I am in Puglia – the heel of Italy’s boot – on an assignment for AP Entertainment, to cover the American soap opera “The Bold and the Beautiful” on location. I anxiously told my bosses “I’ve covered shipwrecks, earthquakes, elections and the Pope, but I have never, ever covered a soap opera, and I’ve never, ever seen “The Bold and the Beautiful.” But that’s what working for a news agency is all about. Earthquake one day, soap opera the next. Deal with it.
So I have been getting a crash course in “The Bold and the Beautiful.”
Well, let’s see, it goes more or less like this…Ridge and Taylor had a daughter named Steffy, Ridge then married Brooke who already had a daughter named Hope with a man named Deacon who was married with Brooke’s first daughter Bridget. Hmmm. But then Deacon went to jail and Hope never knew her father….and somehow in all this Hope lost her virginity and got addicted to anti-depressants by buying them on-line and on and on and on. Blog readers, are you getting all this? Ok, let’s move on.
Their press office informed me that “The Bold and the Beautiful” is seen by 35 million people in over 100 countries. I was not quite sure at first but then I began asking around. My British friend, Mandy, who just moved from Cairo to Rome, said that is all anyone ever watches in Egypt. At my Roman hairdresser’s everyone had seen some episodes of “Beautiful” as it is known in Italy, and most Italians remember seeing super-soap-star Ronn Moss “Ridge” on Italy’s popular show “Dancing with the Stars.” It is also popular in India, I am told.
When I arrived in Puglia this afternoon was I driven to the San Domenico Masseria where the filming was underway. My car crunched down a stone road through groves of ancient, twisted olive trees. The spectacular villa was made of white Tufa stone, a soft, white limestone, and walkways were lined with red, yellow and pink roses. The actors and production crews were gathered around a pool in the middle of an olive grove. The olive trees looked like bunch of grouchy, rugged old trolls standing around watching this glamorous Beverly Hills bunch.
The first scene I saw had a sexy looking Kim Matula (Hope) in a bathing suit at the pool affectionately playing with Scott Clifton (Liam). I am under strict instructions not to give away any juicy details, but let me just add that the sly, slender vixen Steffy, played by Jacqueline Macinnes Wood, was keeping a close eye on them.
The production team explained to me that part of the reason they have come to Italy is because it is the number one market in the world for their program. In Italy, there are more than 4 million viewers compared to some 3.6 in the US, so they want to “nurture” the Italian market.
They also happened to need a “romantic”, “stunningly beautiful” and “isolated” place for Hope to escape to, so Puglia seemed a good choice.
“The Bold and the Beautiful” shoots 250 episodes in one year and are trying to do 10 episodes in five days of shooting in Italy. So, no one is messing around. Alluring actresses were popping in and out of outfits and on and off the set. The Italian production crew was lugging huge cameras up and down the narrow staircase of the villa to the roof balcony, and I am told the Executive Producer, Brad Bell, was holed up in his hotel room with the script writers working away on the script.
The producers are trying to feature local culture, so they are walking their stars through groves of ancient olive trees. Today it was Ronn Moss (Ridge) and Katherine Kelly Lang (Brooke) who had their turn.
The highlight of this week will be tomorrow’s wedding, I’m told. Will there or won’t there be a wedding? Will Liam and Hope find happiness together? No one is willing to give me an answer to that. I did see an Italian stuntman dressed in black preparing today so I am curious to see if something dramatic will happen at the wedding. Will someone jump from the steeple or parachute in for the wedding? I’m told Brooke and Ridge are ditching their olive tree and bathing suits and will be at the wedding, but will Bill and Steffy?
In a nod to Italy’s car industry, I have been told that Italy’s famed three-wheeled mini scooter-car, the APE (wasp in English) will have a key role. APE’s were first built by Piaggio in 1948 and were common in the post-war period when people couldn’t afford a larger four-wheel car. They are still popular today.
In a moment of economic crisis, “The Bold and the Beautiful” are apparently successful enough that they can make forays abroad. They have brought 16 crew members from the US, plus six actors, two people from the publicity department and the executive producer. They are also giving a mini-boost to a region of Italy that is struggling economically. They have hired a 42 person film crew from a local company, as well as using local drivers and luxury hotels.
I am staying in the fabulous Borgo Egnazia Hotel with the production crew. I think it is the most spectacularly beautiful hotel I have been in since the Kempinski Palace Hotel on the Bosphorus in Istanbul. It is made entirely of the white Tufa stone and is exquisitely decorated all in beige and browns. My balconys look out over two big swimming pools with Tufa stone terraces and surrounded by olive groves. Not bad. So even Mozzarella Mamma is getting a moment to relax.