It was just one particle through the hourglass, but instead of sand, perhaps it was a tiny particle of diamond. That’s how fun and magical Day of Days in Los Angeles was. NBC held this day-long function as part of its multi-city celebration of both the publishing of Greg Meng’s book that commemorates the second reason to celebrate, Days of Our Lives’s 50th anniversary gracing our airwaves. 50 years of laughter, tears, gasps, and sighs with our beloved Salem family…gets me a little misty-eyed just thinking about it now!
November 12th through 16th, my frequent partner in soap-dom, mentor, and close friend, Shawn Brady (of Soap Fans United on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/SFU2011/ and @SoapFansUnited1 on Twitter) traveled to the City of Angels to join the cast of in a day-long event full of mini-events honoring the characters, actors, and fans (and crew, though I’m not sure if any of them were there…) who have, thankfully, together kept DAYS on the air for half a century.
I have written in a previous post about the relationship we fans have with the actors who portray the characters on our soaps. They are complex, meaningful, important, and real. In this post I want to say a little about something that struck me at Day of Days: the relationships soap fans have with each other, and those that soap actors have with each other. I witnessed how powerful, genuine, and sanguine both of these types of connections were. And I realized these relationships formed another layer that will protect, support, and buttress the soap industry even as some seek to dismantle it.
Shawn and I arrived to get in line for the actor entrances, signature lines, and a Q&A at Universal Citywalk at 6:30 a.m. for the first event. The event didn’t start at 10:30 a.m., nd we weren’t even the first ones there. We got in line behind a pretty young woman with blond and pink hair and a leather jacket and another with sunglasses, an adorable Southern accent, and also a leather jacket. Come to think of it, Shawn was wearing one too! The brisk, dawn air called for it.
As the sun rose higher, more and more DAYS fans lined up behind us. Some exchanged hugs, others left their places in line giggling and moseying over to squeeze hands and cheek-kiss fellow-fans they knew. Overall, a sense of camaraderie, reunion, and bonding blanketed the increasingly warm venue. The blue umbrellas many fans opened to shield ourselves from the bright sun, found in our NBC-provided swag bags, symbolized the bonds we shared and made that enveloped us and protect the soap industry.
Since my involvement in the Save Our Soaps (SOS) movement, my position as Editor-in-Chief of LTAS, my attendance at various soap fan events, and my interactions with other soap fans, I’ve noticed that each soap’s fans have a unique culture among them. There is a larger one that includes all fans, but the ones that develop around individual soaps are more interesting, because more can be said about what makes them special. You can see each soap fan community’s cultural characteristics, and in the case of DOOL’s, they struck me as warm and open. In fact, I made wonderful friends myself! A little group of us, me, Shawn, a woman named Maureen, her identical twin daughters, and a woman named Cynthia became a bonded little unit. We sat in the second row as the emcee warmed up the crowd with his requisitely dorky but sweet jokes and orange spray tan (LA—what’re ya’ gonna do?!). Cynthia even got us all Cinnabons as our blood sugar plummeted around noon. What a darling lifesaver! We got pictures together, saved seats for each other, talked in signature lines together, and exchanged contact info when the time came to part.
I met and befriended two men, DOOL fans, and one of their parents in a signature line, and I had the honor of meeting the guys from Dishin’ Days!
When the actors came out I noticed how cohesive and hearty their relationships and overall vibe was. The dudes slapping each other on the back and embracing; the women holding hands, like Jen Lilley and Arianne Zucker, side-hugging while balancing on sky-high heels; they all beamed and exuded a genuine but down-to-Earth pride in each other and the product they create for us every day. I’ve heard soap actors say and saw at Day of Days that the bonds of soap actors, working together most days out of the year for hours and hours, doing emotionally potent scenes together, traveling around the country meeting fans, knowing that their relationships mean so much to us makes their relationships with each other uncommon, even inimitable. This was clear as they smiled, whispered to each other, and always stuck close by each other.
All of this became doubly apparent to me at the Stephen Nichols and Mary Beth Evans event Shawn and I attended the next morning. This event required tickets, unlike the Day of Days, which was free. Thus fewer people attended, giving it an intimate feel, with candlelight and an indoor setting. Stephen and Mary Beth sat onstage on stools, leaning in slightly toward each other. I felt not an iota of anything but real affection—none of the phoniness actors are often accused of–from them as they discussed their decades-long acting relationship on DOOL, as they teased each other and laughed, and as they reminisced, and pondered/co-answered questions from the audience.
When we sat down, Shawn and I knew no one at our table. But by the end of the event we had all exchanged contact info and become Facebook friends. I even saw my friend, Debby O’connor from October’s General Hospital Fall Fan Getaway! And I was honored to meet Michael Maloney of Soaps In Depth; Michael Bruno, one of the most in-demand soap agents around; and Mandy Denaux, who runs Mary Beth’s blog, http://www.plankblog.com.
As I sat at LAX at 9:00 a.m. the next morning waiting to board my plane back to my home, New York City, slightly loopy for lack of food or sleep, I pondered these soap fan-fan and soap actor-actor bonds. These types of social adhesion, in addition to those of soap fans to characters and soap fans to actors, will be part of what saves soaps and brings them back. We are such a powerful, elaborate collective. I even saw a woman and her daughter wearing t-shirts proclaiming they watch DOOL together! We will not let our soaps down or let them die, and the ones that have gone on hiatus, we will bring back. Soap opera scholars have called soaps “eternal worlds.” But so are the close and heartfelt worlds of soap fans and of soap actors.
By Akbi Khan
Edited by Akbi Khan
Photos courtesy of Shawn Brady and Soap Fans United