What do you do when an actor whom you've admired for years, and watched transfixed from the audience when he was on stage, who starred in Scarecrow, Serpico, Glengarry Glen Ross and the seminal masterpieces, The Godfather movies, is sitting 10 feet from you at the Polo Lounge? Well, it turns out, nothing.

In all my years in Los Angeles and involved in the "business," I have only once approached an acting hero. It was in Westwood at a movie theater. I saw Peter O'Toole standing in the lobby on the second level. I waved at him and called out, "Mr. O'Toole, you are an inspiration to me." He called back from high atop the staircase with a grand flourish, "Thank you, my boy!"

I have always been a bit reticent about approaching famous people in public. I was never interested in autographs, but it is a different thing to have been inspired by someone and feel a need to let them know that they have lifted you up and been an integral part of your artistic development. Though I do think it is acceptable to cross the line in that case, I have only acted on it that one time with Mr. O'Toole.

The first time I saw Jon Voight was at a Beverly Hills Café, where I was working as a waiter. It was Midnight Cowboy, and his performance in particular, that changed the way I thought about movies and I began to look at movies and acting in an entirely new way. Out of shyness, I said nothing, but after he left I sat in his seat to "soak up the creative vibes," as I explained it to my fellow actor/waiters. Coincidentally, Mr. Voight became one of my mentors later in my career. He is a rare human being.

Now back to Al Pacino. In the '90s during a lull in my creative life I saw Mr. Pacino live, on stage in Salome and later that same week in Chinese Coffee. He was doing the two plays in repertoire. He played King Herod in Salome, and from the moment he emerged as Herod from a pit below the stage and howled her name I was transfixed. What was so inspiring to me was to see an actor of Pacino's caliber, a movie star, have the courage to reinvigorate his passion for the work by getting on a stage in front of a live audience and exploring his art again. After the performance I stood that evening on my friend's balcony overlooking Central Park and thought, "That is what I need to do - get back on stage and reinvigorate my creative spirit."

So there was Mr. Pacino, enjoying his lunch with some friends. I said nothing. I recalled the experience and was again reminded of that time and the inspiration his performances had given me. That was enough for me. It never hurts to be inspired to work harder, to dig deeper, to plow through no matter what. No matter the arena. Days of our Lives is a soap. The writers and actors don't have the luxury of time to languish in the work. We don't have the luxury of doing three to six pages a day. We do 80 in a day. We work very fast, with virtually no real rehearsal. But work is work after all.

We have a new Stephanie in actress Shelley Hennig. She was Miss Teen USA. She hails from Louisiana. I'm sure you all have been online getting the lowdown on her. (Read the TVGuide.com news story on Shelley right here.) I can't get over how well she has adapted already to such a high-pressure situation. She is a good actress who has worked for two years at a very good school in New York that emphasizes the Sanford Meisner technique some of my favorite tools. Our first day was heavy. Shelley delivered in spades!

Speaking of good actors, the day players who recently played my fellow mental patients must be mentioned. So often these people are considered mere props in the scenes, but not these actors. They all came with character choices intact. Kudos to them. (See photos at stephennichols.net.) The pizza party was so much fun. Reminded me of the old Patch days.

Well, it's back to work after a two-week spring break. It's always tough getting back in the groove after time off, but I will think of Al and Jon and Mr. O'Toole and keep on truckin'.

Peace out!
The Patchman

P.S. To see the most hysterical screen-capture in Patch history, go to stephennichols.net. Note: I assure you - they're not real, just the latest air pocket technology. Also, don't forget Mary Beth Evans and I will be at the Sportsmen's Lodge on June 3 for the annual Days weekend. For more information go to - you guessed it - stephennichols.net.