Soap opera storylines come and go, and with decades of material having aired, a lot of those storylines fade into oblivion. Every so often, however, daytime dramas tell stories that make such a deep impression on viewers that their power reverberates for years and years to come. Such is the case with the HIV storyline that General Hospital brought to the screen in 1995.
Long before telling AIDS-related stories became widely accepted, the ABC soap opera delved into an extremely emotional storyline in which popular character Stone Cates (Michael Sutton) developed HIV and passed the disease on to his girlfriend, Robin (Kimberly McCullough) -- a legacy character who'd been on the show for a decade -- before he succumbed to AIDS-related illness and passed away.
Sunday, November 29, marked the 25th anniversary of Stone's emotional death, and many of the people involved in the pioneering storyline took to social media to acknowledge the moment.
Former GH executive producer Wendy Riche posted the memorable line "I see you... Robin, I see you!" to which McCullough responded, "If I close my eyes, I remember exactly what that day felt like. Still for grateful for the opportunity to portray the passing of a loved one to AIDS. Heartbreaking story, yet it needed to be told."
If I close my eyes, I remember exactly what that day felt like. Still for grateful for the opportunity to portray the passing of a loved one to AIDS. Heartbreaking story, yet it needed to be told. https://t.co/1Ih2GmhZNB- Kimberly McCullough (@whitewatercrew) November 29, 2020
Sutton replied to McCullough, telling his former costar -- who won a Daytime Emmy award in 1996 for her work in the story -- that they "did good" with the emotional material given to them and that he misses her. McCullough responded, "My finest moment as an actor was with you that day. Thank you for that."
My finest moment as an actor was with you that day. Thank you for that. Love u. https://t.co/AlCtSPs0EV- Kimberly McCullough (@whitewatercrew) November 30, 2020
Riche agreed with McCullough, enthusing that both she and Michael (who earned a Daytime Emmy nomination for his performances during the storyline) gave GH their all for the powerful storyline "that needed to be told."
Former GH writer Michele Val Jean also marked the 25th anniversary of Stone's death and reminded viewers that at the time, the AIDS story was considered extremely risky and was very controversial.
"One of the scripts I'm most proud of. Wrote the 'Robin I see you' moment through the ugly cry," she posted. "This storyline is iconic now but [former head writer] #ClaireLabine and @canyoncatz [Riche] had to fight for it and a lot of viewers tuned out. Claire was determined to tell it though."
One of the scripts I'm most proud of. Wrote the "Robin I see you" moment through the ugly cry. This storyline is iconic now but #ClaireLabine and @canyoncatz had to fight for it and a lot of viewers tuned out. Claire was determined to tell it though. https://t.co/fzaxYJpTKG- Michele Val Jean (@MicheleValJean) November 29, 2020
McCullough also praised Riche for "having the guts to tell the story" and for being such a "badass producer" that she was able to learn so much from.
You had the guts to tell the story in the first place. Genius! Oh- I so miss working with you. I was so lucky as a young woman to have you as a badass producer to learn from. https://t.co/4E7C4Ve6Z2- Kimberly McCullough (@whitewatercrew) November 30, 2020
As GH fans know, the ABC soap opera continued to raise awareness about HIV and AIDS after Stone's death with an annual Nurses Ball, which saw the residents of Port Charles performing skits and songs to raise money for AIDS charities. The annual celebration was put on pause for a time, but it was revived in 2013, with General Hospital characters donating to AIDS-related charities -- which the show hopes will inspire the audience to join in.
General Hospital isn't the only ABC soap opera that boasts a pioneering social issue storyline in its vaults. All My Children aired its own AIDS-related storyline in 1988, when Stuart (David Canary) married Cindy (Ellen Wheeler), who'd contracted HIV from her former husband, a drug addict who'd been exposed to the virus via an infected needle. Cindy died the following year after a valiant battle with AIDS.
World AIDS Day is observed on December 1. The theme for the 2020 observance is "Ending the HIV/AIDS Epidemic: Resilience and Impact."
What do you remember most from GH's 1995 AIDS storyline? How do you feel about the soap's efforts to keep the memory of Stone alive with its annual Nurses Ball? We want to hear from you -- and there are many ways you can share your thoughts.