Soap Up With Akbi #1: The Bold and the Beautiful Pop-Up Fan Event

On Monday, September 14th, I, Akbi Khan, your Editor-in-Chief here at LTAS. went to the The Bold and the Beautiful (B&B) Pop-Up Fan Event held just miles from my home, New York City. I wanted to share my experience at and reflections upon it with you, our readers.

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Ashleigh Brewer and Pierson Fode

First I have to get one thing out of the way: the way soap actors look. When I was eight years old and started watching Loving, All My Children (AMC), One Life to Live (OLTL), and General Hospital (GH), my cousin who was a year younger than I was began her own obsession with OLTL. One day she said to me, “Akbi: these people are all so beautiful that they look like they were made in a factory.” I laughed, and we named this imaginary (or is it imaginary?) factory The Soap Actor Factory. Going to the B&B fan event has me convinced more than ever that my cousin’s theory from 31 years ago is true. The B&B actors at this event (Ashleigh Brewer, Thorsten Kaye, Eric McCook, Jacqueline MacInnes Wood, Linsey Godfrey, and Pierson Fode) were so beautiful that it’s a little weird. Not a flaw from head to toe.

Now I’ll give a quick run-down of the events of the day. The event was in NYC, as I said. My good friend, Shawn Brady, Save Our Soaps (SOS) leader and co-head of Soap Fans United (@SoapFansUnited1 on Twitter and  on Facebook), a major group in the SOS community, had flown up from Hallandale, Florida and kindly met at my apartment.

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John McCook and me

We got a cab to the Marriott Marquis in Times Square where the event was being held. Shawn and I practically power-walked tp the event ballroom, rushing to be in time for registration. We were greeted by John McCook, who was warm, friendly, and ready to chat and take pictures on the spot.

When we got up to the registration table, both women who were registering people were kind, friendly, and smiled at us. One of them was Eva Demirjian, B&B’s publicist. She was so sweet. We got our swag bags with lots of B&B goodies, including an invitation to CaRidge’s wedding reception!

We mingled with other soap fans, journalists, and SOS leaders. Next, B&B Supervising Producer Casy Kasprzyk, whom I also met and was personable, affable, yet consummately professional, introduced Ashleigh Brewer, Pierson Fode, Linsey Godfrey, Thorsten Kaye, Eric McCook, and Jacqueline MacInnes Wood one-by-one. They were greeted with raucous, jubilant applause–standing up, arms in the air–by us attendees, as they waved and smiled, or in some cases shimmied and swaggered into the ballroom. We got our food from the buffet—mixed greens, vegetarian lasagna, quinoa salad, a breadstick, and half a brownie for me). I kept getting up to say hello to people, including Roger Newcomb of welovesoapstv.net and well-known soap journalist and champion, Errol Lewis.

All in attendance watched September 14th’s episode together, hooting, hollering, gasping, and generally interacting with the action on the TV screen–fans, journalists, and actors. That’s what we soap fans do, because our shows are such a potent instigator of emotion for us—and anyone with a heart and a soul, if you ask me! Whenever I glanced over at other attendees, they were smiling.

CaRidge danced their first dance as a married couple. They cut their three-tiered, all-white cake. “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)” played and Casey Kaspryzk invited all the single women in the audience to join Caroline on the dance floor to try to catcgh bouquet. Caroline made a perfect backward shot, a straight arc right into the hands of two fans! (Yours truly is in this video uploaded to Twitter by Casey Kasprzyk–I look like a major dork!). They decided to share it.

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Jacqueline Machines Wood, me, and my “WWSD” t-shirt

The rest of the attendees were then invited to join the couple on the dance floor.  I shot out of my seat and began tripping the light fantastic next to, wouldn’t you know it, Ms. MacInnes Wood! She’s a great dancer. I said to her, “I just have one question for you,” and pulled my t-shirt straight so she could see that it said, “What Would Steffy Do?” She threw her head back, laughed, and said, “I love it. And the answer to that is…uh, anything!”

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My amazing friend and mentor, Shawn Brady, sitting on John McCook’s lap

Shawn and I then joined the six different lines for photographs with and signatures of the six B&B actors in attendance. We got our pics with them in fun poses and signatures on our CaRidge wedding reception invitations. Shawn sat in John McCook’s lap, and got I got a picture of it. What cool guys, both of them. Mr. McCook asked me how I thought the show handled the Maya/transgender storyline. I said I thought they did a perfect job and a huge service to the LGBTQQIAA community. He agreed. Time was running short, so the adroit Eva Demirjian had to escort the actors into the press area for interviews with Roger Newcomb, Errol Lewis, and others.

Shawn, Joann Skutches (passionate soap fan and journalist), and a soap fan friend of ours lingered outside the ballroom, charging our devices and making sure we had all our contact information synced up and such for the people we had met. We all do work in the SOS community day-after-day, after all. To our pleasant surprise, John McCook approached us and began chatting like the congenial charmer he is. He bid us adieu eventually, as did Pierson Fode from a distance. I yelled to Pierson, “Don’t forget to tell Victoria Justice [his girlfriend and co-star in the upcoming Nickelodeon film, “Namoi and Ely’s No Kiss List“] I miss her on iCarly, and to read letsalkaboutsoaps.com/blog!” He raised a long, slender arm, in his light brown suit jacket in goodbye and replied, “Most definitely! It was great meeting you!”

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Thorsten Kaye pretty much holding me up, as I was about to faint at his touch

Now for some reflections on the event. When I was in the signature lines and I got up to Thorsten Kaye’s table, it truly hit me (before that I had been talking up a storm with Annemarie Leblanc of “Soap Opera Spy,” or with Joann Skutches): Thorsten Kaye was standing in front of me. Patrick Thornhart (OLTL), Ian Thornhart (Port Charles), Zach Slater (AMC), and Ridge Forrester (B&B) WERE STANDING IN FRONT OF ME. I got up to the table with my quivering hand holding the invitation to Caroline and Ridge’s wedding reception for Mr. Kaye to sign. I leaned over and whispered to him: “You’ll always be Patrick Thornhart to me.” He looked me right in the eyes and said, “That’s very kind of you. It means a lot.” Mr. Kaye signed my wedding reception invitation: “To Akbi and LTAS, thank you for all you do,” as I had told him we were getting AMC, OLTL, and other canceled soaps back on the air and were also generally banding together with our SOS community fellows in trying to save the genre as a whole. He then put his arm around me and I put mine around him as Annemarie Leblanc snapped a pic of us. As we stood there, my legs turned to jelly and I felt a lump in my throat.

But let me make something clear. This was not about his physical beauty, undeniable as it is. It was about the characters he has portrayed on soaps, all for years at a time, imbuing them with such genuine humanity, dignity, and warmth. Though meeting Mr. Kaye was the most intense for me, as I have been an ABC-soap-watcher for the longest, meeting Ashleigh Brewer, Pierson Fode, Linsey Godfrey, John McCook, and Jacqueline MacInnes Wood was also deeply moving (Actually, I missed really talking to Ms. Godfrey, as the actors were on a tight schedule and had to do their press interviews, but we “did a little dance,” as she described it, as we stood between two tables and she wiggled her tiny, little waist by my ever-expanding one).

As soap fans, we have relationships with our soaps’ characters that are as real, deep, and meaningful as ones with people in our “real lives.” We live years and years of their lives alongside our own, seeing them through their adjustment to the “slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,” as William Shakespeare wrote, while we too manage our own slings and arrows. And the actors who portray these characters bring their all to them, so in a sense, without sounding too crazed fan-like, we have relationships with the actors themselves as well.

You could see the realness and power of these relationships in the beaming eyes and radiant smiles of all the fans and even press members who attended the event, and in the gentle pride and honest gratitude with which the actors entered the ballroom as B&B Supervising Producer Casey Kasprzyk introduced them.

And you could feel the power and energy of those relationships in the room. I have met a few famous people, including a couple actors, in my day, but this was different. The ballroom at the event was positively vibrating, almost alive, with this buoyant, loving energy when CaRidge danced their first dance, when “Single Ladies (Put a Ring On It)” came on and Caroline threw her bouquet, as we all stood in line to do the meet-and-greet with the actors. I am sure endorphins were flooding my brain and body, as a recent fracture I suffered didn’t hurt at all the entire time!

Soaps are driven by and revolve around the characters that people them–plot comes second to that, as scholar after scholar pointed out in the research I did on creating an SOS group, thistimeitsforever.org for the final project in my Master’s in rhetoric and composition this past spring. This is why we soap fans are some of the most passionate around, because of the sound, unbreakable bonds we have with the characters and actors who portray them. And it is why we will be getting AMC, OLTL, Another World, As the World Turns, Dallas, Santa Barbara, Dynasty, and other soaps back, preserving the ones still on the air, and making sure the genre is around forever.

rp_Photo-on-5-20-14-at-6.21-PM-2-300x200.jpgBy Akbi Khan

Edited by Akbi Khan

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