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Soap Stars, Having a Ball
Pretend History and Real Glamour Dress Up Inaugural Photo Shoot

By Libby Copeland
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, August 18, 2008

A few soap stars were in town from New York over the weekend for a magazine photo shoot. They were dressed up to look like presidential couples -- or what presidential couples would look like if they were starring in a soap opera. Jackie Kennedy with a heaving bosom. Bill holding Hillary in a smoldering embrace. George and Martha Washington in an erotic fantasy scene involving grapes.

"Absolutely exquisite! Love it! Love it!" cried the shoot's creative director, Angelique O'Neil, upon seeing soap actress Terri Colombino with her hair and face all dolled up as a sexy Nancy Reagan. Colombino slid off her robe in the hotel suite and pulled on a hand-painted white couture gown that retails for $2,950. It did look like the dress Nancy wore to the 1981 inaugural ball, except with considerably more cleavage.

"Too bad we're not going to the Emmys -- I would totally wear this," said Colombino, who on "As the World Turns" plays a character named Katie Peretti Frasier Coleman Kasnoff Snyder, who's been married five times.

"Well, six, actually, but two times to the same man," Colombino clarified.

In walked Austin Peck, who plays Katie Peretti Frasier Coleman Kasnoff Snyder's husband on the show. He was wearing a tux and displaying a remarkably square jaw and one of those little divots in his chin. He looked like he was about to say something like If we don't find the antidote, everyone in Oakdale will die!

"Is my hair all right?" he asked. The hairstylist -- "hair artist," she corrected; sorry, the hair artist-- studied Peck's dark locks and sprayed them some more. Then Peck and Colombino took the elevator to the lobby of the Willard InterContintental, where they were to pose as Nancy and Ronnie, walking hand in hand to an imaginary ball.

Downstairs, a photographer and a team of photo assistants were setting up a series of glamorous scenes for CBS Watch!, the network's marketing and fan magazine, which regularly features stars from CBS's various shows. A few hotel guests and passersby gawked, though they seemed not to know whom they were gawking at. (For one thing, the actors looked as if they should be famous -- with trim bodies and stark white teeth -- but they weren't household faces. And they certainly didn't look like the Reagans.) This is for the January issue -- a nod to the Inauguration season, as depicted by four actors from "As the World Turns."

This is the part where we say, Oh, the metaphor. So much of politics is a soap opera these days, with who's cheating on whom; with tales of campaign staffers squabbling with each other like members of a wealthy small-town family fighting over the family fortune; with the discovery of shocking long-lost family relations ( Why, cousin Cheney !); with naked ambition and prejudice and redemption and, occasionally, really great hair; and finally -- nothing less then the fate of Oakdale hanging in the balance.

"Poor people," said actress Ewa da Cruz, thinking of how America's politicians have to contend with the media's endless airing of their filthiest laundry. It isn't like that with politicians in her native Norway. It is like that, of course, for her character, a gorgeous heiress named Vienna Hyatt -- get it? think Paris! -- who has, at various points, lost her fortune and been left at the altar.

Da Cruz's hair was being sprayed by the hair artist into a Jackie Kennedy bob. Behind her was a row of lacy, sequined, gauzy gowns, the sort Vienna Hyatt would have worn before she lost her fortune. In the next room of the suite, Dylan Bruce ("Dr. Chris Hughes") waited to play his turn as JFK and explained his soap opera character's love life.

"Are you ready for this?" Bruce asked. "The lady that I first dated when I came on the show is the sister to the woman I'm dating now, but in actuality she's the woman's mother."

What?

"She carried her sister for her mom."

Of course. As a surrogate mother-sister. Happens all the time.

Peck and Colombino breezed in, fresh from the 1981 inaugural ball. Colombino ate soup in a robe. Peck went behind a screen and changed out of his tux into jeans. They talked about politics and the problems with the two-party system.

"They all have to placate the economic machine that is big business," Peck said.

They talked about celebrity and the strange way it is, being a soap actor, residing just below the threshold of fame. People come up and say, Hey, you're sort of famous, I recognize you but I don't know why. Nobody digs through the trash you put at the curb. Nobody cares about whom you fell in love with against your better judgment.

Which is nice, Peck said. Steady work and no paparazzi. Though it'd be cool to be really famous for a month, just to try it. He got a taste of it about 10 years ago, when he was on "Days of Our Lives" and did a publicity tour in South Africa. There were thousands of people at the airport when he arrived, he said, and his handlers had to sneak him out the back. This amused him, he said, because at the time he didn't think much of his acting or his character's development. Mostly all he did on the show at the time was take off his shirt a lot and say, "Carrie, I love you."

Peck demonstrated the variety of lingering looks he gives for those close-in camera shots right before commercials. He has names for them: "The Shotgun" (accusatory), "Oh, [Expletive!]" (shocked), "Keep Loving Me" (needy).

" 'Lusting' is good," Bruce said. "I always do 'Lusting' 'cause I never get the girl."

Colombino left to get her hair done as Hillary, though unlike Hillary, her hair was to be shaped into long, flowing blond ringlets. The creative director, O'Neil, said she was trying to bring out Clinton's "inner sexy." Later they would do George and Martha, with Martha modeled after a "young, sexy Marie Antoinette." There would be a chaise longue and some crawling around. Hot Founding Fathers fantasy.

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