A Very Special Night
Dr Quinn Times Reunion Dinner 2002
by Mary Ann Marino

The night had finally arrived and to say I was excited was at best an understatement. I had been trying all week to decide which of two outfits to wear. One was a jumpsuit with a glittery top and one a white blouse with see- through chiffon sleeves. I decided ultimately on the blouse and slacks. As it happened, had I worn the glittery outfit, I would have been the only one other then Jane sparkling at the dinner so I was rather glad I didn't. After all the comparison would have been painful!

The staff at the Goodnite Inn to this point had taken an amused yet friendly attitude toward our group. Seeing all of us in various states of formal attire that night though must have really intrigued them. At one point earlier in the week one of the staff had called me over and asked curiously what our group was? I spent the next 15 minutes regaling him on the history of the DQ list, the cancellation and our upcoming dinner with the cast. Yes he had watched the show. You hear that CBS??? and why had they cancelled it he wondered. Well, that was all I needed.  I don't think he knew what hit him! I launched into a tirade about demographics and a description of the SOS campaign and our DQ rally with renewed passion. He was very impressed by our efforts but seemed most impressed that we had had actual contact with the cast. He just kept shaking his head in wonderment.  You actually have met Jane Seymour?? I assured him that I had on several occassions and yes she was as beautiful, in fact even more so in person than on television. He nodded, wished us a great week and walked off still shaking his head.

So finally dressed in our finest we assembled ready to head to the Calamigos Ranch. Pam had asked us to arrive early to help set things up before the members and guests arrived. I had never seen the ranch before but Pam had assured me that I would be impressed. Feeling a sense of nostalgia already we played the DQ CD I had brought with me in the car on the way over. Talk about setting a mood for a very special night! As it turned out bringing along that CD was also very fortuitous!

Pam greeted us at the door and assured security that we were Times staff and we were allowed to enter without actually furnishing our IDs. Security after that however was tight. In fact when one member arrived before the official arrival time in tears begging to just get in to use the restroom, security hesitated. The poor woman was finally admitted but was immediately asked for identification on her exit. There had been rumor that someone had intentions of crashing the dinner without a ticket and so security and the staff were told to be extra vigilant.

The interior of the ranch was incredibly beautiful. Pam had mentioned there were white lights and waterfalls but until I actually stepped into that dining room, I had been unable to visualize what she meant. All I can say is that it was literally like stepping into a fairyland. Hanging plants, white lights, white tablecloths with pastel napkins. On each table was a DQ times ribbon with the date of the dinner inscribed and next to it one of Marilyn's lovely tatted bookmarks. The centerpieces were works of art in themselves. A year's care and planning had gone into this dinner and it showed in every aspect.

Of course even the best laid plans often go awry and our dinner was no exception. After I recovered from the beauty of the room I noticed Pam up at the front with a look of panic on her face. I knew that look meant something was wrong. It turned out that the CD player had decided not to cooperate and the gentleman in charge of the sound system for the ranch had left. We had intended to play the Dr Quinn CD (a copy of which had been lent to us by William Olvis) as a surprise at the dinner but the surprise seemed to be on us. When another CD was inserted that played, we realized with dismay it was the DQ CD itself that was the problem. For some reason the player wouldn't recognize it. Suddenly I thought of the CD I had brought with me which we had been playing on the way over. On impulse we went to get it and voila, it played! One crisis averted.

Slowly the guests began to pour in and with them the cast in spurts. Pam had asked us to try to route people into the dining room to claim their seats before letting anyone mingle so I positioned myself near the door to the dining room trying to comply with her instructions. When I suddenly noticed a crush of fans moving toward the front and a sea of flashes, I realized Jane must have arrived. To say she looked beautiful was an understatement. In her sparkling knee length dress she looked every inch the "star." It was no wonder the cameras were going wild. After the fans had disbursed to surround other newly arriving cast, Jane made her way toward the dining room. I was standing there alone and she approached me smiling in recognition. As we lightly embraced, me, mindful of that DRESS of hers and sort of afraid to return the hug, we remarked at exactly the same time on each other's attire. I felt like a fellow celebrity for a moment - you know- the way people greet each other at Hollywood parties? - "Oh you look so beautiful" etc. Of course in my case when I said it, I was completely sincere.

After a while I realized that many of the fans were now seated at tables in the diningroom instead of enjoying ‘mingle time.' Now, I'm rather shy for the most part and being one of those in charge is not something I'm used to but I knew as a staff member I was supposed to help things run smoothly so  I decided someone needed to explain to these people it was alright to leave their seats. I approached the tables and asked why they were all still sitting there and didn't they want to meet the cast? Of course they did but Pam had said not to approach the cast members at dinner, they replied. I assured them that this rule only applied to when the cast were actually eating dinner not now. They then reminded me of the 'no pictures rule' and I again clarified that this too referred to taking pics at dinner. After that they didn't need to be told twice, the entire back of the room emptied in moments headed for the mingle area!

Mission accomplished, I too headed back to do some mingling of my own. As I was standing there feeling like the proverbial “kid in a candy store” trying to decide which cast member to approach, I thought I heard a familiar voice. Well it was a Dr Quinn dinner so why wouldn't I hear familiar voices from the show right? This voice though did not belong to one of the cast. A strange feeling came over me as if I had accidently slipped into one of my favorite Dr Quinn eps without warning as I realized that a few feet in front of me now stood my favorite DQ guest character literally come to life. It was Sam Lindsy! Now the staff knew who had RSVP'd (though we realized anything could change at the last minute) so the guests were not a surprise to us but this was one that was! Pam had mentioned a few surprises that she wouldn't reveal to even the staff. Eve Brenner had been one, the other was to have been Erika Flores. What a joy it was to meet this lady! Although her elegant dress was a far cry from Sam's eccentric attire in Pike's Peak, in every other way she was Sam Lindsy. She seemed amazed that I knew who she was immediately and even more so when she was surrounded by fans all greeting her with delight. She kept saying" I can't believe this".
Her daughter stood proudly by her side. I talked to Eve about Pike's Peace and informed her that she had been voted everyone's favorite guest star in an internet poll. Again, she reacted with amazement and suspiciously teary eyes. She talked about the chemistry between her and Jane and how wonderful Jane had been to work with. I was thrilled to find that the chemistry between the two had been real and not just manufactured for the storyline. I told her that Jane was here tonight and pointed to where she was standing surrounded by some fans not a few feet away. She moved in that direction but seemed to hesitate to approach so I went over to the group and apologizing for interrupting her, I asked Jane if she remembered the lady who had played Sam on Pike's Peak. She replied, "Yes," eyebrows raised in curiosity as to why I suddenly would ask this particular question. “Well, I said grinning, She's standing right behind you!”. Jane started in surprise and turned around and the two embraced delightedly.

I wandered off back into the diningroom after this as many of the guests were already seated. I spotted Tami Calabrese and the triplets in a far corner and went off to introduce myself. I had instant messaged back and forth with Tami a few times in the past and had been anxious to meet her. The girls were so beautiful! I'd seen pics of them recently but I hadn't actually seen them in person since Star Week. They had really grown and now looked exactly as I imagine baby Katie would have at 6 years old. I asked if it might be alright to take a picture and Tami smiled and said “Of course”. All three girls then linked arms as if on cue and posed for my camera. They seemed to quite enjoy it! One of them, (not sure who) informed her mother that she was hungry so I offered to track down one of the waiters and direct him to bring some appetizers to the table.

After being assured that someone would be right over I moved on to Beth's table. Jack, whom the entire DQ staff will tell you is my secret love, kept touching the sleeves of my blouse in wonder. I think the material intrigued him. I asked him if he had noticed those very pretty little girls sitting over there, pointing to the triplets, and he nodded but when I invited him to go over and say hello he declined shyly.  Later on that night Jack approached and whispered to me that he had finally asked the girls to play but “they didn't want to”. He looked rather disappointed and I replied that maybe they were shy too. I'm told though that some time during the night all the children eventually ended up chasing each other in the other room.  I asked Beth's mom, Dorothy,might take a picture of her and Jack. (Tess, Jack's sister, was off mingling at this point) Dorothy seemed surprised that I would want to take a picture of her with all these celebrities around but also somewhat pleased.

Joe and William arrived to the delight of the females in attendance and were quickly surrounded. Helene (Myra) spotted William (Hank)and the two embraced. It felt somehow odd to see these two in modern dress (especially William with his now short hair and Helene now a gorgeous blonde) and even stranger when Jane came over to join them. William was in his element with his arms around both joking about "the one I had and the one I wanted!"

Then it was time for Jane and Joe to do a bit of 'couple' posing for the fans. Flashes went off like crazy as the two posed for pictures - talk about a photo op!

Amid cries of " Oh my God" and :"It's been so long" we watched as other cast members spotted each other and embraced delightedly. As for us, it had been years since some of them had seen each other. For the members in attendance, watching the cast reunite with each other was almost, if not more fun, then mingling with the actors themselves. Of course there was a lot of "that" too!

Around 8 PM Pam started inviting people to sit down for dinner. This proved to be no easy task as both cast and fans seemed reluctant to break up. I noticed with amusement that Jane earlier when people were claiming their seats had been busy turning over chairs at her table to save places. I realized now the seats were  for Joe and William. Like everyone else I had to laugh at the carefully orchestrated seating arrangment with Jane sandwiched between Joe on one side and William on the other. There wasn't one female in that room who wouldn't have given anything to have swapped places with her at that table!

Pam was the perfect hostess, welcoming everyone to the DQ Times reunion dinner and talking a bit about how the magazine had come into existence and introducing each cast member (including those absent) and invited guests. Then the microphone was offered to anyone who wanted to say something. Orson was the first to grab the mike and he and Shawn's ‘hilarious routine' set the tone for a very relaxed atmosphere, At one point I looked over at Jane and she had tears pouring down her face she was laughing so hard!  Jonelle's speech also was met with laughter as well as pleas from the audience and Jane's table to “SING”. I think she might have but then someone else indicated they would take the mike and the moment passed. One by one cast members were given the opportunity to speak. Some speeches were entertaining and some heartfelt but listening to them all share their memories from the show and what the devotion of the fans meant to them, I felt enveloped by a feeling of mutual love that is hard to describe. It reminded me of what I felt at Star Week at Jane's reception, only this time it involved the entire cast.

The end of the dinner was another ‘surprise' for the fans which became even more meaningful with the presence of Eve Brenner. This was a surprise that few of the staff had known about but myself. Pam without telling me that Eve would be there that night had mentioned to me a few weeks before how fitting she thought it would be to play Sam's final words of farewell to Mike about friendship at the close of the dinner. We discussed my making an audio file of that portion of the tape but I had been having some problems with multi media on my computer so I asked my godson Christopher if he could help out. I sent him the video tape and it was his CD that was played at the dinner. As Sam's words rang out in the silent room, I glanced across at Eve who had tears in her eyes as did Kathryn Ford and Beth as well. In fact at that point I'm not sure there were any dry eyes in the room. Those words about old and new friendships said it all.

After dinner, mingle time resumed. A group photo was taken of the cast and then the rest of the night was given over to picture taking and conversation. I talked briefly once more to Jane and had a wonderful conversation with Kathryn Ford who to my surprise admitted that if they were to do another DQ movie and IF more of the cast were included, she would be interested in writing the script. I agreed with her that I too would love to see more of the cast included should there be another.

As the night waned it was time for final goodbyes.  From my vantage point on the couch next to a sleeping Jack and Tess, I couldn't see too much, as the room was very crowded but I did  notice Jane hugging Chad as if she would never let him go in one corner of the room. It was one of those special moments, (one of many that night) which I was happy to have witnessed but at the same time made me feel intrusive to watch even from so far away. I watched various cast members embracing and fans vying for a final look at their favorites and wished it never had to end. It was like a beautiful dream and I had no wish to wake up.

It seemed the cast agreed as they gathered together to take their own photos.We all laughed as we watched the "men of Quinn" take a group photo only to be joined by Jane moments later. Talk about Mike's merry men!

Beth and Jim came over to collect their sleeping brood and made a rather humorous exit with Jim picking up Jack and carrying him out and Beth lifting Tess in her arms calling “ Sure, You left me with the heavy one!”  Everyone laughed and it helped, for me at least, to ease the sadness I felt at having to leave.

Two years later, I have only to see a photo or watch the video of the event to be back in that room. It was a night of memories that will stay with me forever.