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From Newsday.com

Hanging with drama queens (buffy & angel mention)

By Diane Werts

Friday 30 April 2004, by Webmaster

So you want to meet Jennifer Aniston. Think she’s gonna come to town so you can? Maybe you’d like to ask David Boreanaz about the end of "Angel," or have your picture taken with some "West Wing" regulars. Yeah, right. Like that’s gonna happen. Seeing TV stars isn’t as easy as buying a ticket, heading to a nightclub down the block, and having them come to your table and ask your name. Unless you’re a soaps fan.

Then, it’s an everyday occurrence. Or more accurately, a monthly occurrence. That’s just about the rate at which clubs like Caroline’s in Manhattan or the Brokerage in Bellmore offer meet-and-greet events with performers from daytime dramas such as "All My Children" and "General Hospital."

"We do a ton of them, all over the country," says Linda Rohe of Astoria’s Coastal Entertainment, a comedy booker who also puts together shows like tomorrow evening’s Brokerage appearance by "GH" stars Tamara Braun (who plays Carly) and Rick Hearst (who plays Ric). "Going back to 1993, that was our first event," says Rohe, who was initially just trying to fill downtime between clubs’ comic stints. "It was Kelly Ripa and John Calla.han from ’All My Children.’ I put them in Jimmy’s Comedy Alley in Bayside, and she and John turned around and said, ’We’re on to something. Let’s do more of these.’ And they just started telling other soap stars."

But what do they do at these events? When the clubs’ newspaper ads list soapers alongside comics like Uncle Floyd or singers like Eric Andersen, it’s hard to tell. Stand-up? Music? Sketches? Q&A? It’s any or all of the above, depending on the performers’ skills and desires. Caroline’s host Richie Byrne has comics write sketches for his monthly shows pairing Broadway and soap stars, so angst-delivering daytimers can test their comedic wings. "Sarah Michelle Gellar used to do events for me on a regular basis," says Rohe of the 1990s years when TV’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer was on "AMC" playing Susan Lucci’s daughter. "She used a copy of one of her comedy club tapes to bring out to L.A. to get herself some TV work." BAM fans unite

The presentation mix was wild in February, when "AMC’s" Eden Riegel (Bianca) and Elizabeth Hendrickson (Maggie) played to a Brokerage full house one Sunday afternoon. With their on-screen characters having an off-and-on lesbian flirtation, these 20-something actresses have earned an obsessive following of fans who want Bianca and Maggie together. These self- named BAMmers come together on the www.bamfans.com Web site, where 625 registered members lobby the show’s writers and network for more of the pair. In the process, they’ve created a national community reflected in the Brokerage crowd.

"I’m here to meet my friends," said college student Sarah Aghassi, who’d flown up from Dallas. "Eden and Liz are really great people, and I’m really happy to meet them. But these people," she said, gazing at a hundred giddy fans, "I’ve talked to [them online] for a year. We talk about life and love; it’s not only about soap operas." "I’ve been watching soaps for 20 years," said Anne Schnee, a Los Angeles-area vice principal, "and for some reason, this story has just grabbed me. I’m also one of the people who does deliveries at the studios," when BAMmers shower network execs with posters, petitions and other tokens supporting BAM story lines.

"I guess we’re just fanatical fans," said Randi Holland, down from Boston to hand out 500 inflatable "noodles" she’d printed with BAM slogans. "We all support these girls a lot, and they’ve been very good to us."

Eden and Liz, as everyone calls them, knew many of the fans already through the BAM board and their personal Web sites, so meetings at the Brokerage cemented already formed relationships. The stars spent the pre-show VIP hour (offered at an extra charge) strolling from table to table, accepting roses and BAM T-shirts, and signing autographs on photos and various body parts. When BAMmers told Hendrickson that Detroit fan Justine Larimer was celebrating her 20th birthday, the star came to sit on Larimer’s lap for a photo — but first had to coax her out from under the table she’d fled beneath: She was so overcome at finally meeting her idol.

Melodrama — like a soap

"She fell to the floor, hysterically crying," Hendrickson tells Riegel as they retreat to the bar to eat lunch while Byrne warms up the showroom crowd for their stage appearance. "I felt so bad. She was terrified. I mean, she came all the way from Michigan to see little old me." The Northport High graduate still isn’t accustomed to the extent of fans’ enthusiasm, and neither is Washington-area native Riegel. "It is sometimes overwhelming," Riegel says, "but incredibly flattering. I’m so honored that they chose me as the person that they put this sort of passionate focus into." "And this is girls watching girls," stresses Brokerage owner Gary Smith, who’s been staging soap events for a decade. "When you’ve got girls watching a heartthrob" — like "GH" star Steve Burton (who appeared the following weekend) or castmate Maurice Benard (coming May 22) — "these girls will go through the wall, I swear. The last time Steve was here," Smith says, "one of the girls fainted on line. They hyperventilate. And then, when they have to leave, they won’t leave. They hide in the bathroom. They hide under the tables."

The stage show hardly seems worth the hysteria. Riegel and Hendrickson answer questions, dish backstage gossip and, yes, address "the BAM kiss," the on- screen smooch that had finally happened. "She kissed me, but she doesn’t love me! I’m so conflicted," Riegel mock-moped. "You’re conflicted?" Hendrickson responded. "I ran over a boy and slept with him in a limousine!" Hendrickson did her Jim Carrey impression. Riegel pretended to be a monkey. They acted out a sketch a fan sent to the BAM site.

But none of that was really the point.

It’s being up close and personal with your TV favorites — and being among like-minded fans. "It’s getting to hang out with people who share the same interests that you do," said New Jerseyan Christina Gan, sharing a table with fan-friends from Selden and Alabama. "And it’s always exciting to see the people you watch on TV every day." When does a "Friends" fan get a chance like that?