CORTLAND - One of the most notorious residents of the fictional town of Pine Valley made an appearance at a Cortland tattoo studio Friday, pretending to be both a receptionist and tattoo artist. “Yes, Jonathan Lavery is here today,” actor Jeff Branson told a telephone caller at the studio. “Give me a second and I'll find him for you.” Branson plays the sometimes-villainous Lavery on the popular ABC soap opera “All My Children,” set in Pine Valley. He spent Friday afternoon at Proton Studios in Cortland as part of an ABC promotion that allowed soap fans to swap jobs with stars of their favorite shows. Branson was supposed to be doing the job of Proton receptionist Nina Reine, who spent two days in New York earlier in the week visiting the “All My Children” set. “I'm really blowing my first day at my new job,” Branson confessed as he sat on a couch being interviewed by a television reporter. “I was late, I haven't done any of my responsibilities, and I'm not a licensed tattoo artist of any kind, but I'm going to tattoo somebody.” Branson planned to tattoo his girlfriend, Jaimie Foley, who accompanied him to the shop, but network staffers decided the liability was too great. Foley was tattooed instead by Reine's fiance, Chris May, an artist who owns the studio and inked a four-leaf clover on her ankle. Reine, 27, of Creston had to submit a 75-word essay describing why she thought she was the biggest fan of “All My Children” and why her job would be perfect for a job swap. She said she never thought she would actually win. “It's been so surreal,” she said. “Who enters a contest like that thinking they're going to win? ... It's crazy. I entered, then less than three weeks later they called me to say I won, and less than two weeks after that I was on a plane, and I'm still thinking, ‘I won? Really?'” Reine said she's been watching “All My Children” since she was 7 years old, and she thought her job was perfect for a job swap “because it's so easy.” “I schedule appointments and answer the phone and keep the place clean,” she said with a shrug. “How hard is that?” Branson gamely answered the phone and scheduled appointments, though he sent Reine desperate looks when callers asked for specifics like the studio's address. “Just the phone is scaring me,” he said. “I wouldn't last five minutes in this job.” Branson also spent time chatting with fans who came to the studio to see him. Earlene Bendschneider of DeKalb spent almost 20 minutes talking to him one on one, then continued to chime in to conversations throughout the afternoon. “I think he's great as a person,” she said. “He's very nice, very polite, very appreciative of his fans. And as far as looks go, he's pretty hot, too.” Branson said it was a thrill to do an event that allowed him so much one-on-one contact with his fans. “Most of these events it's this huge mob of people and there's a lot of pulling and screaming and you don't really get to talk to anyone,” he said. “So this is great.” Branson declined to say whether he has any tattoos, but said he “loves” tattoo artists and culture. “This is a serious shop,” he said. “We were all wondering driving out here, ‘Is it going to be in someone's basement? Is it a legitimate studio?' But this is nice. It's everything you would want to see in a tattoo studio.” Despite being declared the soap's biggest fan, a bubbly Reine didn't seem at all star struck as she and her fellow employees joked with Branson and played pranks, such as calling the studio's phone from cell phones in different rooms. Reine said the time she spent on the show's set in New York was also “surreal.” “Everyone was friendly as can be,” she said. “Just so genuinely friendly. I want to stay friends with these people.” Reine said she can't pick a favorite actor or character from the show, though she's been trying. “I've been thinking about that since I won,” she groaned. “(In New York) everyone kept asking me, ‘Who's your favorite?' So I just told everyone who asked, ‘You're my favorite!' I mean, once you've met these people, it's like picking your favorite kid. You just can't do it.” Footage of Branson's visit to Cortland and Reine's trip to New York will air on ABC in on-air segments during “All My Children” the week of Feb. 12. Dana Herra can be reached at email@example.com.
‘Biggest fan' wins visit from daytime TV star‘Job swap' also took receptionist to N.Y.
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