Thursday, November 12, 2009

The Wesley Eure Interview, Part One

Wesley Eure is best known to soap fans for his long run as Mike Horton on DAYS OF OUR LIVES which ended in 1981. He also made a huge splash as Will Marshall during his run in the popular Sid and Marty Krofft adventure series LAND OF THE LOST. But he also has an extensive background as an author, television writer, producer, lecturer and charity fundraiser. In this exclusive three-part interview with WE LOVE SOAPS TV, Eure covers all those aspects of his life and more including the price he's paid for being an out gay man in the industry. In Part One, Eure talks about his background, how he came into show business and shares some fun stories from DAYS set.

WE LOVE SOAPS TV: Can you tell me a little about your background. You grew up in Mississippi?
Wesley Eure: I was born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and raised in Mississippi, and then we moved a lot. My dad left us when I was two, and my mom moved us back to Hattiesburg, Mississippi, with my grandmother. Then she went to college because women couldn't get jobs in the South back then so she had to get an education. She went to become a psychologist, and started teaching at university, so we moved to Texas, then to Illinois and then to Las Vegas, where she was heading up the drug abuse program for the state of Nevada. She had the first methadone clinic and her own radio talk show on drug abuse.

WE LOVE SOAPS TV: Maybe I should interview her!
Wesley Eure: [Laughs] I put my mom through law school when she was 50 and she graduated at the top of her class and in two years she was grading the bar exams. She wanted to be an attorney all her life, and down South in her day you didn't have to go to law school, you just had to study with a judge or a lawyer and take the exam. She was studying with a friend of the family who was a judge and he passed away. They wouldn't give women scholarships to anything except social services, like psychologists, so that's all she could get when she wanted to go back to school after my dad left.

WE LOVE SOAPS TV: That's a great success story.
Wesley Eure: When I was making enough money and had success and she wanted to leave the drug abuse program and go to law school, I said, "Come on. Do it."

WE LOVE SOAPS TV: In reading your bio I saw that you wanted to be an actor or entertainer from an early age.
Wesley Eure: When I was five years old I announced it, much to the dismay of my Southern family. When I said, "I want to be an actor," they would look in horror at me like, "What the hell are you talking about, boy?" But yeah, I totally knew.

WE LOVE SOAPS TV: How did you make your way to L.A.? Or at what point did you start pursuing an entertainment career professionally?
Wesley Eure: All through school I would study, and when we were in Illinois, I went to a summer program at Northwestern University called the Cherub Program. I won the Robinson Award as the best high school actor of the year. They offered me a full scholarship which I never took them up on. Then we moved to Vegas for my last year of high school and I was working at an art gallery at the Frontier Hotel. They had this art gallery right in the lobby so that people who won a lot of money and were celebrating would go and buy this silly art. My favorite painting was from this guy named Diaz, and he sold like hotcakes. The paintings were about four inches thick of oil paint and it was flower bursts. They churned them out in a factory some place. They would come in and were still wet on the wall. But Robert Goulet's manager came in one day. Bob Goulet was performing in the hotel and they were going to go on a tour in New York. He and Carol Lawrence were going to do "I Do, I Do" and their concert tour interspersed, and I got a job as their driver at age 17. I was going to drive Bob Goulet and Carol Lawrence around the east coast and I had never been to the east coast. They were huge stars back then.

I remember I arrived at the Garden State Art Festival in New Jersey and it's Carol Lawrence of all people, and they said, "Wesley, you have to drive her to New York City to her dentist." I had never been to New York City. I get in the car, and David Leland, a big portly man, was sitting in the driver seat next to me, and Carol's in the back seat, and I go into the Lincoln Tunnel shaking like a leaf. I was 17 and had just got my license the year before. I come into the tunnel and all the stop lights were on posts on the side, and where I'm from they were hanging in the middle of the street where you could see them. So they were on the side and all the trucks were parked there in the industrial area and I couldn't see the stop lights. Two stop lights down I couldn't see and I pulled to the middle of the intersection and see that it's red, so I back up and there was a policeman. I'm two blocks into New York City with Carol Lawrence and the policeman signals me to roll down my window. I rolled down the window and he says, "Excuse me. Did you see the red light?" And I said, "Yeah, look, I've never been to New York City. I couldn't see it. " And he looked down and there was a little placard in the window that said Garden State Art Festival, and he looked into the back seat and goes, "Oh, hello Ms. Lawrence. Okay, now just be careful next time. You can go." And that was my introduction to celebritism and New York City.

WE LOVE SOAPS TV: You started on LAND OF THE LOST and DAYS OF OUR LIVES (as Mike Horton) around the same time. How did that come about?
Wesley Eure: I got DAYS OF OUR LIVES first and then David Merrick flew me to New York. He wanted me to star in "Candide." I had met Sid Krofft before and he said he was doing this new series and I had to audition for it so I auditioned for it. So I flew to New York and I was meeting with all these people about "Candide." I get this call about LAND OF THE LOST and they said, "You got the job." I was 18 or 19 at the time and they said the character was 16 and I said, "I don't want to play 16." Anyway, obviously I took the job. They were both NBC shows and I was shooting two shows at once. NBC was very accommodating and at the time DAYS was still half an hour. I would shoot DAYS in the mornings and for three years they arranged to shoot all my scenes first. I don't think the cast was too pleased.

WE LOVE SOAPS TV: How did everyone else feel about that?
Wesley Eure: They did it seemingly with good will. So in the mornings I would shoot the scenes and be crying about my affairs with Trish, and in the afternoons I would go to Goldwyn Studios and run from dinosaurs. It was a great jog. I had such a good time.

WE LOVE SOAPS TV: I've seen all the LAND OF THE LOST episodes. I remember watching at least the last few years you were on DAYS. I was still pretty young but still watching my soaps.
Wesley Eure: When I was a kid, I would watch DAYS OF OUR LIVES with my grandmother in Mississippi and she was always ironing. Every time I would watch DAYS in the later years when I was on it, and she had already passed on, I could still smell the iron burning.

WE LOVE SOAPS TV: On DAYS OF OUR LIVES, you were part of one of the longest kept secrets in the history of soaps - the reveal that Bill was Mike's father and not Mickey.
Wesley Eure: The Mike before me was a little boy and suddenly I burst on the scene as a teenager. And then a wagon falls on my chest, then I find out my father really isn't my father because my uncle raped my mother years ago at the hospital. [Laughs] So it was an amazing time. I had such a good time with Ed Mallory who played Bill, and Susan Flannery who was Laura at the time. We went through a lot of Lauras. She was my first mother.

WE LOVE SOAPS TV: And one of your love interests married your DAYS father in real life.
Wesley Eure: Yes. Suzanne Zenor, who played Margo. I was in the dressing room one day and I got this fan letter and it said, "Dear Mike, I hate to inform you but I was in Hawaii and I saw your father with your wife." Well, I started laughing. I thought this is the silliest thing. I went to Suzanne and said, "I got this hysterical letter. This lady thought she saw you and Ed Mallory in Hawaii." Suzanne's face went white. She grabbed the letter. She ran down the hall and I'm going, "O-kay." She comes back a few minutes later and we go in the dressing room and she says, "Here's the deal. Ed Mallory and I are dating. But he's still married and he's going through a divorce and nobody can know and you can't tell a soul." And I was like, "Whooooaaa, okay." And that's how I found out they were dating.

WE LOVE SOAPS TV: That's very soapy!
Wesley Eure: It was fabulous and I knew for months and months they were going out together. I adored both of them. His wife that he was divorcing did a lot of game shows and I used to be on a lot of celebrity panels so I couldn't say a thing to anyone.

WE LOVE SOAPS TV: Did they stay together very long?
Wesley Eure: Oh, yeah. They were together until he died [in 2007). This was a real relationship.

WE LOVE SOAPS TV: You also worked a lot with Patty Weaver, who played Trish, and went to play Gina for many years on THE YOUNG AND THE RESTLESS, as well as the Horton family. What are some of your fondest memories working at DAYS?
Wesley Eure: It was fun. I loved to play practical jokes. I was a kid on the show, or late teens/early 20s. We had this big scene once with Susan Flannery and I had to take my shirt off. Mike was talking about me going out with Trish at the time. It was dress rehearsal and Susan Flannery was this consummate actress, one of the best actresses I've ever worked with. And nothing phased her, not a thing. I went to the make-up room and painted a big heart on my chest that said, "I love you, Mom." So we're doing the scene and she's yelling at me about Trish or coming in late and I take my shirt off and she sees the heart and I can see that recognition go across her eyes. And at that one moment she stops but she continues the scenes, and I continue the scene, and I'm trying to hold it in, and the camera men are laughing and you can hear the people in the booth laughing. Susan Flannery doesn't break at all. The scene ends, and it's a very dramatic scene, and she turns to me sand says, "Don't ever fuck with an actress." And we laughed. It was so much fun.

EDITOR'S NOTE: In Part Two, Eure shares more stories from DAYS OF OUR LIVES and talks about why he was fired from the soap.

1 comment:

  1. Love the Susan story. Wish I was watching Days back then.