“As The World Turns”: Thanks for the memories

2009 has been a banner – oops, I mean bummer – of a year for me.

2009? See ya later!

First off, I turned 40.


But the powers that be decided that scary number wasn’t enough of a reminder for me that I’m getting O-L-D. Oh, no.

A month before my big 4-0, Michael Jackson died. One of the biggest entertainers of all time – and perhaps the biggest symbol of my generation – gone. Poof.

And now, as 2009 draws to a close, comes the disturbing news that another fond memory of my teen-dom is biting the dust:

The daytime soap opera “As the World Turns” – which has been turning for a whopping 54 years – has been canceled by CBS.

Be still my beating heart.

Though I haven’t watched “ATWT” in probably about 20 years, this news still pains me. I have many fond memories of the residents of Oakdale, Ill.: Holden, Lily, Dusty, Craig, Lucinda, Iva and Josh/Rod, to name but a few. The show launched the successful careers of several actors, including Meg Ryan, Julianne Moore, Marisa Tomei, Parker Posey and William Fichtner, all of whom were on the show when I watched it.

And I’ll never forget my wonderful yet all-too-brief correspondence with one of its biggest stars of the ’80s: Frank Runyeon. Frank played Steve Andropoulos, a hot-to-trot Greek whose romance with Betsy Stewart drove fans wild. Betsy, by the way, was initially played by none other than the adorable Meg Ryan (from 1982-1984). Lindsay Frost took over the role from 1984 to 1988 (according to Wikipedia).

Frank sent me this autographed photo (note my name at the top- yay!) during our brief correspondence in 1986./Photo by Ava Gacser

But I digress. My correspondence with Frank began as an assignment for my journalism class at Franklin High School. I was a junior at the time and a staff writer for the school newspaper, The Beacon. I remember our teacher, Mrs. Fama, instructing us to write letters to celebrities requesting interviews. I was amazed when Frank actually wrote me back and suggested we be pen pals.

This is the final letter Frank wrote me, dated October 1986, in which he let me know he was leaving "As The World Turns."/Photo by Ava Gacser

I received six letters from Frank – all of them typed (I recall hearing somewhere he was a quick typist!) – beginning in March 1986 and ending in October. Even cooler, he composed each one on the back of “ATWT” scripts!  Check it out:

This page from an "As The World Turns" script includes scenes with Steve, Betsy, Lily, Lucinda and Sierra./Photo by Ava Gacser

By now you might be thinking that there’s actually no Jersey connection to this story. But that’s where you’d be wrong:  Frank is a Princeton University graduate!

And my Jersey love for “ATWT” doesn’t end there, no sirree. When Jon Hensley came along – playing the “buck naked” bad boy Holden Snyder opposite Martha Byrne’s sweet-as-pie Lily Walsh – I was head over heels. So imagine my teenage reaction when I discovered that Jon was going to appear at the opening of the Wick Plaza strip mall in Edison, N.J.!

"As The World Turns" star Jon Hensley signed autographs for fans at the grand opening of Wick Plaza in Edison, N.J., on April 30, 1988./Photo by Ava Gacser

In addition to meeting Jon (a Browns Mills native) and snapping some great pictures like the one above at the event, I also got this autographed photo of him.

Another personally autographed photo. Score!/Photo by Ava Gacser

In case you haven’t read between the lines yet, “ATWT” is responsible for awakening my teenage lust. And with these hot actors – and their relatively close proximity to me – how could it not?

Alas, as the ’80s turned into the ’90s, my interest in “ATWT’ waned. But even though 20+ years (good grief!) have passed since my obsession with the show, I still remember it fondly and am sorry to see it go.

(In fact, to this day, every time I drive down Route 1 in North Brunswick and pass the Oakdale Mobile Home Park, I think of the show.)

Fortunately, I have all of these great experiences and memories to hold on to. Thanks, “As The World Turns.”

VMAs: It’s ladies night, oh what a night!

I finally got around to watching MTV’s “Video Music Awards” last night and am bowled over by the performances of its female nominees.

One by one, they dazzled me with their voices and their highly physical performances. Seriously, who can transform themselves into a bloody pulp like Lady GaGa…

Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about “Paparazzi (Live) | Lady Gaga | Music …“, posted with vodpod

or dance like a fiend like Beyonce…

Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about “Single Ladies (Live) | Beyonc“, posted with vodpod

or dangle precariously from the rafters like Pink…

Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about “Sober (Live) | P!nk | Music Video | MTV“, posted with vodpod

or sprint up who-knows-how-many subway stairs like Taylor Swift (to say nothing of bouncing back after being belittled by Kanye West in front of millions)…

Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about “Taylor Swift – You Belong With Me (Li…“, posted with vodpod

or keep it together without bawling for your late brother like Janet Jackson…

Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about “Michael Jackson Tribute | Video | MTV“, posted with vodpod

all while singing your heart out at the same time?

Ladies, my hat is off to you.

Michael Jackson: I believe that children are our future

Michael Jackson may not have penned Whitney Houston’s song, “Greatest Love of All,” but it’s becoming more and more clear that those were his exact sentiments – especially when it came to his own offspring, Prince, Paris and Blanket.

And Omer, too?

Wait a sec, I’m confused.

Is it possible that Michael was trying to create his own Jackson Five?

Is it possible that Michael was trying to create his own Jackson Five?

But perhaps I’m not as confused as Michael Jackson’s family. Either they are incredibly ill informed or they don’t talk to one another. (I suppose a bit of both is most likely.)

How else is there to explain why Michael’s brother Tito tells “The Insider” that he doesn’t known anything about his famous sibling fathering a “love child” from Norway named Omer Bhatti as his father tells another outlet that Omer is most certainly Michael’s son?

“I am not familiar with (those assertions) at this time, but I am going to be checking on that when I get home,” Tito told “The Insider” yesterday during an interview from Jamaica.

Meanwhile, Joe Jackson plainly states that Omer is, in fact, Michael’s child.

“Yes, I knew he had another son,” he says in the interview with NewsOne below. “Yes, I did. He looks like a Jackson, he acts like a Jackson…”

On that note, I am relieved to hear People’s report that Michael’s mother Katherine is getting custody of his three children, Prince, Paris and Blanket. While I seriously doubt that she, at 79, will be their prime caretaker, I get the sense that she will not let their grandfather (that would be Joe) anywhere near them – at least without supervision. You can read more about Katherine gaining custody of the children right here.

Michael Jackson belonged to everyone

So Us Weekly is reporting that many of the individuals who eulogized/performed at Michael Jackson’s memorial service had either never met him or barely knew him.


And this is significant why?

On the surface, yes, it is a little odd that those who knew him best – Diana Ross, Quincy Jones, Elizabeth Taylor – were not present at the televised event. Then again, maybe it’s because they knew Michael so well that they didn’t attend. Perhaps they wished to honor his memory in a more private way, out of the glare of the spotlight. Considering the lengths Michael went to while alive to keep his private life private, that certainly makes sense.

But for those who did attend and memorialize him in the way they thought best – Queen Latifah, John Mayer, Jennifer Hudson – that doesn’t make their appreciation, reverence, admiration and sadness any less sincere.  The thousands of fans gathered at the Staples Center (and millions more like me watching around the world) didn’t know him personally, either, but that doesn’t mean their feelings don’t matter. Michael Jackson belonged to everyone.

Sorry, Us Weekly, but I’m not buying it.

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