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Stars draw the nostaligic to the Cherry Blossom Festival


One of the Missouri Cherry Blossom Festival's popular events is the "Nostaglia Fest Autograph Show" that brings in stars from some of its attendees favorite shows of the past.

Actor Olivia Brown was new to the Missouri Cherry Blossom Festival.

She spent five seasons portraying Detective Trudy Joplin on the hit NBC series "Miami Vice," which starred Don Johnson, who grew up near Crane, Mo.

After raising her children in Los Angeles, she moved to Key Largo, an island just 68 miles south of Miami, where boating and fishing keeps her busy and happy. She said she only does a few of this type of events per year.

She said she had a great time working with Don Johnson who played Sonny Crockett.

"He and I were good friends. He did a lot more work than I did, so I got a lot of time off. I loved it," Brown said.

She said it was an unusually happy set.

"I never saw anyone argue. Philip Michael Thomas never had a bad day. Nobody ever cussed. Nobody ever yelled at each other. Saundra Santiago and I worked on the show for five years, and we never argued. That's pretty remarkable," Brown said.

Since "Miami Vice," she worked fairly regularly in episodic television roles, including being a regular on "Dear John."

Her most recent work was playing Mattie in the highly rated 2023 movie "Blue Lightning" with Quinton Aaron, which she said is currently playing on Tubi.

She estimates she worked more after "Miami Vice" than her co-stars with the exception of Don Johnson.

And although she is living on Key Largo, Brown, a "pretty 67," has projects in the offing, including one with Khalilah Ali, Muhammad Ali's second wife.

Brown was not the only TV detective in attendance at the Missouri Cherry Blossom Festival.

Maxwell or Max Gail, 81, played his signature role of Detective Stan "Wojo" Wojciehowicz in 170 episodes of "Barney Miller," a 30-minute comedy that ran from 1975-1982 with Hal Linden playing the title role.

"It's just Hal and I that are left now, and I still see him when I'm back in L.A. He's 93 and he's still doing plays," Gail said.

Although the show was a comedy, it also relied on dramatic elements to explore the characters and create situations for comedy.

Wojciehowicz was often spotlighted.

"As it evolved, Wojo, became, in some ways, kind of the heart of the show," Gail said.

Gail earned two Emmys during the show's run.

"It was a great ride, and I'm thankful for it," Gail said.

He owns his own production company called Full Circle that has produced documentaries on Agent Orange, Native Americans and nuclear issues.

He also worked on "General Hospital."

"I signed on for three months, and then it became almost three years.( It was) an Alzheimer's arc. They brought me in to play the father of the lead guy on the show ... it's a story that just touched a lot of people because Alzheimer's touches not just person who's got it. It's the whole family and community. It was a great experience," Gail said.

A five-episode appearance on "Days of Our Lives" was his first introduction to the soap opera genré.

"I was not soap opera fan. Even when we were doing "Barney Miller," I didn't have a TV," Gail said.

However, he has become more familiar with "Barney Miller" recently after a friend started a "Barney Miller" Facebook page that includes some clips from the show.

"I've seen a lot of the episodes that I never saw before, and I feel pretty good about it. There are other things I've done in my life, some acting and some not, and I'm just as thankful that they're not out there," Gail said.

His IMDB page shows 136 acting credits since his first uncredited role on an episode of "Ironside" in 1971.

A working actor, he has done at least one episode of a series every year since then until 2022.

Gail has a new project in mind that dates back to his "Barney Miller" days and before when he worked his way through college in piano bars and pickup bands.

"When I started acting, it kind of opened something up for me, and I started writing and processing my own sort of spiritual life growth through writing songs. When the show ended, I recorded a bunch of them," Gail said.

Then life put his music on the back burner.

"Recently, I've gotten those tapes out, and I got them digitized because they get moldy over time. I'm trying to figure out a way to get that going. They might mean something to somebody," Gail said.

Another familiar face at the autograph show belongs to Sheree J. Wilson.

She began her acting career with a TV movie called "Velvet" in 1984 and worked steadily, largely in other TV movies, until her 127-episode run on "Dallas" as April Stevens Ewing.

Her most recent work is also her highest-rated work on the Internet Movie Database or imdb.com.

She plays a grandmother in 2022's "Flip Turn" with Evan Brinkman and Donny Boaz.

It was in "Dallas" that she first saw long-term employment and five years constantly in the public eye.

"I was blessed enough to join them years 7 to 13, and two years later, I was back in Dallas for 'Walker, Texas Ranger.' I have just had such a charmed career, and I'm blessed to work with the nicest people on the planet and the most talented," Wilson said.

Nine seasons of "Walker" as Alex Cahill gave her some insight into its lead, Chuck Norris.

"He was the nicest, most wonderful man you could ever hope to meet. He's a true patriot, he's a good Christian, he's a wonderful family man. He's a great friend," she said.

She said she does not see Norris that often these days since he spends a lot of time on his Texas ranch and at his place in Hawaii while she lives in Los Angeles.

"It's a little harder. We see each other at certain events, and it's great to have a reunion when we can have them," Wilson said.

She said she had training with Norris and some of his karate friends.

"It was the best shape I've been in in my life, and it was exhausting. He's the real deal. He's the nine-time world champion and fought at Madison Square Garden. He's put in all of his dues," Wilson said.

She said the shooting schedule was easier on "Walker, Texas Ranger."

"On 'Dallas,' we had five stages that were already pre-lit. We were only filming in Dallas for three months of the year, and the rest of the time we were on stages. We had all the office interiors. We even had dug the swimming pool and had Southfork in one of our lots," she said.

Under those conditions, the work was easier. Her number one chore was to control her laughter that ensued because of the hijinks of stars Patrick Duffy and Larry Hagman who played Bobby and J.R. Ewing.

"All we did was laugh. I mean, Patrick and Larry were literally brothers, and they always tried to outdo one another with their jokes and their shenanigans, so no, I did not work harder, I laughed harder. Every day I driving to work thinking, 'Don't laugh so hard you cry your makeup off,' and it worked some of the days, but it didn't work all the days," Wilson said.


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