published Monday, April 1st, 2013

Half-century in General Hospital: No 'code blue' for long-running ABC soap opera

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    WEDDING OF THE CENTURY: On Nov. 16-17, 1981, more than 30 million fans tuned in to watch the highly anticipated marriage of supercouple Luke (Anthony Geary) and Laura (Genie Francis). Adding to the hype, actress Elizabeth Taylor made a cameo as evil Helena Cassadine, wearing her own 33-carat diamond ring. Trivia question: Who caught the bride's bouquet? Answer at bottom of page. (ABC photo)
    Photo by Contributed Photo /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

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    Dr. Alan Quartermaine (Stuart Damon) made Port Charles his home base after he fell in love with colleague Dr. Monica Webber (Leslie Charleson), on ABC Daytime's "General Hospital". They began a serious relationship despite Alan's concern that Monica was still in love with Rick Webber. (ABC photo)
    Photo by Contributed Photo /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

FAVORITE MOMENTS

Local fans offer their memories of "General Hospital."

"The [University of] Tennessee campus literally stopping all activity for the Luke and Laura wedding — complete with cheers and shrieks from open windows in the women's dorms."

— Rick Goins

"Cassadines, Alan Quartermaine telling the Christmas story every year at the hospital Christmas party, Maxie getting B.J.'s heart, Stone's death, Nurses Ball, and every story that contains Nancy Lee Grahn aka Alexis Davis."

— Mary Jones

"It had to be Luke and Laura's wedding! Of course, there was another moment with Luke and Laura many years later. Laura came back from the dead (as they always do) and was out wandering around under some trees. Luke saw her from a window or something and let out this blood-curdling 'Lauraaaaaaaaaa!' It was awesome!"

— Cindy Lowery

"The scenes with Jason Morgan and his grandmother, Lila. They had such a great relationship. Her heart was as big as the world. She is dearly missed. I cried for a few days when she passed. Anna Lee was the reason I started watching 'General Hospital'. I watched her in 'Sound of Music.'"

— Teri Massengale

"I absolutely loved Luke and Laura, but when John Stamos came on there, that was the best."

— Michelle Bryant Pollard

"Luke and Laura's wedding. Went over the speed limit to make it home to watch it. I felt like an invited guest."

— Betty Ragsdale

"I'm only 20 ... but my favorite 'GH' part was when Jerry Jacks tampered with the water. That shootout was awesome!"

— Dominique Mchayzuire Schawzee

"I was amazed in college at how many guys were in the dorm lobby watching 'General Hospital'."

— Gary Tanner

"My favorite moment was every Christmas [when] Dr. Hardy used to recite the Christmas story."

— Mary DeShazo Rice

"Sonny Corinthos aka Maurice Bernard and Jason. And, of course, Luke and Laura's wedding. Finally, my all-time favorite was any scene with Scorpio. Loved that actor."

— Marlene L. Sanders

On April 1, 1963, Dr. Steve Hardy treated his first patient at General Hospital in the fictional TV town of Port Charles, N.Y.

And soap fans loved the way he operated.

Fifty years later, the hospital's plots still haven't flat-lined, and 2.7 million viewers continue to tune in each afternoon to follow the loves and losses of the Quartermaine, Corinthos, Spencer and Webber families.

"General Hospital" launches a weeklong celebration of its 50th anniversary today with episodes that will feature the return of the Nurses Ball hospital fundraiser. Ball episodes will air Thursday, Friday and April 8 at 2 p.m. on ABC, 9 p.m. on SoapNet.

The anniversary tribute culminates Saturday at 9 p.m. with a special edition of "20/20" anchored by Katie Couric. On "General Hospital — The Real Soap Dish," Couric will travel to Port Charles' set, according to an ABC news release, "to experience first-hand the passion, intrigue and adventure" that has made "GH" the longest-running scripted drama on television. She'll chat with cast members Tony Geary, Genie Francis, Maurice Benard, Jack Wagner and Rick Springfield as well as Executive Producer Frank Valentini.

DID YOU KNOW?

10. "Love in Maine,'' a fictional romance by "General Hospital" characters Connie Falconeri and Molly Lansing-Davis, was published as an actual novel on March 12. It is currently No. 73 on Amazon's list of most popular movie tie-in books.

9. "General Hospital" plotlines and characters have been mentioned in dozens of TV series, ranging from "Roseanne" and "The Simpsons" to "Friends" and "House M.D."

8. The marriage of Luke and Laura (Anthony Geary and Genie Francis) on Nov. 17, 1981, was ranked No. 35 on TV Guide's 1996 list of the 100 Most Memorable Moments in TV History.

7. Former scripting head Robert Guza Jr. can claim the most writing credits on "General Hospital" with 1,406 episodes to his name between 1984 and his dismissal in 2011. The next most-credited writer is Charles Pratt Jr. with 386.

6. Between 1989 and 2006, the character of Lucas Jones was portrayed by 10 actors: Nicholas Moody (1989), Chuckie and Kenny Gravino (1989-1994), Jay Sacane (1994-1996), Justin Cooper (1996-1998), Logan O'Brien (1998-2002), J. Evan Bonifant (2002), C.J. Thomason (2002-2003), Ryan Carnes (2004-2005) and Ben Hogestyn (2005-2006).

5. For decades, the plots of "General Hospital" have mostly been focused on events in Port Charles, N.Y., but the city wasn't even mentioned by name in the show until 1976.

4. Like most soap operas, "General Hospital" is an hour-long program, but it wasn't always so. From 1963 to 1976, it was capped at 30 minutes. Between 1976 and 1978, it flirted with a 45-minute format before expanding to its current length.

3. Three "General Hospital" actors have appeared in more than 1,000 episodes since 2000: Laura Wright (1,127 since 2005), Kelly Monaco (1,092 since 2003) and — before her recent departure — Julie Marie Berman (1,038 since 2005).

2. At Rick Springfield's suggestion, his character's name on "General Hospital" was changed from Apollo Love to Eli Love.

1. Rachel Ames (Audrey March) has been on "General Hospital" longer than any other cast member. She was featured in the first episode on April 1, 1963, and made her latest appearance in Episode 11,916 on Oct. 20, 2009.

Where Are They Now?

These 10 "General Hospital" alumni got their first jobs in Port Charles.

* Richard Dean Anderson: Played hospital heartthrob Dr. Jeff Webber, became MacGyver in the TV series of the same name.

* Kristin Davis: Played nurse Betsy Chilson, became Charlotte York in "Sex and the City."

* Mark Hamill: Played teen Kent Murray, became Luke Skywalker in "Star Wars."

* Jonathan Jackson: Played Luke and Laura's son Lucky Spencer, became Avery Barkley on "Nashville."

* Ricky Martin: Played teenager Miguel Morez; had already achieved fame as a member of the young singing group Menudo, but 'GH' furthered his solo singing career.

* Demi Moore: Played intrepid reporter Jackie Templeton, became movie actress who starred in "St. Elmo's Fire" and "Ghost."

* Antonio Sabato Jr.: Played thief-turned-policeman Jagger Cates, became a Calvin Klein model.

* Rick Springfield: Played Dr. Noah Drake, became Grammy-winning rock star before returning to "GH" as the father of a current character.

* John Stamos: Played lovable street thug Blackie, became Uncle Jesse on "Full House."

* Amber Tamblyn: Played teenager Emily Quartermaine, became Joan on CBS's drama "Joan of Arcadia" and Tibby in "Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants" movie series.

Source: Internet sets

Trivia Answer: Scotty Baldwin (played by Kin Shriner), Laura's ex.

about Susan Pierce...

Susan Palmer Pierce is a reporter and columnist in the Life department. She began her journalism career as a summer employee 1972 for the News Free Press, typing bridal announcements and photo captions. She became a full-time employee in 1980, working her way up to feature writer, then special sections editor, then Lifestyle editor in 1995 until the merge of the NFP and Times in 1999. She was honored with the 2007 Chattanooga Woman of ...

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