Cue the dramatic music: An endangered species called the soap opera star is coming to Bally's Atlantic City this weekend.
As die-hard daytime viewers know, the soap genre still exists - barely - with four such dramas hanging on against the onslaught of local news and lifestyle programming. The most popular of the shows - CBS' "The Young and the Restless" - will be celebrated all weekend at Bally's.
Bringing a touch of the fictitious Genoa City to Atlantic City will be "Y&R" cast members Michelle Stafford (Phyllis Summers Newman), Greg Rikaart (Kevin Fisher), Michael Muhney (Adam Newman) and Stephen Nichols (Tucker McCall).
Stafford, who started on the show in 1994 and has appeared continuously except for a three-year break in the late '90s, is looking forward to reconnecting with fans at Soap Opera Weekend.
"They are always really nice and always very into the show - they're very supportive and cool," Stafford says.
The weekend kicks off 11 a.m. Saturday, with a series of four on-stage "Genoa City Conversations" at Bally's Park and Garden ballrooms.
The events continue at 6 p.m., with a three-hour Meet and Greet Wine Tasting with the cast members sharing tales from the set and fielding questions at Bally's Ocean Ballroom, followed by a performance at 10 p.m. by Port Chuck, a band fronted by four "General Hospital" stars, in the Traymore Ballroom.
The final event is the Drama Brunch 10 a.m. Sunday at the Ocean Ballroom, where the stars will offer their favorite brunch dishes and more stories from the set.
For two-time Daytime Emmy winner Stafford, her tempestuous character tends to elicit strong reactions.
Phyllis is a bit of a schemer, having been married five times to three different men; had numerous affairs; lied about the parentage of her first child; been tried (and acquitted) for attempted murder; and blackmailed more than a few people, all while holding down various jobs as a magazine editor, webmaster and cosmetics company executive.
"She's an ever-changing character," Stafford says. "She's very emotional and causes waves for other people to react to."
But most fans know better than to blame Stafford for the troubles Phyllis causes.
"Most people are not crazy loons," Stafford says. "They know I'm an actress. If they say, 'I don't like what you're doing,' they know it's not me. They know it's me having a fun time."
In the Web 2.0 era, the feedback from fans is almost instantaneous, via Twitter and Facebook.
"The world has really changed in that area - you hear about it immediately," she says.
Stafford credits "Y&R's" 39-year run with the quality of its writing - the show has claimed the best daytime drama series Emmy seven times - and high production values.
"I think it's the collaboration of all the departments - we have good stories and we have great departments," she says. "The art department is always on point. That's when you can see the beginning of the end of the show, when you see sets and they look like paper."
Despite the recent cancellations by ABC of "All My Children" and "One Life to Live" and CBS axing "Guiding Light" and "As the World Turns" a few years ago, Stafford believes "Y&R" can endure.
"I think a good show prevails - if you're putting out an entertaining product, people will watch it," she says.
Whatever the future brings, Stafford is focused on being the best - and baddest - Phyllis she can.
"I just go in and act," she says. "It's not any of my business to think of anything else. I think of my coworkers by making scenes good for them. If everybody sticks to their job, it's a very harmonious place."
Rocking out with Port Chuck
Steve Burton and three of his "General Hospital" co-stars - Brandon Barash (Johnny Zacchara), Bradford Anderson (Damien Spinelli) and Scott Reeves (Dr. Steve Webber) will show off their musical sides when they perform as Port Chuck 10 p.m. Saturday, March 24, at the Traymore Ballroom at Bally's in Atlantic City.
Burton, aka Jason Quartermaine/Jason Morgan, two years ago formed the band on a whim, and now is doing about 30 dates a year, via mini-tours, one-offs and fan events.
"It's been an adventure - we have a lot of fun," he says.
The four actors take turns sharing lead vocals on such rock and pop staples as "Born to Run," "Don't Stop Believin'" and "Walk This Way," with a band of professional musicians backing them.
The band also gives the 20-year "GH" veteran and his cohorts the chance to say to fans, "'Hey, thanks for watching,'" according to Burton.