How Assistant to the Executive Producer, Michele DeVito, Survived 7 Soap Opera Bosses

John Whitesell

Film Director, John Whitesell

 Michele DeVito loved the excitement of working in the world of soaps. However, the job of Assistant to the Executive Producer had been created at the request of Michele’s boss, John Whitesell. When Whitesell left the daytime drama, Another World, Michele worried, justifiably, that she’d be out of a job.   

Michele DeVito: Any Exec that  came in could have brought their own girl. But I was lucky. It’s hard to remember, I had Michael Laibson, I had John Valente, Terri Guarnieri , Jill Farren Phelps, Charlotte Savitz. 

And I worked great with each one of them. And they kept me. And today I’m still here. 

Christopher Goutman

Christopher Goutman

And when Another World went  off, and Chris Goutman was able to get the position of Executive Producer for As the World Turns, he had asked a handful of us did we want to go. 

And he said, “It’s going to be in Manhattan — which we were in Manhattan for about seven or eight months. 

Susan Dansby: That’s right. I had forgotten about that. At the [CBS] Broadcast Center. 

Michele DeVito:  It took me 10 seconds. Are you kidding me? Yes I will! I’ll take the train. I don’t care. And I’ve been so blessed, Susan. I have been so blessed. And I’m so depressed because it’s over. And where to do you go from here? I don’t know. We’ve had the best of the best, and it’s rough. But it was such an experience. 

Susan Dansby: Tell me a little bit about the job itself. If you can put yourself in the place of those executive producers, what made them keep you? 

Michele DeVito: Maybe it was from my legal background, but I understand how things leak out. Since I started, the Internet came about; my gosh, story lines leaks and everything. I was completely trustworthy —  and I’m not a gossiper. Anything that I hear, stays with me. And I think being trustworthy in that way was a big feature that they liked about me.
 

And sort of like M.A.S.H. – that character, Radar?  I kind of knew ahead of time what they needed. 

I would know exactly who called, and I would keep records. In fact, Chris just came to me the other day — because we’re throwing everything out. He said, “I’m looking for something. I guess it’s not here.” I had it. From 1999! I just know what to keep, I know what they’re going to ask for. 

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Like I said, am I computer savvy? I don’t think I could say that on resume right now. But I can learn anything I’ve had to do. Because the transition from Another World to As the World Turns was a different type of work for me. 

I was doing actor payroll. It was intricate work. You have to be careful, which actor’s in one day, and he’s doing a seg from another show. 

It’s being precise – and composing letters. Like Chris will get a gift – “Oh, can you compose a thank you?” Or someone’s looking for a job, “Can you explain we’re pretty much set right now?” 

Susan Dansby: And another important part of that job is that the executive producer is so busy; so having somebody there who knows what’s important and what’s not [is imperative]. 

Michele DeVito:  Sure. There would be questions that would arise. Even fans – I would take calls if they came in asking questions. 

But the main thing is, if Chris, my boss, the executive producer, needed something; if I couldn’t help him, I knew exactly who to go to for whatever he needed. 

I would be here long hours in the beginning. There were times, the show with tape long, I wasn’t getting home until 10 or 11 at night because they were taping The Cosby Show here –  until 1988, I believe. It was hectic, and we were taping in one studio. So, the hours were even longer, because you had to wait for them to move the sets , and bring in other sets. 

Susan Dansby: You never left until the executive producer left? 

Michele DeVito:  Could I have asked the executive producer, ”Do you need me?” And he would’ve said, “Oh, don’t worry about it. Go home.” But you know what, Susan? It was my choice. I loved it.

About Susan Dansby

Susan Dansby has received four Emmy® Awards and two Writers Guild Awards for her work on the soap opera, AS THE WORLD TURNS. She is the author of HOW DID YOU GET THAT JOB? MY DREAM JOBS AND HOW THEY CAME TRUE.
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