Notes from a member of the wedding

 By Linda T. Dennison, Daily TV, 1985

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Remember when I told you we'd have a special guest photographer covering the Joe-Kelly wedding ? The secret is out - Melonie Mazman agreed to do the honors for us. Looks like Tess left Salem and made it out to California after all, just in time to capture all the fun and action.

5:30 am : The clock-radio springs into life. I don't. Whose bright idea was this anyway ? Oh yeah, Charles Barrett in the NBC press department thought I might enjoy being an extra for Joe and Kelly's wedding. I think I drove there in my sleep.

7:00 am : Sign-in at the production office. I'm the first one there. Next person in the door is the day's director, Gary Bowen. Friendly, competent, low-keyed. Also not yet awake. Neither are Jonelle Dobrow, Jack Breschard, and Rick Oxford, the show's stage managers. Mary Anderson, the lady who seems to get everyone and everything organized in the production office, is bright and chipper and gets me pointed in the right directions.

7:15 am : Paperwork dispatched, I find my dressing room. Thanks to whoever decided that writers are entitled to special treatment. While all the other extras (over 50 of them) are crowded into two large rooms (men and women), I've got my very own private dressing room - just like a for-real cast member.

7:30 am : Wardrobe.  Richard and Robert check out my blue cocktail dress and mauve jumpsuit. Robert decides I can go with the jumpsuit. It's got long sleeves and the studio is a bit chilly. Heading down the hallway, I bump into Marcy Walker (Eden Capwell) and Valorie Armstrong (Marisa Perkins), for a brief hello.

7:45 am : All extras converge in the lobby to meet the director and get the day's format. Show #135 is a major event - NBC has even flown in several representatives from their affiliate stations all over the country to be members of the wedding.

Gary Bowen's "pep talk" is super. I decide that, for him, I will sparkle on cue when the time comes even if I'm dead. Which I may well be - after camera blocking, there's four hours til dress rehearsal. Then, there's another two til tape, not including a dinner break. At least, that's the way it's formatted. Taping is scheduled for 7:00 pm. Can't say I wasn't warned.

8:30 am : Relaxation time in the dressing room. Since it's an extra heavy day for the show's stars, there's not much socializing going on yet. Everyone's too busy learning their lines and drinking coffee.

8:45 am : First call to the set. The scenes arc rehearsed in the order in which they will later be taped. All of the party scenes take place in the set known as the Capwell Atrium - you know, the one with all the arches and the fountain which tonight will supposedly be flowing with champagne. Actually, it's flat ginger ale with which we'll toast the bride and groom. After the millionth rehearsal, all the scenes begin to feel suspiciously alike.

11:45 am : Before I retreat to the sanctity of the dressing room, there's time for a quick chat with A Martinez. He's pleased his storyline is picking up steam again (for awhile we didn't see much of Cruz) and glad he and his wife, Leslie, squeezed in a skiing vacation white they could. He also confides he's doing that very sexy dance number with a pulled muscle and won't really go all out til taping. I can't wait.

12:15 pm : Finally, a retreat to the dressing room, a cup of tea and some rice cakes while I'm doing my make-up, getting dressed, fixing my hair, and  making notes so I won't forget what happened when.  Only the principal actors get their hair and make-up done for them. As usual, my hair's developed a mind of its own, so I scrap the planned curls in favor of a simpler, straighter look.

2:00 pm : Time to meet our special photographer, and my good pal, Melonie Mazman, in the lobby and finish prepping for dress rehearsal.

2:30 pm : Dress rehearsal. It's amazing what a couple of hours devoted to hair and make-up can do. Gone are the morning scruffies. The women are gowned; the men tuxedo'd. Robin Wright is an absolute vision in her bridal gown, and as nervous as a real bride.

We run through out scenes in the order in which they were blocked. Again and again and again, as the director puts it ail together in the booth, frequently coming down to the floor to adjust a shot or change an angle. Despite the pressure, Gary is the epitome of calm and reason, setting a professional, calm yet upbeat tone. It's easy to see why the cast and crew unanimously adore him.

All of a sudden, it's break time for the extras until after dinner. In the interim, the principals finish their dress rehearsal - the six crucial scenes that climax much of Sophia's storyline. They will be intercut with our scenes of revelry in the editing room.

Even in rehearsal, Eden's confrontations with Mason and Sophia leave all the onlookers drained and ready to cheer. Mason gives an incredibly emotional scene that little something extra each and every time he does it. This show has some very powerful talents in Lane Davies and Marcy Walker.

Not only do out actors maintain their concentration throughout the distractions, they even squeeze in a few seconds to pose graciously for out cameras.

Even though they're not working today, Nicolas Coster (Lionel) and Louise Sorel (Augusta) drop by to check on the day's progress. It's obvious that this cast is a real family - which makes the continual cast changes all the more traumatic on the group.

5:15 pm : Barely time to relax, repair the hair and make-up. I'm feeling a bit guilty with a solo dressing room, and open it up to a few of the girls I've been chatting with all day. That's one of the best fringes about doing extra work - you make some really neat new friends.

6:00 pm : Tape time. Gary's waiting on the floor for the "atmosphere" for a last minute "pick up the tired spirits and sparkle" talk. Like he said this morning (about two lifetimes ago), this is as "for real" as it's gonna get. The principals are involved with their own stories, and it's up to us to make this wedding the celebration of joy it's supposed to me.

One look at Robin and Mark and it's not hard to smile. They look better than the couple on the top of the fake wedding cake.

At the words, "Quiet, please, tape is rolling," there's a tangible jolt of electricity bringing us all to life. The energy is definitely there. And we keep it there through take after take after take.

Everybody wants this show to be perfect, and they'll do the scene as many times as necessary to achieve the desired results. How many times ? Let's put it this way - War and Peace could be done in less time. Every time that it's announced that "it's a buy," (meaning it's okay) a rowdy cheer goes up. Every time somebody yells "cut," (meaning we do it again) there's a group groan.

A brief break. Everyone attacks the lavish hors d'oeuvres. One problem - they're still needed for the scenes. Solution : Jack (the stage manager who's getting very tired of hollering for quiet) announces that the next person caught eating the props will be hung as an example to the others, regardless of rank. Everyone within a ten foot radius of the food swallows real fast.

9:16 pm : You know we're hurting when the men remove their shoes. Todd leads the way. I decide to adopt him as my kid brother. I have seldom met anyone as genuinely friendly, outgoing and unaffected as this guy. Give him about 99% of the credit for keeping up the spirits in our part of the set.

With two scenes to go, visions of hot baths begin to dance through our heads. Studio 11 may be state-of-the-art, but it's missing one crucial thing - a jacuzzi for days like this ! Between takes, the Atrium begins to resemble a Sixties Sit-In. We ask Gary if our demands have been met so we can go home. He takes the time to boost our flagging spirits and urges us to keep up the energy - the end is nearly in sight. I hereby nominate this man for a Special Daytime Emmy for Directorial Excellence and Patience. And include the test of the crew in that, too, especially Joelle, Rick and Jack, our stage managers. They do their jobs well, and with humor. Lots of it.

At long last - the rice throwing scene. I won't throw rice with the famine going on in Africa, so I grab a packet of confetti instead.

Mason makes one more drunken toast  -Lane does such a great drunk. I tease that he's replaced his iced tea with the real thing. He looks momentarily rueful - if only I'd thought of it earlier, he might have !

Here comes one of my big moments - I get to cross upstage of Mason during his soused speech with Eden. I am terrified I will trip. I don't.

Farewell to the bride and groom - we hope to get it in one take. No such luck. Robin gets doused with rice and confetti twice.

Farewell also to many of the extras. The rest of us have a half-hour break - enough time to retreat to the dressing room, remove shoes, gulp coffee, lie on the floor in our finery to rest our aching backs and engage in everybody's favorite activity - gossip. Everybody expects me to give them the "inside scoop" but I'm sworn to secrecy on what's coming up.

One last bit of atmosphere duty - standing by for C.C.'s entrance into the living room. We've come full circle - the first scene was also a C.C. entrance.

11:15 pm : We are officially "released" and can crawl home and into bed. Masochist that I am, I remain for the last few scenes with the principal curious to see how it all comes together.

11:45 pm : At long last, it's a "wrap" - until 7:00 am tomorrow, when the regulars do it all over again with the next script. No wonder so many actors sleep in their dressing rooms - every minute of snooze time counts on a schedule like this. Todd McKee, his real-life brother, John, and I head up to the dressing rooms to collect our gear and snap a few last "survivor's shots."

11:55 pm : The final exit. We congratulate each other on finishing prior to midnight, sign out, and head out the door. Exhaustion, aches and pains aside, I realize I've had a really fabulous time playing make-believe for a day.

In retrospect, is being an "extra" glamourous ? Not even a little bit. Exciting ? In a way. Boring ? Occasionally. Exhausting ? Very. Gratifying ? Rewarding ? Absolutely. Would I do it again ? Is that the phone I hear ringing ?

On the photos :
Todd McKee, the journalist
Linda T. Dennison and Lane Davies
Todd McKee and his brother John