It became an hysterical game called TEAM THINKING. The opening round was relatively easy. Sal Viscuso asked, "How long has it been?" When no one had a quick answer he said, "Well what is 1981 from 2014?" Those more fluent in math than me said, "33."
While I was contemplating my life three decades earlier with these people someone said, "But we started in 1977 so you have to add four more years". It came clear that I have known the people at this dinner for almost four decades.
I wasn't sure who would be there besides me and Sandi, my friend Marsha Posner Williams, her husband Wayne, Robert Mandan along with Jay and Linda Sandrich who conceived the event. Over the past four decades I have seen those friends with reasonable regularity, but the rest of the guest list included people I have not spoken to nor seen since the day SOAP went off the air.
Most of the surviving cast members of SOAP came together for an evening. It was like returning from a very long hiatus, sitting down at a studio table to read a new script. However, this time they served food, wine, cocktails and our significant others were with us.
Everyone naturally looked older but it was a familiar table. Jay Sandrich, director, sat next to JD Lobue, director/assistant director on his left. Marsha Posner Williams, producer/script supervisor and secret keeper sat to the right of Mr. Sandrich. Going clockwise around the table was Bob Guillaume (Benson), Katherine Helmond (Jessica Tate) Ted Wass (Danny Dallas) Jennifer Salt (Eunice Tate) Sal Viscuso (Father Tim) Robert Mandan (Chester Tate) and me (Chuck without Bob).
Jay Sandrich welcomed everyone and explained that the evening had been inspired by the release of the Aaron Berman book about SOAP. The book inspired him to watch the DVD's of the series again, especially the last year and a half that JD Lobue directed when Jay was off shooting a movie. In reliving the experience he realized how much fun he had during those days. He decided to gather everyone, who was able to meet, for one more group hug.
After we toasted the members of our cast who have passed away, the bonus round of "TEAM THINKING" began.
"Remember the scene when Chester and Jessica were at the minister's office for marriage counseling?"
"Oh yeah. the minister said his wife ran off with the carpet installer. Carpet guy must have gotten confused about what he was there to lay....."
"Who was the actor who played that part?"
Metaphoric bats flew from the mental bell towers of those in attendance. After several wrong names someone yells, "John Hillerman." Score, and continue.
"Who played Carol's mother?"
"Who the hell was Carol?"
"The girlfriend who had Jodie's baby."
"The possessed baby?"
"The alien baby?"
"Wendy, Jodie's girlfriend's baby...."
"Yeah she was Carol...but who played her mother from Texas?" Again the sound of brain cells trying to jump start around the room....
"Peggy Pope." Came the answer followed by several people saying "of course I knew that."
We laughed, remembered and recounted memories of those days. My big take away came from my sit-com step brother Ted Wass. He was the one, not Billy Crystal, who figured out the 225 plus 10 game we used to play in the background shots. (that is subject for another blog)
Most of us have gone on to other career milestones as SOAP becomes a mention in the bio/resumé. Ted is a well respected television director, Jennifer has become a writer, producer and show runner, Sal is performing in a play currently in town to valentine personal reviews. Jay, Robert, Katherine and Bob represent a body of work that allows them senior celebrity status. Billy and I went on to win Tony Awards on Broadway for our respective solo shows. We discovered that some of us live near each other and we vowed to meet again.
Jay Sandrich is right. It was a special time, a special show and amazingly creative people. Funny how it took an independent contemporary look at the show in the form of Aaron Berman's Book to make us realize how lucky we all were. Thank you Jay, thank you fellow cast and crew members and thank you Aaron.
As you were,