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35 years of General Hospital
Posted at 12:22pm Thursday, April 16, 1998
Genie Francis will reprise the role of Laura Spencer on ABC's General Hospital next month. The actress was wooed back by executive producer Frank Valentini, who promised "nice stuff" for Francis to play. Francis debuted on GH in 1976, but has been off-screen since 2008.
Tony Geary played host of the 35th Anniversary Primetime Special, on April 2nd on the ABC Network. The one hour special was filled with an enormous amount of the shows history and most memorable moments. Many of the members of the General Hospital cast, both past and present, helped to bring the audience through over three decades of enriching highlights, that have made General Hospital the phenomenal success it is today.

The program opened in a small diner, where Kathy Kinney, who portrays Mimi on the Drew Carey Show, is a waitress, serving Tony, who has stopped in for a cup of coffee to go. At that point, the cameras span to clips of the shows stars talking candidly about their past experiences and storylines on General Hospital. Also shown, were several of the members of the cast, posing in huge frames.

The first jog down memory lane, was taken through the 60's, when the show began. Rachel Ames (Audrey Hardy) and Peter Hansen (Lee Baldwin) began talking about two of GH's most memorable and much loved people, the late John Beradino (Dr. Steve Hardy) and Emily McLaughlin (Nurse Jesse Brewer), who were, at that time, the main focus of the show. Denise Alexander (Lesley Webber), Steve Burton (Jason Morgan), Kristina Wagner (Felicia Jones), and Jackie Zeman (Bobbie Spencer) added to the memories. The romance between Steve and Audrey was the big story of that decade. Genie Francis (Laura Spencer), added her feelings about the late John Beradino, saying he was the core of GH. Jon Lindstrom (Kevin Collins), Stuart Damon (Alan Quartermaine) and Leslie Charleson (Monica Quartermaine) all added their sentiments to the late great actor, which left Leslie in a very emotional state, in tears, remembering her special friend.

The next focus of the show, was the 70's, which brought not only the Disco Era, but the spice and excitement of three families, which would become a huge part of GH history. Those families, introduced by Jackie Zeman and Kin Shriner (Scott Baldwin), were the Quartermaines, the Webbers and the Spencers. Denise Alexander, Leslie Charleson, and Stuart Damon, recalled the days of their quadrangle of Monica/Alan/Lesley/Rick. Kin and Genie talked about the fated love of Scotty and Laura, which Denise added many of her memories to, prompting Jackie to remember Bobbie's obsession for Scott. Tony discusses his debut as Luke Spencer.

After the stories of the 70's were well in bloom, the 80's rolled around, which is when GH became an American phenomenon. John J. York (Mac Scorpio) and Kimberly McCullough (Robin Scorpio) were on hand to talk about their memories of when the Scorpio family stumbled onto the scene. They recalled, the Scorpio's took Port Charles by storm, the Cassadines nearly destroyed the world, and high intrigue took center stage. The summer of 1981 brought to television, two weddings, Charles and Diana, and Luke and Laura. GH had become so popular, that Newsweek Magazine paused from its coverage of the cold war, to add to the coverage of a fictional couple, who saved the world from the big chill, the story of the Ice Princess. GH was a soap, way larger than life. Finola Hughes (Anna Lavery Scorpio) added memories of the Anna and Duke Lavery story. Jack and Kristina Wagner (Frisco and Felicia Jones) also lent a few memories.

Tony Geary and his character grew enormously in popularity after the rape of Laura Baldwin. Genie tells how Gloria Monty, the show's executive producer at that time, instructed her on how Laura should look at Luke. Scenes from Luke and Laura's infamous night in Wyndhams Department Store were shown, focusing on that unforgettable Waltz. Genie went on to add that it was very strange, but every major life step she has taken, was rehearsed first, on GH. Her first date, first kiss, marriage, having a baby...everything.

Bringing us into the 90's, the third decade of the popular show was Lynn Herring (Lucy Coe). She talked about the Nurses Ball and how it has become a yearly GH tradition. Ingo Rademacher (Jasper "Jax" Jacks) and Vanessa Marcil (Brenda Barrett) dropped by to give their insights to the stories they were involved in. As did Maurice Benard (Sonny Corinthos). Michael Sutton (Michael "Stone" Cates) and Kimberly recalled their very important message rendering story about AIDS, and the heart-breaking love story between Robin and Stone. Leslie spoke of Monica's bout with Breast Cancer, and how she had suggested the story to Producer Wendy Riche, who right away, went for the story. The story dealt with both the man and the woman's points of view. Leslie recalled how hard it was to leave the character in the dressing room, at the end of the day, to go home. Another very hard story to leave at the studio, was the death of B.J. Jackie Zeman recalled the scene's as being the most difficult, painful, emotionally heart-wrenching scene's she's ever had to play. She feels as though these feelings were so strong, because she, herself is a mother. One of the most dramatic, heart-felt scenes were those of Felicia, the moment she found out it was B.J.'s heart that saved her daughter, Maxie's life. Brad Maule (Tony Jones) added that his favorite scene was when Tony bent over to listen to B.J.'s heart, as it beat life into Maxie's chest.

The 90's part two, brings us closer to the end of the current decade, and introduced many popular characters, like Lois. Rena Sofer (Lois Ashton) was there to walk us down the road, to the love story between Lois and Eddie/Ned. Wally Kurth (Eddie Maine/Ned Quartermaine) enhanced the memories of the couple's life. Rena stated in character, "the Q's put the 'fun' in dysfunctional." Sarah Brown (Carly Roberts) talked about her character, with Brad adding to the story. Stephen Nichols (Stefan Cassadine) showed up to discuss the ongoing feud between the Spencers and the Cassadines, which prompted Tyler Christopher (Nikolas Cassadine) and Jonathan Jackson (Lucky Spencer) to add their takes on the story.

The end of the Special neared, as Tony Geary gave his views on the ever-popular daytime drama, that has become a part of many of our lives, stating, "When GH first came on the air, neither the Producers or the Networks ever imagined that their drama would play into the next millennium, or spawn a spin-off series, Port Charles. As we move toward GH-2000 and perhaps the next 35 years, the show remains vital and true to its core, it's characters. It's a tribute not only to the GH of today, but to all those writers, producers, and actors. Everyone behind the camera, on whose broad shoulders we stand. But, most of all, it's a tribute to you, our audience. GH may not be the world as we know it, but it has become a place on the map of our hearts. The cast of characters, spanning three decades, are now like friends and family. Their history is like one with ours. Their victory and defeats, their loves, and hopes. Sometimes indistinguishable from our own. For 35 years, it's been a 'Hell of a Ride'."

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