Damn, did it feel good to sleep in on Sunday morning. I opted not to go to either of the morning events. One was past cast member Greg Vaughan’s and the other was the recently fired Michael Easton’s. I’ve met Greg plenty of times before and I got Michael last year and didn’t find him to be worth writing home about. So I saved up my money and energy for what turned out to be my favorite event of the weekend, the Donna Mills event.
Added on fairly late in the game by Debby O’Connor, this was Donna’s first ever solo event in her 50+ year career. Held in the rooftop bar of the Hilton, Donna was right on time and did a very brief Q&A, maybe only 5 or 6 questions. She then went into another room, the lounge area of the bar, a very intimate living room type setting. Fans were then brought into that room in groups of 5, I was in the second group, luckily with friends, which meant not one of us was stealing the show from the other. For 20 minutes, I sat in an armchair next to Donna as she spoke of GH, Knots Landing, Play Misty for Me, and the many costars she has shared the screen with over the years. It was a moment that I never in a million years even dreamed of. And to clear the air and set the record straight, Donna was not charging for autographs. At least not directly anyway. 8x10s were available for purchase at $25 and any items you may have brought from home were $15. However, there was an open bar at the event, so you could easily drink away any autograph fee you may have incurred.
While everyone else headed over to Kelly Monaco’s event, I took a little break from everything up in my room. I love Kelly to death, but I’ve seen her so many times. You have to make cuts somewhere. My break was short-lived and I went down to the Hilton lobby bar for my last event of the weekend, Bradford Anderson, Brandon Barash, and Kirsten Storms. I know I’ve seen these three about a million times too, but Kirsten is one of my favorites and I rarely miss any of her events. The event was their typical evening, games, laughs, and free flowing whiskey shots.
And just as quickly as it snuck up on me in the first place, FCW was all over. For me anyways. While Kirsten taught me how to use Periscope, the Karaoke Party got into full swing over at the Embassy. Hosted by Kristen Alderson, Ryan Carnes, Marc Anthony Samuel, and Parry Shen, the Karaoke Party is hit or miss when it comes to meeting the cast. I went one year and I think they had 15 actors present. This year, they just had four. Glad I didn’t attend, I needed to save my energy for Disneyland the next day, which I skipped Rick Hearst’s event to get on the road for. Rick’s was the only event on Monday, the last of FCW.
I just want to wrap up by giving a heartfelt thanks to Debbie Morris, President of the GH Fan Club. Debbie made a huge family sacrifice to attend this year’s event, and quite honestly, I’m not sure if it would have stood without her there. It’s no easy task to put bring the entire GH community together for 5 days, but somehow she does it tirelessly year after year. Thank you, Debbie. Also deserving of thanks and recognition are Debbie’s longtime right hands, yes, she has a number of them, Linda Howard, Michelle DeMoss, Claire Mullan, Lynna & Ron Strickland, and everyone else on her staff; Jim Warren and his lovely assistants, Kimberly, Maxine, Gail, and Kimistry; Debby & John O’Connor of YourNumberOneFan and CJ and Angela; Sheri Evans of SoapStarEvents; the staffs at both the Hilton and the Embassy Suites; David and Matt, both great bartenders with a heavy pour; the staff at Conrad’s, our watering hole for the week; my fellow fans; Frank Valentini; and of course, the amazing cast of General Hospital.
I woke up bright and early on Saturday morning to prepare for the flagship FCW event, the Main Cast Event. With registration beginning at 9 and doors opening at 10, I met up with my good buddy Wayne for breakfast at Conrad’s at 7:30. I’ll admit, I was worried with how many actors would come, especially after Thursday night’s poor turnout. With a much smaller events venue, I wasn’t sure how they would fit everyone. Lunch was to be served in the main ballroom with the cast moving out into the hallway, atrium, and other smaller rooms to do autographs and pictures. I never got an exact number of attendees, but I was told it was somewhere between 300-350. This year’s gift given to all attendees was a signed 4×6 photo of Anthony Geary, something I would much rather have than yet another coffee mug.
While we anxiously waited for the cast to arrive, raffles, silent auctions, and live auctions consumed us. I paid $120 for Luke Spencer’s “Dr. Von Scheemerman” disguise worn by the legendary Anthony Geary. Warming up the crowd, longtime GH boom operator Sandy Masone came out to applause. With GH since 1977, Sandy is the GH mascot, beloved by cast, crew, and fans.
As usual, the cast had quit a difficult time assembling themselves for the Introductions. Typically hosted by John J. York, John was MIA this year and the cast efficiently introduced each other. My fears were calmed when 34 cast members and Executive Producer Frank Valentini came out to thunderous applause. Stars in attendance were (in alphabetical order) Vinessa Antoine (Jordan), Brandon Barash (Johnny), Nicolas Bechtel (Spencer), Maurice Benard (Sonny), Rebecca Budig (Hayden), Ryan Carnes (Lucas), Teresa Castillo (Sabrina), Bryan Craig (Morgan), William deVry (Julian), Chad Duell (Michael), Sonya Eddy (Epiphany), Hayley Erin (Kiki), Kathleen Gati (Obrecht), Rick Hearst (Ric), Finola Hughes (Anna), Lisa LoCicero (Olivia), Ryan Paevey (Nathan), Jeffrey Vincent Parise (Carlos), Haley Pullos (Molly), Tequan Richmond (TJ), Emme Rylan (Lulu), Marc Anthony Samuel (Felix), Brytni Sarpy (Valerie), Parry Shen (Brad), Kin Shriner (Scott), Brooklyn Silzer (Emma), Michelle Stafford (Nina), Kirsten Storms (Maxie), Jason Thompson (Patrick), Elena Tovar (Rosalie), Robert Palmer Watkins (Dillon), Maura West (Ava), Laura Wright (Carly), and Dominic Zamprogna (Dante).
Ryan Carnes & Marc Samuel hosted the Q&A. The first question/comment was directed at Frank Valentini and was in regards to Michael Easton’s firing. I felt the comment was in poor taste, as did Laura Wright, who intervened and put the angry fan in her place. That was really the only fire ignited durig the Q&A. Ryan & Marc kept things brief allowing more time for autographs and photos. Amazingly, I had previously met everyone present, so unlike years past where I was stressed and running around, I just moseyed along table to table and got who I could. New mother Lisa LoCicero left during the Q&A to get home to her new daughter. And Dominic Zamprogna, who was absent for the Q&A, came in time for the meet and greet. Unsurprisingly, Rebecca Budig made a beeline for the exit, whilst a ton of fans lined up unsuspectingly at her table.
And with that, I had gotten to see everyone I had not already seen that weekend or would not later be seeing, with the exception of Maurice Benard, Bryan Craig, and Maura West. Maurice was in a rare mood, and was an absolute delight with the fans, actually laughing and smiling for photographs. And Maura, well let’s just say that Maura was feeling no pain that afternoon, not even when she fell down on her way out.
Immediately following the luncheon, illustrious GH photographer Jim Warren held the Sonny & Sons event with Maurice, Chad, and Bryan; and Kathleen Gati teamed up with Sonya Eddy to celebrate Gati’s birthday and 3rd anniversary with GH. Later that night, Vinessa Antoine’s event ran back to back with Jason Thompson & Dominic Zamprogna’s annual event with special guest Emme Rylan. I went to the latter event, as the trio’s NJ event in June was canceled at the last minute. They started with autographs and photos to ensure that the fans got everything they wanted. Emme took forever doing that because she’s such a sweetheart and spent so much time with everyone. Meanwhile, Dom & Jason began the Q&A. It was a nice event, funny trio, and somehow I managed to stay awake and present for the duration of the event.
When the event concluded around 12:30 AM, I headed back to my room and quickly went to bed. I didn’t have any events until the afternoon on Sunday, so I was looking forward to sleeping in for a change.
Friday was a very busy day, jam packed with events. However, I only had tickets for two of them, both of which weren’t until late in the day. Taking place in the morning hours were Lisa LoCicero’s Annual Event and Breakfast with Lilly Melgar and Matt Ashford. I contemplated going to Lilly & Matt’s event, as I hoped they would invite some more past cast members. I opted to save my money and it’s a good thing I did, because they did not have any guests, other than one of their Bay costars. Around lunchtime, back to back events were High Tea with Haley Pullos and the Clinic Party with Ryan Carnes, Teresa Castillo, Elena Tovar, and the incomparable Jacklyn Zeman. I used to do Haley’s event years ago when she had some pretty good guests, but this year, she did it solo. And I would have gone to the clinic party to see Jackie, but she and Ryan will be out here doing an event next month. Late afternoon/early evening, the Ice Cream Social with the child actors went up against the first of two of William deVry and Ryan Paevey’s events. Throughout the rest of the evening, Jeffrey Vincent Parise, Nancy Lee Grahn, and Tyler Christopher & Rebecca Budig would also have events.
I spent the day sightseeing with my good friend Wayne and went back to the hotel for the Ice Cream Social. Hosted by the child actors, Nicolas Bechtel, Hannah Nordberg, and Brooklyn Rae Silzer, proceeds benefited Shriners Hospitals for Children. Actor Michael Leone was also slated to host, but his family was vacationing in Jamaica instead. I was feeling a little run down during their Q&A, so I sat outside in the lobby, but I came back just in time for a game of bingo and some live auctions. The kids were great, loved to sign and take pictures. Before I left, I thanked their parents for allowing them to have the event.
After the Ice Cream Social, I went next door to Conrad’s for dinner. Nancy Lee Grahn’s event was being held in the bar area of the restaurant and the place was filled with GH fans. After dinner, we got to talking with a lovely couple from Glendale, Don & Bobby. While outside chatting up a storm with them, Nancy arrived and was more than happy to take a picture and talk with us for a good 10 minutes as her fans got settled in and ready for her.
After getting to know our new friends, Don & Bobby, I went back to the room and freshened up before heading over to Tyler Christopher’s event. Listen, Tyler is boring when he’s on his own, but when he’s with somebody, he’s funny and really quite charming. His event was originally supposed to be a Ghosts of Girlfriends Past event with Natalia Livingston and Alicia Leigh Willis joining him. Unfortunately, both were forced to back out due to work commitments. Fortunately, Tyler was able to coerce current screen partner Rebecca Budig to join him. Rebecca is not one to usually do fan events, and if she does, she rarely signs and takes pictures. That was her original intent for this event, but the great event coordinator Sheri Evans worked out a nice little schedule to give the fans what they wanted. Tyler and Rebecca started the event promptly, spoke for about 25-30 minutes, then broke for autographs and photos. Rebecca left after she had gotten to everyone, at which time Tyler resumed the Q&A. I’ll admit, I ducked out of the event before even Rebecca did. I was tired and needed to save my energy for Saturday’s luncheon.
As I said above, I left the event early and headed to bed. Saturday promised to be a very early morning and quite the long and busy day.
I’ve been home for a couple days now, but I’m still winding down from my annual pilgrimage to California for the General Hospital Fan Club Weekend. This year’s convention was held at a new location, the Embassy Suites in Glendale, with overflow events held at the adjacent Hilton. Conveniently located in between the two hotels was a 24 hour restaurant, Conrad’s. For us event attendees, always having a place to go eat and drink is very important. There were 22 events this year, which believe it or not is a decrease from years past. When you’ve been doing the events as long as I have, you get to a point where you don’t need to see too many of the cast members, just the newbies, so getting them was all that really mattered to me. Anyone else would be an added bonus. Overall, I saved up on photo sales and mainly just had my photo taken with the returning favorites. Going through my autograph collection, I was up in the double digits for some of these stars.
The first event of the weekend was Thursday evening, aptly titled the Kick Off Cocktail Party. I’ll admit, I became a tad bit concerned with the new location, as it seemed just a little out of the way as opposed to the previous venue, the Sportsmen’s Lodge, which was literally just a walk down the block for some of the cast members. My fears were escalated when only 11 stars came to the first event. Typically, there are around 20. Fortunately for us attendees, attendance is down, so lines are not generally as long as they were when 600 fans were coming out. However, with only 11 lines, the waiting game was tough. Attending stars were Tyler Christopher (Nikolas), William deVry (Julian), Hayley Erin (Kiki), Holly Gagnier (Jennifer), Haley Pullos (Molly), Emme Rylan (Lulu), Marc Anthony Samuel (Felix), Brytni Sarpy (Valerie), Michelle Stafford (Nina), Robert Palmer Watkins (Dillon), and Dominic Zamprogna (Dante). Knowing I would be seeing them at their events later in the weekend, I did not get online for Tyler and Dominic.
The only other event that night was Nightcap with the Spencer Cousins – Emme & Brytni. Emme wanted me to come, and I do like to support her, but I had a ticket to her Saturday night event with Dom & Jason, so I made myself comfortable down at the hotel bar, which is where I stayed until the early morning hours with a few other fans.
On Friday, July 31st, I made the two hour drive down to the Cherry Hill Crowne Plaza for Monster-Mania Con 31, Philadelphia’s semi-annual horror film and memorabilia convention. I’m not always able to make this show, but I am always glad to do so as their prices are typically lower than other area shows and that makes it worth the drive. I didn’t need too many people, just four, which turned into five.
The headliners were Scream stars Neve Campbell and Skeet Ulrich. Neither really mean much to me, and were not supposed to be doing table photos, so I opted out on them. Neve’s $75 price tag for an autograph was also just a little more than I like to pay at these. So while the two headliners were out for me, I moved down the list and got some of the more budget friendly stars. Malcom McDowell and Brad Dourif are already in the collection, and the Godzilla and Walking Dead stars mean nothing to me. I ended up getting Halloween franchise stars Danielle Harris and George P. Wilbur, X-Files and Dallas star Mitch Pileggi, Cheers‘ very own “NORM!!!” George Wendt, and character actor Gerrit Graham. Unfortunately, the show was overcome with sadness when the news of former fan favorite guest “Rowdy” Roddy Piper had passed away. Piper was a guest at the show less than a year ago.
Another successful show, I was out the door within an hour, and had money left for dinner at The Cheesecake Factory!!! Major win!!! Special thanks as always to Dave and the MM family. Hope I can attend again real soon.
Look for my upcoming annual pilgrimage to California for General Hospital Fan Club Weekend to be posted later this week!!!