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
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
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.
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