The stars of All My Children and General Hospital’s opening night of three benefit performances for The L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center of the musical revue, The World Goes ‘Round could not have happened at a more appropriate time in our culture. With the tragic news over the last two weeks of the suicide of Rutgers Student, Tyler Clementi, and a rash of other teen suicides from bullying, the efforts of The L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center and organizations like them, and compassion for mankind was weighing heavily on my mind and those of your favorite actors from daytime. On the red carpet, I asked each of them their thoughts on bullying, gay rights, teen suicide, and got to know some of their personal stories from their upbringing. Plus, on the lighter side, we share a few moments on their current on-screen alter-ego’s lives.
The World Goes ‘Round cast is composed of AMC’s Bobbie Eakes (Krystal), Natalie Hall (Colby) Jamie Luner (Liza) and GH’s Bradford Anderson (Spinelli) and Brandon Barash (Johnny). There are still seats available for Saturday and Sunday night’s performances. Click here for ticket and show information. If you are in the Southern California area, go see it! There are some memorable performances throughout the Kander & Ebb revue.
Bobbie Eakes, who steals the show along with Jamie Luner in a send-up of The Grass is Always Greener told me about the impetus for the benefit. “All My Children publicist, Michael Cohen, started the whole Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS event for ABC Daytime in New York. When we found out we were coming to L.A., Michael said, ‘Why don’t we do something similar, but not the same. Let’s stage a musical.’ This show I dedicated to Tyler Clementi. I think some people in this country still believe that being gay or lesbian is a choice, and it’s a lifestyle choice, and it’s not. We should have some empathy for people and allow them tolerance, love, and understanding, and especially with our young people and also for adults who live in a certain part of the country where there is not an understanding of it and anywhere to go. Maybe their parents don’t understand it and there is some sort of ignorance about it. That is what the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center is all about – not just HIV testing. It’s about the programs they provide for children and adults, mental health care therapy, and it’s so important. We want to support this center.” Bully, bullied, or not bullied: “I had a lot of friends, and yes I was a cheerleader, and in the theatre. I was the kind of person that would talk to everybody and spent extra time talking to people that did not get spoken to. I think I did have empathy at an early age thanks to my mom and dad. I never have been bullied, but I have seen it and it’s not pretty.” Bobbie’s hope for AMC’s Krystal: “It does not have to be a new love interest for Krystal. It could just be a problem. I am excited about the future, but I will take whoever Erica casts-off!” (Laughs)
Brandon Barash has a very cute number for food-lovers everywhere when he performs the number Sara Lee, as in the cakes! Brandon made some very major points about the recent news and what he would say to kids in school who are struggling every day. “It is unfortunate to see the staff standing by and not doing anything. That is the most appalling thing. In most cases, warning signs have been documented, but nobody does a damn thing about it and it’s so sad. I would say to kids it’s going to get better. Be yourself and never apologize for who you are. My grandfather used to say, ‘If somebody doesn’t want you around, screw em’ and go somewhere else, and find someone who does want you around.’” Bully, bullied, or not bullied: “No, I was not a bully. Early in high school I was real skinny and in a new place and I let it get to me. So I went through that a little bit.” What’s coming up for GH’s Johnny? “That is a good question. I think pairing Carly and Johnny would be a lot of fun. And Laura Wright (Carly) and I have played that in our scenes. I know we have a couple scenes together next week that I think will be interesting, although I have not read them yet!” (Laughs)
Bradford Anderson plays the loveable and sensitive computer geek, Spinelli on GH. Playing an awkward character gives Bradford some insight into the troubling teen suicide/bullying epidemic. His number, Mr. Cellophane, was truly the emotional moment of the show, and spoke to those who are outcasts. “Everyone has had their own bullying experience. When someone is going through something, and if they are in an area of the world where we would hope there would be tolerance for everyone but there isn’t, it is a struggle to come out to yourself, whether it’s gay or lesbian, or whatever you are dealing with. It’s heartbreaking that there are places that don’t allow people to be themselves. It’s kind of a scary time. And to be here helping out a great center that helps so many people… and when you hear the kind of news such as the suicides, you think, ‘What can I do?’ This is by no means earth-shattering what we are doing through these performances, but if we can create a smile and a bit of change monetarily and with awareness, that is good.” Bully, bullied, or not bullied: “Oh my Gosh. I was picked on. I grew up doing theatre and I think whoever you are people assume things about you, and it does not matter if what they assume is not right, they assume it. Growing up is hard enough, and when people make it harder for you, it ain’t right.” Bradford on Spinelli’s infatuation for Brenda Barrett: “Brenda being back gives me a lot of fun stuff to do. Vanessa Marcil Giovinazzo (Brenda) is a peach. She brings a lot of energy to the stage. She makes interesting choices and is thoroughly committed to what she does. I love the effect she has on Jason Morgan and Steve Burton. It’s very fun to watch.”
Christina Bennett Lind (Bianca, AMC) was the official emcee of this evening’s performance. Certainly playing the only current lesbian character on a daytime soap, she and I had lots to discuss on this disturbing trend of young lives coming to an end in our society because of the cruel thoughtlessness of others. “People are so shocked when things like this happen because it’s so tragic and it seems like it’s not real. What my fear is that in the tragedy of it, it seems it’s easy to forget that this culture has created that. For me, I have a lot of friends in the gay community, and it’s scary to me that suicides like this seem so shocking to people. If you don’t give people the right to marry and be equal citizens with heterosexuals than why is it so surprising? I hope that through the tragedy this is where change will come from. I have to believe that. In regards to the death of Tyler Clementi, I think the social network element changes things. Obviously, college kids were doing stupid things to their roommates since the dawn of time, but because of this public platform that is created by having this internet network, I think it’s a perfect platform for making a shift to want to punish people and to get on board with that. I think unfortunately the more it happens, the more I think it will happen. I can’t believe they are just isolated incidents that happened all at the same time. I think too, that a suicide note is elevated in the media. I think we have created that. It’s a perfect storm.” Bully, bullied, or not bullied: “I was an outsider because I was not interested in the American football culture. I was a dancer and never around. I was always working toward something that was outside of high school. I already knew the whole, ‘It gets better outside of high school’ philosophy. That is now what people are trying to promote again… that there is life after high school. I think everyone has moments when they feel like an outsider. I knew people who ended their life in high school. I think everyone can relate to that idea of isolation. For a long time our high schools have been promoting that you are either the homecoming queen or not, and that is the be all and end all. I think that has changed. We are going back to the high school musical theory that as an outsider you can still be cool and popular. Ultimately, nothing against Zac Efron, but he was always going to be cool and popular. I think it’s the kids who relate to him and then don’t get what that character gets in the end, that might be where this tragic; ‘it’s not going to be better philosophy’ comes from.” On the transition of being the new Bianca: “I expected and respect the transition that it would take. I recently did the AMC fan club weekend and the response I got was honest and positive. Fans would say to me, ‘I didn’t think I would like you. We did not want to, but we believe you in the part.’ That means the world to me. I believe in Bianca, too. I don’t want people to not see her in me. So it did make me feel better. I am sure for Susan Lucci (Erica) and Alicia Minshew (Kendall) it was probably the same response as the fans, ‘This isn’t going to work. And how are we going to speak to her and call her Bianca?’ I think that is natural and human because you form a relationship with the character and a human. I know they love Eden Riegel (Ex-Bianca) so much. It feels good now. I love working with them. They do feel like my family.”
Lexi Ainsworth (Kristina, GH) has played a troubled young girl who suffered physical abuse from her former boyfriend, Kiefer. The sensitive young actress really had to play some emotionally heavy scenes. With that said, and being at the age where these kids are taking their own lives, I know she would have an interesting perspective to share on the news of the last few weeks. “It’s very upsetting to me. The people who are bullying others do not understand. And that is not an excuse. It does not surprise me because I grew up in Oklahoma and the Midwest. I went to high school out here in California, and here they were open and receptive to all children. There were transgender kids there, and boys who cross-dressed at the school. They were able to wear make-up and wigs and no one would question it. I think there needs to be more schools like that. I think the teachers, the principals, and the adults in the situation should step up. They are the ones who have the voice and the power to do something about it… and they are not. It is very frustrating.” Kristina’s feelings about Brenda Barrett: “I would like to get to work with Vanessa Marcil Giovinazzo. I think Kristina could get jealous of Brenda, and the attention Sonny gives Brenda. I could see her acting out cause she is mad at her dad.” (Laughs)
Lisa LoCicero (Olivia, GH) was on hand to applaud and cheer her on-screen lover. “I am here to see my man Johnny (Brandon Barash). You know, Brandon and I have the same vocal coach, so on occasion we have sung together in Italian. I don’t know if that is anything anyone would want to see, but between the two of us we enjoy it a great deal.” (Laughs) Next, Lisa shared her thoughts on the rash of suicides via bullying: “Low self-esteem in this day and age is so pervasive in every walk of life from adults to young children. So it’s easy for people to feel down and lose all hope. Now, how you work on promoting the idea that however you are is ok to be is what is important. I mean, I see the strides since I was a kid. There is still a long way to go. When I was a kid in the Midwest, there was no way being gay was accepted. We have to respect some strides that we made. Twenty years from now, I have to imagine it’s going to be understood that some are born this way and some are born that way, and we can all get along just fine.” Bully, bullied, or not bullied: “I was a weirdo and not the ‘hot’ chick. But I will say I owned my “weirdo-ness” enough back in school. I think it was when it was sort of cool to be a weirdo. So being kooky you could get away with it at the time. Now, I see kids where my son goes to school and it’s like those kids who would have been decimated where I grew up are now really kind of embraced and accepted by their peers, and that warms my heart. I hope pretty soon you could live in one of the most conservative places in the world and be like, ‘I am the guy who likes to wear a frying pan on my head, and it’s just what I do. It’s my thing.’ Recently, I had occasion to be trapped in an audience with someone who was a tremendous homophobe. I was listening to see what their view is, because I just don’t even get it. And it was fear based from, ‘I am afraid they are going to make my children gay.’ I don’t understand that, but I am like, ‘OK, that is where they are coming from.’ They are afraid of this thing they don’t get.” Lisa on the Olivia and Kate catfight that just aired: “I go back and forth on it, if it looked awesome or just crazy. We ad-libbed all that stuff at the bar while Brook Lynn was singing. So I was not sure if we were going to come off as classless hookers, or funny. Hopefully, it was fun and not totally offensive. Somebody tweeted me and said, ‘Everyone on twitter is really mad at Olivia.’ I am like, ‘Really?’ Olivia loves to fight. She has morals, but she loves to kick ass.”
Dominic Zamprogna (Dante, GH) and his wife are expecting their first child any day now. The dad-to-be shared his sentiments on cruelty toward gay kids. “I watched this stuff all week and it really bugged me. Bullying in general is a really annoying problem. It is someone who is attacking something about you, whether it’s true or not. It never had a place in my life, and yes, sure, as friends we will razz each other or give each other a hard time, but it’s not carried to such an extreme. This week, I saw a lot of CNN shows with Anderson Cooper and Larry King, and they said a lot of cool things . I still think what sucks is there are a lot of kids out there that if they feel a certain way, they are still not going to want to talk to their parents about it. And, they are still not going to make that phone call to the help line. I mean, what kid really wants to go talk to their parents about stuff like that? I think a show like Glee and a musical like Rent; they are helping to breakdown barriers. I think on the whole society is getting better, but I was really shocked to hear about the suicides. I tried to even think the best of the other kids. I looked at my wife regarding the Tyler Clementi situation, and I go, ‘How could they not know how much this would hurt somebody?’ It’s a shame it happened but maybe it’s a blessing in disguise, and maybe people won’t throw words around or videotape. It’s brutal!” Bully, bullied, or not bullied: “I was not a jock, and I had a lot of good friends in high school, and they are still my friends. I was fortunate enough to be popular in school. But you know, I grew up taking ballet, tap and jazz. You don’t think I got called a few names when I was a kid? I did not have time to do that to other people, because I did not like the way it felt when it was done to me.” On getting ready to be a first time dad: “I think my wife is done. She is ready to pop. I mean she can’t bend over and she can’t put on her shoes. She is not miserable, but she is excited. It’s just time. I told her, our baby girl is coming in hopefully a couple days. I can’t tell you what we are going to name her. But yes, we have a name picked out.”
Bob Guiney (the former, Bachelor and current GSN host) was incredibly outraged by the bullying going on in high school and college campuses. “It’s incredibly sad and painful what has been happening over the last couple of weeks. Many of my gay and straight friends have gone through it. It starts somewhere that whole bullying thing – I don’t have the bullying gene, like some people do, thank God. It’s very shameful. I think its one of those things that starts at home. I am glad it’s out there and we are talking about it, but it’s a shame that it took the events of the last week and a half to put our eyes on it, and to talk about it. It has not gone away, and I think if anything it has gotten worse. It’s a shame that people do not know where to turn for support. I have had friends who have long and wonderful relationships and are gay. They should have every right to every thing that any other couple gets. It is ignorant that it is not allowed and that it is somehow a legal issue. I don’t understand. It’s a matter of time and people are going to have to come to realize; live and let live, and love and let love. Obviously, I am someone who can speak for the fact that heterosexual marriages don’t always work.” (Guiney was married to AMC’s Rebecca Budig) Bully, bullied, or not bullied: “I was not a bully. I was the guy who would protect people from the bullies. My sister protected me from the bullies. I was the kid who was 6 ft and 100lbs in the sixth grade. I was the tallest and gangliest kid in class. I remember a lot of kids would have a lot of fun at my expense. I remember my mom would tell me this too shall pass, and consider the source, and kill them with kindness.” Guiney on the end of his marriage to Budig and getting through the first phase of a public break-up: “Rebecca and I are still truly good friends. My show for Game Show Network is filmed on the same lot as All My Children. So we see each other quite a bit. We still love each other and we always will. We said to each other, ‘Let’s not throw the baby out of the bathwater quite yet.’ There are a lot of great things about our relationship that are amazing. I am thankful that we still have a good friendship. Rebecca still gets to see our dog, Phoebe, whenever she wants. Rebecca helped me decorate my house when I bought it. We both wanted to go through the break-up as graceful as possible. Knowing we were going to have to go through it, we decided to be as loving as we could be. I think we did a really good job at that.”
Trent Garrett (Asher, AMC) is the hot newbie of Pine Valley. He was on hand to witness his on-screen gal, Natalie Hall, wow the audience in The World Goes ‘Round. Garrett spelled out the issue of the day very plainly. “It is just ignorance. Some people just don’t understand it, and so they are afraid of it.” Bully, bullied, or not bullied: “I played six or seven different sports, and I was never really in a circle of jocks or anything like that. I was kind of floater. I did not really party. I sort of hung out and played soccer. That was my main sport. But, I was never a bully.” On what is like to kiss Natalie Hall and be on a soap for the first time: “I am probably more like a predatorial kisser to her. (Laughs) My on-screen dad, Caleb, was in the mountain for 20 years, so it must run in the family. As far as being on a soap, I heard what to expect. I think they do test you with lots of dialog and material that you have to learn fast. I just had some very long days, and then you have to get up at the crack of dawn and be ready for the next shooting day. There are some days where I fail miserably, but then I do end up pulling it off. It’s a sink or swim kind of world in soaps. So, I try to swim my ass off.” (Laughs)
Natalie Hall showed the Los Angeles audiences that this Broadway musical performer can sing and dance with the best of them. She certainly showed another side that soap fans don’t get to see when she plays Pine Valley’s, Colby. Helping bring awareness to gay rights is something she is passionate about. “I think we all are who we are, and you fall in love with who you fall in love with. My best friends are gay and they are wonderful, beautiful people with big hearts. They deserve to live the life they want to live. I strongly believe in that.” Bully, bullied, or not bullied: “I grew up in a theatre background always singing and dancing. I never noticed being picked on because I was always that theatre girl.” Having two hot men to kiss, Damon and Asher, she compares the two: “First, it is a lot of fun. I am working with Trent Garrett who is the new Asher, and I work with Finn Wittrock, Damon. They both have a different energy and both are nice guys. They both intrigue Colby in different ways. I think she loves and adores Damon, but she has this attraction and chemistry with Asher. Trent and Finn are both very good kissers. In terms of the characters; Damon, I would say is more sweet and gentle, and Asher is a more sultry and passionate kisser.”
In the end, it was Natalie who really summed up the experience of putting on a show with limited rehearsal time and with tough demanding soap opera production schedules. “I think both of our casts of AMC and GH have come together and we have gotten along, and put a wonderful show together. I am proud about that.”
If you are being bullied, are thinking of suicide, or need to reach out for help and feel alone or isolated, there are a few places you can check out: The Trevor Project Hotline is one place to start. Call 1-866-488-7386. GLSEN (Gay, Lesbian, Straight Education Network) and The L.A Gay and Lesbian Center are two other excellent resources. Whatever you do, do not suffer in silence.