Patriot games

 By Michael Maloney, Soap Opera Digest, 1992

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Checking out the crack in the Liberty Bell, munching on cheese steak and watching the Phillies play ball at Veterans Stadium - those are three good reasons that most vacationers flock to historic Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. But apparently, the City of Brotherly Love has another lure : It turns out it's also a great place to hide if you're on the lam, out of luck and falsely accused of murder.

That's exactly what happened to Santa Barbara's twenty-somethings in transit, Sawyer Walker (Eric Close) and Aurora De Angelis (Christina Brascia). When Frank Goodman, a long-time family friend who'd been secretly molesting Sawyer's sister, B.J., turned up dead, the police tried to pin the blame on Sawyer. Rather than take the rap, the young college hero and his adoring sidekick fled town ASAP. Making their way east, the fugitives first headed for St. Louis and then to historic Philly and Boston.

To give the storyline a real shot in the arm, Santa Barbara Executive Producer Paul Rauch sent the actors and camera crew on location to both East Coast cities. The sequences were taped during a hectic weekend last month. (The Philadelphia sequences aired the week of August 24; the Boston chapter of the adventure begins airing on September 8.)

According to Santa Barbara Coordinating Producer Eric Preven, both cities were chosen for their visual "charm" and to help support the local TV affiliates. Promotion-wise, going on location can make a big splash. When a soap "visits" a town, the local TV station gets a lot of mileage out of it. The stars make guest appearances on talk shows (in Boston, Close and Brascia appeared on People Are Talking), the six o'clock news covers every aspect of the event, and the soap interest usually goes up in that viewing area. Unfortunately, NBC's Boston affiliate has canceled the series, effective September 4. Though Rauch is chagrined by the affiliate's decision, he says, "I'm hoping the fans will tell the station to continue the show." Ratings were up 20 percent in the Boston area in the beginning of August, Rauch notes.

Preven says the Philadelphia experience was "a pleasure to shoot," mentioning that, "We shot at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, which is the same location where Rocky (Sylvester Stallone) filmed his monumental run up the stairs. (In the Santa Barbara footage), Sawyer has a moment there and has a lovely scene with Aurora at that spot. Sawyer is so into boxing and (such a fan of) Rocky, it seemed like a logical (connection)." Eric Close adds that he had a blast "running up and down the steps."

Santa Barbara also shot a crucial scene with Philadelphia Phillies catcher Darren Daulton, whom Preven describes as "a really nice guy who turned out to be a pretty good actor." In the scene, Daulton (who plays himself) bumps into Sawyer on the street. (Since Sawyer and Aurora have arrived in Philadelphia penniless, Sawyer has taken a rather flamboyant day job. He's dressed up in Revolutionary regalia and passing out leaflets for a local hamburger joint.) Believe it or not, there's a mutual spark of recognition between the baseball star and the young fugitive : It turns out Sawyer and Daulton had met several years back at a minor league baseball camp. But the reunion is cut short when Sawyer and Aurora are suddenly spotted by a policeman. "They have to flee," says Preven, "and almost get caught."

After their friendly stopover in Philly, the Santa Barbara gang got an equally warm welcome in Boston. Location sites there included the famed Faneuil Hall and the Galleria in Cambridge, where the cast was mobbed. One night, after dinner, the Santa Barbara group even paid a surprise visit to the bar whose facade serves as the exterior for Cheers. "Christina was very interested in seeing it," recalls Preven, "and Eric Close and I said fine. (Due to her age), there was an identification issue. But in light of the fact that Christina is on Santa Barbara, they let her in."

The Santa Barbara gang soon noticed the bar's karaoke system, where customers could sing along to music videos. Sure enough, the Separate Lives (recorded by Phil Collins and Marilyn Martin) video, in which Eric Close appears, came on. Preven recalls : "Somebody instantly recognized Eric, and said, "Hey, that's you in the video." It turned into a very cute situation where Eric and Christina were signing autographs."

This was a first-time remote for both young stars. "All in all," says Christina Brascia, "it was fabulous. In Boston, we shot at the Old North Church, Quincy Market and on the Charles River. The only thing I regret is that we didn't have more time in both cities." Adds Close : "Sure, we didn't have much time to see historic sights, but we got them through osmosis, I think. We'd be taping, and somebody would go, "Hey, that's the Liberty Bell over there !""

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