My General Hospital Weekend:
By Leigh Russell

            Let me begin by saying that I could not have had a better time in Los Angeles, and that is thanks largely to Katrina being my surrogate mommy, Abbie being so bubbly, and Heather being super sweet.  Tracey and I shared a room, and none of the girls let the fact that I was several years younger than them, {but still legal at 18 mind you} get in the way of anything. 

            I arrived at LAX from Memphis and Jackson, MS, dog tired, and feeling so sentimental and stupid, I wanted to turn around and go home. I knew it was going to be a disaster--nothing could have been further from the truth. It was a Wednesday, and I had already started on the wrong foot by leaving my tickets for ALL the events at HOME!  Luckily, I called my mommy, and she sent them overnight, to the hotel.  The Sportsmen's Lodge is much prettier on the Internet than it is in real life, and it's true what they say that most people in LA that are FROM LA are snobs. Maybe my southern was showing through.  In the shuttle on the way there, I met a guy whose sister was best friends with the president of ABC Daytime, so in the future, if I can work that angle, I will. He lives just a few blocks from the hotel, and his name is Ed, {not the guy that cut in line} and if I see him again, maybe we can work something out. ;-)

            I'll skip the boring stuff that happened from Wednesday to Friday night, and go right to the dinner.  Abbie, Heather, and myself got a table while Tracey met Katrina in the lobby. I was pleasantly surprised at how beautiful Katrina was {Sage gave her a makeover, but I KNOW she didn't need it}.  Nicole met up with us, and after showing pictures of our families, we got the particulars out of the way, thoroughly annoyed the waitresses by being painfully specific with our orders, and then proceeded to dish the soaps at length.  Abbie was the life of the party and when Jacob Young showed up, I had to duck and cover.  When they came back with the "ass-grabbing" story, I knew I was in for an eventful weekend.  I want just ONE quarter for everytime I heard Abbie tell that story, and I can pay off my college tuition.

            After dinner, I was tired so I went to bed, but I watched the girls bopping on the terrace for a while to "I Will Survive."  They then went to check out the PC event, and as luck would have it, Abbie and Heather met and got pics and autographs with nearly everyone from the show. From what I hear, Jay Pickett and Erin Hershey were the nicest, and didn't mind the autographs, even as their raucous "handlers" were shooing them away.  Thorsten Kaye apparently stopped the hearts of everyone that was there. I was completely envious, but far to sleepy to convey it when they came back up to the room to give me the 411. The next morning, I woke up in a cold sweat realizing I had missed my golden opportunity to plant one on Keiko Ellsworth. 

            Saturday morning was a real experience.  Nancy Lee Grahn's event coincided with TWO weddings, and as she was mingling in the crowd with us, taking pictures, the mother of the bride stopped in her tracks, stepped through mulch and rocks to tap on the window, blow Nancy a kiss and scream that she loved the show--real kodak moment, folks.  Constance Towers was radiant, and absolute royalty in my book. From now on, I bow down to the greatness of Constance. When I asked Nancy and Constance if they could live anywhere else other than LA, they both gave great stories from their past--NLG had been on Santa Barbara, and her big dream had been to afford a beautiful French restaurant. As Oprah says, her "full-circle" moment came months later when Santa Barbara was number one in France, and that same restaurant's chef, came out and offerend to make Nancy whatever her heart desired.  Nancy said more than anything, she'd like to go back to that French town, {Bordeaux if memory serves} and live.  Constance told us of her rugged Montana upbringing, and learning to ride horses bareback.  Both commented that they couldn't see themselves not acting, but if they weren't, these places would be most special to them.

            After my picture and autograph with Nancy, the event was settling down, so we got Abbie to go up to Wally at the podium, with a note penned by Katrina, asking for a song, a capella.  He sang "It Had to Be You," and melted all our hearts. If you ask me, Wally Kurth needs NO music to be wonderful.  I decided to leave after Katrina and the others departed, but got in line for Constance's autograph anyway. She had been about to leave, but didn't give it a second thought to stay and sign for an ever-increasing line of people.  When I got up to her, she looked me right in the eyes and gave me her full attention.  I told her my first name was Victoria, and she told me a great story about that being her favorite name, because of a dear friend of hers.  Beautiful, gracious woman, who takes great pictures.

            Next was Real's event.  I had a seat pretty close to the front, and I'll just say that Lynne Moody and Marisa Ramirez are the most beautiful girls in the world, and GH does not do them justice.  Coltin was a far cry from his alter ego, and seemed much more laid back, and interested in busting Real's chops whenever the opportunity arose.  Their banter calmed down the entire event, as everyone was crying when a physically challenged fan read a heart warming letter to them all.  Chad, thanks to a woman's GENEROUS donation, agreed to sing a few bars of a song from one of his theater productions, but teased the crowd many a time by singing "Mary Had A Little Lamb," first.  John J. York let us all know that he didn't think Mac should keep following Felicia around, and genuinely showed his concern that the emails were being read more than the fanmail, and when we corrected him, he encouraged us to keep writing, as the NUMBER of fan letters says more than our letters to "The Powers That Be."  Vanita Harbour was also a guest and she is even more beautiful in real life, as well. 

            Sunday morning was the luncheon, and I was beaming because I just KNEW that I had won Vanessa Marcil's autographed Soaps In Depth--well, I hoped, anyway.  Due to a severe lack of funds, I only had the opportunity to purchase a few items, but enjoyed looking at all the GH Memorbilia they had set up.  Once inside, things went slowly until the stars started walking in.  I took a nose dive for the paparazzi line that had formed and got some good close up shots of the stars walking in.  Once back at the table, I was too far back to see clearly, but Brad Maule and John York did a great job as emcees, and my highlight was when Brad made a candid remark about Wendy Riche and got a reaction from the audience, he quipped, "Oh what's she going to do, not HIRE me?" All of the stars got asked easy questions with short answers, with the exception of Denise Alexander and Nancy Lee Grahn, who took great time to answer their questions, and let the fans know that they were painfully aware of the "lack of continuity" present in most storylines on the show.

            The first autograph I got was Marisa Ramirez's. She was beautiful, gracious, and didn't have a line at all--I couldn't believe it.  She is so tiny, but was quick to laugh, and I could tell, perhaps more than any of her co-stars, she was really happy to meet the fans and be there.  Next was Jensen Buchanan, who could have not been more beautiful, and was most definitely the most beautifully dressed woman in the room.  She didn't even appear mortified when I knocked over a glass of water at Billy Warlock's table right next to hers. Luckily no one was hurt, no one's autograph ruined, and nothing but the table cloth got wet.  Sheesh, I can't believe I'm admitting that to the world.  On to Vanita's table, her line was nil as well.  Real sat right next to her, and his wife was so welcoming, she even moved from the table so that fans could get a picture.  In fact, she insisted that we get up close and personal with her man, and let me tell you, the arms on Real Andrews--my heart stopped while I was in them.  I had all the autographs I wanted, so I ducked out early to get ready for Real's Gospel Hour.

            Jonathan Jackson and his family, Lisa Vultaggio, Vanita, and Coltin were among the GH stars who sang.  Lisa, Vanita and Coltin each sang two songs while giving very personal explanations along with them. I was moved to tears more than once, and when Jonathan sang, God was definitely in the room.  He got inspired, and sang a song completely off the top of his head, that he and his family had written just moments before coming into the room.  He treated it like a jam session with family and friends, complete with false starts, tricky equipment, and more than a glance at the lyrics to Amazing Grace.  Following performances from guests of Lisa's and Real's, everyone joined in for Amazing Grace, and though the event was the most personal and intimate of all of them, it was hot, and I couldn't feel my legs, and by then, I was praying to God for it to be over--it was.  Real hung around to sign a few autographs, as did his guests.

            The next morning was Maurice, Chad and Billy's events. Since my room was literally next door to the Vistas where most all the events were held, I had a clear view of the line when I got up in the morning--there were people out there for the noon event as early as 8:00am, to secure a place in line.  Little did they know, so many people from the luncheon had gone home, there couldn't have been more than 75 tickets sold total.  I went in first, saving seats for Tracey and Nicole.  Billy showed up first, and in an extremely candid Q/A session, he informed us that he didn't know whether to be insulted or pleased when JFP expressed her pleasure at his peformance in the scenes where AJ jumped to Skye's defense when Alan laid into her about her involvement in Emily's accident.  Many fans were of the opinion that Billy, so informed about the goings on behind the scenes, should take Jill's job.  He told us that he'd LOVE to produce, and thought he could do the job well.  Chad came in next, and was pretty quiet while Billy kept the fans riled up about AJ's storylines.  Maurice came in a few moments later, looking absolutely delicious in stone washed jeans riding so low those angel boxers were more than visible, and a white muscle shirt.  He sat closest to me, and I swear he stared at me more than anyone else--perhaps it was because I was overdressed.  Everyone else was practically still in their PJ's, but Vicky-Leigh broke out the sundress and actually let my hair down for this event.

            Maurice told a great story about catching a snake that appeared to be a rattle snake, and scaring his wife, but thoroughly impressing his eldest daughter, Cailey.  When I asked if he thought Sonny should be a father, he responded with a resounding "Yes!" and said that perhaps in the future, since Sonny and Carly were not breaking up, that that would happen.  I then asked Billy if he thought AJ should get custody of Michael, and perhaps more for our benefit than their own, Maurice and Billy launched into the typical "Sonny/AJ" tirade about who was the better father-- "You're a drunk and you pushed my wife down the stairs!"  "You're a mobster and your wife and child blew up!"  They slipped easily in and out of their roles.  Maurice went on to say that Vanessa and Sarah were the best he'd worked with because they were dynamic on different levels. Billy added that when working with Sarah, she was such a powerful, in your face actress, that you came prepared to WORK, even when his character didn't have any lines.  Maurice told us how much he had enjoyed working with Vanessa, and that certain aspects of her character, like her vulnerability and sensuality that came through in Brenda, are what endeared her to himself, as well as the fans.  He hopes to work with her again.

            Maurice mentioned his displeasure with the "Angel/Cabin" storyline, and said that thankfully, that part was over.  He also mentioned that of all the girls who auditioned for the role of Carly, Tamara Braun was the ONLY one, who made him step up and actually participate in the scenes.  According to him, she inspired him to act, but that it was difficult to move on so quickly from Sarah, and that it took him a while to adjust.  Billy mentioned that Angel might possibly be paired with Jax, since the Sonny thing wasn't working out, but only time will tell.  Chad, Maurice, and Billy eventually walked to every corner of the room so us gals and ONE man, could snap some close ups with ease, and then they stood in line for a few minutes, giving some of us the chance to get pictures with all three of them.  After a short raffle, Maurice left, and then Chad. Billy stayed the longest, and as he left, I shook his hand and advised him to get Jill's job. He laughed a VERY sexy laugh and promised me he'd try.  I'm keeping my fingers crossed, Billy.