Oprah Celebrates General Hospital's Iconic Couple, Luke and Laura
Need a pop culture time check? Remember the Ice Princess? Frank Smith? Scotty and Laura? Robert Scorpio and the Cassadines?
If so, it may rock your soap opera world to note that Luke and Laura got married on General Hospital 30 years ago this summer.
THIRTY YEARS. That's a long time, in Port Charles or anywhere, my friends. And just in case former diehard soap opera watchers of America weren't feeling old enough this week, Oprah brought the star-crossed couple, along with a bunch of leading men and ladies, to her February 8th show.
How is this possible, you ask? Didn't Laura go off to Paris for mental health treatment a few years ago after she and Luke remarried? Hasn't Luke moved on to marry Tracy Quartermaine? Wasn't that Robert Scorpio cute? Is Bobbi still a nurse? What about that Rick Springfield doctor character anyway?
Oops, that's me asking, and I digress, so I'll just remind myself that Laura is really actor Genie Francis -- she of the immense smile -- and Luke is the alter-ego of the real human being Anthony Geary, who still plays this character on the show.
Seriously, Luke and Laura's wedding was a big deal. I was only 10 years old, but I grew up in a house dedicated to the ABC soaps in their heyday. My grandmother had her stories on from the long-defunct Ryan's Hope at 12:30, All My Children (you did not mess with All My Children) at 1:00, One Life to Live at 2:00 and finally, General Hospital at 3:00 p.m. EST. She always said she could "take or leave" the shows after AMC, but I picked up an interest in GH shared by many of my fellow Gen X-ers. Luke and Laura's star-crossed union rivaled the other big wedding that happened earlier that year -- Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer -- for importance.
Stats-wise, the fictional union was a television knockout. It drew 30 million viewers and is still the highest-rated hour in soap opera history. (Sorry, Erica Kane.) It followed a controversial beginning of Luke and Laura's relationship -- drunk, Luke raped Laura, and she went on to fall in love with him. This was not the usual soap opera fodder, and the show dealt with the incident in different contexts over the years, including eventually revealing it to Luke and Laura's son Lucky more than 20 years after the initial scenes aired.
Geary told Soap Opera Digest in 2000 that when they revisited the rape later it was clear that both Luke and Laura were affected for life, regardless of earlier attempts to reframe it as a seduction:
Alan Pultz, who had directed the rape originally, used his original notes and directed me that day to recall all of that. I was able to finally put out what I think is Luke's definitive statement: that it was rape, it was ugly, he'd probably never recover. I was grateful that the directors and the writers were interested in what Luke's experience was and didn't try to spin it for audience control.
Geary and Francis hadn't seen each other since she left the show in 2006, and their reunion on Oprah's stage appeared to be all smiles. Geary's big reveal was a relationship he had with Elizabeth Taylor, who appeared on GH in 1981. "I spent a couple of years with her, and it was a wonderful time in my life," Geary said.
Asked whether she'd return to the show and allow for a Luke and Laura reunion that many GH faithful would absolutely welcome, Genie said that if she did she'd have to play Laura 2011-style.
"If there was a way to go forward with Laura and make her into what I would like her to be now, then perhaps I would do that," Genie says. "She has to move forward. There's nothing in me that is wiling to play a victim anymore."
If there's one thing that's consistent about soap opera characters it's that they all have at least nine lives. So while Laura's potential return is up to the producers, writers, and Francis herself, it's completely possible. And if Luke and Laura don't reunite for more medical crises, farfetched adventures, and love and family dramas? They'll always have November 17, 1981 -- the soap opera wedding day that will live forever.