Failed Auditions: To replace Bobby Doran (Jamie Frame, 1973-1978). Considered to replace Mike Hammett (Dennis Wheeler, 1972-1978).
"I guess I should preface this with my first brush with this show as a viewer. My earliest memory is being at a friend's house when I was 12 and suddenly hearing his mom yell "THAT BITCH!" It turned out she was referring to this Rachel person on TV who'd taken it upon herself to send "dead baby clothes" to someone who'd just suffered a miscarriage. I remember seeing this Rachel person on-screen for a few scenes and she scared me to death. The woman looked liked a witch.
I had become a professional child actor a year earlier. And a few months after that cursory introduction to AW at my friend's house I found myself auditioning for a role on it. I can barely remember most of my early auditions but this one is still quite vivid in my mind. The audition was at an ad agency (BBD&O, I think) and the casting director's name was Dorothy Purser. I walked into a small office and Miss Purser introduced me to the person who I'd be reading with, Constance Ford. I was startled when I first saw her because I immediately recognized her as the vicious mother in A Summer Place, which I'd seen on The Million Dollar Movie on TV more than once. But this woman in front of me was very different. She was wearing jeans and what looked like a man's button down shirt. She looked me dead in the eye, shook my hand very firmly, smiled broadly and said softly "Hi. How you doin'?" Wow. I will always remember that. She was regarding me as a fellow professional and not some little kid, for starters, something I wasn't really used to at that point. I have no recollection of the audition apart from that. I didn't get the job because it was apparently for Dennis Carrington and the kid who was playing the role (Mike Hammett) had agents who were asking for too much money to renew his contract. His agents backed down once they knew auditions were being held to replace him. Oh, well. A year later I was supposedly being considered to replace Bobby Doran as Jamie but that didn't happen, either. I like to think Constance Ford might have remembered and suggested me. I'll never know. I was just so damned impressed that she showed up to read with a bunch of kids for the role of someone who wasn't even in her storyline. Maybe the fact that she did show up for this intimidated Hammett's agents.
In the fall of 1973 I was doing a tour of The Sound Of Music and tutoring only took a few hours a day. I became hooked on AW and watched it every day and for the next six years I'd watch it during other out of town theater jobs, vacations and in the summer. I clearly remember Mary Matthews' death and Jamie and Dennis finding their chauffeur pal Rocky's dismembered body in garbage bags stuffed under the floorboards of a boat house. I guess I had a peculiar kind of good taste at a young age because I adored that show. I loved the architects Carol Lamont, Neil Johnson and Gwen Parrish at Frame Construction and the scenes at Cory Publishing at The Complex. And, of course, Mac, Rachel and Iris. The show had a sophistication which seemed sorely lacking in the other shows I tried watching. I did get sucked into some of the others but I knew AW was particularly special. And it was. I was in a production of Macbeth in 1974 and John Getz (Neil Johnson) was my fellow understudy in it. He never got to go on for Christopher Walken but I got to go on for one of the guys I was understudying. See the Guiding Light thread for my full story! John was a nice guy. I think I knew not to bring up AW too much because he was focusing on the play.
In 1977 I was directed in a play by Brian Murray. We stayed in touch and he called me up the following spring because he was about to start on AW as Dr. Dan Shearer at the same time a play he was in, Dan was transferring to Broadway from an Off-Broadway theater (it was directed by Melvin Bernhardt, one of AW's directors). I filled him in on the characters and assured him it was THE soap he should ever be on. He'd call from time to time and tell me how it was going. He was very happy with the company of actors he was with-he was close friends with Susan Harney (Alice), Lynn Milgrim (Susan, he became her daughter's godfather)) and fellow Broadway theater actors Douglass Watson, John Tillinger and Joseph Maher. He also became very good friends with Harding Lemay. He realized his role was never going to be all that substantial compared to, say, Watson's, but that was fine with him. The show going to 90 minutes became a big problem for him, though, especially since he was still performing the lead in the play on Broadway 8 times a week. He had Paul Stevens (Brian Bancroft) hire me for a few months to run lines with him-Paul was a very elegant, very nice man. When Brian left AW (Dr. Dan and his wife Susan eventually reconciled and left Bay City) he knew he'd been on a soap that was winding up a Golden Age of sorts. AW really did have an extraordinary assortment of theater actors during that time. He did a few weeks on GL a year or so later but that was only as a favor to a producer. I alerted him to the fact that Dan and Susan's adopted daughter Julia had started appearing on the show. He watched it a bit to see Kyra Sedgwick-he sort of wished he could go back on it to have a few scenes with her.
In 1979 my friend Geraldine Court got a role on it as June Laverty. I think she was only in it for 6 months. I remember her saying she loved Charles Cioffi who played her husband Kirk. She was not fond of Dan Hamilton, the actor who played Jeff Stone, her character's lover. She told me he enjoyed their kissing scenes TOO much and he was married and had a young son. She admired Beverlee McKinsey a lot, especially in her chutzpah in marching up to the production office to find out advance storyline information. The other actors would subsequently pump her for info for themselves. And she claimed McKinsey had installed little lights in various drawers on the set so when she opened them up she would be lit from below which was SO much more flattering than overhead lighting!
In 1984 i did a really wonderful set of one-act plays called Laughing Stock, written by Romulus Linney (Laura Linney's father). Leon Russom (Willis) was in the cast. He was a great guy and every so often he'd tell me stories about his days on AW. He was very happy there but frustrated with his character who he termed a "loser." He loved working with Dorothy Lyman (Gwen). At one point Willis was supposed to be paired up with Rachel but Victoria Wyndham put her foot down about it and it didn't happen. He wasn't personally offended, he said she did it because she didn't want Rachel to be screwing another Frame. He said the only love interest she stopped Rachel from continuing with was Frank, a Vietnam vet who took interest in her sculpting. The actor who played him was an absolute train wreck when it came to remembering lines. And his breath was bad.
In 1987 I worked at two different agents' offices. At the first one I met Anne Howard, who flew in from LA to screen test for Nicole Love. I wasn't surprised she landed the gig. We went out to lunch and I filled her in on what I knew about the show. Anne was really sweet. The only dish I got out of her was that things were distinctly frosty between "Sandy" Ferguson and Robert Kelker-Kelly because he'd "strung her along" and was having an affair with a production assistant. When I worked for the other agent I met Anne Heche who visited the office with her then-boyfriend Richard Burgi, who was also on the show. He didn't speak much and she spoke a blue streak. She was a lot of fun. Her face lit up when I told her I was acquainted with Anna Stuart aka Anna Banana. She adored her. When I worked for these agents I would come across "casting breakdowns" for all the soaps. The one from AW that stands out was one for "Pamela Davis- early 30s, dark hair preferred, beautiful, intelligent, strong-minded, witty woman who is not above using her innate sexuality to get what she wants." They never did introduce Rachel's half-sister, did they? I'm pretty sure a new production regime cut short those plans-that sort of thing wasn't unusual.
In 1988 Brian told me he'd spoken to Harding Lemay about me. I was hoping maybe I could work for him as an assistant down the road. Lemay was quite friendly and talkative. I got to talk with him a lot about his previous stint on AW. He was fascinating. He told me his plans for the show. He had written a huge umbrella storyline which would begin with Jason Frame running a black market baby racket through the Frame farm. He made a point of saying it was actually a social issue storyline, not a melodramatic one, nobody would end up dead or blind by the conclusion of it. He mentioned Anna Holbrook, who played Sharlene, he saw a lot of potential in her. He was upfront with me and told me that his son would be working with him and that there would likely be no place for me. I appreciated his honesty. Of course a few months later he was off the show-maybe P&G nixed the black market baby storyline that he was so enthusiastic about?"
"I was trying to remember if I'd actually done any background acting on AW during its run but I'm pretty sure I'd remember that. A friend of mine worked it a lot, though. He really loved it down there at that studio way the hell out in Brooklyn. He especially loved working the gala scenes because they'd take a long time and the paycheck was good. The Lumina Ball episodes took an extremely long time to do. He said the actors were so much fun to be around and everybody was treated the same. On one of the days (actually it was night), they had been taping for 16 hours and everybody was literally lying on the floor, exhausted. One of the cute young background actors asked one of the principal actresses if she needed anything....
Geraldine was hoping that her role on AW would lead to a contract but she was nobody's dummy and saw that there were already enough ladies in her age range already on the show. As I wrote in my first post she loved Charles Cioffi. She enjoyed doing scenes with Beverlee McKinsey and they got along fine. She also got a kick out of doing scenes with Gretchen Oehler because they had some humor to them with June being occasionally bemused by Vivian's antics. Geraldine was one of the funniest people I've ever met. Unfortunately this was never displayed in her work on The Doctors or Guiding Light, her two biggest soap roles. I have to wonder if she hadn't played June Laverty and also if Jennifer Richards on GL didn't come through via her friend Douglas Marland if she might not have been cast as Miranda Bishop the following year. She and Judith McConnell were more or less the same age and quite similar looking physically. I think she might have been a very interesting Miranda, probably a bit frostier than McConnell, and not as, how shall I say this, as "sexually charged." In other words, she might have made a more interesting successor to Bev in a role not dissimilar to Iris.
Speaking of Miranda Bishop I forgot to mention that I have worked a lot with Diane Bradley a lot doing background acting work in films and on TV shows. Her stage name while doing AW was Bradley Bliss and she played Kit Farrell, who ended up being the Holloway heiress who'd been kidnapped by an Italian terrorist group. She's a lovely lady and still looks great. I don't ask her much about her AW days. However a few months ago I told her about this YT Channel that's got episodes from her tenure and they are of fantastic quality in terms of vision and sound. I believe DRW50 has posted a few of these, already. Anyway when I saw her when we both worked on The Good Wife in April she made a point of thanking me for pointing her toward the channel-she said her nieces and nephews finally have a really good way of seeing their aunt in action back then. That's nice. God bless YT.
Back to Sally/Julia-in June 1983 we were treated to the sight of Mary Page Keller replacing Dawn Benz as Sally and both Jonna Lee and Faith Ford replacing Kyra Sedgwick as Julia. The way they revealed these replacements all three times was exactly like this-the camera would start on the ground and pan up to them and the announcer would say "The role of ------ is now being played by -----." And each time this happened the girls were wearing those flat, princess style shoes that seemed to come back into fashion that year! It must have been an inside joke at the studio to have these reveals shot in that manner. I think when Taylor Miller replaced Mary Page Keller she was walking into a kitchen and placing down shopping bags, looking flustered, as the announcer told us who was now playing Sally!"