“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.

Blech.

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.”

“Whose Wedding Is It Anyway?” features New Jersey planner

Springfield, New Jersey’s own Jenny Orsini is one of two wedding planners featured in tonight’s new episode of “Whose Wedding Is It Anyway?”

Jenny orsini

The episode “Where’s the Cantor?” involves Jenny – who is the owner of Pampered Bride Weddings – creating an interfaith ceremony that comprises both Filipino/Catholic and Jewish traditions, explains a press release. It’s a challenging job – especially when Jenny has a hard time tracking down the officiant. The episode airs at 8 p.m. and 11 p.m. on the Style Network.

Jenny was one of four New Jersey-based wedding planners I interviewed earlier this year for a story about planning weddings on a budget. That story was full of great, helpful tips, thanks to Jenny, Marie Danielle Vil-Young of A Votre Service Events in Franklin Park, Tracee Wright of Weddings Done Wright in Scotch Plains and Kathy Polanco, president of Diamond Bride Planners in North Brunswick. You can read the entire story here.

“Closet Cases”: Jersey boy Lloyd Boston has a passion for fashion

I never thought I’d ever say this, but I have a friend who’s got his own television show.

lloyd

You may recognize him: His name is Lloyd Boston, and he’s appeared on several shows already, including “The View,” “Oprah” and the “Today” show. He’s also the official spokesman for Jones New York. Now, he’s the host of his very own series, “Closet Cases,” on Fine Living Network. New episodes of the show air at 9 p.m. Mondays. And like other cable channels, you can catch repeats throughout the week.

“Closet Cases” has its very own Facebook fan page, which you can join by going here.

Lloyd also deserves special props because he’s a Jersey native like me. He grew up in New Brunswick, N.J., the only child of Lynell Kollar, who now resides in North Brunswick.

In fact, Lynell will be featured in an upcoming episode of “Closet Cases.” Lloyd and Lynell share a very close relationship and make a point of getting together as often as possible. Mothers Day is a special holiday for them, as I discovered when I interviewed them last year at The Frog and the Peach in New Brunswick. Lloyd and Lynell have some great relationship tips for mothers and adult children on Mothers Day and throughout the year by going here.

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