A hometown for 'General Hospital,' 'One Tree Hill' stars, musicians

Bethany Joy Galeotti, Jonathan Jackson, Enation keep bonds strong in Battle Ground

By Mary Ann Albright, Columbian Staff Reporter

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SEPT. 13, 2009 — Fans snapped photos with camera phones as “One Tree Hill” actress Bethany Joy Galeotti joined Enation on stage at the grand opening of the restaurant she, her husband and their family opened in Old Town Battle Ground.

Galeotti, looking every bit the television star in a sleeveless, embellished gray top tucked into a high-waisted black pencil skirt, her makeup and hair flawless, duetted with actor and Enation frontman Jonathan Jackson on “Feel This.” That song was a top-10 hit on the iTunes Rock Charts for the Battle Ground-based rock band, which also includes Galeotti’s husband, Michael, and Jonathan’s brother, Richard Lee.

Galeotti reappeared after Enation’s act as half of Everly, her musical collaboration with longtime friend Amber Sweeney, to perform original songs including “Quicksand.”

“(‘Quicksand’) may appear on the season premiere of ‘One Tree Hill,’” Galeotti said. “If you record it and put it on YouTube, this will probably be a big one.”

The concert on a makeshift stage in front of a “Sopranos”-style portrait of the Galeotti family sent a red-carpet buzz rippling down the small town’s main drag.

It was a moment of convergence for the Galeottis and the Jacksons, as the musicians’ and actors’ high-profile public personas bumped up against the private lives they’ve created as an extended family in Battle Ground.

They’ve helped each other meet their spouses, are in business together, worship together and live within a few miles of each other.

They’ve formed a community within a community in Battle Ground, travelling to Los Angeles and the East Coast for their jobs. “Once you find the people you want to do life with, you stick around,” Bethany Joy Galeotti has said.

Taking a leap

Battle Ground’s celebrity circle started with the Jackson family.

Richard and Jonathan Jackson’s parents share their interest in show business. Their father, Rick Jackson, is a physician, country musician and once-aspiring politician. Their mother, Jeanine Jackson, is an amateur ventriloquist and businesswoman.

Rick and Jeanine raised their family in a 5,400-square-foot brick colonial they built in 1989, near Meadow Glade Elementary, which both brothers attended.

Richard grew up dreaming of being a professional baseball player, but that changed during a 1991 family trip to Universal Studios in California. Richard was selected to participate in a special-effects demonstration and got to sit in a DeLorean like the one from “Back to the Future,” one of the earliest movies he remembers from his childhood.

That small taste of the spotlight filling in as Marty McFly was all it took.

“I got bit by the (acting) bug that day, and Jonathan did, too,” said Richard, 30.

Jeanine Jackson moved to Burbank with Richard and Jonathan in 1993 so the brothers could pursue acting careers. Rick Jackson stayed in Battle Ground with their older sister, Candice. The family traveled back and forth on weekends to be together.

“My parents made a huge sacrifice. They basically had a long-distance relationship for seven years,” Richard said.

Trusting in God and each other

Jonathan, Richard and Jeanine Jackson formed close friendships in California through their weekly in-home Bible study group. It was through their shared faith that the Jacksons and the Galeottis first bonded.

The two families have been close for years, ever since the Jacksons heard Pastor Mike Galeotti’s sermon tapes and were drawn to his message and delivery.

“I think it was his voice,” Jeanine Jackson said. “It just had a lot of kindness in it. He paints a picture of who God is that’s just amazing.”

The Jacksons began inviting Mike Galeotti’s family down to Burbank, which is how Michael, the pastor’s son, and Bethany Joy Galeotti met.

Bethany Joy Galeotti first got to know the Jacksons through Jonathan’s now wife, actress Lisa Vultaggio. They shared a soap-opera connection — Galeotti was on “The Guiding Light,” and Lisa acted on “General Hospital” — and roomed together in Los Angeles.

When Jonathan and Lisa got married and were ready to start a family, the couple decided to move back to his hometown. “We were thinking about raising children, starting a new chapter. Being close to family was a really good incentive (for returning to Battle Ground),” said Jonathan, 27.

The idea appealed to Richard as well. Once the Jacksons relocated from California to Battle Ground, their homecoming created a ripple effect among their Burbank Bible study group.

Some of these entertainment industry insiders were drawn north to maintain those relationships. Among them was Sweeney, who in 2003 decided to leave her native Los Angeles for Clark County.

“My friends were there. I was 20-, 21-years-old, and I thought it would be a good time to get out of LA,” she said.

Bethany Joy Galeotti moved north as well, purchasing a home in Battle Ground in 2005 before getting married later that year.

Tracy Stevens, a former talent coordinator for “The Tonight Show” who also attended the Jacksons’ Bible study group, migrated to Battle Ground before marrying her husband, Armand. Armand’s father and Rick Jackson went to medical school together, and the Jacksons introduced him and Tracy to each other.

“We prayed about it and just felt like starting a marriage and a family, (Battle Ground) was the place to do it. So we chose the relationship over the job,” said Stevens, 32.

Reunited in Battle Ground, the friends have deepened their ties to each other. They continue to worship together through Wild Branch Christian Ministries, a non-denominational group founded by Mike Galeotti.

Mike and wife Sheila Galeotti, New York natives, now live in the brick colonial the Jacksons built, providing a home base for Wild Branch, which in turn provides the families with a spiritual and social hub.

The appeal of Wild Branch, says Jeanine Jackson, is its simplicity.

“It’s a group of people who are completely in love with Jesus and recognize him as everything in their lives,” she said.

Wild Branch, which meets twice a month at the Phoenix Inn Suites in Vancouver, has a core following of 30 to 35 people. Mike Galeotti says he has no desire to recruit, focusing the ministry instead on supporting its existing fellowship.

“In Wild Branch, we exist to see the dreams of God fulfilled in each other’s lives,” said Mike, 47.

Jeanine Jackson, 52, concurs.

“When one has something to celebrate, we all celebrate. When someone is struggling, we all struggle. When someone is sad or hurt, we all go through it. It’s a way of increasing the joys and sharing the tough times.”

That type of friendship, she added, can be difficult to find after enjoying some success in a competitive market such as the entertainment industry.

“You get groups of people, and maybe there’s some jealousy, or people think maybe they can go somewhere if they get attached,” she said. Wild Branch provides a social outlet that’s somewhat insulated from all of that and gives the families a way to carve out time for each other and have fun. Recently, they participated in an annual Labor Day Weekend softball tournament that pitted the Wild Branch crew against other church groups.

During practice leading up to the tournament, the Jackson and Galeotti men and friends threw pitches and honed their swings as their wives and children sat on the sidelines in matching camping chairs, chatting, munching on snacks and cheering.

“We have such busy lives ... that having a weekend for friendship, laughing and fun is a special time,” Richard Jackson said. “It’s good to see old friends and relatives from the community at the ballpark, and it gives us a chance to enjoy the beauty of the Northwest, come rain or shine. It’s just a blast.”

Turning dreams into reality

Lately, there’s been much beyond their cherished softball tradition for the Jacksons and the Galeottis to celebrate.

Enation released a new album last fall, “World in Flight.” The group, featuring Jonathan Jackson on vocals and guitar, Richard Jackson on drums, Luke Galeotti on guitar, Michael Galeotti on keyboards and Daniel Sweatt on bass, appeared on “One Tree Hill” last year performing the title track and “Feel This,” which Bethany Joy Galeotti has covered on the show as well.

“That was a really great experience,” Richard said.

Enation is releasing a bonus EP this month, “The Madness of Love,” and is working on its first live acoustic album.

Perhaps thanks in part to the “One Tree Hill” boost, the Jacksons say they now get recognized more for Enation than their acting roles.

Everly hopes to find similar success. Sweeney and Bethany Joy Galeotti released an EP, “Mission Bell,” last fall and are focusing on writing more material. Sweeney, 27, sees their sound moving in the electro-pop direction, in the vein of Imogen Heap, David Gray and Peter Gabriel.

Galeotti, 28, also has her own passion project to nurture. The actress who socially goes by Joy, her middle name, secured the stage rights to Nicholas Sparks’ novel “The Notebook” and is adapting it into a musical. Working with producer Ron Aniello, she’s composed a libretto and plans to stage a workshop-version of the show in North Carolina this fall.

She’s also busy filming the role of Haley James Scott on the CW Television Network series “One Tree Hill,” the seventh season of which premieres Monday.

Branching out

On top of all that, there’s Galeotti’s Restaurant to tend. Located in the former Irby’s Fine Dining space, it’s one of a handful of upscale eateries in Battle Ground, recently joined by bone’s steak & chop house.

“We’d been looking for a way to get deeper into the community, and it’s been really good for our family,” Bethany Joy Galeotti said this summer. “It’s been an amazing opportunity for us to grow and dream.”

Galeotti spoke to The Columbian before the restaurant’s grand opening but declined through a spokeswoman to comment for this story, citing her busy schedule.

Michael Galeotti and his family, co-owners in the venture, handle the restaurant while she’s in North Carolina, where she films “One Tree Hill” for much of the year. They retained the chef and much of the staff from Irby’s, making it easier to learn as they go, said Michael, 25.

That support network also allows him the flexibility to travel to see his wife as much as possible.

“We try not to go more than two weeks without seeing each other. It gets tough on the communication,” he said.

Communication is key for a family going into business -together, which Bethany Joy Galeotti acknowledged was a risk. But they prayed about it and decided to pool their resources and give it a go, she said.

In doing so, they’ve added to the cadre of businesses managed by an umbrella company, Q3Team. Q3Team was formed by the Jackson brothers’ mother, Jeanine, along with Wild Branch minister Mike Galeotti and a friend, Jeff Quade. It oversees the Jacksons’ and Galeottis’ professional ventures, as well as those of some of their friends.

“It’s like going to work and hanging out with your friends. That’s what I get to do every day. I love it,” Jeanine Jackson said of mixing business with pleasure. “Whatever we do, it’s more fun to do it together.”

Mary Ann Albright: maryann.albright@columbian.com, 360-735-4507.