Arguably the most popular male soap opera star in the history of the medium, Anthony Geary broke the mold of a typical soap character when he first breathed life into his controversial Luke Spencer on the hit daytime drama, “General Hospital” (ABC, 1963- ). Tall, somewhat gaunt, with pale, almost pasty skin and frizzy dark blond hair, Geary seemed odd fodder for leading man heartthrob status, yet he earned it in the afternoons. He joined "GH" in 1978 as a less-than-savory hitman, but within two years he was on the run with his true love Laura (Genie Francis), in not only one of the most cinematic daytime storylines of all time, but one which captivated the nation – even those who had never watched daytime TV. The hoopla surrounding the wedding of Luke and Laura in 1981 landed Geary and Francis on national newsmagazine covers and racked up the highest ratings ever for a daytime drama. Since that time, Geary attempted other roles on stage and screen, but because his “GH” characterization was so strongly identifiable, Geary had a hard time getting out from under the shadow of Lukas Lorenzo Spencer.
Born May 29, 1947, Geary was raised in the small town of Coalville, UT (pop. 800). Raised in a Mormon household by his father, the head of a construction company, and his mother, Dana, a housewife, Geary grew up with three sisters – Dana, DeAnn and Jana. At the tender age of three months, Geary was introduced to films when his father took the baby to the theater after he’d had a fight with Geary’s mother. A self-proclaimed liar as a child, Geary parlayed this talent into a fledgling acting career. Although his mother hoped he would pursue teaching, her only son was determined to become an actor.
As luck would have it, TV star Jack Albertson of “Chico and the Man” fame caught a performance by the then-college U of U sophomore and cast him in a touring stage production of “The Subject was Roses,” starring Albertson and Martha Scott (who would later go on to appear on “GH”). Geary would eventually go on to star in over 50 stage productions throughout his career, including a 1987 L.A. production of "The Glass Menagerie" and an acclaimed one-man show "Human Scratchings." But back in the late 1960s, Geary relocated to Los Angeles and began landing roles on all the popular episodic series of the day, including “Barnaby Jones,” “The Partridge Family” and “The Mod Squad” – usually cast as the heavy. He made his most memorable pre-“GH” appearance as Roger on a 1971 episode of “All in the Family,” titled “Judging Books by Covers.” In the episode, which also guest-starred future ABC soap star Phil Carey (Asa Buchanan from “One Life to Live”), Archie Bunker was forced to examine his pre-conceived stereotypes of homosexuals.
Geary’s first soap role was as David Lockhart from 1971-72 on “Bright Promise” (NBC, 1969-1972). A year later, he (ironically) played rapist George Curtis on the inaugural year of “The Young and the Restless” (CBS, 1973- ). Around this time, legendary soap producer Gloria Monty took one look at the intense, unconventionally handsome Geary and hired him in 1978 to play Luke Spencer on her daytime TV baby, “General Hospital."
Originally brought on as the criminal brother of series’ vixen Bobbie Spencer (Jacklyn Zeman), the character was supposed to be written off after causing some trouble. But Geary infused such intensity into Luke, that fans were oddly drawn to the frizzy-haired bad guy. Geary’s Luke emerged as the show’s premiere leading man after he fell in love with doe-eyed heroine Laura Webber, played by Genie Francis. Geary’s performance as the man from the wrong side of the tracks who wasn’t supposed to win her love, but did anyway, endeared him to legions of daytime drama fans. This devotion should have been tested when, in a controversial (and later, hotly debated) 1979 storyline, Luke raped Laura on the floor of the campus disco. The rape scenario and the fan’s almost romanticized reaction to it (at personal appearances, the actor often heard fans cry out “Rape me, Luke!”) was very much a product of the times. When Luke and Laura went on the run in the summer of 1980, the couple not only shot to the top of soap magazine popularity polls, but mainstream media also picked up on the couple’s appeal, with Newsweek and People putting Geary and Francis on the cover. The couple shared the latter cover with Elizabeth Taylor, who, as a self-proclaimed fan of “GH,” made a handful of appearances as villainess Helena Cassadine. Such was her attachment to the show, Taylor and Geary began hanging out and were quickly rumored to be a couple by the gossip mags. In truth, the two were just good friends, but it made for titillating gossip at the time.
Not long after the soap wedding of the century in November, 1981, fans were left abruptly disappointed when Francis left “GH” in early 1982, only to be replaced by spunky newcomer Demi Moore, as journalist Jackie Templeton. While this relationship failed to spark interest among fans, Geary, who won his first Daytime Emmy in 1982, found more success with his next leading lady, Emma Samms, as Holly Sutton. After a brief stint as mayor of the soap’s fictional setting of Port Charles, in 1983, Geary was reunited with Francis, who returned to daytime after an attempt at primetime fame went bust. The couple exited the show together a little over a year later, first in 1984, than, after a seemingly final and brief storyline where Laura told Luke of her pregnancy, officially in 1985.
His success on "GH" triggered other opportunities for the actor. He launched his own nightclub act in 1982. On TV, he starred in his first TV-movie, "Intimate Agony" (ABC, 1983), playing a doctor tackling a herpes epidemic. Later, he played in one of the first telefilms to deal with pedophilia, "Do You Know the Muffin Man'" (CBS, 1989). Although he worked steadily after leaving daytime, the high wattage fame that other, less identifiable soap graduates like Julianne Moore and Alec Baldwin achieved, continued to elude Geary. The actor appeared in the films "The Disorderlies" (1987), “You Can’t Hurry Love” (1988), “Crack House” (1989) and Weird Al Yankovic's “UHF” (1989). Low budget wonders such as "Scorchers" and "Night of the Warrior" followed, both in 1991. Meanwhile, daytime fans still clamored for his return to “GH.” While not in the way the fans preferred, Geary returned to “GH” in 1991 – but not as Luke. Instead, he played Luke’s look-a-like cousin, Bill Eckert, who was killed off (conveniently) when Francis returned to join Geary as Luke and Laura in 1993. The official return of soaps’ “supercouple” after eight years, made mainstream news around the world. The duo continued to have marital woes, but their love and bond seemed greater than any problem, as they raised their children and coped with various soap opera woes.
Back on “GH,” Geary used his newfound power to take several months off from the show each year to vacation in Amsterdam. In 2005, the actor also found time to return to the big screen in the independent feature “Car Pool Guy,” which featured several other daytime stars. Although Francis left the show on bad terms in 2002, Geary stayed on, nabbing two of his five post-Laura Daytime Emmys for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series. He won his fifth in early 2006 for scenes in which Luke willed his comatose son Lucky to regain consciousness. While soaps have long tended to focus on younger actors, after almost 30 years of playing Luke Spencer, Geary remained a viable and charismatic leading man.
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