Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner: GH’s Brandon Barash

Joe and Brandon Barash

The author with Brandon Barash

One of the best parts of being an entertainment writer is getting to meet the entertainers when they are just being people. In this case, I had an opportunity to meet Brandon Barash, who plays Johnny Zacchara on GENERAL HOSPITAL. He helps GH sell the soap, but this was a more personal encounter. Soap Opera Digest‘s Vera Hadzi-Antich and I were invited to a special dinner honoring Barash’s appointment as the national celebrity ambassador for the Muscular Dystrophy Association. Even better, the dinner was held at Levant East, a splendid restaurant in the Hotel Rivington, on the trendy Lower East Side of Manhattan.

In addition to a great meal in a hip nightspot (the food really was terrific!), I got to just hang with Barash, who is very open and approachable. In fact, the real Brandon reminded me of the way Johnny is when he is with Olivia – easy-going and fun. The real guy is not an angry young man at all. Before the event got under way, Brandon did a couple of interviews, and was wandering the room like anyone else when I approached him. Dressed neatly but casually in a sweater and loose tie, Brandon was quick with a handshake and happy to make small talk about being on the East Coast. When I suggested that we get our “work stuff” – the official WEEKLY interview – out of the way before dinner, he instantly clicked into business mode. He was still his gregarious self, but focused on the pretend world of Johnny, Olivia, Sonny and GH. Vera interviewed him first, on video for the SOAP OPERA WEEKLY/Soap Opera Digest Web site (See that here) while I held the light for the camera. Then Brandon sat for me. He had to address a lot of the same questions, but I tried to frame the queries a bit differently, and his responses covered the same ground, but without repeating a lot of the same phrasing. That’s a skill, folks. You should think about how many times the stars have to answer basically the same questions over and over; it can be quite a struggle to keep things interesting. With such a lively subject, our conversation quickly took on a life of its own, and I got some really interesting insights, which you will see in an upcoming issue of WEEKLY. After we finished the interview, Brandon posed so I could shoot a number of digital photos for the magazine, our Web site, and the e-mail newsletter. Then Vera snapped the image that accompanies this piece.

In addition to GH, Brandon was eager to discuss the Muscular Dystrophy Association. He is not one of those stars who just picks a cause to support because it will look good on a resume. He has been personally touched by muscular dystrophy – losing a dear friend named Chad to the disease at age 18 — and sees his work as a celebrity ambassador as fulfillment of a lifelong commitment he made in response to that tragedy. “I’m on call to travel to any location to speak to corporations, schools or any group to bolster awareness of muscular dystrophy,” Barash explained. When I asked what fans can do to help, he replied: “They can do many things. They can buy my book, which is a compilation of images I’ve taken [while traveling] over the last several years.” Included are images of such exotic destinations as Amsterdam, Prague, New York and San Diego. “It’s available on yournumberonefan.com, and 100 percent of the proceeds after cost go to MDA. Or they can go to mda.org.”

Barash, who hosted segments of last fall’s Jerry Lewis telethon, understands what he is asking of his fans, and appreciates their support. “A lot of them called in and donated. I love it. They keep me on the air; they write my paycheck, essentially. I need to give back to them the support they give me.”

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