Neal Hetherington (Habitat for Humanity), Colleen Zenk, Eileen Fulton, Richard Skipper
Photo of the day: AS THE WORLD still TURNS with EILEEN FULTON – Sometimes being a bitch pays off, just ask Eileen Fulton! – Before there was Erica Kane/Susan Lucci on All My Children, Amanda Woodward/Heather Locklear on Melrose Place, Abby Ewing/Donna Mills on Knotts Landing and certainly Alexis Carrington/Joan Collins on Dynasty – – there was Lisa Grimaldi/Eileen Fulton in 1960 on the classic TV soap opera “As The World Turns“. Being a bitch certainly offers job security, Eileen played the roll for fifty, yes fifty years!
On February 16, 2014 Sunday night, Richard Skipper: entertainer, charity fundraiser, Carol Channing’s champion and a well loved friend and historian of the entertainment community, hosted an evening’s conversation with soap opera legend Eileen Fulton at New York’s Metropolitan Room. One of many celebrity interviews in the ‘Richard Skipper Celebrates…’ series. A charity event with all proceeds going to president Jimmy Carter’s ‘Habitat for Humanity’ at the request of Eileen herself.
Host Richard Skipper
Richard’s warm and listening manner lets his guests free flow with the room and the audience loves it. Eileen’s zesty charm took over the room immediately. She looked absolutely stunning with her blonde curls tossed on top of her head, wearing black feathers and diamonds just as a soap opera queen should! So how do you get a job that lasts 50 years? You bang down doors. No…I mean that literally.
On a hot summer’s day in 1960, Eileen was treading the pavement going from agents office to agents office. After her bluff did not work at the William Morris agency that “I have an appointment with Mr. William Morris”, she went on to the next name on her list, William McCaffrey. When knocking on the door yielded no results, she knocked/pounded a little harder therefore knocking the door off it’s hinges (well…it WAS being repaired and so therefore loose). That accidental stunt landed Eileen her first agent. Shortly thereafter she landed the role of Lisa Grimaldi ‘for just a few episodes’ on ATWT. Her Asheville, North Carolina sweetness connected with the viewers but not with Eileen. Eileen didn’t like being the ‘good girl’ Lisa Grimaldi – too boring. So she schemed to spice things up. When not allowed to change the plots or staging directions, she changed her character simply by using her voice. She said the same sweet dialog “but as I said it, I thought the nastiest dirtiest thoughts and the words just came out differently – with a whole new meaning. It was live television, what could they do?” she recounted to Richard with a sly grin. The rest is television history.
Eileen Fulton speaks her mind
Eileen’s determination is also show business legend. At one point Eileen held down three acting rolls at once. ATWT soap filming live, then 3 matinees of “Whose Afraid Of Virginia Woolf?” and then evening performances of “The Fantastiks”. She had a speed record of getting from the CBS Grand Central Broadcasting studio to the Billy Rose Theater (now the Nederlander) on West 41st street in five minutes. Talk about determination! It’s a feat of determination that Elaine Stritch still talks about in her act today. Why did she stop? “I was exhausted!”.
Die hard fan Kevin Campbell meets Colleen Zenk
Over the decades CBS tried to replace Eileen’s character of Lisa with another actress, but the viewers would not have it. “You can’t lie to the audience” Eileen passionately insists. Lisa/Eileen’s audience was so wrapped up in the nastiness of the character, Eileen was slapped by a Chanel wearing patron at SAKS Fifth Avenue and she also had to hire body guards because people simply couldn’t separate real life from fiction as they would try to slug her in the street. Well, Eileen slugged herself all the way to the banks with 5 lp recordings and two autobiographies under her belt, night club acts, movie rolls as well as many murder mystery novels to her credit as well.
Soap aficionado Peggy Eason and husband meet their idol
Sunday night under Richard’s loving guidance, two passions in acting came to light. Eileen strongly feels you can’t fake emotions and don’t glorify violence against women even in jest. When a scene came up that her character was to be taken across her husband’s knee and spanked, she refused to play the scene insisting to her directors “that’s abuse whether you realize it or not.” Eileen got her way and kept a high standard on the show for a long time.
ATWT 2001 cast
Any ironies in her life? Yes. As a child she was fascinated that ivory soap bars would float on the water in the tub, “just like a piece of wedding cake.” Being left alone in the tub one afternoon as a child, her mother returned to find little Eileen had bitten away the edges of the tasting looking soap bar as she ‘foamed from the mouth.’ “Isn’t it ironic that for fifty years I had Procter and Gamble/Ivory Soap as my sponsor?!” she laughed.
Any grudges or unhappy memories? Yes, one. Eileen is not a great fan of Carol Burnett. There’s a grudge there. Seems Eileen came up with the idea of the comedic take-off on Carol’s show “As the Stomach Turns” yet she was never once asked to appear. But when Carol did the comedic take-off of “Sunset Boulevard/Norma Desmond”, Gloria Swanson was asked to appear. “I think it was jealousy” Eileen still quickly insists.
“As The Stomach Turns”
Eileen has played through fifty years of history, fashion fads, political turmoils and every heinous plot you can think of on TV soaps but on September 17, 2010, the “World” no longer turned to the heartbreak of the legions of fans of “As The World Turns.” All the more reason this rare intimate night with this TV icon was such a treat thanks to Richard Skipper.
‘As The World Turns’ stars Colleen Zenk and Eileen Fulton with Richard Skipper
Richard doesn’t just “read the book” as some interviewers may do, he gets to really know his guests and hence the magic of the evening is born. Many of her fans and also former cast member Colleen Zenk who played Barbara Ryan from 1978 till 2010 where in the audience. When asked during the question and answer part of the show if she still recalled her full legal show name, Eileen shouted: “Of course! I was married eight times, divorced three times and widowed four times. I’m Lisa Miller Hughes Eldridge Shea Colman McColl Mitchell Grimaldi Chedwyn!” (Take that Alexis Carrington!)
I had the surreal pleasure of having dinner with Eileen! (Thats me seated right next to her.)
Richard Skipper’s web site: http://www.richardskipper.com/index.html
Photo of the day: HANS MEETS JUDGE JUDY ON 17 YEAR TV ANNIVERSARY ! ! ! ! – On the day after Judge Judy’s 17th year anniversary of having the longest running and highest rated court show in America, I had the glorious privilege of meeting her honor in person! I have admired her no nonsense moralistic, old values, harsh humorous stance on the law approach to our court system since September 16, 1996 – 17 years, no one can compare.
First and foremost – at 70 years old, she looks better in person than on TV! A soft complexion and looking radiant and youthful as ever, beaming warm smiles, filled with spunk, humor and above all gracious. I think that’s why she has such a loyal following, the ‘court Judy’ is not the ‘in person Judy’, she is an iron judge in a velvet shell.
Where else but NYC’s 92nd Street ‘Y’ can you see Linda Ronstadt and Judge Judy?!
Judge Judy was being interviewed by Katie Couric at the 92nd Street “Y” (YMCA). I arrived 2 hours early and waited by the stage door wearing my “I ♥ Judge Judy”
t-shirt. More than anything I desperately wanted my picture taken with her. At 7:30pm she arrived, wearing an elegant suit, husband Judge Jerry Sheindlin by her side. She immediately saw my shirt and said “Well, I have to go over there!” It was absolutely surreal to see her in person after having seen her on TV, sometimes 4 x’s a day, finally there she was…talking to ME. Another fan took the picture with my arms around Judy, finally the t-shirt and Judy were together after allll these years, my heart was pounding!! We took a few pictures and I asked if I may tell her something important to me, from my heart. She took my hand in hers, held it tightly and with the warmest smile she said “go ahead”. GULP! I said my rehearsed words: “You – are my drop of rain on the desert. There are times when I can’t even bear to watch the TV news anymore for the lack of sensible laws, the lack of logic and morals, the political infighting, it’s the same day after day. But then there’s you. . .the voice of reason, and then everything is bearable again, thank you for that!” She squeezed my hand tightly and I felt like I could fly!
Once inside the sold out event, the interview began and Katie had her prepared questions. The one thing Katie learned quickly, you ask Judge Judy 1 question and she will talk and digress on about 4 or 5 different subjects – the audience loved it. Katie just let Judy go. The judge had the audience in her hands as she spoke freely, of course uncensored and from the heart.
Photos and tape recording were strictly forbidden and enforced, so I took out my old fashioned pencil and paper and took reporter-like notes, I didn’t want to forget what she said, here are some memorable Judy-isms:
– She comes from Ocean Avenue between Avenues ‘S’ and ‘T’ in Brooklyn.
– Her style in the court room comes from Jewish borscht belt humor, she said “Brooklyn humor and attitude cannot be replaced.” That’s how she learned her timing. “Brooklyn timing separates you from ‘Brooklyn not’“.
– Born Judith Blum, her dream was to live and work in Manhattan.
– Her first job in the late 1960’s for L’Oréal cosmetics as a lawyer was the only time she was treated in a sexist manner. Two lawyers were hired to handle customer lawsuits, a man and she. He was given an office, she was given a desk and a pad and pencil and told to call the manufacturers to check up on orders. She said “that didn’t work for me! ‘You don’t put baby in a corner’!” (She actually said that!)
– What attracted her to her first husband? His highly polished shoes. Her second husband? His looks. “We still have a mojo.”
– Her makeup artist Nancy is invaluable to her because she sets the “up” mood for each day on the set.
– Officer Byrd and Judge Judy have worked together since she was on the bench in NYC and are best of friends.
– She now earns $47 million – a year ! She spoke about it at length. “CBS is making a lot of money off me. Furthermore, I can do the show on my own, they can’t do the show without me.” She donates a lot of her income.
– The show’s message: “Do the right thing and the rest happens, take responsibility for your actions.”
– Her take on today’s times in America: She feels things are not getting better, but instead worse, we as a people are just afraid to admit it.
– In 1982 Mayor Ed Koch gave her the first break by appointing her as a judge, first in criminal court, then later as Manhattan’s supervising family court judge in 1986. What did she learn? ‘First impressions are everything.’
– Her advice: follow what you are good at. You define yourself. A woman defines her own worth.
– From all the years on the bench the lesson learned: “Anger is a hard emotion to get rid of.”
At the end of the night, many fans ran to the stage door for an autograph. I thought ‘why not?!’, and waited about 90 minutes. Finally to our shock and surprise the security guard came out and said, ‘There are too many of you to sign autographs at this late hour, but, Judge Judy wants you all to come inside and she will take group pictures with you.” The fans squealed like little children on Christmas eve. Judge Judy was asking to see us! So there we were, late at night, inside the empty 92nd Street ‘Y’, Judge Judy directing ‘fan traffic’ as we got this rare treat of our moment with this generous, gracious spunky gal from Brooklyn – our very own Judge Judy. I can’t stop smiling 🙂
JUDGE JUDY DIRECTS
JUDGE JUDY GROUP PICTURE
JUDY-ISMS: “Do I have ‘stupid’ written over my forehead?” “I’m here because I’m smart, not because I’m young and gorgeous, although I am,” “If you live to be 100, you will never be as smart as I am, sir,” “Clearly you are not wrapped too tight,” “Where did you think you were coming to today, a tea party?!” “I’m speaking!” “If you interrupt again madam, your case is dismissed, and I’m throwing you out. Do we understand each other?” “I’ve been in this business for over 40 years,” “Do I look like I need help from you?” “That’s a lot of who shot John” “This is my playpen!”