When it was first announced that Christine Elise McCarthy was going to be at REWindCon, it caused a real um, Wildfire, among this BH90210 fan. I was going to stand in line to meet the real-life Emily Valentine! I told a friend about her appearance suggesting that we become best friends with Christine Elise by buying all of the U4EA and torching all of the homecoming floats. Rest assured, no U4EA was taken and no homecoming floats were harmed, there wasn't even a lighter in sight.
I first met Christine Elise at REWindCon when I went to get a fancy picture taken with her. It was $40 well spent, although a complete headache to retrieve. We greeted each other with a handshake and a hug and I told her that we had been emailing. Christine was so kind. I said I ran BH9021Whoa! and she said, "I thought you were a boy!" I responded, "Nope!" Which she followed up with, "No, you're a beautiful woman." Geeze, as if she wasn't already my Valentine. Over the many years of watching Beverly Hills, 90210, Emily Valentine was one of my favorite characters and storylines. I mean, with the punk rock look, the drugging of Brandon and more. What's not to like?
Going into the picture, I brought my handmade sign that said, "Having a great time at the Gynecologist," as the best thing ever (EVER!) to come out of BH90210 was when Brenda told Emily Valentine to have a good time at the Gynecologist in the halls of West Bev.
One of the proudest moments of my life will be forever associated with this quote. At the Beverly Hills, 90210 panel at REWindCon, the cast was asked what their favorite quotes were from the show. Jennie Garth said, "I choose me." and then they opened it up to the audience to say our favorite quotes. I shot my hand right up and Gabrielle Carteris called on me. That moment alone for a fan was nuts and then in front of a room full of strangers and the majority of the cast of Beverly Hills, 90210 staring me down, I said, "Have a good time at the Gynecologist." Christine Elise jumped out of her seat and cheered. Yeah!
Day 2 at REWindCon was the day I planned to interview her as Day 1 was all about Luke Perry for me. After my second meeting with Luke, my friend and I went over to Christine's table. This woman is a sweetheart and it's not only because she took the time to meet with me, but is seriously so generous with the fandom, whether it's being responsive on social media or sharing her own tales and pictures on her own site, and generally being a kind person. We laughed a bit more about the Gynecologist line and got down to business.
I present to you, a conversation with the original BH bad girl, Christine Elise McCarthy.
In addition to appearing on the show, Christine Elise also helped write a few episodes. At the BH90210 panel, it was mentioned that Christine had helped write the monumental "Push Donna Martin down the stairs, Ray Pruit" episodes. Here she breaks down the process of being a Freelancer on the writing crew:
Christine: That wasn't my idea (Ray pushing Donna down the stairs). The way the show works, you're not on the crew, you're sort of a Freelance writer, so to speak, for a serialized show like that. The storylines are penciled in or even inked in for the bulk of the season, way in advance. When I get an episode, whether it's the Halloween one, the Christmas one or the Jeopardy one, some of these storylines are already deeply on track so I don't get to come in and say, 'Now Brandon comes out as gay or something,' they already know what they're going to do. I get an outline and it's pretty specific and what it comes down to at that point is really writing the dialogue and flushing it out. And sometimes with shows like that, the writing staff have a revolving door and many people aren't as familiar with the show, they might suggest things that are inconsistent with the show and what has already been established and don't make sense for whatever reasons, so there's a little bit of a Rubik's cube to make that stuff work and also try to get a little bit of your own stuff in there too. Covertly.
LeeAnn: Have you contributed to other TV shows?
Christine: I haven't. I pitched a pilot to Aaron Spelling about an independent newspaper which he bought and then never made.
LeeAnn: Not The Blaze?
Christine: No, not The Blaze, but actually it did end up on the show. What was the paper that Brandon and Ian...?
LeeAnn: The Beat.
Christine: That was my storyline from the other show that Aaron said, "You know, I love this storyline, can I have it for the show? So I contributed that storyline."
LeeAnn: You said you contributed to characters as well.
Christine: Who was the girl who was sort of Asian, Lindsay? What's her character name?
Christine: I feel that I wrote the episode that someone was introduced in. I didn't create the character, but how the Writer's Guild works is if you write the episode where a character is introduced, you get credit for creating the character so I didn't actually create any characters. According the Union, I did.
LeeAnn: I once was an extra in a web series where I got a Screen Actor's Guild credit.
LeeAnn: It was for playing "Non-speaking lesbian #2."
Christine: That's hilarious.
LeeAnn: Let's move on to your involvement in the Hardcore scene. I heard that some songs were created after you. Can you tell me more about your experiences there and what were some of your favorite bands you saw?
Christine: I was into Punk Rock in Boston before the Hardcore scene was even born. My Step-dad is a musician, he was in bands and he and my mother were big fans of the alternative and broader punk rock scene which included bands like Siouxsie and The Banshees, The Teardrop Explodes, Echo & the Bunnymen, Talking Heads, Devo, bands that later became mainstream bands, they were not initially. Bands like Bauhaus, I was lucky enough to see in tiny rooms. Rooms as big as this lobby we're sitting in. But, I was really young, I was going to shows when I was 14, 15, 16 with a fake ID, but I never bought a drink. Of all my time at bars in Boston, I never had an alcoholic drink and I was at different clubs every weekend. Didn't have money for a drink even if I did drink so it wouldn't have mattered.
I got involved in the Hardcore scene because there were my friends, they were kids my age. I went to a Dead Kennedy's show and met a guy named Jamie Sciarappa, who became my best friend and remains my oldest friend. He was in a Hardcore band called SSD Control or SSD. The singer of that band is named Springa and he was my boyfriend in high school and Jamie was the bass player. Through them, I got grandfathered in to the whole Hardcore scene. It wasn't a very feminine, female-friendly place to be, but I was family and they still remain my friends and chosen family to this day.
Bands that were great to see were Bad Brains, Misfits, Black Flag and Dead Kennedys. All before '83, before you were born.
LeeAnn: I was born in '81. So, Emily Valentine was actually only on the show for 12 episodes.
Christine: Yeah, something like that.
LeeAnn: I feel like she had such an impact on the show. My friends who I talk to about the show agree. When I ask their favorite character, Emily Valentine is always brought up. How is it for you now going to to these conventions and things and your experience having played this character?
Christine: For me, personally, I was kind of that girl in high school. I was punk rock in high school, totally an outsider, all of my friends who I discussed a few seconds ago didn't go to my school. I wasn't friends with them because we went to the same school, but because we shared interests and that's why they remain my friends. They weren't friends out of convenience, but because of genuine shared interests.
Doing the show, that was fun, that was great. It was my first big project and what got me recognized while walking down the street. But it was also a very bizarre experience to have. There was a period when I was living with Jason (Christine dated Jason Priestley in real life for those who don't know), and obviously is and always was, and remains a far bigger actor than me. He's a genuine celebrity, where I'm just an actor and we couldn't go places. We couldn't go bowling, we couldn't go to the mall because people would scream and chase you. And what's worse than people screaming and chasing you, is people pretending that they're not actually following you and staring at you, it makes you feel like a circus freak. I'd rather have someone come up and say, "Hi" and then run away than stand over there giggling and pointing for a half hour. It's so much more uncomfortable.
Post-show experience for me, and I like it a lot, people will come up to me who liked that character, are all people who felt disenfranchised in their youth or in school, growing up, whether that was because they were gay, black in a white neighborhood, poor in a rich neighborhood, all of the ways that you can feel isolated or that you are different, those people felt that they were spoken for by Emily Valentine. They identify with her as the outsider and they felt that they were being recognized on national TV by her presence.
LeeAnn: Yeah. I rewatched the episodes this week of the homecoming float and I remember as a kid, part of my website to bring back how much of an impact the show has had on me since I was a kid, plotlines, fashion wise, how this show is an every day part of my life, sadly. I remember watching the Emily Valentine episodes as a kid thinking who is this Emily Valentine, she's "crazy" without completely understanding it. And now rewatching it as an adult, I can appreciate the parts where the character of Andrea humanizes Emily instead of pointing fingers as "crazy." It's good that the show can teach an audience to look at someone overall instead of labeling and dismissing someone, that it's somebody who has gone through something.
Christine: I struggle with it. It was hard for me. In the first episode, it was very much "don't judge a book by its cover," everyone thought she was a slut, a bad girl and it turns out that she was a virgin, a good kid. And then she went crazy, which I felt betrayed by that and that now you can judge a book by its cover. She is crazy and you should avoid her and I actually called Aaron about that and told him I was distraught about that. Aaron said, "Don't worry, we'll redeem her." And they did, but it's kind of funny how the character of Ray Pruit, the next blue collar character was crazy. Watch out for the blue collar characters in Beverly Hills is the takeaway.
LeeAnn: Then there was the whole U4EA thing and how they couldn't say that it was Ecstasy. Who came up with the term U4EA?
Christine: They did. I had nothing to do with that. They had a scene where Emily and Brandon were tripping in that rave or wherever they were, the nameless rave, and they had a scene where I was dancing on a table and pulled Brandon up. Personally, I don't dance and I was so relieved that Jason wasn't a dancer. I was pleading, "Please don't make me dance!" Jason not dancing got us out of it, but they wanted us to dance on a table and sing "U4EA" to the tune of "Gloria." Now was this "G-L-O-R-I-A" Gloria or the U2 Gloria or "Gloria. Gloria." (the Laura Branigan version)? Who would do that? Who would do a drug and then stand up in a club and sing that? No one sings, "COCAINE! COCAINE! MARIJUANA."
LeeAnn: Yeah, you just want to make out.
Christine: We put the kibash on that.
LeeAnn: Does anyone keep in touch with the guy with the "4" on his shirt?
Christine: No! No, he was an extra.
LeeAnn: Can you tell me more about your blog, Delightful-Delicious-Delovely?
Christine: It's a food blog. I started it about 4 1/2 years ago sort of randomly. I've always been a cook. I like to cook. I like to photograph things and I like to write. And then I would start to photograph my food and it was a silly indulgence. People would say, "It looks really great. What is it? How do you make it?" Then I thought that I should just make a blog and then the questions are answered. That's how it started. I ate seafood, but have given up seafood and am recently weening myself into eating vegan. I ate vegan before, but here (at the convention), impossible at this hotel. I would be eating lettuce and fruit, even the dressings have cream in them. I even had a couple of bites of calamari last night because there's just nothing here, but sort of pushing myself to be vegan. Jason's wife, Naomi and I are developing a cooking show.
LeeAnn: Oh, awesome! Is it on a certain network?
Christine: It's in development. We actually sold it and it got optioned to a production company that does celebrity theme nights, but they wanted to change the name of the show that's about not eating meat and eating vegan to "Beat the Meat" and I was so offended by it. You can't have a cooking show called "Beat the Meat" about not eating meat so we had to part ways due to creative differences. We have the rights to the show back and are pitching it elsewhere. Who wants a cooking show called "Beat the Meat?"
LeeAnn: Yeah, that's gross. Speaking of writing, I'm currently reading your book, "Bathing & the Single Girl." "Beat the Meat" sounds like something that one of the characters would have said in there.
Christine: Very true.
LeeAnn: It's very relatable, with the money struggles, holding onto the dream. I'm only part-way through so I don't know the outcome yet.
Christine: It gets crazier and crazier as things go on.
LeeAnn: Can you tell me more about the book?
Christine: The book is fiction. I did a short film by the same name before the book and presented it at film festivals. Someone saw it and said it was funny and that if I had more stories like that, I should write a book. I thought that I do have more stories. I wrote it in a stream of consciousness and sat down and started writing, not knowing which characters she would end up meeting down the road or any conclusion of where she would end up being. I wrote it in 8 weeks and pitched it to agents. I found an agent in New York to sell it and initially it started as a romantic comedy, but it's not, it's dark and a very graphic, sort of raunchy book and I couldn't sell it. The agent said the problem is that it starts off as a romantic comedy, but it doesn't end that way. People who want a romantic comedy, don't like it and the people who want a dark comedy won't read it because of how it starts off. It's distasteful to them. It's hokey. You have to choices, either make it mainstream or make it darker. I made it darker and wrote 50 % of it in a couple of months and published it. I intentionally blurred the biographical information of Ruby, because I know with being an actor, I'll walk down the street and people will say, "Oh my god, you're Emily Valentine" and I'll say, "Yeah, I am" and they'll respond, "No, you're not!" and then I'll say, "No, I'm not" and then they'll say, "Yeah, you are!" But, I can't win. With the book, either people want to believe it's all true or believe it's all fake and whatever I say, they're not going to believe what I say anyway, so I left it gray and leave it to the reader. There's a couple of stories in there that are verbatim the truth, like documentary style true, but I won't tell which ones those are.
LeeAnn: I'll email you after to get the truth. I want to know.
Christine: That secret will die with me.
LeeAnn: I have one final question. Browsing through your IMDB credits, I saw that the world has come full circle and that one of your most recent credits is for playing a Gynecologist.
Christine: Yeah, I've done it more than once actually. I'm being typecast as a Gynecologist because of that Brenda line.
LeeAnn: Yeah, I know. That's what I was going to ask you. (laughs) Did you have a good time at the Gynecolgist?
Christine: No! Who does?
LeeAnn: I know.
Christine: I had a horrible experience at the Gynecologist recently. I don't know what the deal was, but she couldn't do a pelvic exam. She couldn't do a pap smear. She said, "I think it's broken. There's a wall in there." I have a different doctor now and there's not a wall. There's no wall. I'm perfectly healthy.
LeeAnn: That's good, that's good. Glad to hear that you're healthy. I had an uncomfortable experience once where they asked if a student could shadow as well, and I felt I had to do it because my vagina was being used for science.
Christine: Really? Isn't everything kind of known at this time? Are they really going to discover something in your vagina that's good for science? I hope not.
And that's a wrap on the actual interview. After the interview, Christine and I got our picture taken by waterfall at the Hilton in Bloomingdale, IL.
My pal and I went over to Christine's table again later that day and she gave us more of a scoop on how it was on the set of Child's Play 2. Apparently, they paid the doll more than her because of the doll mechanics and she did the majority of her scenes on her own since she was talking to a doll. Man, we have so much in common.
To add onto just how sweet she is, Christine sent my friend and I off with a few autographs. One of the best things ever is now in my apartment. Thanks, Christine. I'm glad that you're having a good time at the Gynecologist.