Michael Greco (Beppe) Is a Hit at WLIW ‘Meet and Greet’ Fund-Raiser

By Dana Gordon

NEW YORK—It’s no secret that the local public television stations that are smart enough to present EastEnders also make seemingly relentless pleas for membership.

Usually the incentives are either the books that we’ve already bought from the Walford Gazette or the mug with that great shot of the River Thames or even the teapot modelled on the Queen Vic (which frankly is a thing of beauty).

During an inspired August membership drive, the Gazette’s Larry Jaffee and Luanne Miller, community outreach coordinator of WLIW Channel 21, worked together to bring us the gift of all gifts:

The good folks at Fiddlesticks, the Irish pub in Greenwich Village, offered their party room and we were ready for a real old-fashioned knees-up.

I admit that we New Yorkers have been spoiled. Last summer we had a special dinner with Wendy Richard, “our Pauline,” and her partner John Burns.

For the second year in a row (I sense the start of a tradition), we were treated with a personal visit with one of our favourite stars.

So how did the New York fans get so lucky? Larry had been talking with WLIW for quite a while to organize a meet-and-greet with a willing member of the EastEnders cast. When Larry learned that Michael was planning a trip to New York in mid- August–during the planned pledge drive–the organising progressed in earnest.

The time was short to make all the arrangements and it came down to a matter of days and hours. Michael would have to be in the studio during WLIW’s Wednesday night broadcast of a special four-parter that closely followed Michael’s character, Beppe DiMarco and his efforts to rescue Tiffany Mitchell from the villainous Grant. Fiddlesticks would need to be notified and arrangements made for all those pints.

A couple of days before the broadcast it looked like all the moving parts might not be pulled together. There was a chance we’d hang out with our star without the station’s involvement. But just as WLIW stepped up when WNYC disappeared seven years ago, the “meet and greet” was on.

By all accounts, the party was a success.

Michael was a most gracious guest. He admitted to us that he was an early fan of the show and was able to swap memories with the best of us. He was even candid about his favourite character without a bit of hesitation–Dot Cotton–and answered questions about life on the set and off.

The best part was the personal time which Michael gave to everyone. Some of us brought books along for a private signature. Lizzy Yacoubian, a viewer from Queens, brought a copy of one of the EastEnders cast books, which she had Wendy sign last year.

Finally it was my turn to sit along side Michael and chat with him about his role in EastEnders and his plans for the future. I clutched my copy of EastEnders Who’s Who (see advert on page 1) and handed my camera to a willing bystander.

Michael cleverly took my book and flipped right to his page to sign it like a yearbook. He kindly pulled out an 8x10 glossy and suggested “I should give you one of these, too.” No protests from me!

So who were the lucky viewers who met Michael? Mostly people who were previously unknown to me, at least. As in many cities, New York’s fans get together on a fairly regular basis. We also know each other through Judy Hirsch’s AOL-based newsletter, and we see each other’s bylines in the Gazette. I’m thrilled to say that WLIW really does reach significantly more fans than either the station or the New York fan group realized.

Remarkably few who were present that night knew about Judy’s newsletter, but since then, many have contacted her at JHirsch29@aol.com.

Of course, the price for the fun of meeting Michael was membership to the public television station that carries EastEnders. As of late October, WLIW reported more than 500 new members since Michael’s visit. At press time, the station was still short about 100 memberships to guarantee renewing EastEnders for next year.

I’d say that as long as our local stations keep recognising our passion for EastEnders, it’s important to support them.

Back to Latest Articles