Amanda and Peter dead? All the bed hopping and backstabbing over? Melrose Place, prime time's sudsiest soap, comes to an end, with TV GUIDE there to witness its final hours
BY MARK SCHWED
Jamie Luner is standing by the pool, still wearing the costume from her final scene in her series' final show: a skimpy lace bra and panties. Hey, this is Melrose Place. What do you think she's gonna wear? She's soaking wet because she's just hurled herself and a fully clothed Thomas Calabro (aka mean old Michael) into the water. She's holding a half-empty bottle of champagne, and mascara is streaming down her tear-stained cheeks.
UIDE is on the set. Castmates are handling their final working hours together in a variety of ways. Luner's emotions are on the surface.
"Everybody keeps trying to put clothes on me," she sobs. (No one succeeds.) But newcomer Rena Sofer (Eve) wants to just slip away without anyone noticing. "It has been a very bad week," she says. "People are barely holding it together."
"Everybody started getting all sappy on me," says Luner, who plays lusty Lexi. "I am not very good with good-byes. I called my mom just before my last scene. She said, 'What are you doing, honey?' I said, 'I am bound and gagged in a bathtub wearing panties and a bra.' She goes, 'That's my girl!'"
Ah, yes, Melrose Place. Land of lingerie, lunatics and love gone wrong - and many a soap lover's favorite nighttime sudser. May it rest in peace.
It's March 24, the last day of shooting after a seven-year run (the show got off to an inauspicious start in the summer of 1992), and TV G
Josie Bissett (Jane), one of the few remaining original cast members, watches those around her get a little misty-eyed. In 1997, the then-pregnant actress left the show just as husband Rob Estes (Kyle) was joining the cast. Bissett returned this season after a miscarriage. Now she's pregnant again; a boy, already named Mason, is expected to arrive on cue July 23. "I sort of had my cry when I left before, so I'm not quite as emotional now," she says.
But executive producer Aaron Spelling, who saved Melrose from cancellation in the first season by bringing aboard Heather Locklear, his Dynasty star, feels the pain: "It hurts. It hurts like hell. It's like getting a divorce from someone you love very dearly."
And thank heaven for Locklear, whose wicked Amanda and her microskirts kept us watching week after week, through good scripts and bad. She loved and lost and loved again, both on- and off-screen. (During the show's run, Locklear divorced rocker Tommy Lee, married rocker Richie Sambora and gave birth to Ava, now 1.)
Locklear loved Melrose for many reasons: "The notoriety, the money, the people, having a job every day. Plus I got to play a fun character who wore pretty good clothes. She also had sex more than anybody I have ever known."
She recalls the emotional final scene: "They said, that's a wrap. Thank you for seven years." We just stood there silently. I started to well up and thought, 'I gotta get outta here.' I went to my trailer, looked around, said a thank-you prayer - like when Mary Tyler Moore said good-bye to her newsroom. I turned off the lights, took the can of corned beef hash that someone gave me [years ago] and went home."
At the wrap party the next night, she had trouble making her exit. "I was the last to leave," she says. "I said, 'Good-bye. Good-bye. Thanks for coming to my house.' Of course, it wasn't my house. I had a pretty big hangover the next day."
Only a handful of people, including Locklear, know what went down in the last minutes of Melrose, because the set was closed. And with only two more original episodes still left before that finale's broadcast, viewers may think they know what's coming.
But, surprise! Executive produeer Charles Pratt, who wrote and directed the episode, says: "We fool the audience at least three or four times. Think of Melrose Place as a thrill ride, with peaks and valleys and screams and yells." He does concede however, that certain things just had to be in that last show: "Romance. Psychopathic humor. The pool. A wedding. We had to blow something up. We had to have a funeral where important characters die."
For inspiration, Pratt went back to the pilot and studied one of the first shots: a pair of feet running out of one of those poolside apartments. "Then we hear Alison [Courtney Thorne-Smith] say, 'My roommate just ran out on me.' Her name was Natalie," says Pratt. "We thought 'Wouldn't it be cool if Natalie came back?'" Of course, in grand Melrose tradition, someone also had to go nuts. That honor falls to Eve, who kidnaps Lexi and Michael and threatens to kill Amanda and Peter (Jack Wagner). "It is Melrose death," Sofer says. "Dirty and splashy."
We won't spoil things by giving away the ending, but here is what has already been leaked: Two days before the final shoot, reporters were invited to take part in a funeral scene at the beach. They signed confidentiality agreements forbidding them to divulge the ending. (TV Guide declined the invitation.) The tabloids said it was a funeral for Amanda and Peter. But then word surfaced of another top-secret ending also shot on a closed set. Those tattling tabloids reported it was a scene with Amanda and Peter in Hawaii getting married and, naturally, getting wet. For the record, Fox says there are two endings, and producers won't decide which to use until the last minute.
Whatever happens, it won't be the final curtain call for some of the actors. Estes is shooting a WB pilot for a medical drama called Outreach. Luner also has a deal for her own series, in which she will play a female cop in a squad full of men. Locklear is reading TV and movie scripts, yearning to leave Amanda behind by doing a sitcom or romantic comedy.
But long gone are most of the original ensemble, as well as others who had their moment on Melrose: Andrew Shue (Billy), Laura Leighton (Sydney), Doug Savant (Matt), Grant Show (Jake) and Daphne Zuniga (Jo), to name a few. Even Marcia Cross (Kimberly), who joined the show in 1993 and provided some of Melrose's most delicious cliff-hangers, seems to have disappeared. Only Thorne-Smith has managed to move on to something bigger and better: a gig on Ally McBeal. Calabro thinks he knows why.
"Spelling is known more for beautiful people than great actors," he says. "Whereas David Kelley [executive producer of The Practice and Ally McBeal] is known for fantastic actors, not beautiful people. It's unfortunate, but that's the way [Melrose] is perceived. I'll have the obstacle of people thinking I'm probably a pretty bad actor. It's funny, though. When I go to auditions, half of them haven't even seen the damn show."
Not that Calabro is fretting. "At least I don't have to worry about the rent," he says. "And if I never worked again in this business, I wouldn't be the most surprised person around here. But I'm comfortable with that. I invested in Intel in '93."