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25 November 16th, 2014 GH’s Tony Geary & Jackie Zeman Reflect On Elizabeth Taylor’s Appearance On Anniversary of Luke & Laura’s Historic 1981 Wedding!

Courtesy/ABC Photo Archive

“My curse on you Laura and Luke … my curse on both of you!”  And with that, fans of General Hospital are still to this day seeing the evil Helena Cassadine continuing her revenge vendetta against the Spencer clan, and almost every one else in Port Charles!

Of course, that classic line was uttered by the late Oscar winning motion picture star Elizabeth Taylor, the original Helena Cassadine, now played by Constance Towers.

Today, November 16th marks the anniversary of the beginning of the two-part episode from 1981 where a record breaking 30 million people stopped what they were doing in the afternoon to watch the nuptials of Luke (Tony Geary) and Laura (Genie Francis)!

Now, TV Guide Magazine’s Michael Logan has a chat with none other than Geary, and his on-screen sis, Jackie Zeman (Bobbie) to get a few remembrances of what it was like having a star of the magnitude of Elizabeth Taylor come to the ABC soap opera, and how it impacted the genre.  Here are a few excerpts below!

Tony Geary:  “I’m sure nobody from the network went to Elizabeth about this unsolicited, because the possibility that she’d do GH was just too crazy to even imagine. Someone from her team must have floated the idea first. This was back when she was married to Sen. John Warner and wasn’t very happy sitting on the farm in Virginia. She told me that GH — especially the Ice Princess story — took her out of her lethargy every afternoon. Luke and Laura’s love story made Elizabeth feel very nostalgic. She said it reminded her of her youth and the great romance films of the old studio system.”

Courtesy/ABC Photo Archives

Jackie Zeman:  “You  have to remember these were very different times. Show business was compartmentalized. Soap actors didn’t do primetime.  Primetime actors didn’t do movies. So (Taylor]) was a big shot in the arm for GH and all of daytime TV. Her guest stint broke the rules.”

Tony Geary:  “After her appearance, we suddenly had a glut of big names wanting to be on GH  but (then-executive producer) Gloria Monty wasn’t biting. Her attitude was, ‘I don’t need stars. I make ‘em!’  It’s a testament to Elizabeth’s star power that her character (now played by Constance Towers) is still with us all these decades later. Helena has died and come back more often than I’ve had a glass of wine. There’s a reason for that longevity — the character was born of magnificence.”

Watch the “I do’s” from Luke and Laura’s wedding, and then the classic moment when Helena (Elizabeth Taylor) puts the “Cassadine curse” on the young marrieds!  Then let us know, where were you watching Luke and Laura’s 1981 wedding?  What did you think of Elizabeth Taylor coming to General Hospital for her guest star turn as Helena? Was it the biggest shot in the arm for the soaps?  Comment below!

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  1. nina griffin says:

    I was a junior at Kalamazoo College in Michigan when this aired. About 30 of us, mostly girls but some guys as well, cut class both days to watch. We smuggled champagne into the lounge, even though we were under age and had cake too. It was a blast!

    Reply

    su0000 replied

    It was before my time..
    I did notice back then GH had a great budget, the sky was the limit in comparison to today when they pinch pennies..
    It was fun to put faces to some of the names that still echoing in Port Charles..

    It reminded of Mayberry and I thought I’d see Aunt Bee and Opie .. lol

    (how young everyone was wow!)

    Reply

  2. JLH says:

    I was a freshman in college but made sure I made it home in time for the fun. Man, it sure would have been so much easier watching GH and going to school if I’d had a video recorder but alas that was still several years in the future…

    Reply

  3. jeremy says:

    OMG, i still remember this i was only 5 years old. I was home at my Grandmas house with the whole 25 members of my family watching “GH” my aunts, uncle, grandma, cousin brothers,cousin sisters, my sisters, my mom and grandpa. Wow, we had our turkey that day. Man, so many memories of that day. :) Still a loyal fan to this day.

    Reply

  4. JENSEN says:

    Freshman in college. Teacher canceled class on the 17th.

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    Iakovos replied

    Was also a college freshman, at University of Dayton. had a bio lab and the graduate student in charge knew we were all about Luke and Laura. She let us go in time to watch. It was so cool, in memory, that we collectively gathered everywhere for this pop culture phenomenon. I have seen the episodes since and I cringe a little, but even with the outrageousness, GH showed its roots in family and humanity. I miss that on GH and other soaps. Seems it is about moving ever faster and being more shocking. That Luke and Laura played out a long time and that is why the payoff was huge. We were so engaged and involved.

    Reply

  5. Harry says:

    What a fun piece to read, Michael Fairman. I remember Elizabeth Taylor cursing Luke and Laura as if it were yesterday.
    Sadly, her curse was powerful and lasting.

    Reply

  6. Karen Kelly McEachern says:

    On the day Elizabeth Taylor made her debut on GH ( 11/10/81 ) I gave birth to my son Michael. I left my teaching job and drove to the Dr.’s office and was promptly sent to the hospital. I drove down a Main St. in Boston having contractions. When I pulled into the parking lot of the hospital the attendant said there wasn’t any room to park. I gave him the keys and said I was in labor. Thirty minutes later my son was born. I begged the Dr. not to send me to recovery as Ms. Taylor was making her debut on GH and I needed a TV. The Dr. agreed and I was ushered into a private room. A few days later with a newborn baby and a toddler at home, my grandmother and I watched the wedding together. I will never forget that time and am still watching GH since 4/1/63.

    Reply

    Laurie replied

    Great story!

    Now for a BIZARRE question- Is your son, Michael, a musician in Nashville? I ask because I recognized the last name (unique) and I lived in Nashville & worked in the music industry up until I got married a few years ago. My hubby’s job keeps him in Arkansas for now..but nevermind that.. I still talk w/my Nashville friends & somewhere, somehow I’ve come across this name & his music. I just thought that was so strange and it’s such a small world if so!!

    I was 11 when Luke & Laura got married. I remember it and this is around when my lifelong crush on Dr. Noah Drake, Rick Springfield began. It’s too bad recording devices weren’t around back then for viewers to record their “stories” just yet. Love to see these videos. Thank goodness for youtube & sites like these.

    Reply

    Karen Kelly McEachern replied

    Hi Laurie, No, my son lives in Boston . The best part of Luke & Laura’s wedding was when Scotty grabbed the bouquet as Laura tossed it. We were totally surprised since there weren’t any hints, social media , etc. at the time. Something funny, I won a guitar at the 50th GHFCW in ’13 signed by Rick Springfield. My grandson is using it now to take lessons. I’m still a die-hard fan. Yes, You Tube is great.

  7. Alan says:

    I was a sophomore in high school and skipped class both days to watch at my friend Tipsy’s house.

    I think Luke and Laura ultimately did more harm than good to the soaps. Other shows attributed The couple’s popularity to their “on the run” adventures instead of their love story spawning a trend that led most soaps astray of their roots. Suddenly Search For Tomorrow’s Travis and Liza Sentell were running all over Hong Kong looking for a jade necklace, Bo Buchanan was driving a car powered by the mysterious alternative power source Solarimide, and Days Of Our Lives’ Bo and Hope were trying to find the 3 prisms of power that Stephano DiMera thought would cure his brain tumor.

    Reply

    Laurie replied

    I don’t know if I agree completely, but yes, most do claim the action was what drove their popularity. I always thought they were popular DESPITE the “on the run” chaos, not BECAUSE of it. I didn’t hate it, but I didn’t love it. I did fall in love with the characters and the show though! Fun times.

    Reply

    Michael (not Fairman) replied

    I agree in general. Often when something has succeeded on the soaps, TPTB on other soaps have misunderstood WHY it has succeeded and tried to duplicate the wrong elements; Luke-and-Laura-on-the-run isn’t the only example of this. (Not that trying to copy somebody else works very often anyway.)

    Reply

  8. Scott (ATWT Fan) says:

    I wasn’t alive during Liz’s time on GH, nor was I a GH watcher until 2007-08, but I must say, she brought such a regal presentation to Helena, and would’ve loved to see her carry that character more than the appearances she did provide with her. I think the character could’ve been so much more than she has been.

    Reply

  9. Llanviewer717 says:

    I remember those episodes very well. Those were the days!!!!!!!!

    Reply

  10. k/kay says:

    Oh TG get your memory going she was a big fan and called to say when our Luke &Laura going to get married the rest is history!

    Reply

  11. Tommy Prunty says:

    i I em ember the day well, I had an hour on my first office job at a PR firm on 34th street across from Macy’s in NYC, I took my lunch at 3pm to see the wedding and when I got there I had to turn the channel to 7 and another two fans cam up and we decided to change all of the sets on and to channel 7 by mid show a crowd had gathered and we all watched the wedding together, some of us even met for the next day to see part two.

    Reply

  12. MBmomof3 says:

    I remember this storyline so well. Great time in soap history. Thanks for the memories!

    Reply

  13. Mary Lou Glines says:

    Without a doubt Ms Elizabeth Taylor’s appearance on General Hospital changed the ENTIRE way soaps were viewed by the entertainment industry and the general public. No longer was it embarrassing to admit a soap on a resume but became a place where many noted people would now be seen. She was amazing!

    Reply

  14. Avatar610 says:

    I was in high school when the wedding occured, and I ran home to watch it. I didn’t have a VCR yet (the next year I got one), so I used an audiotape recorder to tape the event for posterity- if only I knew about today’s technology! The big shock was Scotty’s appearance and the resulting fight. I’ve always felt that GH should redo the scene with Helena casting the curse with Constance Towers for continuity’s sake, as Taylor’s scenes were filmed separately as inserts.

    The big problem caused by the wedding was that EVERY OTHER SOAP played “Follow the Leader”, especially the P&G soaps, desperately trying to duplicate what uniquely worked for GH. BIG MISTAKE- overall, longtime viewers began to be alienated as some shows went for big adventures, big weddings, and big-name guest stars. Most of these attempts flopped (e.g, ATWT’s “Mr. Big” storyline with Zsa Zsa Gabor, SFT’s Hong Kong story), and ratings began to erode for some shows. Yes, it was a watershed moment for daytime, but some soaps were comprimised in the long run by trying to copy GH’s formula for success.

    Reply

    su0000 replied

    I do not agree.. it is not true..
    guest stars have always brought in viewers and most importantly they are a fun time for the fans to have them in a story..
    Bif events also brought in viewers are were a treat to watch..
    anything that is grad is interesting, different, and fun ..
    Right!!
    GH always has been and always will be the ‘modern’ forerunner of the soaps..
    GH is truly unique and stand outside the box..

    Reply

    Avatar610 replied

    You miss the point I was making- OTHER soaps have tried and failed to follow the formula of GH’s success!!! What works for one soap doesn’t usually work for others. If you were around in 1981-82, you probably remember a LOT of actors on other soaps imitating Tony Geary’s classic “Luke” curly hairdo- Rod Arrants on SFT, Christopher Rich on AW, Allen Fawcett on EON, Wayne Northrop on DAYS. The larger-than-life adventures that worked for GH did NOT work for shows like AW, ATWT. Y&R and AMC, for instance, stayed more-or-less true to form during the next few years and kept high ratings.

    Michael (not Fairman) replied

    I’m curious how you would know “it is not true,” su0000? You said above this was before your time.

    I remember things just as Avatar610 does. The storylines on other shows that tried to copy GH’s “On the Run” storyline were indeed big failures; daytime executives tried too literally to copy what GH had done without understanding why it worked. The adventure stories didn’t fit the other shows that tried them, and it showed—and the effort failed, and actually damaged some of those shows badly.

  15. Avatar610 says:

    Thank you, Michael! Those of us who were watching soaps back then remember how things did change for the worse for some shows desperate to grab big ratings to match GH’s unique success.

    Reply

  16. Shay says:

    Interesting, but it would have been more appropriate to hear from co-star Genie Francis on this epic soap event. JZ was a poor substitute.

    Reply

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