SentieriOnLine – You grew up watching Guiding Light. Can you tell how you became part of the production staff? Remember the first day on the set?
Alan Locher – My mother and grandmother moved to the US and learned to speak English watching Guiding Light and As the World Turns. Both shows had been a part of my life for as long as I could remember. During Beth Raines’s blindness story in the 1980’s I learned where the TV studio for the show was located (West 26th Street in NYC). I started going to the studio when I was in my late teens and met many of the actors. I became involved with the fan club writing interviews with the casts and taking many, many photos throughout the years. I always wanted to work in television, but never knew the right way to get into the business. As I was graduating college I applied for positions at Guiding Light, but never got any job. I was told that they would hold onto my resume. I was very lucky to have found my way into the entertainment business. Right out of college I got a job doing marketing / PR for Walt Disney Pictures. I worked on over 200 movies during my time there and about 10 years later my world came full circle when Guiding Light reached out to say they were restructuring their PR department. The rest is history. I started in August 1997 and stayed until the show went off the air in 2009.
SOL – What exactly was your role?
AL – I was hired as a Senior Publicist and then when my boss left I was promoted to the Director of PR for both As the World Turns and Guiding Light. I was challenged with finding ways to promote the shows in all media outlets and was hands on for many of the photos shoots during my 13 years there.
SOL – Can you tell your favourite and least favourite storyline? And your favourite and least favourite Executive Producer?
AL – This is hard. Reva, Josh, HB was phenomenal. Mindy, Beth, Rick, Philip and Lujack – anything with Beverly McKinsey – it’s so hard to say since I have watched the show from such an early age. Roger, Holly, Ed and Rita was fantastic – I loved when Ian Ziering and Carl Evans were on the show – I loved the Santos family and Danny & Michelle, the Marler’s, the Coopers, India Von Halkein Spaulding, the Spauldings, Fletcher and Claire –I could go on and on – there were such great families with so much rich storytelling to tell on Guiding Light and history. I worked with a number of EP’s throughout the years and each was an original and each was someone I learned something from. I’m thankful truly for the opportunity I had to work with my Springfield family for as long as I did.
SOL – Can you tell us how the idea of collaboration with Marvel Comics was born? And what about the idea of “Hands on Katrina”?
AL – The Marvel idea was something I worked very hard on with Jim McCann who worked at Marvel. It’s been a long time since we did this, but I think Jim and I connected somehow and we brought the idea to Ellen Wheeler. She loved it and we realized it was a great cross-promotional opportunity for a show like ours. We had a really great story in the New York Times – we had our own comic book and Beth Ehlers became a Superhero. For our 70th Anniversary – the team at Guiding Light worked very hard to think of something special to do. It always came back to our fans. We partnered with the Hands On Network to do a year of charity working alongside our fans throughout the year. We helped rebuild three homes in Biloxi, Mississippi and did various projects across the country. I think if you asked any actor they would tell you what a special trip Biloxi was. I’ll never forget that experience.
SOL – In your opinion, what caused the decline in ratings? With hindsight, when the ratings started to go down too much, what would you have done or changed to save the show?
AL – It’s so sad that Guiding Light / Sentieri lost its family. The OJ Simpson trial and the influx of cable programming had much to do with the decline of soaps during that time. I so wish we could have lasted a few more years. If Netflix and Hulu had been around and thriving as they are we might have had a chance to continue in some other way.
SOL – I think the show has been cancelled just when the new production model was starting to improve, both technically and as stories, bringing GL in high levels again (Phillip’s return, Shayne/Lara/Edmund storyline, Bill/Lizzie love story, just to name a few). Did you agree with the idea of the new production model or maybe to save money would have been better to reduce the durations of the episodes keeping the classic set/camera model?
AL – The show had to find ways to remain viable to stay on the air and I think what Ellen and her team was remarkable. They worked very hard to keep the show on the air. Was it the right thing? Who knows? What I do know is that the show remained on the air longer because of what they all did. No one wanted the show to go off the air – no one. In many ways – the new production model was ahead of its time.
SOL – When the cancellation was announced, did Telenext try to find another home to broadcast Guiding Light?
AL – I don’t know all the ins and outs, but yes there certainly was hope that we might find another home.
SOL – Some primetime soaps, sitcom and shows have been resurrected in the last year (Dallas, Dynasty, X-Files, Roseanne). I’m still hoping in a revival of Guiding Light. Do you think sooner or later it will be possible? (Maybe on Netflix, Hulu or Amazon).
AL – I have no clue, but I think it would be amazing to see Springfield come to life again.
SOL – Is it well known that Guiding Light was like a family. Are you still in touch with cast/production members?
AL – I am in touch with many and miss them all very much. Thank god for Facebook and Instagram where we all see each other.
SOL – What do you do now? Do you still work in the world of television?
AL – I am currently the Senior Director of PR, Marketing and Sales for a TV & Movie Tour company in NYC – On Location Tours.