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GH — The 50th Anniversary

April 3, 2013

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My grandma was an immigrant from the Azores Islands. While never really good at English, she was fluent enough to thoroughly enjoy her afternoon TV shows. When she was finished with her morning chores and prayers (she was a devout, old world Catholic), she sat in her favorite red recliner and asked me, in Portuguese, to switch on her black and white TV set. All through the 1960s, we watched shows such as Password (hosted by Mr. Betty White himself—the bespectacled Allen Ludden), Jeopardy (with Art Fleming), Truth or Consequences (captained by Bob Barker) and daytime reruns that included Bat Masterson and The Beverly Hillbillies. Each time The Beverly Hillbillies came on, my grandma got agitated, furrowed her brow and said, “Eu nao gosto aquela velha!” which meant, “I don’t like that old woman!” referring to Granny (as portrayed by Irene Ryan). But the show she loved most, and was most dedicated to watching each day, was General Hospital.

I started watching the show from the very beginning in 1963. I know this because several years ago, I saw a rebroadcast of the very first episode, and recognized the plot about the girl named Angie who had her face bandaged due to injuries she received in a car accident. As the weeks went by, and they milked the storyline for all it was worth, I remember thinking she was never going to get the bandages off, let alone be allowed to ever leave the hospital.

In those days, the main characters included the noble Dr, Steve Hardy (played by former professional baseball player John Beradino), the beautiful Audrey March (Rachel Ames then became Audrey Hardy, and then Audrey Baldwin and then back to Audrey Hardy. I may have missed some), Stoic nurse Jessie Brewer (in real life, Emily McLaughlin was married to Jeffrey Hunter—and there’s your Star Trek connection. You’re welcome), Dr. Phil Brewer (played by Roy Thinnes, who went on to star in the 1960s TV classic The Invaders).

In the early 1980s, my sister coaxed me back into General Hospital. This was during the Luke and Laura phenomenon. And it was a phenomenon. To this day, no other daytime soap opera has had that much impact on pop culture. At the time I said, “Luke? You like Luke? Isn’t he the ne’er-do-well who raped Laura?” She said that it was, but that he was a good guy now and that I needed to give it a chance. Amazingly, I did. That was when the main characters included Robert Scorpio (Tristan Rogers played the cool, Australian super spy), Anna Devane (Finola Hughs), Blackie Parrish (John Stamos) and Jackie Templeton (Demi Moore).

Trust me, I could go on and on. Mark Hamill played Jessie Brewer’s nephew (and there’s the connection that gives Star Wars fans equal time). Stuart Damon played Alan Quartermaine, a character that was killed off a few years ago (Damon starred in a 1960s British cult classic The Champions—one of my favorites when I was a kid). My sister would hit me if I left out Rick Springfield. My wife wouldn’t like it if I didn’t mention MacGyver himself—Richard Dean Anderson. See? It’s easy to just keep going, but I’ll stop here.

Discovering GH’s plans to bring back many actors/characters from the past, my sister and I have plunged back into the show with gusto. We even tried watching an episode together the other night, which is somewhat of a logistical problem, as she lives in Idaho and I’m in California. Though cellular reception at my house is not unlike the radio signal strength found in the Bermuda Triangle, I put her on speakerphone, balanced my dinner on one knee, and had my remote at the ready. It started out very promising too, as my twenty-one-year old sons were going to give it a go, and that would make them the fourth generation of my family to watch the show.

It went something like this:

ME

Okay, I have it at the very beginning. If I press play, it’ll go immediately to the park where the German-accented woman in the black hat is talking to her daughter who is on crutches. Are you ready?

MY SISTER

What?

ME

I’ve got it at the beginning; I’ve just pressed play.

MY SISTER

I’m at the graduation. Who is the girl in the green dress?

ME

I don’t know. I’m not there yet. I thought we were going to start
at the beginning.”

MY SISTER

What?

ME

I’m in the park with the James Bondian villainess talking to her highly attractive daughter who is on crutches.

MY SISTER

Is Felix gay?

ME

Who is Felix?

MY SISTER

The black guy who hangs with Sabrina.

ME

There’s a witch on the show?

MY SISTER

Not that Sabrina. This Sabrina is mousy and wears glasses that are too big for her face.

(At this point, we loose one of my sons. He stands and gets ready to walk away.)

MY SON

That’s it. I can’t stand it. I’m outta here.

MY OTHER SON

You’re serious, Dad? You’re really going to do this?

ME

Yeah, I think we can do this.

MY SISTER

What?

(My other son leaves shaking his head and rubbing his temple as if he were massaging away a headache. Meanwhile, I’ve been able to catch zero dialog between any of the characters)

ME

Okay, I’m at the nursing students’ graduation.

MY SISTER

What’s with Anna’s spiked heels?

ME

Anna? Anna’s not at the graduation. You’re still ahead of me.

And that’s where we decided to watch the show separately and then talk after. It was a valiant effort.

I’ve watched over a week’s worth of episodes now. I am still adjusting to the new characters. “New characters.” That’s funny. My wife will ask me who someone is, and I’ll reply, “Not sure. It’s a new character.” And then I’ll add, “Of course, anyone they’ve hired in the last twenty-five years is new to me.”

As I watch the familiar, but older, faces mingle with the new and unfamiliar ones, I see all the hair color, make up and possible surgical intervention, and the one person who stands out is Anthony Geary. It’s great to see him running around with a head of gray hair. Genie Francis looks great too (she’s Laura, by the way, and is married to Jonathan Frakes—and there’s your other Star Trek connection, folks. No thanks are necessary. It’s a service I’m happy to provide).

Yesterday was the actual date of the fiftieth anniversary, and my sister and I tried again to watch the show in tandem. This time it worked much better and we were able to get through the entire episode “together.” It was great to see Stuart Damon again and Chris Robinson too (he played Rick Webber). Their characters were brought back as ghosts, and it was, well, a wacky scene. It was. My favorite scene was at the end, where Audrey (Ames) kisses her finger and touches the lips of a large framed photo of Dr. Hardy (Beradino passed away in 1996). Ames tears up a little, and I couldn’t help wonder if they were real. The office staff claps in appreciation and then is abruptly told to get back to work. Audrey unceremoniously leaves and everybody goes about his or her business. Audrey, along with all of General Hospital’s past, fades to black.

Life goes on.

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2 Comments
  1. Ernie, you are SOOOO funny!! You always make my day! A little bit of nostalgia here, I, too, worked at “General Hospital” when I was 17 and a candy striper (not stripper altho that job would have paid money). The hospital was so big it had colored lines on all the floors telling you with signs on the wall how to get to where you wanted to be. Then the 16th floor was where they prisoners were kept who had to go through surgery or whatever. NO ONE was allowed on that floor without a security pass. That made me want to get up there bad… So, the first time I
    saw GH I was about your age and loved the picture of “my hospital” on the screen so I dod too enjoy that show for several years, but I was the only one in the family that would come out of the closet and say so!

  2. You made me laugh out loud, Stephanie. You’re funny too! It delights me that you enjoy my blog. Thank you so much for your comment and support.

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