Tag Archives: Josie Bissett

There’s a new Melrose Place Podcast coming plus find out about the Fashion of Melrose place!

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Sibling Rivalry never looked so good. Sydney Andrews (Laura Leighton) and Jane Mancini (Josie Bissett)

This coming July marks the 25th anniversary of the pilot episode of one of the hottest and arguably one of the most iconic television shows that aired in the 90’s – night time Spelling mega soap Melrose Place.  Crazy characters, iconic and shocking scenes and memorable quotes have stood the test of time and now, with all episodes streaming on Hulu, Melrose is in the middle of a current day resurgence with younger audiences hopping on the Melrose train, taking in the fashion and life that was L.A in the 90’s.

To mark this occasion, there’s a brand new Melrose Place recap podcast coming our way!  L.A based couple Jenny and Dan Hill have begun, from season one, to re-watch each and every episode of Melrose Place and podcast their hilarious and witty episode recaps, available on a week to week basis available via their website (plus wherever you get your podcast episodes from!)

Dan, also a co-host on The Dan & Kody Podcast, spoke to me via email about the project.

“I really fell in love with the re-watch podcast format where one or two people will watch a movie or TV show and analyze/ re-cap every aspect of the movie or show. I really wanted to find a show that my wife and I had a connection to, but haven’t seen much of. Melrose Place was the perfect fit.

I was 10 years old when Melrose Place first aired, but I remember sneaking to watch it without my parent’s permission with my sister. Growing up it was our guilty pleasure and I suspect there are many other like me who share this. Being 10, I was way too young to wrap my head around what was truly going on once the show got into the thick of things, but I held onto bits and pieces of a few story lines that I to this day find fascinating!” 

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Sydney (Laura Leighton) knows how it goes on Melrose Place

So just what story lines are Dan and Jenny looking forward to re-watching and recapping? For Dan, it’s Michael’s (Thomas Calabro) downward spiral into TV villain along with Kimberly’s (Marcia Cross) ‘psychotic shenanigans’ while for wife and co-host Jenny, it’s the complex run of ever evolving relationships between the characters.

When asked about podcast release time Dan says “With a 6 month old, we’re hoping to record and release one episode per week covering one episode of the show. This could be a 5 year run, but we’re up for the challenge! Maybe as our little one gets older it will become easier to record more frequently. We also want to sprinkle in episodes that spotlight one character where we break them down and cover their story arc.

The Melrose Place Podcast is currently on season one (episode four is the latest update as of writing this), the podcasts feature funny, entertaining and tongue-in-cheek recaps of the Melrose Place episode along with special “moral of the episode”, “alternate titles” and “favorite 90’s moment” spots at the end of each episode which are must-listen to moments!

When thinking about Melrose Place and its position in the television timeline landscape (namely the early to mid 90’s) fashion played a huge part in not only the show but in creating the characters and their place within the series.  From copious amounts of crushed velvet to teeny tiny mini skirts, white singlets and floral prints to pastel twin sets, Melrose has a very distinctive 90’s look.

The woman behind those looks – costume designer Denise Wingate (who’s resume also includes Cruel Intentions, The Sweetest Thing and Wedding Crashers) worked on the show for a total of 112 episodes starting at Drawing The Line (S01E14) and finishing up at the very wonderful Dead Sisters Walking (S04E32) spoke to me via email about her run with Melrose, how working on a show in the 90’s was very different from today, 90’s power suits and wedding dresses bound for a watery cat fight.

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A beachy photo shoot with parasols, and Amanda (Heather Locklear) looking very 90’s

After being involved with over 100 episodes of Melrose Place that aired twenty years ago and then moving from production to production in the years after, it is no surprise Denise’s memory is a little bit foggy when asked about some of the iconic outfits worn during the shows run.

I have to admit that half of the costumes I don’t even remember. It’s amazing how digital cameras and computers have changed how I document my work now!” she says before getting into how sourcing costumes back in the 90’s was a lot more hard work than it is these days.

I used to take our Christmas hiatus and travel to Europe or Asia and tried to find some interesting fashions and fabrics and bring them back to use on the show. You  have to remember this was before the internet where fashion is everywhere and readily available, so everything I sourced for each character would have to be with my own eyes. Our stages were about 30 miles outside of Los Angeles and there wasn’t really any shops close-by so sometimes I’d rely on new jewelry or fashion designers shipping me boxes of work where I would buy what I liked and thought would work well with a certain character and just send back the rest.

And did working on one of the most watched shows at the time come with wardrobe regulations from cast and/or producers? “I don’t remember any rules or guidelines I had to adhere to from the producers. At the time I was on the show, the ratings were huge and the fashion was getting a lot of press, so they just figured if it isn’t broken don’t fix it.  Basically, they pretty much let me do whatever I wanted. I had a great time!” Though the same can’t be said about Heather Locklear and a certain pink dress Denise had specially created for her. “It was the most memorable outfit that I remember from my time on the show and it was a really tight form fitting white Lycra dress that I bought in Paris just for Heather Locklear.  It was amazing and I knew she would look incredible in it. Though, at the last minute, not being happy with the white, I decided to dye it this bright pink color, but unfortunately the dye had not set properly before she wore it and the dyed dress just turned her whole body bright pink. Memorable for me though I don’t think Heather was too happy about that.

For the most part, Denise happily admits her time on Melrose Place and dressing the cast was filled with fun times. “In real life Daphne Zuniga who played Jo and I were friends, so it was always fun shopping or doing fittings with her and I still run into Laura Leighton from time to time and it is always such a joy to see her!”

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Workplace rivals Alison and Amanda were specifically dressed in opposites.

So how about the characters themselves? When asked about Amanda’s entrance on the show in season one, Denise says she relished the chance to shake things up when it came to her D&D Advertising power wardrobe. “The dynamics of the show really changed when Heather Locklear joined the cast as Amanda. This character was such a wonderful evil diva and we were able to really push the envelope with her professional wardrobe as at that time, most suits were a little slouchy, conservative and beige such as what is seen on Alison Parker (Courtney Thorne-Smith). We kept making Amanda’s suits tighter and shorter and as Heather had such a great figure, she could really rock that short skirt look but still appear professional.” Denise also notes how Alison’s wardrobe became a little more dynamic when she took over the role as D&D President from Amanda “When Alison takes over, we felt she would take inspiration from Amanda’s wardrobe so she too started wearing “power suits” but we thought she would be much more professional [about her look] so it wouldn’t have been in her character to wear her skirts as short or as tight fitting as Amanda would wear them.

Jane Mancini (Josie Bissett), ‘fashion designer extraordinaire’, was a fun challenge for Denise as Jane’s career (and Josie’s modelling background) allowed for the use of new and upcoming designers that would sometimes push the envelope of current era fashion . “The character of Jane was fun, because we were able to really experiment with using up-and-coming, interesting and eclectic designers on her. As Josie started her career as a model, she really knew how to wear clothes, and everything always looked fantastic on her. We saw Jane as being somewhat more classy than the other residents but in a stylized way and it suited her character. I had a lot of fun creating her outfits every week and she just made my job so easy.”

That ‘easy’ that Denise talks about also comes up when talking about Laura Leighton’s Sydney Andrews who made the transition from bratty little sister with a penchant for leather jackets to trashy hooker to sassy stripper to 60’s go-go girl to polished business woman throughout her time on the show. “When Sydney arrived on the scene, things really heated up and I just loved Laura Leighton as she was game for anything we put on her. Laura loved wearing the period, kooky outfits and managed to carry off even the craziest of outfits with a sense of humor and style not many people could get away with. I loved dressing Sydney just for the sheer absurdity of some of the costumes we chose!” And THAT wedding dress that Sydney wore that ended up in the Melrose Place pool? “I can’t remember the name of the shop the wedding dress came from (it’s no longer in business) I just remember that we needed multiples, I think a total of 5 for multiple takes. It ended up looking perfect though!”

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The iconic cat fight and the wedding dress.

And it wasn’t all about the ladies either as Denise is quick to point out. “The guys were generally easy to dress and they already had their own specific styles and also very large closets, so we could just pull from those every week for whatever was needed. I mean seriously, how many pairs of jeans and white t-shirts did I really need to buy Jake every week?!. That being said, all of the guys on the show were really nice and super fun and easy to work with.”

For more information about Dan and Jenny Hill’s Melrose Place podcast endeavor, or to download the podcast, hit their social media links below!

iTunes – https://goo.gl/1PZPcD
GooglePlay – https://goo.gl/cxtxjT
Stitcher – https://goo.gl/54w8PA
Website –https://themelroseplacepodcast.simplecast.fm                                      Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/MelrosePod/                                            Twitter – https://www.twitter.com/melrosepod/                                                      Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/melrosepod/

11 Things We Learned From Lifetime’s Unauthorized Melrose Place Story

The ladies of the original Melrose Place.
The ladies of the original Melrose Place.

From a pilot that was a massive hit to a slow burning season one to eventually becoming one of the hottest shows on the 90’s, Melrose Place cemented itself in pop culture history.  Loved it or hated it, you knew Melrose existed and the bed hopping, black mailing and crazy that went on.

But behind the on screen dramas, we got to learn a little more about our favorite 90’s guilty pleasure, the cast and the crew, thanks to Lifetime’s Unauthorized Melrose Place Story.  Check out the 11 things we all learnt from this tell-all…

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1: Grant Show was almost Brad Pitt

Having been name checked in 90210’s Unauthorized movie (Pitt at the time, lived with Jason Priestly before Priestly was cast on 90210) it was revealed Grant Show was originally intended to play the role of good looking bad guy J.D in Thelma and Louise but had to turn down the role due to his Melrose Place commitments.  The part of course went to Brad Pitt and kick started his big screen career.  Wise choice?

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2: The Melrose Place cast could have looked VERY different 

While Thomas Calabro (Michael Mancini), Josie Bissett (Jane Mancini), Grant Show (Jake Hansen), Doug Savant (Matt Fielding), Vanessa A Williams (Rhonda Blair) and Amy Locane (Sandy Harling) were already cast, it seems the role of good girl Alison Parker almost went to Courteney Cox (who was coming off Family Ties) instead of Courtney Thorne-Smith and before Tori Spelling selected Andrew Shue for the role of Billy Campbell (who knew Tori had a knack for casting?) Matthew Perry, Paul Rudd and Jason Bateman had all read for the role.

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3: Thomas Calabro was a major theater snob!

It was pointed out on several occasions that not only was Calabro a theatre actor but that he somewhat despised the shows early scripts, often mocking them and pointing out how much lesser the content was when compared to his previous stage work (ok, so season one and early season 2…he’s not wrong there!).  It was until his characters affair with Kimberly Shaw (Marcia Cross), which saw a new shady direction for the Michael, that he started to get into the part.

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4: Laura Leighton’s manager got her on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine

We all know the cover – it’s now iconic – Laura Leighton, Josie Bissett and Heather Locklear looking all sexy with tousled hair and white tank tops and satin slips on the cover of Rolling Stones 1994 Hot Issue special…but it turns out, Courtney Thorne-Smith was originally in Leighton’s place and it wasn’t until Leighton’s then manager (who was also Heather Locklear and Bissett’s manager) suggested the two swap spots, ensuring Leighton (and her two other clients) made the cover. Thorne-Smith and Daphne Zuniga ended up being folded under the cover of the magazine.

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5: FOX and Darren Starr told no one about Matt’s gay kiss being cut from the show

What should have been history in the making (Savant’s Matt Fielding was the first ever gay character on prime-time network television) led to fan outrage as the the first ever on-screen gay kiss between Matt and his date Rob (Ty Miller) was cut from the Season 2 double episode finale – even though it had been filmed.  When the episode aired with the edited scene, no one from the cast inlcuding Savant had been told.

Side note – the actual kiss took place in front of Matt’s apartment door while Billy (Shue) watched on in surprise but in the unauthorized movie, the scene was set on a park bench and the two’s kiss was interrupted by a passing cars headlights. Either way, Matt finally got his kiss on screen!

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6: Josie Bissett, Daphne Zuniga and Courtney Thorne-Smith all asked for crazier story lines.

When going up against Amanda’s power bitch monologues, Sydney’s hooking-stripping-drug taking and Kimberly’s cray-cray, the other female actresses felt they needed their characters to go a little more into the dark side.  In the movie Thorne-Smith suggests Alison robs a bank while sleep walking, Zuniga recommends Jo becomes a serial killer and Bissett wants Jane to go all out crazy – but we can all safely assume none of those suggestions actually happened.  In the end, all three saw their characters get some more juicer story lines including stalking ex boyfriends, killing ex-boyfriends, dealing with stolen babies and pretending to be blind to win over an ex love!  Gotta love Melrose Place!

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7: Heather Locklear and Laura Leighton were originally hired for a handful of episodes

While Leighton was hired for three episodes as Jane’s bratty younger sister and Locklear was brought in for a few more for a guest-star ratings push, both actresses ended up securing themselves multi-season contracts.  Leighton came back in season two as a recurring then regular character until the season five finale (where Syd was unceremoniously run over by a car on her wedding day!) and Locklear maintained her guest-star status (and dark roots) until the end of the shows run at season 7.

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8: Andrew Shue has someone else to thank besides Tori Spelling for the role of Billy Campbell  

Actor Stephen Fanning (or Stephen Dale as oddly named in the movie) actually HAD the role of Billy Campbell when Melrose first began to shoot.  Scenes for the pilot were shot and promo photos taken, but according to the movie, the time between being cast and production beginning (which is being quoted as two months) Fanning lost his ‘hot body’ while with family in Canada, gaining a crap load of weight and thus being fired from the show – because Melrose had no room for fatties.  Fanning didn’t find out until he arrived on set to find Andrew Shue in his trailer!

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9: Vanessa A Williams was convinced she was going to stay on Melrose for more than a season

It’s the case of what-could-have-been or blind want, with season one actors Williams and Amy Locane both being booted by the end of the first season.  Convinced her and Savant’s Matt Fielding were the shows two edgiest characters i.e “the black chick and the gay guy” Williams, it seems was completely blind sided by her axing from the show.  She did however go onto bigger and better things like…the TV movie Ice Spiders and a recurring role on Chicago Hope.

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10: Laura Leighton and Doug Savant got married after Melrose Place

While not news to me, twitter was abuzz about finding out two of the shows stars were in fact married and are still to this day.  While the movie made note of the Thorne-Smith/Shue and Leighton/Grant Show’s off-screen romances, Leighton and Savant began dating (after her romance with Show ended and Savant had separated from his wife) and were married in 1998.

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11: The entire cast all got on well together off-screen

Unlike that which was shown in the 90210 movie (Jennie and Shannen car park fight!!), the entire cast of Melrose Place was shown to actually get along with each other off set.  There were no over-bearing egos or fights over wardrobe and even when Thorne-Smith and Zuniga were lost on the Rolling Stone cover (they barely battered an eye lid), Leighton called her manager demanding to know why.  Sadly, this really off-set the whole ‘unauthorized’ feel of the movie as there wasn’t really much drama to be told.

Regardless of how much the truth was stretched or how badly the Melrose time line was presented, we can all agree this Unauthorized movie reignited our love with Melrose Place.  I wonder how many are cracking out the DVD’s right now?

Reborn: Prisoner becomes Wentworth

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Danielle Cormack as Bea Smith in Wentworth.

Television, in the last few years, has not delivered well in the area of classic remakes.  Straight off the bat, Aaron Spelling soapie Melrose Place was rebooted by the CW network in the US back in 2009 and failed miserably.  Even with the addition of original cast members such as Laura Leighton, Josie Bissett and Heather Locklear, the show dived into a sinkhole that had no hope of survival.  Beverly Hills 90210 also received a reboot a year before by the same network and while after 5 seasons, it’s still on the air, it does not hold the same following as the original show once did.

Aussie classic Prisoner is about to get the same treatment thanks to Foxtel and the SoHo Channel in the form of Wentworth.  Prisoner was a game changer for television back in the 70’s and 80’s in how women were depicted in scripted television yet was a slightly dodgy and kitchy classic with larger than life characters and memorable one liners

By all reports, from those who have been lucky enough to see the first episode, we, the general public, are the suckers for having to wait until Wednesday to catch the pilot episode.  Gone are the dodgy cardboard sets and the over-the-top melodrama that Prisoner was known for, instead, we get a steely eyed head first decent into the hard edged world filled with hard edged women, living a life in Wentworth.

Those familiar with the original will apparently notice subtle references to the original and characters including Doreen, Lizzy, Frankie Doyle and Vera Bennett return headlined by Bea Smith played this time round by Danielle Cormack.  Along with Cormack, familiar faces including Catherine McClements and Kate Atkinson all appear.

From all accounts read, Wentworth appears to be a diamond in the rough that is not only for reborn classic television, but also for Australian drama.

Wentworth premieres this Wednesday, May 1st, on Foxtel’s SoHo Channel.