Going in style

 By Alison Sloane and Michael Maloney, Soap Opera Digest, 1993

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"Now I know how Edgar Bergen felt without Charlie McCarthy," says Santa Barbara's Margarita Cordova (Rosa) as she gets outfitted for the show's final episode, Warren and B.J.'s wedding. "I'm so sad. The characters are going to sleep forever." Cordova, who has been with Santa Barbara since its inception in 1984, is not alone in her feelings. The cast and crew - not to mention countless fans shed more tears than usual during the wedding, which aired on January 15.

Nevertheless, Santa Barbara went out in style. The episode was shot at the ultra-posh Ritz Carlton Hotel in the beach community of Laguna, California. For the two-day remote, actors and staff stayed at the Ritz, and $400-a-night suites were transformed into wardrobe, makeup and production rooms. "It definitely wasn't your typical remote, where people wait in line for the lunch wagons," says Santa Barbara spokesperson Mary Andersen. "We had catered luncheons, with champagne, mounds of shrimp and crudités. Staying at the hotel, we really started feeling like wedding guests."

Of course, wedding guests rarely get up at 4:00 in the morning. Actors were called into the makeup suite at 5 a.m. for workdays lasting eight to twelve hours. There was also winter weather to contend with. The first day was sunny but cold, and the second featured intermittent showers. "The forecast called for rain, and I kept promising everybody I'd find a way to shoot around it," says director Rick Bennewitz. "But the only time it really came down was during lunch break, so we got lucky." When it started drizzling during the ceremony, cast members improvised with colorful umbrellas.

Santa Barbara costume designer Diana Eden considered the lower temperatures when designing B.J.'s velvet and satin '30s-style wedding gown. "I needed to add a coat because I knew we were all going to freeze to death, so that was the inspiration," she laughs. Sydney Penny (B.J.) was also an inspiration: "Sydney has this wonderful style where she can wear period clothes. She makes it a joy to design for her." Penny was pleased with the results. "I think it's a Jean Harlow-type of dress," she enthuses. "Diana is tremendous."

Playing B.J.'s choked-up dad wasn't much of a stretch for Forry Smith (Reese). "It wasn't difficult to get emotional when I was giving Sydney away," he relates. "Especially when I thought about this episode being the last show." And while Andi wasn't exactly in a pensive, melancholy frame of mind, her portrayer, Krista Tesreau, was. "It's different leaving a show than being on one that's been canceled," says the actress, who used to play Mindy on Guiding Light. "It's different knowing the show won't even exist. Everyone is trying to disguise it well, but I think everyone is upset about it."

Kim Zimmer (Jodie), who played Guiding Light's Reva for nearly seven years, also sees a difference. "Even though I have made some very good friends on this show, there hasn't been as much of a personal commitment as there was with Guiding Light," she observes. "But there are people I know I'll keep in touch with. It's a nice way to go out - having a beautiful wedding outside." Cordova agrees. "I love that everyone ends up happy together," she says, smiling. "I love it as Rosa, and as Margarita."

After the episode finally wrapped, Santa Barbara cast and staff members drank champagne, reminisced and speculated about the show's demise. "It's been a frustrating couple of years," Jed Allan (C.C.) admits. "Some wonderful things came about, and some not-so-wonderful things. But that's the soap opera business - too much infighting, too much out-fighting, too much lack of control; too many changes - onward and upward."

The actors didn't stay very late at the wrap party. Since it was a remote, Santa Barbara 's final episode was shot early in the schedule, so many had to rest up and return to the studio. "I think it would have been terribly emotional if we had done this on the actual last day of taping," Penny comments. "I don't think any of us would have wanted to do that." Paula Irvine (Lily) feels the same way. "If we were shooting the last episode on the last shoot date, then it would be obviously more emotional," she says. "That would be like putting a period at the end for us. This way, it was more like a comma."

B.J. and Warren's relationship also finished with a comma. For many soap couples, marriage is the beginning of the end. Does Penny think the newlyweds will live happily ever after ? "Well, we won't have to worry about that," she laughs. "I think with B.J. and Warren, there'd always be some sort of a conflict."