Catching Up With...
John and Sandy Gabriel
Soap Opera News, September 23, 1997
by Micki Siegel
Article Provided By Wanda
John and Sandy Gabriel have every reason to feel proud. They have been happily married for more than 20 years, have two beautiful daughters who clearly adore them and they own a huge, four-bedroom apartment in the very pricey heart of Manhattan. And all this because of a job John lost early in his career.
"I was the original professor for the pilot of Gilligan's Island," John says. "They replaced me when it came time to do the show. And that turned out to be very lucky. If they'd hired me, I would have had a very different life and career. I would never have met Sandy, and I would never have had these wonderful kids."
Because acting jobs were scarce, and the rent was due, John went to work packaging shows for an agent. One day, Sandy showed up. "I went into this office looking for an agent, and found John instead," she recalls.
Actually, she was not impressed at first. "He wasn't my type," Sandy says. "He was older, sophisticated and wore a suit. Anyone with a tie was totally not my taste. I was only dating surfers then."
"I finally went out with John because a friend and I were playing with a Ouija board. The board said that on May 1, I had met the man I was going to marry. May 1 was the day I met John."
"So my friend said, "if you're going to marry him, you should date him."
On the other hand, John knew Sandy was the girl for him - right from day one. "That night, I told my best friend, Charles Grodin, that I'd met the girl I was going to marry," he says.
It was Sandy who wavered. "It took me a while to zero in on how terrific he is," she admits.
But a year later, they did marry. They rented an apartment in New York (the same one they later bought and combined with other apartments) and started their family.
Daughters Melissa and Andrea were born, and Sandy's mother moved in with them - and lives with them still - to pitch in with the child care.
"We never had a nanny," Sandy says. "My mom helped with the kids when I was working, and, of course, John helped, too. He's always been totally involved. He's such a good man."
Along the way, John appeared in 12 movies; about 35 primetime TV shows (including a recurring role on The Mary Tyler Moore Show as Mary's boyfriend); the soaps Love of Life (Link Morrison) and General Hospital (Teddy Holmes); and the Broadway musicals Applause and The Happy Time.
Then in 1975, he got his biggest break - the role of Dr. Seneca Beaulac on Ryan's Hope.
"I'd never had a national audience before, but RH gave it to me," John says of his Emmy-nominated role. "I'll be eternally grateful for the 10 years I worked on the show."
At that time, Sandy was working on All My Children as sexy Edna Thornton. "They wanted me to be a vamp," she says, "but I found that hard. I looked like a sexpot, but that wasn't how I felt about me."
"So I started saying the lines in a funny way, and the writers began to write to that."
"Sandy turned a sexy role into a Lucille Ball comedy, and she is hilarious," John says.
With Sandy and John at the height of their fame, their daughters had to juggle the complicated blessings and burdens of being the children of stars. The blessings must have outweighed the burdens - both girls are following in their parents' footsteps today.
"I saw a lot of show business while I was growing up," Andrea says. "My parents and everyone they knew were actors. I even started playing the piano and signing because I saw people practice with my dad."
Andrea recently starred in two Off-Broadway productions and is currently being considered for a part in a major Broadway drama.
"It's as if I was born into this family for that reason," she says. "We're a very close, supportive family, and we all respect each other. And my father is really wonderful when it comes to business advice. I'm even auditioning for soaps now."
"It's in the b-l-o-o-d," she laughs and stretches out the word to poke affectionate fun at being in the family business.
Melissa, currently an announcer/interviwer for the MTV series Oddville, MTV, has also done soaps. She recently played a girl in a wheelchair on Guiding Light.
"It's hard to tell which came first. Did I love acting because I saw my parents doing it? Or did I love acting and then realize my parents were doing it too? By the time I was in the fourth grade, I definitely knew this was what I wanted to do," she says.
And what was the not-so-good part of their parents' stardom? "It really used to bug me," Andrea remembers, "when fans stopped them for autographs. I wanted to say, 'Why are you wasting our time? They're my parents.'" I just wanted to get where we were going - and we were usually going to Mcdonalds."
Melissa also admits she was jealous of her parents' TV children. "I'd see them hugging the TV kid and I'd yell: "That's not their real kid. I'm their real kid."
"Another thing that bothered me," she recalls ruefully, "is that the kids at school were fascinated by my parents' fame. Some kids were just friends with me so they could meet them."
Still, she adds: "My parents have been perfect." So perfect that both girls, at an age when most young people go off on their own, remain at home. "Even though it's sometimes embarrassing to tell people I live with my family, I really enjoy it."
And, for all of them, family very much comes first. After AMC, Sandy decided to stay home with the kids for the most part. John worked briefly as Zack Conway on Loving, then he and Sandy co-hosted a syndicated show called Trivia Break. Today, John is busier than ever. He not only produces CDs (A Soap Opera Christmas and Soaps and Hearts for RCA Records) but has also recorded a new CD called From John Gabriel with Love, which will be sold on television.
He's also a production consultant, appearing both on-camera and behind the scenes, for the Charles Grodin Show. He also appeared on several episodes of Another World and recently filmed a 10-part TV series for Korean television.
And Sandy's career? "It's a mystery to me," John says. "I don't understand why producers wouldn't take Sandy for any show. She's a sparkplug," he adds. "When we go out on the street, more people recognize her than me."
Sandy looks at him surprised "They do?" she asks.
"She's making fun," John says.
"That's because I say hello to everyone in the neighborhood," Sandy laughs. "I know the people in the lobby, the people in the dime store and in the bank. John always asks: "how do you know them?'"
"They adore her," John adds with a smile. Then he gets back to business. "Still, if the right parts on soaps came along, both Sandy and I would love it."
But what the whole family is really excited about is a situation comedy that Sandy wrote called The House of Gabriel. "It's a wonderful, funny script," John says, "an Ozzie and Harriet for the '90's."
"It's about a family of actors," Sandy explains. "We're on soaps, and the girls are just starting out. I never knew I could write," she adds. "But this wrote itself because I just wrote down what goes on in our family."
"We have a producer who loves it, and it looks like we'll be filming the pilot soon," John adds.
They feel good about the prospect of working together - and with their daughters. The only thing that tops that is the life they live together. "We all get along so well, and we work so well together," Sandy says.
"We just happen to be right for each other," John adds "You hear people talk about working at relationships...."
Sandy cuts in: "Donald Trump said, 'if you have to work at it, it's not worth it.' I actually agree with him."
"I can honestly say we've never worked at it," John says.
Do they ever fight? "I can only remember one fight." Sandy says. "But I don't have a good memory."
"If we have a disagreement," John adds, "we talk it out. Most people would say we have a dull marriage, but it's not."
He thinks for a moment. "Besides," he continues, smiling at his wife again, "Sandy has a great gift for love."
Sandy, Melissa and Andrea all smile back. It's a gift the whole family shares.
Gabriel home. "It just wrote itself," she says.
L-R in both photos: Andrea, John, Sandy and
Melissa are a "close, supportive family," says
Andrea. They may all soon work together in a
sitcom that Sandy has created about life in the
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