His Life is a Soap Opera -
He's As Perfect as a Daytime Dad
Daytimers Magazine, February 1982
Article Provided By Wanda
Beyond the perimeters of the soap opera world, the name John Gabriel (Seneca, Ryan's Hope) is not a household word. Nor is it, however, among the legions of names belonging to forgotten actors. Recently starring in the film, The Fan, and the host of Soap Spot, a syndicated news feature, John lies somewhere between anonymity and stardom. Not a bad position.
John's 11-year-old daughter Melissa wouldn't mind swapping places with papa. Not long ago the dark-haired youngster informed him at the dinner table of what she wanted to be when she grew up. "I want to be famous. Not like Elizabeth Taylor. But someone who some people know and some don't. Someone like you, Daddy."
Flattering to a father, of course. But for a protective dad like John, also reason for concern. Both Melissa and Andrea, 8, display a knack for performing. They often delight their parents with plays they star in, write and direct. Yet John says, "Both my wife Sandy and I prefer they don't go into the dramatic arts. If they do, we'll naturally do everything we can to help them. But acting is so full of rejection and hurt. All fields have a certain amount, but in show biz, the rejection isn't aimed at a dress you've designed or a clock you've fixed, it's directed toward you as a person."
"Even everyday strains seem tougher. Divorce and separation are common. I consider myself to be one of the few fortunate actors I know able to combine a full career with a happy family life."
The atmosphere of the Gabriel homestead is warm. In fact, the clan seems almost as cozy as a perfect soap opera family. Sandy, who left her role as Edna Thornton on All My Children, cares for the children seeking acting opportunities during her free time. (She and John have a television project in the works that they'll announce soon). When John is not two or three blocks from home at the ABC studio, he's in the living room of his apartment romping with the girls and sharing in domestic duties.
The household wasn't always so blissful. As People Magazine reported, John used to act almost as domineering as his RH character. Melissa once boldly rebelled shouting, "Stop controlling me! I'm not a robot."
A trip to a shrink made John examine his behavior. Now with five years of analysis behind him, he's quick to sing its praise. It's helped him accept the pressure of acting without taking his frustration out on his family. Yet he stresses if his children want to go into the business, he can't present a candy-coated image of the way it operates.
"When I come home with a headache and try explaining Daddy's tired from work, they think, what work? Daddy's in front of a camera pretending. He has fun all day. To some extent, they're right. I do have fun. But for the most part it's demanding work."
"Melissa and Andrea are starting to realize this. It's important kids understand parents can't always be cheerful. We have our moods. If parents don't show their bad side, they paint an unrealistic picture of life for their children, who will then think the world is going to be without ups and downs."
My behavior will reflect whether or not something bothers me. My kids must learn to accept this. Of course, too much moodiness and the kids can become frightened and nervous. But in a loving relationship, a certain number of arguments and things that have to be worked out are necessary to teach children how to handle conflicts."
Part of explaining the real world to Melissa and Andrea includes forbidding them to act like show biz brats. They are made to understand being born children to celebrities doesn't warrant special treatment. "Sandy and I downplay our careers." John says. "We're Mommy and Daddy first. Some of their playmates watched the show during last summer and my kids became something of a novelty. But I believe that period's over."
"A couple of years ago there was a problem. Andrea said a girl liked her because her parents were on TV. I asked her if she liked this girl. She said no. I told her this girl wasn't anyone with whom she'd like to spend a lot of time. Anyone who would be attracted to her for that reason wasn't her kind of person. She's a wonderful individual in her own right and doesn't need my work as a means to make friends. She's bright. She understood."
"What I or Sandy does shouldn't build my kids' self-esteem. They make friends on their own. Both have strong egos and a good sense of themselves."
According to John, actor fathers and mothers face situations unknown to parents who aren't in show biz. Performers must teach their children to keep fame or success in perspective. But, acting can also lend certain advantages to rearing offspring. Says John ,"Your imagination as an actor is constantly being given a workout. If through playing a role, you learn why people behave as they do, you can apply this to your kids. "You can discover what their fears are, what excites them, and what motivates them. Acting explores the human condition. What better use to put it than with your children?"
Without having to say anything Melissa and Andrea couldn't agree more. After all, they're getting along famously with their pop. And while he may not be a super celebrity, in the girls' eyes, John's a star.
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