At 9:15 Tuesday night soap-opera star Nancy Lee Grahn, who plays attorney Alexis Davis on ABC's "General Hospital," stepped in front of a banner that read "Daytime for Gore/Lieberman" and, wearing a long black skirt and pink leather jacket, faced a bank of television cameras.
The political gathering for Democratic soap-opera stars had started more than an hour late. It gave television's afternoon heroes and heroines plenty of time to order drinks, greet colleagues, pick their teeth and walk outside for a smoke.
Not one person was seen rolling around in satin sheets.
They were waiting for Sharon Davis, wife of California Gov. Gray Davis, and Kristen Gore, the 23-year-old daughter of Vice President Al Gore who writes for Fox's animated comedy "Futurama." It's a job with owl-like hours that left Gore battling nighttime traffic and a line of cars wending their way up the mountainside street to the Tarzana home of Gary Tomlin, director of NBC's "Passions."
Gore finally arrived to greet a roomful of perfect noses and hair-sprayed coifs. The crowd of more than 100 (completely clothed) daytime actors had passed the hour discussing everything from Republican presidential nominee George W. Bush to television to their new leather boots.
For the Record
Los Angeles Times Tuesday October 17, 2000 Home Edition Calendar Part F Page 2 Entertainment Desk 1 inches; 21 words Type of Material: Correction
Daughter's name--The first name of Kirstin Gore, the 23-year-old daughter of Vice President Al Gore, was misspelled in a story in Saturday's Calendar.
The fantasy makers think they're better equipped to see through the spin of a political campaign. "Being in show biz I know how little personality matters," said Anthony Geary, who has played Luke Spencer on ABC's "General Hospital" since 1978, with the exception of an 8-year break to explore a movie career. The media, he said, portrays Bush as a fun guy to hang out with. "I don't want to have dinner with the president," Geary said, adding that reporters seem unbothered by Bush's vision of a country "where morality is legislated."
"I'm an entertainer," said the three-time Emmy winner. "I'm not a social worker. I don't care if the soap doesn't promote any social values."
This was the first public political gathering by soap actors since Grahn organized a 1988 gathering for actors on the pro-choice side of the abortion issue called "Daytime for Choice."
The story of how Grahn came to stand on that makeshift stage on Tuesday night is a fairy tale for Terry Ainsworth, a "General Hospital" fan. (Grahn dislikes the word fan. She thinks "discerning viewer" is more tasteful).
By day, Ainsworth is executive secretary for the chief of staff for Commerce Secretary Norm Mineta. By night, she cooks dinner for her four kids and then gets ready for bed by watching that day's taped episode of "General Hospital." When a friend invited Ainsworth to the 1999 Daytime Emmys, she boarded a train from D.C. to New York right away.
"It was the year Susan Lucci won her first Emmy," Ainsworth said this week from her desk in Washington, D.C. At the after-party Ainsworth approached Grahn, and the two women immediately began talking politics.
It was the pinnacle of a star sighting: the two became friends.
Ainsworth not only got Grahn into the Democratic National Convention last August, she seated her in Gore's sky box.
"She was calling me on my cell phone, saying 'I'm in the box, talking to the vice president's best friend from Tennessee!' " Ainsworth said. "It was great to see her so excited, because a lot of soap-opera stars aren't that political and couldn't care less who is president."
After the convention, Grahn went to a fund-raiser where she met President Clinton and offered her assistance to the Gore-Lieberman ticket.
So, on this brisk evening Grahn stood in Tomlin's family room and hosted a program that was captured by news cameras and will be featured in a three-page article this month in Soap Opera Digest. Grahn and her colleagues may even take their show on the road to college campuses later this month.
Why should the Gore-Lieberman ticket care about this unconventional ground-roots effort? To give an idea of the number of viewers hooked on every plot twist on daytime television, "General Hospital" alone draws more than 5 million viewers each day, a higher rating than some prime-time shows on the WB or UPN.
"We take issues very seriously. . . . We hope . . . by speaking out in a forum like this that we might ignite the energy and enthusiasm of our audience," Grahn told the cameras.
"Our audience is predominantly female, and the female vote--as you know--is a highly valued vote in this election," Grahn continued. "For those of you who are undecided . . . there isn't anyone here that wouldn't be pleased if, as a result of this gathering tonight, you were presented with a good reason to vote Gore-Lieberman."
A handful of actors followed her with their own statements on Roe vs. Wade, public schools, mental health and gun violence. The evening was capped off by a skit about group therapy for Democrats whose significant others are "Supporters of Bush" ("S.O.B.'s" for short).