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Still sold on soaps

Patti Werynski, from left, Ingrid Rea, Barbie Tsagaris and Kellie Simpson await their soap heroes on Saturday.

CHRIS ZUPPA | Times

Patti Werynski, from left, Ingrid Rea, Barbie Tsagaris and Kellie Simpson await their soap heroes on Saturday.

LARGO — The floor of Patti Werynski's comfortably decorated condo is crowded with mementos from times long past.

An autographed photo of All My Children star Susan Lucci, snagged at Disney/MGM's since-discontinued Super Soap Weekend. Snapshot of a fresh-faced Josh Duhamel (Transformers) greeting fans during his stint on All My Children nearly a decade ago.

And an autographed copy of Lucci's memoir All My Life, sealed in plastic.

These and other soap opera goodies will serve as prizes for a special meet-and-greet event Saturday that Werynski, her sister and several friends have organized to bring four hunky male stars from All My Children to the Clearwater Country Club.

Werynski, sister Barbie Tsagaris and a few buddies have organized these fan get-togethers for seven years, featuring up-close contact with soap opera stars.

But this will be the first one since ABC canceled All My Children in September, making room for the cooking show The Chew. The network also announced plans to end One Life to Live in January.

Still, suggest that Patti and Barbie might be organizing the equivalent of a buggy whip collectors convention, and the two push back — with good humor, of course.

"We have people from age 16 to 90 come to our events," said Tsagaris, 49. "You can't have everything on TV geared to 16 to 25-year-olds."

The ladies spend two to three months organizing each event, which on Saturday features Vincent Irizarry (Dr. David Hayward), Walt Willey (Jackson Montgomery), Darnell Williams (Jesse Hubbard) and Jordi Vilasuso (Dr. Griffin Castillo).

Fans pay $75 each for a luncheon that includes opportunities for autographs and bidding on a dinner with a star. The $150 VIP ticket gets a seat at a star's table and access to a smaller pre-party. Proceeds go to Willey's WilleyWorld Endowment Fund, which aids children's charities.

The sisters began organizing the get-togethers as small affairs after experiencing increasingly impersonal events like the Super Soap Weekend, which drew thousands until Disney stopped it in 2008.

"I've been to events where you pay $10 for a glossy photo signed in two minutes," said Werynski, 58, who expects between 100 to 200 people Saturday. "Here, you get four hours of personal time with the stars."

Irizarry, a veteran of soaps who scored his first role on Guiding Light in 1983, noted continuing connection to the fans is crucial for the next possible phase of the soap opera — moving online.

Prospect Park, a new company, hopes to create web-centered versions of both All My Children and One Life to Live for an online network. One Live to Live's transition could begin as soon as the broadcast run ends, Irizarry said.

"That fan base that we have is the reason why anything is moving forward now," said the actor.

Tsagaris says she's ready to fight for a genre she's loved over 40 years.

"What else has been on TV for 40 years besides news shows?" Tsagaris said. "These shows, these actors, they become a part of your life."

Times researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this report.

The luncheons and autograph meet and greet with four stars from All My Children starts at 11:30 a.m. Saturday at the Clearwater Country Club, 525 N. Betty Lane, Clearwater. Tickets are $75 in advance, $100 day of event. (727) 410-0427. designers.image@hotmail.com

.IF YOU GO

The luncheons and autograph meet and greet with four stars from All My Children starts at 11:30 a.m. Saturday at the Clearwater Country Club, 525 N. Betty Lane, Clearwater. Tickets are $75 in advance, $100 day of event. (727) 410-0427.

Still sold on soaps 11/16/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, November 16, 2011 10:06pm]

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