Home Television Soaps PALEY CENTER, 2009: Farewell to GUIDING LIGHT
Written by Scott Katz   
Wednesday, 19 August 2009 22:52

Kim ZimmerAnd so, the ending begins.  Tonight in New York City, at the Paley Center for Media in midtown Manhattan, was one of the first big "goodbye" events that the Guiding Light cast will be hosting for its fans.  Coming up next, the cast will appear at the Daytime Emmy Awards ceremony on Sunday August 30, at which there is said to be a special tribute to the show.


The Paley Center's three-plus hour event entitled Good-bye to Guiding Light, 72 Years Young, was moderated by Paley's Curator, Ron Simon.  In attendance from GL tonight were: Ellen Wheeler (Executive Producer), Jill Lorie Hurst (Head Writer), and actors Grant Aleksander, Bradley Cole, Elizabeth Keifer, Michael O'Leary, and Kim Zimmer.

However, sitting in the audience were several other Guiding Light actors including: Kurt McKinney, Maeve Kinkead, Tina Sloan, Gina Tognoni, Orlagh Cassidy, Frank Dicopoulos, and Ellen Dolan who is now Margo on As the World Turns, but was the original Maureen on GL.



Paley Center exterior Paley Center entrance at 25 W. 52nd Street, Manhattan
Paley Center exterior Paley Center entrance at 25 W. 52nd Street, Manhattan


The program started a few minutes after 6:30pm, but the actors started filing in about 10 minutes earlier.  As each of the actors descended the staircase to take his or her seat before being called to the stage, the room erupted in thunderous applause.  Then, one by one, they were called up by moderator Ron Simon.  From left to right, the stage represented a who's who of pivotal Guiding Light actors: Grant Aleksander, Bradley Cole, Elizabeth Keifer, Michael O'Leary, and Kim Zimmer.  Also on stage were current head writer, Jill Lorie Hurst, and Executive Producer, Ellen Wheeler.

This is not the first time the Paley Center took part in celebrating the vast history of Guiding Light.  For GL's 50th anniversary in 1987, an event was hosted by the Museum of Broadcasting, as the Paley Center was known up until 1991, at its original location of 1 East 53rd Street.  In attendance were Jerry verDorn, Kim Zimmer, and former GL head writer, Douglas Marland, who by then was writing As the World Turns.  For Guiding Light's 60th anniversary in 1997, an event was held at its current location of 25 West 52nd Street.  To mark this occasion, cast members at the time came to the Museum of Television and Radio (as it was known from 1991 to 2007) to reenact a script from the original radio days of the series.

The Guiding Light premiered on the NBC radio network on January 25, 1937.  When it leaves the airwaves for good on September 18, 2009, 15,762 episodes will have been produced, a feat that is unlikely ever to be replicated.

Before each panelist had taken his or her seat on the stage, the lights dimmed, and the audience was treated to a  behind-the-scenes montage of actors talking about Guiding Light, its storied history, and its importance to broadcasting.  Seen in the clips were Robert Newman, Kim Zimmer, Crystal Chappell, Lawrence Saint-Victor, and many others.  It seems as though Saint-Victor himself was a fan of the show growing up as he recounted his memories of Reva's signature "fountain scene" in 1984, and Alan-Michael parachuting in to the Bauer 4th of July Barbecue in 1987.



After the video presentation, Mr. Simon began asking the panel some questions, and we'll paraphrase the Q&A session below:


Q: What's it like to be on a series that has lasted 72 years?

Kim Zimmer: Kim remarked on how it's something you become very proud of and proud to be a part of.  The show has seen 5 generations of viewers; it's like a "little heirloom passed on" from generation to generation.

Michael O'Leary: Michael told the audience that he felt very welcomed to the show from the moment he arrived.  Among his earliest memories of being on the show was the Pennsylvania location shoot for Quint and Nola's wedding.  He said he felt very fortunate that Charita Bauer (Bert) took him under her wing, and from that moment on he really felt like a member of the Bauer family.

Grant Aleksander: Grant said that being on the show was a good learning experience and that he knew he was going to learn both a certain kind of professional approach to doing the job and to show up prepared -- especially working with talent like Charita Bauer and Christopher Bernau.


Grant Aleksander (Phillip Spaulding) & Michael O'Leary (Rick Bauer)

(l-r) Grant Aleksander (Phillip Spaulding) & Michael O'Leary (Rick Bauer)


Elizabeth Keifer: Echoing Grant's sentiment, Liz remarked on how the show has always been able to attract good young actors to its cast and that the work ethic on the set would allow the cream to rise to the top and the best of these young actors would rise to the occasion and deliver great performances.

Bradley Cole: For his part, Bradley definitely felt the weight of both the 72 history and the long careers that many of the actors had on GL.  He said that since he's "only" been on the show 10 years, he still felt like "the new kid on the block."

Ellen Wheeler: Ellen talked about Irna Phillps and how the relationships and the history she created were so rich to be able to last for so long.


Ellen Wheeler (Executive Producer, GL)
Ellen Wheeler (Executive Producer, GL)


Jill Lorie Hurst: Jill talked about how her mother used to watch Guiding Light and Jill's first job at the show was answering phones.

Grant Aleksander: Piggybacking off of Ellen Wheeler's comment about Irna Phillips, he said that back then when Irna was doing the show, "the glass ceiling was asphalt, and it was a lot lower," so her accomplishments were all the more impressive.


Q: What was it like doing the show in the 1980s when ratings were better and budgets weren't so tight?

Kim Zimmer: The 80s were "greaaaat!"  The show had money to burn, and everyone had "big hair, big earrings, shoulder pads..."

Grant Aleksander: "... and then there were the ladies."

Kim Zimmer: There were fewer location shoots in the 90s, but she did do an 11 day location in Puerto Rico for the San Cristobel story, and only had to work for 2 half-days.  The rest of the time, she had a vacation on the company's dime.

Grant Aleksander: Grant echoed Zimmer's sentiment about how things started to change noticeably in the 1990s.

Elizabeth Keifer: From her perspective, the 90s were "fabulous," but she's sorry she missed the 80s -- she was still watching GL on television in the 80s.  She knew that if Sherry Stringfield wanted to leave the show, then she wanted that part.  Liz also said she had a "fond memory of being petrified by Maeve Kinkead."


Frank Dicopoulos (Frank Cooper) & Elizabeth Keifer (Blake Marler)
(l-r) Frank Dicopoulos (Frank Cooper) & Elizabeth Keifer (Blake Marler)


Bradley Cole: Bradley talked about playing two very different characters and remarked that where else could someone get away with being a Prince except on a soap?

Grant Aleksander: Grant talked about how coming back after leaving each time was as though no time had passed.  People may have looked a little older, but one could walk back in and everyone would be acting like "where were you?"  He appreciated that he got to work with a nice group of people and enjoy himself even on the bad days.  Where a lot of people have to do jobs they hate, he feels with GL that "there's not a whole lot to complain about."

Kim Zimmer: After Kim left in 1990, she admitted that she did have an "intense feeling of 'Oh, what have I done?'"

Michael O'Leary: Michael talked about how his character of Rick Bauer has been rejected by "a rainbow coalition of women": black, white, old, young, blonde, brunette, hearing-impaired...


Q: Were any of the studio moves in the past difficult?  Did it affect you or the show?

Ellen Wheeler: What makes Guiding Light is the work ethic and the closeness of the cast and crew, so it didn't matter whenever the show moved.

Grant Aleksander: "It's the people.  And the sets."

Ellen Wheeler: Serial storytelling like Guiding Light is a shared experience between the writers, the actors, and the audience.

Michael O'Leary: Michael felt that the multi-generational aspect of the show couldn't be overlooked.  He also stated that Guiding Light did families better than any other soap.

Jill Lorie Hurst: Jill discussed how she worked her way up through the ranks and held many positions at Guiding Light over the years: receptionist, writers' assistant, script writer, script editor, breakdown writer, etc.  She felt she was at the right place at the right time.

Grant Aleksander: Jill "as a person and as a metaphor" has been the essential element of GL.  If a story isn't right, you'd see the reaction on her face that it didn't "pass the smell test."

Ellen Wheeler: Ellen said that if you are going to write for characters, you have to love them, and that's why Jill is such a good writer.

Kim Zimmer: Kim said she's gone to writers before regarding things in scripts she felt wasn't right, but only went to Jill a few times.


Jill Lorie Hurst (Head Writer, GL) & Ellen Dolan (Maureen Bauer I)
(l-r) Jill Lorie Hurst (Head Writer, GL) & Ellen Dolan (Maureen Bauer I)


Q: Do you have favorite or not-so-favorite storylines from over the years?

Bradley Cole: Bradley jokingly said that his favorite was one he really wasn't involved in.  It was the time travel story because Reva had to go through the time-portal painting by walking through Olivia's breasts.

Elizabeth Keifer: Liz's favorite was when she was pregnant with twins by 2 different fathers.  She loved working with both Jerry verDorn and Michael O'Leary.  She also said that Jerry could play anything and commit to it.  He was also a master at ignoring what she said Jerry would refer to as the "cap with the spinning propeller."  This meant that if something was going on in the scene that Ross shouldn't see or react to, Jerry was always great at making sure that, on camera, Ross didn't see what he wasn't supposed to see.  So, if a character were literally wearing a cap with a spinning propeller on it, he could play it so that Ross never noticed it or reacted to it if he wasn't supposed to, and it would be believable.

Michael O'Leary: Michael brought the house down when he recounted his least favorite story: that of "Reginald," the stuffed lamb that Rick gave Phillip as a goodbye present during a time when Philip left town.  In the scene as originally written, Rick was supposed to give Phillip the animal, then in anger over Phillip's leaving (him), Rick was supposed to grab the toy, throw it against the wall, and when the lamb fell to the floor and the stuffing came out of it, was supposed to dissolve into tears and crawl over to the toy, put the stuffing back in, and suture it up. 

Michael had no earthly idea why a grown man would give another man a stuffed animal in the first place much less sit there on the floor and sew it back up.  He said he went to Pam Long, the head writer at the time, to get some sort of clarity on the whole thing.  At this point in his retelling, Michael proceeded to reenact the conversation between them using a thick, feminine, southern drawl to play Pam's side of their talk, which brought buckets of laughs from the audience.  He was told that the stuffing coming out of the lamb was a metaphor for Rick's guts being torn out over Phillip's leaving town.  Michael then said he was able to convince her to leave out that part of the scene, and he would just throw the toy against the wall and end the scene there.  Even then, he said he told them to just tape the dress rehearsal because he didn't think he could do it twice. 

However, once on set with Grant, when Michael got to the part where he threw the stuffed animal at the wall, the lamb landed on the floor and started bouncing around on its little feet, ramping up this entire event to farcical levels, and completely obliterating whatever pathos the scene was hoping to convey.  Still in-scene, Grant almost burst out laughing uncontrollably, and since Michael had brought all the memories back so vividly tonight, Grant seemed to be transported right back to that time and was in hysterics once again the whole time  Michael was telling the story.  Grant remarked that having to do that scene was the only time he ever saw Michael really get mad.


Bradley Cole (Prince Richard Winslow / Jeffrey O'Neill)
Bradley Cole (Prince Richard Winslow / Jeffrey O'Neill) signs an autograph for a fan.


Kim Zimmer: Kim said that there were way too many favorites, and she always felt that whatever story she was given, she was being paid a lot of money to make it work.  When Grant chimed in with the sound effect, "baaaaahhh...," Kim said she even loved the Dolly-clone story because it was challenging for her as an actress.

However, Kim did say that one story that she "loved and hated" was the Annie story in that she loved and hated to work with Cynthia Watros, the actress who played Annie, because Cynthia would often do weird and wacky stuff in her performances and Kim, as Reva, would just have to stand there and not react, ignoring the spinning propeller, as Liz said earlier.

Grant Aleksander: Grant's favorite story probably comes as no surprise to longtime fans of the show.  It was the original Four Musketeers storyline from late 1983 to early 1984.  Grant also shared that at the time, he didn't know that things weren't always going to be that good.  Grant also brought up the multi-generational aspect of the storytelling, or "multi-tier" as he called it, where there were kids coming of age, falling in love with each other, and betraying each other.  Then, on top of that, you had the parents who were interfering and trying to keep the kids apart or just having the normal dysfunctional relationships that parents had with their teens.  Then, above all of that, you had the elder characters like H.B. Lewis or Henry Chamberaiin who could dispense advice to both the kids and their parents.

Jill Lorie Hurst: Jill said that she loved the triangles and love stories over the years and proceeded to name Frank/Eleni/Alan-Michael and Ed/Lillian/Maureen as examples.  She also liked the social awareness storylines that GL did over the years such as the cancer stories, Abby's cochlear implant, and any story where we see the character struggling with obstacles.

At this point, the lights were about to dim again for the preview of the final episode.  Ellen Wheeler said that they tried to wrap up every character by looking at the entire history of each character.  She knew that, in spite of all their efforts to bring each character to a satisfying conclusion and acknowledge all the various beats throughout the characters' histories, "we missed more than we got."  She also forewarned the audience that the preview they were about to see would be spoiler-free.  Scenes from the preview included the Coopers in Company marvelling about the fact that Frank got a date and Reva sauntering up to Josh telling him how good he looks standing up against his daddy's pickup truck.  Does this mean that Reva and Josh will finally be reunited as the light switches off?  And what of Otalia, who were not seen in the clip?  Does Phillip die?  Do Phillip and Beth get back together?  Don't know because they weren't in the clip either.  Tune in Friday, September 18 to find out.

After the lights came up, the audience was allowed to ask questions.  Audience members also thanked the cast for the years of entertainment they have given the public over the course of the show's run, and often told personal stories about how Guiding Light helped them get through difficult times or even how situations on the show somewhat mirrored circumstances in their own lives.  When a fan thanked Jill Lorie Hurst for the Otalia story, Ms. Hurst was quick to point out that the genesis of the story came from Executive Producer Ellen Wheeler, who first conceived it during the Writers Guild of America strike of late-2007 to early-2008. 

It was extremely common for people to say that they were watching for decades and that they picked up the habit of tuning in to GL from their mothers or grandmothers.  Also, Frank Dicopoulos stood up from the reserved seating area, where many GL cast members also watched the Q&A session, and made an impassioned speech about how the Guiding Light fans and the cast were like family that was well-received by the audience.

After about 15 to 20 minutes of audience questions, it was time to go to the next stage of the event: the reception mixer on the main floor.  Those of us in the audience were allowed to mix and mingle with the actors, get their autographs, and take pictures of them.  The pictures that accompany this article were taken during this time as no pictures were allowed during the earlier stage panel Q&A.  All of the dozen actors as well as the various GL and Procter and Gamble/TeleNext staff were extremely personable and gladly chatted with the fans and took pictures with them.

The event began at around 6:30 and lasted until shortly after 10:00pm.  Complimentary drinks and hors d'oeuvres were served by the Paley Center staff.


Gina Tognoni (Dinah Marler) Kurt McKinney (Matt Reardon) & Frank Dicopoulos (Frank Cooper)
Gina Tognoni (Dinah Marler) (l-r) Kurt McKinney (Matt Reardon) & Frank Dicopoulos (Frank Cooper)
Tina Sloan (Lillian Raines) Kurt McKinney, Gina Tognoni, & Frank Dicopoulos
Tina Sloan (Lillian Raines) (l-r) Kurt McKinney, Gina Tognoni, & Frank Dicopoulos
Maeve Kinkead (Vanessa Chamberlain Reardon) Kim Zimmer (Reva Shayne) & Gina Tognoni
Maeve Kinkead (Vanessa Chamberlain Reardon) (l-r) Kim Zimmer (Reva Shayne) & Gina Tognoni
Orlagh Cassidy (Doris Wolfe) Kim Zimmer & Kurt McKinney
Orlagh Cassidy (Doris Wolfe) (l-r) Kim Zimmer & Kurt McKinney
Ellen Dolan & Michael O'Leary Kim Zimmer
(l-r) Ellen Dolan & Michael O'Leary Kim Zimmer


 All photos Copyright © ustownhall.com & Aquarius Enterprises, 2009.  All Rights Reserved.






the-apprentice-logo-thumb UslanMichael-resize-thumb 30-rock-thumb agnes-nixon-thumb BenSpierman-thumb big-brother-logo-thumb bobby-flay-thumb Bridgeboy-logo-thumb
cast of The Apprentice 10


Sherri Shepherd

Vanessa Minnillo

All My Children creator AGNES NIXON

Bronx Opera's BEN SPIERMAN

cast of Big Brother 12 BOBBY FLAY & STEVE ELLS of America's Next Great Restaurant Cast of the play Bridgeboy
bruce-canwell-thumb chuck-thumb crystal-chappell-thumb dan-kroll-thumb dan-parent-thumb david-lyons-thumb debbie-gibson-tiffany-thumb dede-emerson-thumb


part 1: Guiding Light

part 2: Days of Our Lives

soapcentral.com founder DAN KROLL DAN PARENT of Archie Comics DAVID LYONS of The Cape DEBBIE GIBSON & TIFFANY Author DEDE EMERSON of A Different Kind of Streetwalker
dowling_jpeg-thumb eliana-ujueta-thumb jamal-igle-thumb Jay-Mary-thumb jeremy-irons-thumb jerry-beck-thumb josh-groban-thumb kai-soremekun-thumb
BOB DOWLING of the 3D Entertainment Summit Indie filmmaker ELIANA UJUETA of Beneath the Rock comic book artist JAMAL IGLE Genesis Repertory's JAY MICHAELS, MARY MiCARI, & actors Oscar-winning actor JEREMY IRONS

Animation historian JERRY BECK

1st interview

2nd interview

singer-songwriter JOSH GROBAN

web series producer KAI SOREMEKUN of Chick

1st interview

2nd interview

kathy-bates-thumb kenneth-johnson-thumb kyle-bornheimer-thumb law-and-order-los-angeles-thumb logo-thumb luann-de-lesseps-thumb max-thumb mike-miz-thumb
Oscar-winning actress KATHY BATES of Harry's Law Television producer KENNETH JOHNSON of V, Bionic Woman, Incredible Hulk KYLE BORNHEIMER & HAYES MacARTHUR of Perfect Couples

Terrence Howard, René Balcer

Dick Wolf, Alfred Molina, Alana de la Garza

publisher DAN HERMAN of Hermes Press COUNTESS LuANN de LESSEPS of The Real Housewives of New York City author MAX ALLAN COLLINS of Road to Perdition WWE Champion Mike "The MIz" Mizanin
MillCreeklogo-thumb nick-lachey-thumb niki-taylor-thumb paul-reiser-thumb ricky-gervais-thumb rosie-odonnell-thumb steve-niles-thumb the-event-cast-logo-thumb

JEFF HAYNE of Mill Creek Entertainment

1st interview

2nd interview

singer-actor NICK LACHEY supermodel NIKI TAYLOR talks The Celebrity Apprentice actor PAUL REISER of The Paul Reiser Show actor-producer RICKY GERVAIS of The Office actress-television host ROSIE O'DONNELL comic book writer STEVE NILES

Ian Anthony Dale, Nick Wauters

Jason Ritter, Sarah Roemer, Blair Underwood, Željko Ivanek

thore-jo-thumb tom-brokaw-thumb tom-pelphrey-thumb apothecary-theatre-thumb tori-spelling-thumb
THORE SCHÖLERMANN & JO WEIL of Verbotene Liebe Peabody & Emmy award winning journalist TOM BROKAW Emmy award winning actor TOM PELPHREY of Guiding Light actors from The Apothecary Theatre Company TORI SPELLING & DEAN McDERMOTT of sTORIbook Weddings





Reviews & Previews:

Summer 2011 Movie Preview

Fall 2010 Television season

Fra Diavolo

Die Drei Pintos

Romeo and Juliet in Brooklyn

MPI Home Video

Timless Media Group

Boris Karloff's Thriller

Hunter: The Complete Series

Polly and Her Pals

Icons: The DC Comics and Wildstorm Art of Jim Lee

Adrianne Palicki as Wonder Woman

Ryan Reynolds as Green Lantern

Spider-Man musical delayed again


Dead Space: Aftermath






New York Comic Con

Apprentice 10 kickoff

Farewell to Guiding Light

Farewell to As the World Turns

The Broadway Directory


Award Show winners:

Academy Awards

Emmy Awards

Grammy Awards

Tony Awards

American Music Awards

Golden Globe Awards

Screen Actors Guild Awards

American Country Awards



Television blogs:

American Idol 10

American Idol 9

American Idol 8

Big Brother 12

Big Brother 11

ABC Cancels Both All My Children and One Life to Live

Guiding Light: A Look Back


Editorials & Issues:

Scam Alert: Have You Received This E-Mail Job Offer?

Meet the 112th Congress

Brooklyn politicians Kevin Peter Carroll vs. Ralph Perfetto

Before Rosa Parks There Was Lizzie Jennings

Understanding New York State Government

USTownhall RoundTable podcast: The Worlds of Entertainment and Current Events