Coming in Spring 2009: The Newly Updated GHFCW For Dummies!
Maybe you’ve wondered as I did how an event like the General Hospital Fan Weekend comes about. You might have assumed that ABC hosts and creates the event for fans. No. Perhaps you thought it was a marketing promotion dreamed up long ago by the president of ABC daytime. No. It could be a big party put together by the various actors’ fan club presidents. Getting warm. Or maybe it’s the baby of the GH Fan Club President, Debbie Morris, with lots of help from Fan Club President for several GH actors, Debby O’Connor along with other dedicated folks. Bullseye!
Because I am insatiably curious, I watched, listened and paid attention as much as I could during the fan weekend in August 2003. I learned a lot about who does what at General Hospital and how the fan bandwagon works. It really boils down to a few big time fans that, at some point, stepped up to the plate and made something wonderful happen.
I felt privileged to grab a few minutes of this busy woman’s time during the weekend. Honestly, I don’t think she would have been able to offer me even ten minutes, except I asked late in the evening as the Tamara Braun Fan Event was winding down and she was sitting in an exhausted heap watching people go by. You see, she’d been on her feet all day monitoring events, rooms, actors, fans and handling the multitude of details involved in pleasing a room full of diverse fans all wanting to see their favorite GH star.
My first question was how did she get started as a professional fan club president?
Over 20 years ago, she began attending fan events which were a fun outlet for her and she enjoyed meeting the soap actors. An active viewer, she wrote letters to the actors and producers making suggestions for storylines. She and her husband were friends with Ken Hanes and Mr. Hanes’ wife asked her to be his fan club president.
And so it began. Working as a secretary, she considered her position as fan club president a fun, unique hobby. It just happened to be a hobby that grew into a full time job after many years.
Always a fan of General Hospital, Ms. O’Connor currently acts as Fan Club President for Tamara Braun, Ric Hearst, Cynthia Preston, Natalia Livingston and Greg Vaughan as well as assisting Wally Kurth and Nancy Lee Grahn with their mail. A busy woman, she also lists as clients many actors from other soaps.
“So what does a fan club president actually do?” I asked.
Ms. O’Connor acts as a go between for actors and fans. She relays information from fans to the actors, makes sure actors receive gifts sent by fans, reads and logs mail, and sometimes suggests responses. She emphasized that actors read their mail before she receives it and most keep their mail. Debby logs the mail according to names and databases and then generates the response the actor wishes to send. She returns the reply to the actor who signs it.
Involved in the GH Fan Club Weekend, Debby O’Connor works closely with Debbie Morris, General Hospital Fan Club President, smoothing bumps and addressing details. For instance, she arrived for Tamara Braun’s event last August to discover that the wrong room was booked and changes were hurriedly made to set up the event. Since I was there, I can attest that the event ran smoothly.
Eloquent in her praise, Ms. O’Connor says she works for the greatest people in the world. She sees the respect between the actors, their passion, and their agonizing during rehearsals which leads to the brilliant performances that hit our screen. I was impressed by her devotion to the soap genre. She also holds a deep appreciation for the fans and what they do to support the actors and offered an example of the funds raised for various charities.
Her schedule is based around the actors’ schedules as she works to answer questions from fans. For example, she may receive an e-mail asking if Tamara Braun has a middle name and then e-mail a response. She does have a middle name by the way, it’s Tamara Eve Braun. It’s good to meet a person in the know because I like the trivia type details.
As you can imagine, plans for the upcoming GH Fan Club Weekend which will begin on July 8th and end on July 11th, are in full swing. Questions for Ms. O’Connor can be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org or she can be reached through snail mail at Debby O’Connor, P.O. Box 16212, Irvine, CA 92623.
The rule says, “No taping allowed.” However, Stacey Lopez is the one notable exception. A few years ago Stacey attended the GH Fan Weekend with her brand new camera and taped some of the events. A considerate kind of person, she later made a copy and sent it to Debbie Morris as a thank you. The next year, Debbie Morris invited her back and asked her to be the official taping memory maker for the luncheon as well as several of the actor’s fan events. If you ask Stacey she’ll tell you, “I’m just a goober fan with a camera.” And that’s part of the charm of her tapes. They do not claim to be slick and professional, but an actual, hands on representation of the actors, events, fans and the mysterious green room happenings.
Laughing at herself, she told me that the first year she taped in the press room (the green room where the actors gather) she was petrified. She works to present a behind the scenes look at the events while staying out of the way of the professional press. It’s unique; it’s real; it’s fun to see Stacey, a regular fan like you and me, interacting with the actors.
This year Stacey will tape the GH Fan Luncheon as well as some of the actors’ individual events. A couple fan club presidents invite her to tape and offer the tapes for sale with the proceeds going to charities or the fan clubs. For example, last year she taped Nancy Lee Grahn’s event and 100% of the proceeds from the sale of the tapes available through her website went to charity. Her tape of Tyler Christopher’s event was offered through his fan club with proceeds benefiting the theatre he supports. Some of the fan clubs tape events themselves while some of the actors prefer not to have their events taped.
After the Big Weekend, Stacey edits the tapes and offers them through her website in a few short days. The girl is a whiz, though she’d probably modestly deny it. Stacey can be found at Curlyqgrl's General Hospital Video Tapes. You’ll be amazed at the storyline tapes available in addition to General Hospital fan events. I’ve ordered both storyline and fan event tapes and thoroughly enjoy them.
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