Hotel California

 By Naomi Rabinowitz, Soap Opera Digest, 2003

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Pigeon pastries. Ice-cold corpses. Lethal hotel letters. Santa Barbara certainly aired its share of quirky stories during its run (1984-1993), but the soap was high-quality, too - it nabbed three consecutive Outstanding Show Emmys (1988-1990). It has been more than a decade since the Capwell Hotel shut its doors, but these former Santa Barbara stars were happy to catch up and give us the inside scoop.


Gordon Thomson (Mason Capwell n°3, 1990-1993)

After Santa Barbara ended, Thomson stayed in the NBC family, landing roles on the now-defunct Sunset Beach (ex-A.J.), as well as Passions (ex-Hal). However, the six-soap vet (he also starred as Ryan's Hope's Aristotle, Dynasty's Adam and The Young and the Restless's Patrick) has embarked on a different creative endeavor. "I'm writing fiction," he shares. "I used to enjoy it while I was at university, so I've taken to doing it again."

Meanwhile, Thomson continues to audition. Though he's most often recognized for his Dynasty role, Thomson has a special fondness for Mason. "It was the best part I ever had," he says. "I loved playing him. He was articulate, screwed-up, romantic, sardonic, passionate... he was quite something."

Thomson may have been the third actor to portray the character (Lane Davies, now-Cameron, General Hospital, and Terry Lester preceded him), but he explains that he felt as if the part were his own. "Terry opted out of the show, as Lane did, so I didn't feel as if I were putting anyone out of work," he notes. "Terry isn't even acting anymore. Last I heard, he was doing a documentary on whales. And now Lane is on General Hospital."

He has great admiration for Mason's other two portrayers, particularly because his alter-ego was "the chattiest Charlie in the history of daytime," he chuckles. "I remember bumping into Lane at an audition a few years ago, and we commiserated a lot about that. One time, I came back from vacation exhausted and was like, "Please, please ease up a bit." I had 165 pages for the week. Lane once had 38 pages to memorize in a day."

"I got very challenging stuff, but we were lucky to have such a great writing staff," he praises. "I don't think there will ever be another character like Mason. He was one of a kind."


Margarita Cordova (Rosa Andrade, 1984-1987, 1991-1993)

Like Thomson, Cordova has taken to writing ("I'm working on a memoir"), but after taking some time off, she's ready to get back into the acting game. "I have to get my head up out of the sand here because they don't come to look for you in this business," she explains. "They don't come knocking on your door, asking you if you want a part."

Well, not usually. Cordova did get such a call from Santa Barbara's former writer, Gary Tomlin, when he became Sunset Beach's executive producer. "Gary called and asked if I'd come to the show," she recalls. "Of course, I said I would and ended up working there for three years (as Carmen)."

Cordova admits that she was a bit spooked by the similarities between Sunset Beach and Santa Barbara. "Let's see... they were both on NBC and had the same initials," she begins. "They both took place in California. They both had some unusual storylines - I did earthquakes on both shows. They were in the same studios. That was strange. It was eerie going back there and seeing all the old sets and dressing rooms."

Cordova has praise for both sudsers, particularly the way in which they incorporated Hispanic characters. "There was the whole Torres family on Sunset Beach," she says. "Santa Barbara also did a good job with diversity. I just loved it when (Rosa and Santana) were able to have that mother / daughter relationship. They didn't make (Santana) a maid or anything; she was a bright, intelligent girl. That's what I liked about the soap. They really strived not to make stereotypes and it worked. The (creators, Bridget and Jerome Dobson) were always asking me, "Would that be offensive ? Is that a cliché ?" It was really fun working on that soap. We got a lot of respect."

One thing that still puzzles Cordova, though, was Rosa's bizarre disappearance on the show for a year during her first run. "She went to get cookies, and then she didn't appear on-screen again for quite awhile," Cordova shares. "Then, all of a sudden, she returned ! Everyone thought it was funny. They were all like, "Wow, those must be some cookies (laughs) !""


Gina Gallego (Santana Andrade n°3, 1985-1987, 1989) and Joel Bailey (Lindsay Smith, 1985)

Gallego and her husband, Bailey's characters were involved in a love triangle... with a dead guy. "Both Lindsay, who was gay, and Santana were in love with Channing, who had recently died," she explains. "I actually wasn't on the show yet (Margaret Michaels was playing the part), but it's so funny that our characters loved the same man. I didn't even learn about it after we were married."

Gallego and Bailey's other showbiz connection is their friendship with Adam Sandler. Bailey met Sandler while producing a variety show; the comedian later met Gallego when she got a part in Mr. Deeds. "Adam is a nice, supportive man, who often works with the same people," praises the actress, who appeared in Sandler's latest film, Anger Management. "It's always a nice collaborative effort on-set when Adam's involved."

Bailey is still working as a producer. Gallego, who also had roles in Disney's Gotta Kick It Up ! and Minority Report ("Unfortunately, I didn't get to work with Tom Cruise") continues to act. She would love to have another role as interesting as Santana. "They always gave her so many things to do," she recalls. "She was in love with Cruz, then she had an affair... her character was constantly changing and evolving. The most difficult, but most fun, was when she got hooked on drugs. That came out of nowhere ! I was always surprised."

In fact, she made such an impression as Santana that when she landed a role on The Bold and the Beautiful, then supervising producer / director John C. Zak named her character Dr. Santana. "It was a nice nod to (my) past," smiles the actress.


Kristen Meadows (Victoria Lane Capwell, 1986-1989)

Since departing soaps (Meadows also portrayed One Life to Live's Mimi), this actress has become a model citizen. Her picture can be found in catalogues for stores such as Nordstrom and Saks Fifth Avenue. "I've also been doing a lot of runway work, which is fun because it's like being on-stage," she shares. "I think it's great that I'm getting so much work ! Usually, it's hard to find when you're over 35."

As for her acting career, Meadows starred in Evolution with David Duchovny and Julianne Moore (ex-Frannie / Sabrina, As the World Turns) and has a healthy list of guest-star credits, including an appearance last year as a real-estate agent on The Bold and the Beautiful. "That was fun," she recalls. "I worked with Sarah Buxton (ex-Morgan, ex-Annie, Sunset Beach), who's very talented."

Meadows also enjoyed working on Santa Barbara, though she often questioned her character's crazy storylines. "Victoria got shipwrecked with A Martinez's character," she chuckled. "She gave him shots of morphine, and then he saw Eden. So, when he got aroused, she jumped on top of him and got pregnant ! Then, to "redeem" her, they made her a drug addict who couldn't take care of her baby. Real redeeming (laughs) ! I got the worst mail in the world," she sighs, "which was a shock because my character on One Life to Live was so lovable. I had gone to Brian Frons (ABC's president of Daytime, who was then-vice president of Daytime at NBC) and asked him, "How am I supposed to do this ? This is appalling. This is gross." He said, "Oh, don't worry, you're sweet, lovable Mimi.""

Now that Frons is head of ABC Daytime, Meadows would love to return to One Life to Live. But she's not holding her breath. "A certain actress told me that they hate anyone over 35," she reveals. "There seems to be so little room for "older" actors in daytime these days. But you never know : Lane (Davies) is back on General Hospital... Jane Elliot (ex-Tracy) came back to General Hospital, too, so it could happen. You need to have a range of ages."

Meadows is thrilled that One Life to Live is still on the air, but regrets Santa Barbara's cancellation. "It was critically acclaimed, but unfortunately, that doesn't mean that it was popular," she notes. "That was a little bit of disappointment. It was misunderstood."