Wednesday, January 13, 2010

FLASHBACK: Lisa Brown 1983


By Andrea Payne
Soap Opera Digest
June 21, 1983

Lisa Brown walks hurriedly into the dark, rather depressing reception area at the CBS studio in Manhattan where GUIDING LIGHT is taped. The woman, dressed casually in blue pinstripe slacks and a beige velour top, briskly shakes my hand and turns, walking quickly back to her dressing room. She stops and asks the guard at the desk to inform her when her lunch order arrives.

No sooner do we get to her dressing room than a voice booms over the intercom, calling Lisa for lunch. "I'm sorry," she apologizes, as she dashes out of the room. Back again, Lisa sets her food down on the dressing room table, settles into a chair and prepares to be interviewed. No go. Two minutes into the session, as Lisa is enthusiastically talking about her starring role as Peggy Sawyer in "42nd Street," the hit Broadway musical, she gets called away again. This time it's for rehearsal. Once more she apologizes. "One of the first things a reporter learns is patience," I assure her.

For thirty minutes, I sit in the green room watching GUIDING LIGHT and flipping through a humorous coloring book about the ups and downs of being an actor. I can't help but wonder what would happen if I turn the television station to the competition. Will the man next to me yakking away on the phone have me put out? Just as the strains of the opening music for BARNABY JONES are heard, Lisa comes back. I follow her into the dressing room and the interview begins. No it doesn't. "Lisa can you come into makeup, please?" another detached voice acts sweetly. She's off again.

Lisa's dressing room, which she shares with Denise Pence (Katie Parker), is not a bad place to be left in. Filled with stuffed dolls, its walls covered with posters–there's one of Clark Gable and another depicts a pregnant Raggedy Ann with the caption, "Oh damn you Andy"–this room reminds me of a teenager's haunt.

While waiting for Lisa to return, I begin to examine the situation. At times like these, when everything is going wrong, I surmise, it's best to chalk it up to experience or file it away for your memoirs. But then, I muse, since getting out this issues had posed more than the usual problems, why should anything be going right now?

The Lisa Brown and Michael Tylo cover shoot was scheduled for a later date. The cover, which had originally been planned for this issue, fell through because of what I'll politely term "artistic" differences between the way Soap Opera Digest conceived of the pictures, and the actors’ conceptions of how they would like to be photographed. Arrangements were hastily made for another cover–this one– which we wanted to do months ago, but couldn't because Michael and Lisa were never available at the same time. Despite their busy schedules and the short notice, Brown and Tylo were miraculously able to pose for our camera. All systems were go for picture-taking followed by an interview. However, the photo shoot ran late, thereby eating up interview time. Lisa still had to tape her scenes and then go to the theater for that night's performance. In short, time was running out.

I wander down the hall to the make up room where Lisa's dark brown curly locks are getting fussed over. Standing it the doorway, I listen as she dryly reads her lines to the makeup lady. A few minutes later, Lisa's out of the chair and back in her dressing room.

Sensing that a lot of time has been lost, I suggest that we meet sometime next week. "Can't," Lisa replies, "I'm on vacation." Once again I turn on the tape recorder.

Lisa whips out a toothbrush and begins brushing her teeth. It's done quickly as she paces back and forth. That chore over, she sits down and begins to talk about Broadway, stardom and her marriage to GUIDING LIGHT castmate, Tom Nielsen (Floyd Parker).

"Broadway is very exciting," Lisa enthuses. "It's a wonderful opportunity. I love doing the show. Working in the theater is like coming home because that's basically where I come from." (Lisa had roles in "Hello, Dolly!" "Pal Joey" and "The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas.") While Lisa admits that playing the same part night after night can get "boring" there is always something happening to keep her interested, she says. Brown cites the case of an understudy who was getting his first real chance on stage. "We were all rooting for him and giving him encouragement. It was great."

It would seem that holding down two jobs would make life a bit hectic, but Lisa makes it all sound easy. "No!" she shouts when that suggestion is made. It is stressful and it is difficult, Brown insists. She does it, however, though she's not quite sure how. "I don't know what it is about me," Brown begins. "I've worked double jobs before many times. When I first came on GUIDING LIGHT, I was doing a horror film and well, I guess I must have an extraordinary amount of energy to be able to sustain the discipline that is involved in keeping this sort of schedule.

Lisa Brown is energy - a live wire. Her sneakered feet are alternately propped up on the dressing table or are resting uneasily on the floor. She runs her hands through her hair, hits the air with her fist and is constantly moving.

As for how she maintains her schedule, a comment by John Wesley Shipp (Kelly Nelson) gives some insight into this dedicated actress. "I love working with her professionally," Shipp says. "She's a perfectionist for herself and everybody else which people can view in two ways. Some people who don't understand her professionally, can find her difficult, but others, like myself, think that she is an inspiration to do better work. Lisa gives one hundred percent of herself in her performance and it brings out one percent in my performance."

Lisa and Tom are engaged in some serious house-hunting, which comes up when Lisa is asked whether she'd like to become a "star." Ms. Brown looks at me as though she doesn't know what the word means, so I am forced to elaborate. "Well you know, the fame, the money, the fancy living . . ." Lisa just laughs.

Unlike Nola who is known for her fantasies about being famous, Lisa's not caught up in that kind of wishful thinking. Of her character's elaborate daydreams, Lisa says, "I really don't relate to them other than through the character and that they are fun to do." As for stardom, well, if it means moving to the West Coast, Lisa's not prepared to do that. Leaning over, Brown says thoughtfully, "I don't want to leave New York. I love it here." Even for the money? What money? Lisa wants to know. In order for money to mean anything, nowadays, Brown says, one would have to have lots of it. House-hunting brought that reality home when she and Tom were asked for a $95,000 down payment for a piece of real estate they were considering buying. "Where are we going to get $95,000?" she asks incredulously.

No, Lisa is content to stay right where she is. Asked if there's anything in her life she'd like to change, Brown is silent for awhile. "Gosh, I don't know. If I could change things, I'd like to have more time in a day, more hours on the clocks. I wish it was an eight day week, so I could have two days off."

Footsteps in the hall, a voice calls out asking Lisa if she'd liked to go over her lines. "In a minute," she yells back as she vigorously jabs out a cigarette butt.

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