NOTE: This piece DOES contain spoilers, so if you don't want to know - don't read!!
On Monday, June 25, 2001, four fellow devoted GL'ers and I toured the GL studios on 44th Street. Since I couldn't take all of you along, I wanted to capture the events with words and pictures so you have a feel for what goes on "behind the scenes."
Many of you have asked how I got to go on the tour of the studio. You CANNOT simply go up to the studio and walk in. Studio tours are bid on at charity auctions throughout the year. They are NOT cheap, either. I can tell you that I spent (on my portion of the tour, hotel, transportation, etc.) close to $1,000 for one day in the city. And remember that I live relatively close to NYC. If you live farther away from NYC, it costs even more. The price for the auction itself (minimum is $1,000/4 people) goes to charity and is tax deductible, the rest is not. It is money well spent, but it IS a lot of money for most people to spend. Keep that in mind. Bid if you get the opportunity and can afford to do so, but if not, we'll share all we can here.
We arrived at the Studio around 11am and were escorted to the waiting room where the end of GL was airing (a day behind for most of the country). We were told our host, Michael O'Leary was rehearsing, but someone would be out to get us and take us to the set. We were shown to the Green Room where we could wait in air-conditioned comfort. As we arrived in the room, we saw Tina Sloan (Lillian) and Crystal Chappell (Olivia) both on the phone. We were as quiet as we could be (given how excited we were) until they completed their calls. Crystal left after her call (and we never saw her again) but Tina stayed around and posed for pictures and talked about the show. You could tell that she was really interested in hearing what we thought and how long we had been watching GL. And I have to say, even without makeup, Tina is GORGEOUS!! Very friendly and warm to us, and made us feel right at home. Soon, GL interns Dori and Dominique were there to take us around until Michael could join us.
We went down to the set immediately and heard a very familiar, raspy voice grousing about something (and used a word I won't repeat here). When he turned around, we saw one of GL's newest faces, Ricky Paull Goldin (Gus) in a red bandana, jeans and a shirt looking very cute!! He was mortified that we heard him use a "dirty" word, but we assured him that we've all had days like this (especially at work!!). He stuck around for about 10-15 minutes hugging us all and taking endless pictures. He also shared some dirt on Springfield's newest Agent. Gus, at the moment, has NO idea who he is. He will find out (and yes, we are all correct that he's a Santos - or half Santos) but he will not reveal it for awhile. Ricky said he is really enjoying working with the talented cast and crew, and even shared that he had just rehearsed a steamy "make out" scene with none other than Blake Marler (Liz Keifer). Of course, we saw that coming, but were eager to see the "real thing" or as close to it as we could get (and the "hot" set -- you can't touch it) was trimmed with a rather, er, generous black bra in a very messy bed filled with potato chip crumbs, and Gus' favorite treat -- a Payday bar!! ; )
Ricky also said that TPTB did want him to get involved with Harley but Beth Ehlers (Harley)'s real life pregnancy forced them to change their time line. He states that he hopes he does get to work more with Beth, as they get along great when the cameras aren't rolling (very unlike the characters they play). I always tell fans to give the actors a chance, and I have to admit that I was prepared to think of him as a slimy, sneaky guy, but Ricky Paull Goldin is a DOLL and we are VERY glad he's on board. Hopefully long after the Danny Santos trial ends, GL can keep him very busy!!
Next we got to walk into the actual set area, where the crew was setting up a few scenes in the Bauer kitchen and Towers. We got to sit in "Towers" while they did a dry blocking on the Bauer kitchen (dry blocking is a run through with the cameras and lighting to find any glitches before tape rolls). Through the maze of cameras, lights, and other equipment, we watched Nancy St. Alban (Michelle) and Paul Anthony Stewart (Danny) rehearse. Both were without makeup and in casual clothes. After running through the scene, both disappeared into hair, make-up and wardrobe and we never got the chance to say hello.
After that, on the far set, we could see the Pharley living room and a VERY pregnant Beth Ehlers running through scenes with Michael. While they were setting their marks, Grant Aleksander (Phillip) came over and talked with us awhile. We asked him several questions (in character) about the story and he told us that (on the day we saw taped) Phillip "knows" all (The airdate is either July 13th or 17th no one could remember which one). He also said that the Bauer Bar-be-que is the site of the big show down between he and Harley and EDMUND is the one who tells him. Which would mean Edmund comes to Springfield. Not sure if he was kidding about that, but he did say that to us.
Grant also said that he is really looking forward to working with real-life best friend Michael O'Leary more this fall. They had several scenes to tape that Friday (the 29th) that they were unhappy with and wanted to change. Not sure if that happened, but both actors felt like whatever was transpiring in those scenes was not in character.
It was also very odd to realize that Grant did NOT know what "Harley" was having - a boy or a girl - so I got to tell him (I guess if the actor is not involved in the scenes, they don't really know all that is going on). We learned that Beth Ehlers, too, is having a boy. And by the looks of her, it will be any day now!! She looked beautiful as ever, but VERY ready to have the baby. Since she is so far along (Michael predicted she'll go on maternity leave -- and have the baby -- a month early) GL is great about getting all her scenes rehearsed, blocked and shot before noon (which is why Michael was not around early on). We didn't take up any of her time, but wished her well as hubby Matthew took her home later on. The scenes they shot involve Rick and Harley practicing lamaze on pillows on the floor.
Before we left, we also got sight of Paul Rauch, GL's Executive Producer. Dominique didn't want us to approach him (she's only talked to him a time or two) so we respected her wishes and walked by. He did not approach us, nor do I know if he ever knew we were behind him. (Those of you who read my column regularly know I went right up to MADD - Mary Alice Dwyer Dobbin once and introduced myself -- so shyness isn't my style at all!!).
As we walked around the studio, we saw Lisa Brown (ex-Nola) talking with Liz Keifer (Blake). We teased the perfectly coiffed Ms. Marler about her romp with Gus and Liz actually blushed!! It was a lot of fun teasing her and watching "Blake" defend herself in character (nice try, honey, but Ross will NEVER understand!!). Also running by in a teeny little exercise outfit was Beth Chamberlain (Beth) who didn't stop to talk. Robert Newman (Josh) was in picking up mail, and was VERY gracious (and looking VERY good in shorts and a baseball hat from the charity event he went to the weekend before in NC).
After we saw make-up and wardrobe, it was time to meet up with Michael again. We saw his dressing room that he shares with Grant (that is not any bigger than my master bathroom - I kid you NOT) full of pictures of the two buddies and their families. Very neat, despite the articles I read that label Michael as the Oscar Madison (a la "The Odd Couple") of the two. Once we left there, we went to lunch at a Japanese restaurant right next to the studio. Those who know I had (and hated) the Thai food last year with Kurt McKinney can imagine how I felt at possibly being sick again on the way home from NYC. Never fear -- I managed to eat Chicken teriyaki WITH CHOPSTICKS NO LESS like a pro. We almost convinced a disheveled David Andrew MacDonald (Edmund) to join us, but he had to go back go tape. He did talk with us while we were waiting on our table and was a doll! I teased him about his atrocious honeymoon etiquette.
Over lunch, we learned about Mark Dobies departure more in depth. Michael asked how we felt about Mark and "Noah" and we all stated that we were sorry to see him go. One of the things that many people don't understand, who have not met some of the stars, is that it is difficult to NOT like the actor (although there are a few that have given me pause) once you meet them. The character may not be one you like, but to see someone lose his or her job is a horrible thing. The same goes for Ryan Brown (Bill) and Paula Garces (Pilar). Both were wonderful young people, and I wish them the best.
Michael did say that the rumors of "time travel" and Reva are true (so far) which did NOT exactly make us happy. He seemed to think if it is well done, it COULD work. We'll have to wait and see. He also mentioned that the idea was for Mark (and others) to die in an earthquake. Not sure who yet, but at least 2 more people. Also do NOT know if the quake is in Springfield or San Cristobel (or elsewhere). We also learned that Phillip's new love interest is slated to be (are you ready?) Olivia. He and Alan are scheduled to rival for her affections. Can't say that made me happy at all. Reva and Josh fans should like the idea of 'Liv without Josh, but Phillip? I can't see it at all. Maybe they will change their mind down the road.