When you’ve watched a daily TV show on and off for 20 years, even very rarely recently because work gets in the way, it becomes part of your life. There’s no getting around that.
So when I found out several members of the Days of our Lives cast were going to be two hours away, and we were running crawls telling viewers about it, I knew I had to be there. Good thing I work for an NBC station. The other guys weren’t interested, for some reason like competition.
The 50th anniversary of Days of our Lives is coming up, November 8, and cast members were touring the country. For some reason, the Titanic Museum in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee — not far from Dollywood, where I visited a few years ago — was chosen. That’s why you’ll see ship stuff in the background. See my preview article.
Garry and I got press passes to cover the big event for the station, thanks to outgoing boss John. Garry was my crew, and talk about a big event!
We got there early, 9:30am, and my gosh, the crowd! Hundreds and hundreds of people! Too bad for them, they would have to wait awhile.
We got into the Iceburg parking lot. (Gotta love that name at the Titanic Museum!) Bryan Dattilo, who plays Lucas, was in the car in front of us but we didn’t know it at the time. We parked next to him, to the right. Very cool! He had a Cooper Mini, probably rented, with a New Jersey license plate.
Then, we checked in. No problem. Showed my card and license, and they had my name. Waited with other media people for a little while. Finally, we went into a room with some contest winners. I think the NBC station in Knoxville held some sort of contest. They’re bigger than us and closer to Pigeon Forge. Anyway, there were three cast members there. They were all guys. I guess the women needed a little more time to prepare!
The contest winners did their thing — took pictures and got autographs in the new 50th anniversary book — while the media waited around. Garry shot everything with his cell phone. I had mine for backup. Amazing things you can do these days! (But still, I would’ve preferred something a little bigger, and a microphone with a mic flag to look more professional and get a better guarantee of good sound. The interview videos are on my Facebook page. Some are better than others.
The first person I really got to talk to was Deidre Hall, who, of course, plays Dr. Marlena Evans Brady. Maybe Black, if she married John. (I told you I haven’t watched in a while, but I still know the characters. That never goes away.) She had a little mask on because it’s Halloween.
I was most excited to see her because I just happened to have a picture of the two of us from 15 years ago when she visited one of the stations I worked at in Philadelphia. She had a little trouble seeing without her glasses. Luckily, we both look exactly the same! She was probably my most serious interview. I asked her why Days is still on the air after so many other soaps were canceled. (There are only four left.) And she’s just happy to be a part of the show after almost 40 years, even though she plays a great-grandmother.
My most personal talk was with Bryan Dattilo, who plays Lucas Roberts (now Horton). We’re just a few weeks apart, so I’ve always related to him. I started by telling him the room we were in, which looked like a hotel meeting room, reminded me of the room where he and Sami first hooked up (and their son Will was conceived)! Not surprising to those of you who really know me. Lots and lots of fun! We talked about him being a grandfather on the show, and he immediately brought up real life: his 15-year-old son and the ladies! Also, we talked about his character’s old drinking habit (he liked Kamikazes) and relationship with Alison Sweeney, who played Sami. He actually took her to her prom when he was 21 and she was 16, and questioned whether that’s legal in California. He also said he liked proving he can act seriously (he’s an actor and can do anything). He just hadn’t done it because the writers waited years before giving him the material.
My biggest surprise was Jen Lilley because she’s relatively new and I didn’t know her. Luckily, she came up to me and started talking!
She plays Theresa, who is one of those (misunderstood) characters you love to hate. She’s a Brady and also a Donovan, so there are lots of family relationships. She told me she gets her scripts about a week before shooting, but usually memorizes them the night before, kind of like cramming for a test. Whatever works! I can’t imagine how they memorize lines. Anyway, she signed my book with apologies to the character John, who she hit over the head with a fireplace poker, putting him in a coma. Somehow, I did watch that on TV when it aired (and I’m not a fan of the John character).
Then, there were Thaao Penghlis (Tony) and Lauren Koslow (Kate). Realize they’ve been through so many storylines and my head was way in the past, when I watched more religiously. She plays Lucas’ mother and I think she had a relationship with Tony’s father, Stefano.
Anyway, I brought up her first scene on the show (she replaced Deborah Adair, who had left about a year before), when she’d been held prisoner on a fishing boat. She demonstrated how they had her chopping fish with a real knife. As for him, he was a bad guy in the past, like his father, and was killed off. Now, I think he’s back as his cousin Andre and (in real life) said some wonderful things about what to expect on the show this month, including seeing something the show hadn’t done before.
By now, time was running out. The cast had to take pictures, and remember there were hundreds of people waiting outside in the cold, the whole time!
Peter Reckell (Bo), Stephen Nichols (Patch, and he only put it on before meeting the fans) and Andrew Masset (Larry Welch before my time, the bad guy who tried to marry Hope) who were talking amongst themselves.
Garry interrupted, like he did other times, and introduced me as if I was somebody they should know. We chatted briefly.
After that, Kristian Alfonso (Hope) signed my book while walking.
Then, Melissa Reeves appeared an hour late. She’d driven in from Nashville, which is in the Central Time Zone. (Maybe that’s the reason?) There wasn’t enough time and the picture didn’t look good, but I can prove she took the time to sign. I also mentioned her character’s name is Jennifer Rose Deveraux Horton and my sister-in-law is Jennifer Rose Walk Cohen.
While all this was going on, people were taking lots and lots of pictures, many of me interviewing the stars. I didn’t know anyone other than Garry, the cast, and the few women I talked to earlier wearing WBIR clothes. I wonder where those pics will turn up! (Please let me know if you see any.)
So we left with a bunch of autographs that mostly look scribbled but I have memories, and pictures and videos too.
Thank you to John, who’s also a fan, for making the day happen for me. Also Garry my crew. Plus, Ed in Philadelphia who didn’t know about Days and didn’t care and let me meet Deidre Hall the first time around, in June 2000. And Jamie, who’s actually a news director in Knoxville but was morning executive producer at WSVN in Miami 20 years ago and let me mention Days‘ 30th anniversary in my newscast on November 8, 1995.
I appreciate longevity and 50 years is a heck of a long time to be on TV daily. Of course, not every storyline has been stellar. Things haven’t always worked out. But that’s life, we’re all human, and the show has a pretty good track record. Who wouldn’t want to be a part of that, and make a living at it, too?
As Jen Lilley and I ended our conservation, here’s to 50 more years!