger...

pps. Once again, Scott Clifton (Dillon) picked up a guitar, strummed silently, and was never heard of – as in, the host asked him to head back to the house to play some music and no music was played. Just some talk about Clifton writing his own stuff ala Michael Jackson (Kurth’s comparative), by humming out melodies, until he got fed up and learned enough guitar to play them out himself.

Watching a major character continue to crash and burn, without any evolvement, keeps him in stasis and keeps much of the audience frustrated. In a soap, evolution is a deal breaker, especially in villains. On GH, Sonny takes on that role, has to, having chosen the mob twice, having to exercise the ruthless, illegal cunning inherent of the mob. A refreshing change of pace, possibly redemption, could easily come in the form of therapy. At the very least, it would put a human element to the criminal. Maurice Benard (Sonny) has been trying to convince his bosses of the benefits of adding a little realism to the fantasy by having his major character seek treatment, attend psychiatric sessions, take lithium for his manic-depression, and occasionally fall off the wagon. It doesn’t have to be the kiss of death, as his bosses fear (i.e., once Sonny’s treated, he’s cured and therefore no longer GH soap material), Benard insisted, adding that falling off the wagon could be interesting in and of itself.

Even without the official manic-depression story, right now, Benard is quite pleased with the other stories he’s been given. He can go to work, vent his spleen in a creative outlet, feel fulfilled, reflect, at times, his own past reality – a scene where Sonny breaks down and both he and Carly are in tears from mental exhaustion almost happened, word for word, note for note – and enjoy the company of cast and crew. Just throw in a few light-hearted moments where Sonny’s being a dad with his children just being kids – especially “that scary child,” Michael, and he’d really be fine with everything that happened to him and his character this year.

He’s more than fine with the break-up of Sonny and Sam. It was treated by the writers and later performed by the actors with realism, and thoroughly approved of by Benard, who really couldn’t take the fact that his alter-ego kept a secret that big – fathering a child with his mistress – from his own wife Carly. Having it all come out that way, Sonny owning up, meant a lot to the actor. “I especially liked the scenes I had with Steve [Burton/Jason] and with Tamara [Braun/Carly], where Sonny told them he and Sam were through. The way it was written was perfect. Hopefully it will keep going that way.” –Soap Opera Weekly

So far, so good. Tamara Braun (Carly) enjoys performing with “nice guy” Corbin Bernsen (John Durant). She really enjoys performing in a story where Carly finally hunts down her biological father and plays the conflicts in the relationships. It’s also good for Carly fans, she added, who’ve been hankering for a story like this for their favorite for quite a while.

Adrianne Leon (Brook Lynn) may do double-duty on the show as a singer and an actress, but she’s a tad more comfortable easing into the acting with her music in the background of a scene. Hearing the music puts the multi-talented young woman in a relaxed, at-home state. An upcoming CD, performed by her band Caught Crimson, will feature none of Brook Lynn’s songs, though, because Leon wants to keep her soap alter ego and her real-life band separate in every way, seeing as her band came first and is an entity unto its own, on its own merits. Adding body to the planned CD will be the grooves of several notable guest musicians, from Kevin Chown on bass and Rob Kurzreiter on drums, to Murray Yates of Forty Foot Echo (Freaky Friday) on vocals and Terry Corso from Alien Ant.

According to Lindze Letherman (Georgie), everybody in the cast goes to work prepared to perform, but Scott Clifton’s (Dillon) a maniac about it. He’s got his lines down pat, and then some. He’ll spend the entire day and night going over his material. Occasionally, she will with Adrianne Leon (Brook Lynn), at least the night before a heavy-duty scene.

Ingo Rademacher (Jax) competed in this year’s Nautica Malibu Triathlon September 19, to be aired on the Fox Sports Network, October 16. He was a part of the Disney team, handling the running duties, with Olympic champion Amanda Beard handling swimming and, at the time of this report, Bob Iger – the individual inviting Rademacher to switch from his usual individual heats to join the team – took on bicycling. Chad Brannon (ex-Zander) competed as well.

Maurice Benard (Sonny) ain’t been feelin’ the sibling bond with Alicia Leigh Willis’ Courtney. He felt more with Kimberly McCullough’s Robin, actually, a kinda big brother watching over adoring little sis deal, said the Emmy-award-winning actor. Courtney, however, presents more of an adversarial Alias force that he doesn’t think translates as brotherly/sisterly on the screen. And before fans start gunning for Mo, he did add that he and Willis had tried to create the sibling bond in the first place but somehow didn’t “gel.”

Girls, if you want Tyler Christopher (Nikolas) to be your lover, your boyfriend, your one and only for all time, you better be prepared to handle his Scorpio-like traits: brutal honesty, tendency to go loner, true trust with feelings, without judgment and a non-expectant appreciation for the unpredictably romantic. Christopher put himself on the line in describing some of what makes him tick, what he looks for in a relationship, what his idea of a perfect date is, Tiger Beat stuff like that. He recalled that perhaps the best, the most long-term relationship he ever had was with a high school sweetheart. They were together for five years, but because he’d moved to L.A. (moving on to eventually become a successful working actor), suffered the usual angst of being physically apart for too long, break-up time. In hindsight, he said, despite their youth, theirs turned out to have been the gold standard.

Nancy Lee Grahn (Alexis) and Rick Hearst (Ric) have a regular ole mutual admiration society going on with themselves. Can the fans and critics join in? Their on-screen pairing – like most successful pairings, stumbled onto by accident – has reactivated the imagination of the audience. Hearst acknowledged that the story has become less about Ric seeking revenge on Sonny by using Alexis, and more about Ric finding Alexis a match in his own right. Grahn thinks the two are such a good match, because, for one thing, Ric doesn’t put up with Alexis’s BS, and can throw it right back at her in spades. She added that as actors, they’re both kinda neurotic, which makes for a fiery, unpredictable situation, where “anything can happen.” Hearst is glad for the chance to work with one of his idols and, being seen as a sex symbol. He wouldn’t have at 26, having been all about his art, but into his middle age, well... “... I’m like, ‘I still look good in a pair of jeans? Oh yeah, bring it on!’” –TV Guide Online, Soap News, September 24, 2004

Wally Kurth (Ned) virtually stopped by at his message forum September 22 to give his fans a few updates. He and pregnant wife Debra are doing well. She suffered from a few yucky days, but they’re eagerly awaiting their new baby boy in two months, while putting the decorative final touches to his nursery, painting the room in an ocean theme, hunting down a new crib and dresser with his in-laws. Debra, he posted, will take off from working during maternity leave for the first time since she graduated from high school. His SoapNet project, 1 Day..., has taken up a lot of his time, but in a good, creative way, and in ways he hasn’t been able to find at GH, where he doesn’t work as often.

The actor also took a little time out to answer a few of his fans’ questions, long overdue. He has his own spiritual beliefs like everybody else, but prefers to keep his private. He will take one suggestion – that he ask Adrianne Leon (Brook Lynn) to come sing with him on his concerts – to heart, maybe when he does a duet thing with Scott Clifton (Dillon) at one of the scheduled tours later. His two daughters can sing, too, but in front of him, their father? He wrote that they’re kinda shy about that. He has no control over what, if any, story is given his character; fans can help by writing for more Ned, if they want.

A few days later, he conducted an online Q&A with fans hosted by SoapNet. The subject of Ned turning out not to be Brook Lynn’s father came up, but the actor would not discount it. His It’s up to the writers response worried fans concerned that with this biological shut-out, Ned will have no other choice but to go the way of the backburner, or disappear altogether.

When Robin Christopher (Skye) reappeared on GH the other week, it was with the intro by the prison warden lady that Faith would be bunking with one of the toughest cons in the cellblock. The figure under blankets on the bottom bunk turned over and there’s Skye trying to act all tough. Christopher said acting tough, much less the toughest broad in prison, proved challenging since the crew had photos of her newborn August all over, within camera view during the breaks, causing her to blubber with maternal warmth. Her firstborn son came into the world July 16. Leaving his side for work presented its usual torture for the new mom, but she also wanted to come back to the other part of her life that fulfilled her, her acting.

The kiss Faith forced on Skye was “funny,” Christopher thought. And the loose-fitting wardrobe, possibly in anticipation of the actress’ return from maternity leave, as the character flits around on the lam with Luke in his baggy clothes... was much appreciated by the actress, whether planned by TPTB or not.

The curly ‘fro Blake Gibbons’ Coleman has been sporting lately is, sadly, the actor’s real hair, au naturelle. He’d been keeping it straight artificially for the show until just a few weeks ago.

They’re casting for a beautiful, blonde, Caucasian attorney, female, to participate in a November plot device for a series of episodes lasting about three months. Sounds like a custody battle over Kristina, to expedite Maurice Benard’s (Sonny) three-month sabbatical. But why does she have to be blonde and Caucasian?

Sarah Brown (ex-Carly) recently confirmed that, indeed, she left GH in 2001, in part, out of creative differences with the regime – Carly would never rat Sonny out to the Feds. She also suffered from bad memories of that experience, which kept her from being able to chat with former co-stars, like Maurice Benard (Sonny), whom she used to live only blocks away from back in California. Benard was never the problem, just a reminder of those painful memories. Since the memories of leaving GH don’t sting as much, she is okay with chatting him up now, and has, if she happens to spot him at a neighborhood coffee shop. Btw, I rewrote this paragraph about 12 times, taking up a whole 30 minutes. Le sigh.

Linda Dano (ex-Rae) lost her beloved husband Frank, a former PR exec, last week due to lung cancer which infected his brain.

Gossip for the week of 27-Sep-2004
by Carol Banks Weber

Feeling betrayed, Faith issues quite a harsh promise to Sonny, Ric and Alexis on September 15 before being carted off to prison... that she will take away the one thing they love most. This prompted several savvy online fans into suggesting she will be responsible for kidnapping Kristina, possibly committing the murders of both Morgan and Michael, too. Maybe Elizabeth and Cameron will die as well (Ric was standing there too). Hopefully, it’s all morbid speculation. Daytime isn’t ready for or deserving of such extraneous, gratuitous gore (and I’ll write as much in channeling this week, over at Eye on Soaps).

Possibly taken from a Tyler Christopher (Nikolas) event, or leaked unofficially somewhere else (ah, who cares, it’s already out there): Maurice Benard (Sonny) will go on a one- or three-month paternal leave, only to return to his job, refreshed and ready to go. Also, a second version of the improved opening credits will include Lesli Kay’s Lois.

Divide, conquer, ratings bonanza? The top brass might be trying to court the Carly Fans First fan base by convincing members to try out either a CarLo (Carly & Lorenzo) or Star (Steven & Carly) pairing on for size since... Sonny’s Maurice Benard might no longer be around after December.

Skye will wind up in a body bag (does she go after NEm?). Heather will wind up in a body bag. No, Helena will end up in a ...

November Sweeps will end in the departures of many characters, many of them major. It’s probably the reason TPTB haven’t shown the second version of the new opening credits yet; they’re waiting until after the body count.

Alexis’ and Sonny’s daughter Kristina will be on death’s door, ala Lulu, requiring a donor of sorts – Sam’s daughter. Kristina will live, Lila II will not. This may result also in Sonny figuring out that Kristina is his, further resulting in the end of his marriage to Carly.

Lorenzo arranges for leggy, blonde bombshell enforcer Lana (actress Jennifer O’Dell) to seduce and exterminate John Durant, then possibly make Jason the fall guy. Lois thinks Lana is seducing Lorenzo, however, and jealously guards her territory (yes, LoLo fall into bed again). John plays along, up to and including hitting the sack.

John, however, may be the “father” nearly shot to death, recovering in the hospital, with daughter Carly paying bedside vigil. He also may tell her things that are better left unsaid, possibly undoing his plans for a Sonny take-down.

Helena will attempt to slit Emily’s throat while Emily’s visiting Kristina at the hospital. Tracy will back off from further involvement, finding murder a bit extreme. But Helena will go the way of every other enemy of NEm, off a cliff.

So reported Eye on Soaps’ Sage Bourland on September 19... more or less, with a few liberal interpretations from moi.

I told you Nu Lucas wouldn’t work out. Next up, new Latin token, Diego, who will catch Brook Lynn’s eye. Brook Lynn will toy with Diego after being burned by her mother’s dalliance with Lorenzo. Formula: girl wants parents back together, mother insists on courting a dangerous criminal not her father, as revenge, girl does the teeenaged rebellion thing by hooking up with a complete stranger, seemingly dangerous himself, and the two wind up falling in love.

Early rumors of Helena’s impending murder may have me bemoaning the loss of a classy actress, Constance Towers, but never the consequences to the crime(s). Helena, however scary and multi-dimensional a villainous, was and is still villainous; she should not be rewarded for slitting people’s throats, poisoning underlings and attempting to murder, several times over, her family and her family’s loved ones... even if her latest attempt is Emily. The next to die or go to prison for 20-to-life should be Faith, Sonny, Jason and Lorenzo.

A different but familiar A.J. and Lydia will make tracks back to Port Charles to claim a stake in Lila’s inheritance. Sean Kanan (Deacon, B&B), who portrayed the Quartermaine black sheep prior to Billy Warlock, and Jessica Ferrarone, who originated the heiress role, might be the actors tapped to do this.

General Hospital News & Gossip, Copyright © 2004 Carol Banks Weber. No part of this page may be reproduced or transmitted in any form, by any means (electronic, recording, or otherwise) without the prior written permission of the publisher.

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