Saturday, November 28, 2009

The Wesley Eure Interview, Part Three

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 talked about his background, how he came into show business and shared some fun stories from DAYS set. In Part Two, Eure recalled Mike Horton's "gay storyline" and revealed how and why he was fired from the soap.

In the third and final part of our interview, Eure talks about the dear friend and former cast member he lost because he was gay, and how he has channeled the energy from the devastating AIDS crisis in the '80s into a positive.

WE LOVE SOAPS TV: Did you keep in touch with anyone from DAYS after you left?
Wesley Eure: It was an odd time. Patty Weaver, who was on DAYS OF OUR LIVES [as Trish], used to hang out with me and my friends and had a lot of gay friends, then she moved over to her show [THE YOUNG AND THE RESTLESS] and married an older man who was a writer, Bill Bell's good friend, and suddenly she cut all the gay men out of her life. [She] actually told us she was cutting us out of her life because she was not allowed to have that lifestyle anymore. I lost my friend Patty Weaver. She literally made her bed. Homophobia effects us in a lot of different ways, professionally and personally. Certain things are different but they are nowhere closed to being resolved.

Since I did my coming out article I've already lost several lectures at schools. It continues. I'm one of the creators of DRAGON TALES on PBS, which is one of the number one shows for kids around the world. I have a lot of kids books that I write. And every once in a while I have a lecture where I teach an entire auditorium of kids how to write a book. In one hour we write a whole book. It's an outrageous fun lecture. One school district in Phoenix had me in and I taught five or six classes a day. I just lost one and it happened as soon as the AfterElton article came out.

WE LOVE SOAPS TV: These types of things really bother me. I've become more of an activist as I've gotten older whereas some people would rather wait for society to eventually accept us as gay people.
Wesley Eure: I made a choice for a couple of reasons. I lost most of my friends during the AIDS crisis. The entire population of Hollywood - the young actors and dancers - are mostly gone. They were the people I had planned on spending this time of my life with, watching them be the heads of studios and all those things, and that was cut short in the '80s. It seemed totally disingenuous to continue to hide. It didn't seem right that these people died of AIDS, and God knows [President] Reagan was silent about it and let a lot of people die, but I didn't need to be silent.

So I started raising money and helping with organizations like Project Angel Food in Los Angeles. I have a big fundraiser here called Lalapoolooza with 85 performers around swimming pools with celebrities and synchronized swim teams and raising money for seven charities. It's a huge event.

WE LOVE SOAPS TV: I watched a video of the event on your website and I think I really need to go to that!
Wesley Eure: [Laughs] It's outrageous! At the end of the show every year, a giant upright bed on wheels comes out. We had a spaceship fly above the hotel this year, and horses by the pool. This is a huge show. The first year the bed covers pulled back and it was Kay Ballard saying, "I just had the most amazing dream, called Lalapoolooza." Then the covers pulled back and it was Ron Oden, the first openly gay mayor of Palm Springs, and he was in bed looking up longingly at Kay. It was a celebrity dream. This year the covers pulled down and it was Bruce Vilanch saying, "I just had this nightmare called Lalapoolooza," and then the covers came down and it's Greg Louganis. It's a raucous show and a lot of fun.

WE LOVE SOAPS TV: There's an interesting note in your bio about getting cast on THE PATRIDGE FAMILY to replace David Cassidy but then the show didn't get renewed. Were you going to play Keith?
Wesley Eure: NBC called in a bunch of guys, the teeny bop guys because I was doing a lot of Tiger Beat and 16, and we all sang. Bobby Sherman used to produce stuff for me. I used to record with The Jacksons too. And I was in a boy group with Motown for a while which Mike Curb produced. So I came in, sang a couple of songs, they filmed it, and I got the job. David [Cassidy] had decided to leave the show and they wanted to continue it. I was going to be his neighbor and best friend and the guy who was going to be cast as my father was going to be single and have an affair with Shirley. I got the show and from my understanding David heard about it and decided to stay so I was out of luck.

WE LOVE SOAPS TV: Actors on soaps today generally don't get get much mainstream publicity. When you were on DAYS you were on Tiger Beat and various magazines. Was there any jealously that you were so well-known outside the show?
Wesley Eure: I guess. Everybody at DAYS OF OUR LIVES had a mailbox for fan mail and mine was about six times that of the other actors. But I was also out there doing things. I was a regular on PASSWORD and I did MATCH GAME.

WE LOVE SOAPS TV: Speaking of MATCH GAME, I loved Brett Somers and Charles Nelson Reilly. What was that set like? It seemed like a lot of fun.
Wesley Eure: We had so much fun. And Fannie Flag. Oh my God, did I have a great time with Fannie Flag!

WE LOVE SOAPS TV: What was that set like? It seemed like a lot of fun.
Wesley Eure: I was actually terrified because I was the new person and the new person always sat in the first seat. It was the easiest seat because the obvious jokes you can get. The hardest seat is the last seat when all the answers have been given and you still have to be funny. It was terrifying for me because I wanted to be good and asked back. Brett was a lot of fun and Charles Nelson was so much fun and I knew him for years until he passed.

I remember once Fannie invited me to a bicentennial party in Montecito and Cher Marie, the president of my fan club that just passed, made me this red, white and blue satin Revolutionary War outfit. I lived in Los Angeles and this was about two hours away. The party started about two o'clock in the afternoon and around 2:30 I arrived on a white horse wearing this outfit with my hair pulled back holding this brass lantern yelling, "The British are coming!" Fannie came running out and was laughing to hard she fell to her knees and was pounding the pavement. So other than doing the show, a lot of us had relationships outside the show.

WE LOVE SOAPS TV: Your resume is really incredible. Aside from your musical talent and your acting that we've seen on LAND OF THE LOST, DAYS, and other shows, you have also had a great deal of success as a writer and producer. Was it always your intent to do behind the scenes work someday?
Wesley Eure: No, I love to be in front of the camera! It's the easiest job in the world. You just show up, all the work's done, you get all the glory and leave with the biggest check. As a producer I know how many years it takes to get the actors in, to have the set and the costumes and financing and everything done. Being the actor is the most fun. But I just love the entertainment business and God knows I'm hyper enough that I can't sit still.

WE LOVE SOAPS TV: Which project that you've worked on would you say you are most proud of?
Wesley Eure: Wow. That's hard to say. I'm producing Stephen Schwartz's new musical, "Snapshots," and I've been working with him about eight years now, workshopping it, and we're opening in Oklahoma City on February 4th at the Lyric Theatre for another workshop production. We went to New York and got Richard Maltby who is now going to be our director. That, at the moment, is what is occupying my mind. I'm a huge fan of Stephen Schwartz. The first Broadway show I auditioned for in New York was "Godspell." Now I'm working with Stephen as a producer and it's wonderful.

WE LOVE SOAPS TV: If you could go back 35 years to when you started on DAYS and LAND OF THE LOST, what advice would you give yourself?
Wesley Eure: Take better advantage of what you had. As I look back, I had some missed opportunities I would love to recapture. But I've had a great life. I have great friends and a great relationship. I have no regrets. I've lived my life fully, traveled the world, dabbled in a few different things and hope to dabble in a few more.

WE LOVE SOAPS TV: Is there anything you haven't done that you want to do?
Wesley Eure: I don't know. I live my life thinking that every day. If this was the last day, how would you live your life? When I was at the height of my career in the '80s, all my friends were dying, and people were literally dying every day. When my best friend died in my arms, John Allison, an English director who had a theater in Los Angeles, I looked around at my life and said, "Since all my friends are dying, I'll probably be dead in two years. Pretend, Wesley, you have two years to live. How do you want to spend the last two years on this planet?" So I started interviewing elderly people and asked them if they could live their life again, what would they do differently. The answer I got number one was travel. Number two was take care of my health and number three was finances. So I said, "Okay, I'm going to travel." I decided to go to Bali. I backpacked around the world, mostly through third world countries, thumbed through all these places, India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Burma, really a lot adventure travel. I had this amazing journey. Then Disney bought my book, "The Red Wings of Christmas," for an animated feature and wanted me to write the screenplay and a song, and I came back to the States. So I have tried to live every day like it's my last. It's something I think about daily.

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