Fans can make a difference.
Just ask longtime One Life to Live fan Denise Balcarcel.
Let’s rewind to May 2006.
Balcarcel attended what may have been a “last hurrah” fan club luncheon for Hillary B.Smith aka Nora Hanen on ABC’s One Life to Live.
Six months before the gathering, Nora had lapsed into a coma as the end of Smith’s contract loomed without any negotiations from the network. Nora, the smart, straight-shooting attorney, emerged from her coma after Smith had inked a one-year contract extension.
But things were not looking good in the long term for Smith’s beloved character as her fans came together at the luncheon. Balcarcel wanted to communicate fans’ concern for the longtime veteran actress in a powerful way – a way that would make network executives and sponsors take notice.
“We wanted to find a way to get Nora back into the mainstream and give her a story,” Balcarcel says. “Then I thought, ‘what about a joint fan-based initiative with die-hard fans of the other female vets.?'”
Balcarcel put up a post on the Soap Central message boards asking if anyone from other fan bases were interested. Fans of Erika Slezak (Viki) and Robin Strasser (Dorian) reached out.
From there, the H.E.R (Hillary-Erika-Robin) initiative was born. By late Aug. it became C.H.E.R.I – to include Catherine Hickland (Lindsay) and Ilene Kristen (Roxy).
Representatives of the five fanbases gathered other fans of the long-running soap into the fray, waging an intensive writing campaign aimed at ABC executives, the Walt Disney board of directors and the sponsors. They gathered more fan support through the internet. Balcarcel calls it “a grassroots concept with a 21st century mindset.”
This mission is threefold: to raise awareness of how these veterans have been minimized, to unite in a writing-intensive campaign and to honor these women through support of their charities. click here to view the new C.H.E.R.I myspace page.
The group not only wanted to get more airtime for these actresses. They wanted substantial storylines for them too.
The proof is in the pudding as they say.
Smith (who was raised in Palm Beach) landed a four-year contract. Hickland is part of a high-profile storyline – of which Smith figures into in a big way. Rumblings are that Slezak is tapped for a major, upcoming storyline. Both Strasser and Kristen have seen increased air-time and involvement in significant storylines.
Storyline improvements over the past month have been attributed to longtime OLTL writer Ron Carlivati, who recently took over the head writing job from Dena Higley. Higley was fired following outcries from fans that she was systematically destroying their beloved soap.
C.H.E.R.I even has an online store with tons of different T-shirts, sweatshirts, buttons, coffee mugs…You name it. It’s there. There’s even a C.H.E.R.I thong!
Click here to take a peek at all the cool stuff. And the beauty is that all of the proceeds go to charities supported by the actresses. Because in addition to balancing a demanding work schedule with their personal lives, these actresses give of themselves to support charities like hurricane relief and homeless residential services for the needy.
Fans can make a difference.