Friday, October 28, 2011

A Tribute to Pine Valley

As followers of this blog know, "All My Children" recently came to an end. Nearly a month later, six of the cast members are on three-day tour called a "A Tribute to Pine Valley," or as they put it a "A Tribute to Our Fans." "All My Children was on ABC for 41 years. Several in the audience claimed to be fans almost that entire time.

In addition to being a fan of "All My Children," I have been a follower of a blog called "The Pine Valley Bulletin," faithfully written by Kathy Carano, for about 13 years. She is continuing her blog, at least for the time being. It can be found at:

Last fall I was fortunate to be able to meet some of my fellow Pine Valley Bulletin fans, including Kathy. As this event was drawing nearer, I asked if anyone was going to see the show in New Brunswick at the State Theater. Angie Dong (pictured on the left with her co-worker and friend, Joyce) said they were going and would I like to meet them for dinner.

Pine Valley Bulletin. Kathy is the one with purple hair.

After a dinner at Tumulty's on George Street (, we walked the two blocks to the State Theater. As luck would have it, we were in the same row of seats, but on the opposite ends.

My seat was fabulous. It was where the rows start to tilt up, plus there was no one in front of me, so I felt like I had a front row seat. I should have moved to the aisle, though as that is where the men of Pine Valley were making their entrances.

Attending the event were: Walt Wiley (Jack), Vincent Irizarry (David), Jacob Young (JR), Darnell Williams (Jesse), Cameron Mathison (Ryan), and Michael E. Knight (Tad). The men were all charming. They swapped behind-the-scene stories, answered questions, and gave the audience a chance to stump them with trivia questions.

Here is where I let guest blogger, Angie Dong, take over for me:


It was apparent how close they all are. They were familiar and very comfortable with each other. No hesitation in putting a hand on another guy's shoulder or knee to express agreement and support.


MEK (Tad) was asked who his favorite pairing for Tad was with besides Dixie. He responded David. VI (David) said the stunt coordinator thanked him several times for putting his daughter through college and his Jaguar due to all the pay he was collecting for all of David's fights. He said he really enjoyed working with Lindsey (Cara) towards the end until Dixie returned.


Cam related how his eldest - like many kids - asked him "Who's your best friend?" He looked at his wife and then responded "Rebecca Budig" (who played his on and off wife, Greenlee on AMC). His wife nodded that she agreed with his answer.


For the most part, everyone was satisfied with the resolutions of their stories. Someone asked MEK (Tad) how many takes it took to get his monologue in the last episode recorded. He said '2'. During the 1st take, he left out a line that was supposed to be VI's (David) cue to enter the scene. At the end of the toast, VI and other people off scene were standing there and saying 'wait, did I miss the cue?" MEK said he got teary during the 1st take as well - the 1st time he's actually really cried in a scene. Alicia (Kendall) was seriously crying from his monologue. All of them had to struggle to hold back tears.


We learned (or re-learned as it had been reported in the magazines a few days ago) in the final scene of the show, JR was supposed to spray the room with gunfire. When filming, they spent a lot of time filming the smoking gun and getting the scene just right. They were all stunned to just hear one shot ring out when they watched the final episode.


Someone asked how much influence they had in their storylines. They agreed that they didn't have much say at all, but they have leeway in how they deliver their lines - as long as they get the point across. MEK (Tad) started cracking up as he recalled reading a script by a bunch of 40 yr old white people writing for the young black from the 'hood Jesse. DW (Jesse) started cracking up too, as he recalled how they write dialogue for him that included the words "Jive Turkey".... MEK was red in the face from laughing."


With regards to Madden in a Box, MEK (Tad) referred to it as the storyline that no one likes to talk about. He really thought the storyline was out of character, but it was challenging.


On a more positive note, VI (David) said he was proudest of his work during the Baby Leora storyline, but it was totally emotionally draining.

Jacob (JR) loved all the storylines involving Babe, but no one asked him which one, and of course working with David Canary (Adam).

Cam (Ryan) loved the Kendall-Ryan-Greenlee triangle.

MEK's (Tad) favorite scene was when he and John Callahan dressed in drag - everyone agreed that JC (Edmund) was a very ugly female.

DW (Jesse) also said that he was scratching his head over how quickly Jesse switched bye babies. DW's favorite story was Jesse's return from the dead.

Great stories about Ruth Warwick (Pheobe), "Myrtle' and "Langley". Apparently, 'Langley' grew some great pot - he gave one of them (can't remember who) a joint and told him to sit down while smoking it - smoker claimed that he sat on the sofa high all weekend from a couple of puffs.


They were asked how they adjusted to the move out West. VI (David), MEK (Tad) and DW (Jesse) all claim that NY is 'Home'. VI said that, as an actor, he's bi-coastal. For years he worked on Y&R on the West Coast while his family stayed out East. When he got the chance to work with AMC, he loved the opportunity to be with his family. When he rejoined AMC this last time, he was stunned that the show was moved out West after 39+ years and kinda annoyed that he had to do the bi-coastal thing again.

DW (Jesse) said that his career has always been bi-coastal.

JY (JR) was originally from out west, but really loves NY and met his wife here - so, it is home, too.

Walt's (Jack) family live in a small town outside of Santa Fe. So, the move out West worked well for him since he was a 2 hr direct flight home, instead of a 7 hr flight with a transfer.

CM (Ryan) tried to say he was an East Coaster, too, but his co-workers teased him mercilessly for trying to pull one over on us. CM is from Canada. Perhaps, the east coast of Canada, but not a New Yorker, eh.

MEK (Tad) mentioned that his insurance adjuster is on his speed dial. As a New Yorker, his biggest adjustment to moving to LA was needing to drive... the SUV he drives exhibits his driving skills.


First part of the evening was Q&A. Walt mentioned that the NJ crowd had it together - most people said 'this question is for all of you', whereas the NYC crowd directed their questions to just 1 of the 6. During the first part of the program, Cam (Ryan) went up to the balcony area to get questions (which is why I (Jacquie) did not end up with any good pictures of him alone), while first Walt (Jack) and then Darnell (Jesse) walked through the audience in the Orchestra section. LOL - Walt (Jack) stumbled a little bit on my (Angie's) foot.


One segment of the show had the audience asking one of the 6 a trivia question about one of their storylines. If the actor couldn't remember, the audience member got a prize.

Results were varied, especially since some of the audience members didn't know the answer to their own questions. Samples:
Jacob (JR) - How many siblings (half and whole) does JR have?
Darnell (Jesse) - What was his mother-in-law's name?
Walt (Jack) - who was initiated the hate crime against Stuart's wife Cindy? (that was the intended question - the audience member mangled it.)
MEK (Tad) - who paid Tad to date Dottie?

Walt (Jack) - how many husbands does Erica have, and can you name them all?


During the last segment they answered some questions they had prepared in advance.

One was about the fickleness of Fame.... MEK (Tad) remembered going to Disneyland with Maurice Bernard (Nico at the time) while out West for a fan event. He was speaking with MB and noticed a couple approaching them. When the guy extended his camera, MEK responded with 'sure'... continued to speak with MB while putting his arm around the woman and giving her a peck on the cheek. Then, he realized that the man was from Germany was asking him to take a picture of himself and his wife - he did not want a picture with MEK at all!

VI (David) recalls a time 14 years before starting with All My Children when he was supposed to do a fan event. The night before he got very drunk and missed his wake up call. The limo driver knocked on his door and reminded him it was beyond time to go. He took a quick shower and went downstairs only to find the very famous James Mitchell (Palmer on AMC) waiting in the cab. I cannot do justice to the story, but suffice it to same JM made a snide comment about it being no trouble waiting for him (the young upstart). 14 years later they were both on AMC. VI went to introduce himself to JM (really hoping he had forgotten the situation). It was clear JM had not forgotten, even though it had been 14 years earlier. The two ended up becoming close.

WW (Jack) recalled being on the show as an extra about 40-50 times before being cast as Jack. He said they felt sorry for him and finally created the role of Jack so he could stick around a while. He remembers auditioning for other roles, but not that one.

CM (Ryan) related how he was with AMC for a short time and was in a dept store with his then-girlfriend. It was just after the episodes aired where Ryan was cleared of raping Jack's sister Kit. A woman was riding the escalator and saw him and screamed "RYAN!!" He looked up and waved like celebrity. Then, the woman proceeded to yell out "I'm so glad they let you out of prison!!!"

DW said he was with Debbie Morgan (Angie) once in the movies when they were on AMC the first time (in the early 1980s). He could hear murmurings throughout the theater ("is that them?" "is that Jesse and Angie?"). He took DM by the hand and said "RUN!!!" The two of them were surprised to see fans chasing them down the streets of NYC.


A few more thoughts from Angie (I don't want to lose any thoughts from that night as it was just amazing):

The guys had a great respect and admiration for the 'old timers Ruth Warrick (Phoebe), James Mitchell (Palmer), Eileen Hierle (Myrtle) and David Canary (Adam).

Walt (Jack) said that Ruth (Phoebe) often asked him to escort her to events. When a camera was not in sight, she seemed frail and elderly. However, as soon as lights and a red carpet were involved, she pulled herself upright and was the grand dame of the theater a la Mrs. Citizen Kane.

Walt (Jack) also told his story about his first up close encounter with Ruth (Phoebe). They were filming Nina and Cliff's wedding. Walt was an extra - waiter, I believe. He was trying to get up close to her so he could express his respect. He ended up behind her as they neared the doors to the manor. Ruth was smoking. When she approached the door, the person at the door told her that smoking was not allowed on premises. She promptly told him what he could do using very unladylike language.

MEK (Tad) informed us all that Ruth (Phoebe) was a gasser. No one ever talked about it and it just became a normal part of the job. One day Ian Buchanon (Duke Lavery of GH) and Finola Hughes (Anna Devane of GH) were visiting the set. Everyone was coming out of their dressing rooms to meet him. Then Ruth came 'swanning' down the hallway and Ian was shaking her hand as she farted loudly. Ian wasn't sure how to react, but the rest of the cast and crew went on as though nothing had happened.

MEK (Tad) also mentioned how long and boring filming major events could be for all of them. At one Crystal Ball he was about to go through his dialogue when Eileen (Myrtle) started licking her teeth and making pointed looks at him. As a result, he kept on trying to check his teeth and couldn't feel anything. At the end of the scene, he asked her what was wrong and she responded 'I was just trying to f**K with you, darling.'


Of course there was also talk about AMC moving to the internet through Prospect Park in January. ( As a group they were fairly mum, though excited about the project. JY (JR) let it slip that his role on "The Young and the Restless" is a short-term contract. Thus implying he could be on AMC in January when it starts airing again.


Each told us what is happening in their lives:

Walt (Jack) has a traveling comedy show called Wiled and Willey (

Cam (Ryan) recently shot a movie in Canada and sometimes hosts on Good Morning America. He has signed up with Prospect Park.

Darnell (Jesse) is auditioning.

Jacob (JR) is on "Young and the Restless" with a short-term contract.

Vincent (David) is auditioning.

Michael (Tad) is scared because he doesn't know what the future holds.


They are all excellent story tellers, even without scripts in front of them. The two hours flew by. I half-wished I had upgrade (another $150 dollars) to stay a couple of more hours in a more intimate setting, but was also glad to go home.

A few more pictures:

Michael E. Knight (Tad)

Jacob Young (JR)
 Vincent Irizzary (David)
Cameron Mathison (Ryan)
Darnell Williams (Jesse)
Walt Willey (Jack)

Monday, October 17, 2011

Mount Vernon

Ashley and I volunteer at Rockingham (where George Washington wrote his farewell to the troops after the Revolutionary War), so I thought it fitting for us to visit where George Washington called home.
We had every intention of starting our day here, then continuing 12 miles down the street to Gunston Hall ( We had such a good time at Mount Vernon that we didn't allow enough time to go to there, too. Given that we spent the night before at home, it is amazing we had as much time as we did at Mount Vernon.

As with the rest of our weekend in Virginia, we really timed this just right. More than just beautiful weather, though, we arrived a year after Mount Vernon opened a new museum and visitor's center, and months after they restored the upper garden to how it would have looked in 1799.

I love that history is constantly evolving and changing as more research takes place. Rooms, such as the dining room, that in the 19th century were restored one way have been changed based on new research to indicate the other way was wrong. It is not as static as I was led to believe when I was in elementary school.

The day we toured the mansion, workers were busy making the "stone" front look fresh. Back in the 18th century a stone front would have been too cost prohibitive, so the Washingtons instead built a wood house (lots of trees on their plantation) and covered it with a fake finish made from sand and paint that gave it the illusion of being made out of stone. We even knocked on the front to make sure it was not real stone.

Since 1853 the Mount Vernon Ladies' Association has done a wonderful job taking care of Mount Vernon --  a time period that included the Civil War. The home and museum is open 365 days a year, yup even on Thanksgiving and Christmas. It is all done without taxpayer money.

One little neat tidbit we learned that day was that Thomas Edison was responsible for installing electricity in Mount Vernon in 1916, long after the Mount Vernon Ladies' Association began taking care of it.


James Madison's father really knew how to choose a location for his home. In the 18th century Montpelier was located on the western border of our country with beautiful views of the Blue Ridge Mountains. This family picture was taken by our tour guide, Bob Davies, who requested photo permission if we use his picture. As a photographer, I couldn't say no to that request. 

Today the lessons learned at Montpelier have more to do with archaeology than with the finished product. Montpelier has been undergoing a massive historic renovation since 2004 when it was purchased from the DuPont family. The renovations were unveiled in 2008.

There is still a lot to learn about how the Madison's lived. If you look at the front of the house you see three doors. It was turned into a duplex when James moved his bride into his parents' house, then turned back into a single-family home when they died. 

We learned about how Madison was not a signer of the Declaration of Independence (he was only 26 at the time), but that he is considered to be the Father of the Constitution. He also became our fourth president. We also learned about Dolley, who served as First Lady for 16 years -- 8 helping her good friend and widower, Thomas Jefferson, and 8 with her husband as president. She set the standard for First Ladies.
Ashley took this picture of us mimicking the Madisons.


Our tour of Presidential Homes concluded with Monticello -- home to our nation's third president, Thomas Jefferson.

Columbus Day Weekend 2011 was summer-like with its weather. Hard to tell in our pictures, but the beautiful weather brought out hordes of those sightseeing, like ourselves. We were very patient with our picture taking and were rewarded with some beautiful shots.

We began our trip to Monticello with a 4-hour wait before the next available tour. Fortunately they had a reasonably priced cafe on site, so we had lunch, then we watched a movie, toured the Children's Museum, and finally took the shuttle bus up to the main attraction.

We left the shuttle at 3 PM, with still nearly 2 hours before our 4:50 timed ticket. As luck would have it, the Slavery at Monticello Tour started at 3 PM. Formerly called the Plantation Tour, our tour guide told us about the 100+ slaves of Monticello who lived on Mulberry Row, instead of in the mansion. Much was discussed about Sally Hemings and her family. I was surprised to learn that Sally Hemings and Martha Wayles Jeffereson (Thomas Jefferson's wife) are believed to be half-sisters through their father.

Much was said about how Jefferson disagreed with slavery, yet had slaves. Yes, our Presidents are human and contradictory, just as are the rest of us.

The outdoor tour, nearly our hour in length, was more engaging than the indoor 40-minute tour. Inside we were herded through beautiful rooms by a tour guide more interested in asking us if we had any questions than in leading the discussion, or so it seemed. It was crowded that day. Tours seemed to take place every 5-10 minutes. Coming on the heels of visting Montpelier, and spending much time in the car on scenic back country roads, it was a long day.


Let me start by admitting we did not allow nearly enough time to visit Gettysburg. We spent Columbus Day Weekend in Virginia touring Presidential Homes (for more information on those, see other blog entries). Our stop at Gettysburg was more like a four-hour rest stop than a complete visit to Gettysburg.

With that said, I am glad we stopped. Rather than taking I-95 home, we drove on scenic Route 15 and enjoyed the beginnings of fall foliage.

Our stop included the Gettysburg National Park Service Museum and Visitors Center, which opened in a new building in 2008. By far, the highlight of the Visitors Center is the Gettysburg Cyclorama -- which someone described to us as the 3D movie of the late 19th century. It is a 360-degree depiction of "Pickett's Charge," a key part of the Battle of Gettysburg. It was first created in 1883 -- a mere 20 years after the Battle of Gettysburg. Its statistics are stunning -- it is 42 feet high, and 377 feet in diameter. Every 15 minutes a small movie theater filled with people enter the center of the cyclorama to see the scened come to life. Words cannot do the experience justice. This is just one section of the cylorama. The colors and depth of images are stunning

Four copies of the painting were created. Only two are known to exist. These are the only two versions of any cyclorama known to exist. The Gettysburg Cyclorama has a long history of being mistreated. In 2003 a five-year restoration process took place at a cost of $15 million dollars to return it to its original glory. The transformation is incredible.

I found the museum to be overwhelming with the amount of information it contains, and the care that was taken to display the information. I also found the museum to be too loud for me -- there were not a lot of people, but each room had at least one movie in it, which could be heard in the next room, too. The cacophony made it hard for me to read the descriptions next to the the display cases.

When we were finished with the inside, we had about an hour left before we had to continue the last leg of our drive home. We chose to walk to the Soldier's Cemetery, where Abraham Lincoln gave his famous speech, and where the Union dead are buried, along with veterans from more recent wars. It was definitely worth the mile-long walk.

A pretty fall scene.

PS: Writing this piece was also a lesson in using primary sources. I started by being lazy and using Wikipedia as my source (yes, the librarian in me did shudder). Upon further searching, I came across a press release issued by the National Park Services in 2009 touting their wonderful new visitors center in Gettysburg, PA. This document's information about the Cyclorama contradicted Wikipedia. I made the decision to go with the NPS information over Wikipedia. Shocking, I know.

Monday, October 3, 2011

"Good Old Days"

Last weekend Ashley and I were both in the cast of a world premier play! How cool is that! From now on anyone who wants to see how "Queen Juliette" should look or act will study my version. Anyone who wants to know how to be a member of the Cleaning Corps will study videos of Ashley and her friends.

From the start I found the experience (more than a little) intimidating. Not only was I the first one to ever perform this role, but it was written by the director and one of the leads. Surely they know every single line? Surely they have precise opinions as to how the role should be portrayed?

Well, if they did they were kind enough to let me have a lot of leeway in how Juliette should act and interact with the rest of the cast.

This was by far my largest role -- 85 lines, plus I was on stage for most of Act 2 (and a big scene in Act 1). It was also my shortest rehearsal time (2 months) and came while training for a half marathon, while we had two vacations planned, and the beginning of the school year. Complete recipe for disaster!

The show, while coming at a stressful time in our lives, ended up being a lot of fun.

I learned a few things along the way:

1) It is never too early to learn your lines.
2) When you are having trouble SCREAM, don't whisper, someone has been there before you and will be able to help.
3) Don't do community theater during the school year -- no one needs that added stress.
4) One show a year is more than enough for me (I was also in "George Washington Slept Here" this year).

End of Pine Valley

After 41 years, on September 23rd ABC aired its last episode of "All My Children." It feels like the end of an era to me.

I don't remember exactly when I started to watch "All My Children." I definitely remember watching Jenny, Greg, Tad, and Liza as teenagers when I was a pre-teen myself. Their summer stories hooked me for nearly 3 decades. Once I had control of my own VCR (my parents are still die hard "Days of Our Lives" fans), I taped the episodes and watched them at night. They were always taped when we went out of town.

My grandmother, Grand-Dee (mom's mom) was also an "All My Children" fan, as was her daughter, Debra (my aunt). "All My Children" served as a conversation topic that spanned the generations. Thinking back, my hunch is, I first started watching it when I visited my aunt in Ohio in 1981 or 1982. It was the summer that Angie and Jessie got secretely married and she became pregnant with Frankie.

Thirty years later I bid farewell to Pine Valley as we fans have come to know it. I laughed and cried my way through the last week of episodes. Had the past few years been THAT good, the show would probably still be on the air. I shook my head at the ending (a twist on the "who shot JR?" Dallas cliffhanger, "who did JR shoot?"). I miss it all the more.

There is talk of moving the show to the internet starting in January (, but it won't be the same. Debbie Morgan (Angie Hubbard) and Jacob Young (JR Chandler) and others have moved on with their careers -- and I wish them the best of luck. There is still so much up in the air about possible fees involved, and how long will the episode remain available online, and what is involved with converting to a new format. Honestly, I don't know if I will pick up with the storylines when (if) it returns.

In the meantime, I leave any "All My Children" fans with a picture I took last week:

It is the New Hope (PA) train station where one of my favorite scenes was filmed -- when Angie sees Jessie for the first time after believing he died twenty years earlier. Yes, a very soap-y storyline!

I can just picture Angie on the platform as Jessie's train rolls down the tracks. Ahh....

I was surprised by how much I missed it last week and how much I wondered about storylines. It was a tiny part of my life, but it lasted many years. Plus I made some online friends through it. It was the only TV show I watch. 

It also feels like the end of a connection with my grandmother who died 10 years ago this week.

RIP Doris Jacquelyn Fyfe Thomas. May you be catching up with "our friends" in heaven.