Original xerox copy provided by an anonymous source.

This article appeared in Soap Opera Digest in the early spring of 1996, I believe.

Luke Who's Talking: Anthony Geary Speaks out on Life, Fame and a Guy named Luke
By Carolyn Hinsey

"I'll be 49 on May 29th," begins daytime's most famous actor. "Almost half a century. Look damn good for my age. Especially in Holland, where the light is better."

He's smiling, but he's not kidding. In an industry where people guard their ages as closely as their plastic surgery scars, GENERAL HOSPITAL's Anthony Geary doesn't care. Maybe it's because he survived a publicity blitz only the kids on FRIENDS could relate to. Maybe it's because he has made a very good living in one of the hardest fields a body could choose. Or maybe it's just because he's alive. "I've seen 'em come, I've seen 'em go," he waxes, "but I'm still standing."

No small trick. After 40-something guest starring roles on nighttime TV, numerous theater productions and two previous soaps, Geary exploded onto the American consciousness as antihero Luke Spencer opposite a teenaged Genie Francis as the beautiful-but-troubled Laura Webber. Those were heady days: insane work hours, big paychecks and some very hard living. The spotlight on the young actor from Coalville, Utah was blinding. "If there was anything that put the nail in the coffin for me in terms of being a celebrity as opposed to an actor, it was all the time I spent with Elizabeth Taylor," shares Geary. (Taylor, of course, played Helena Cassadine at Luke and Laura's 1981 wedding and appeared on the cover of People magazine with the duo.) "I wouldn't want that life. The good thing for her is that she's been there since she was 10, so it's all she knows. It's like Luke. 'This is not adventure, this is life.'"

Geary speaks with deserved authority on the subject of Lucas Lorenzo Spencer; he's watched countless writers try to put words into his character's mouth. "I have held on like a g--damn rottweiler, locking my jaws around what I know Luke Spencer to be," he asserts. "And I won't give up. Because that was what first got the attention. And that is what holds whatever shred of interest there still is. This character has lived longer than any writers, directors, producers or actors." Geary is fiercely protective of his alter ego, which he created in 1978, left in 1984, and returned to in 1993. (There was a brief pit stop as Luke's cousin, Bill Eckert, from 1991-93. "The Eckerts were a totally unrealistic family," laments Geary. "I come from blue collar, my father was a construction worker. That ain't it.")

"Luke is an antihero," Geary explains patiently. "An antihero is a man who does not have heroic qualities, but who--under certain circumstances--rises to the occasion and performs in a heroic way. Luke is a man with terrible flaws, great weaknesses, too much passion. You don't solve these problems by having children. And if you do, you don't have a story." Geary has not been thrilled with Luke's evolution from warrior to Ward Cleaver; Luke to Luke Lite. "I look at Luke over the last two years as having been asleep," he shrugs. "That was a user-friendly Luke." To be fair, Geary points out that Francis had a baby in 1995 and reduced her work schedule, which hampered Luke and Laura considerably. "But Luke was there," he argues. "Luke is not a hyphenated character. As long as I hold on to what I believe is the core of this character--even if I can't use it--then it's there. I'm hoping Bob Guza will wake him up in a big way."

The actor is referring to GH's new head writer, Robert Guza, Jr., who assumed the reins in February. "We have talked about the real Luke," Geary reports. "He's unpredictable; reluctant to give and dangerous to cross." It will certainly help re-establish Luke to have Laura back on a more regular basis. "I've missed Genie," he says wistfully. "Every day, she shows up to work ready to bleed for you. That's the kind of actress she is. She's always working: 'How can I hurt more? How can I be more full of love?' When an actor does that for you, that's a tremendous gift. I love her. I love working with her. She makes me better. She connects to this character so deeply."

Geary does, too: "Look, I'm only an actor here. I like my job. Let me shut up, back off and stop trying to enforce who I think he is and do the best I can to give [GH brass] what they want. They were pretty thrilled with what I did. I did it pretty damn well. But you know how I did it? I said, 'Luke's asleep. He will rise again.'"

While Luke was sleeping, Geary focused on what keeps him awake in real life: Traveling to Amsterdam. "I like the light there," he quips. "It's very soft. I happen to look really good there. People have always said to me, 'You're such a New Yorker,' and I've always taken that as a compliment. But they're about 2,000 miles off. I'm a European at heart."

If Geary does settle abroad some day, he'll always come home on February 10. "We have a family gathering for my mom's birthday ever year since my father died," he says softly. "It's in Palm Springs, where we were all together last." The clan includes mom Dana, sister DeAnn, nephew Russell Dax (named for his dad), sister Jana, brother-in-law J. Kent and nephew Brendan. "Partying in my family means eating and talking," he chuckles. "There's no drinking, because we come from Mormon stock. Even though some of us don't adhere to the religion, at least we got the wisdom of the word." Photos of his nephews line the walls of Geary's dressing room, and he proudly shows them off to visitors.

His other passion, of course, is theater. Beginning April 25, Geary is starring in a one-man, two-act play called Human Scratchings at L.A.'s Court Theatre. "It's one man's experience with love, loss, sin and redemption, and that's a tall order. I go through about 20 characters in two hours," he enthuses. The play is written and directed by Rick Edelstein, whom Geary met on his first soap job--BRIGHT PROMISE in 1971, where he played David Lockhart.

"When I first worked with Tony," says Edelstein today, "I saw this young guy with an enormous amount of talent. But he didn't know how to access it yet." Geary began studying acting with Edelstein while he was at the soap. "I wrote this scene where Tony had to destroy a whole room," recalls Edelstein. "We were doing live on tape in those days, so he only had one take. One camera followed him and he tore it up. Not only physically, but emotionally. That's when I knew he'd broken through." Years later, when Geary broke through on GH, Edelstein was watching. "I have a very high standard and sometimes, I used to give him a hard time," he concedes. "When I saw him on GH...boy, he moved me."

Since light is so important to Tony Geary, it's worth pointing out that his eyes positively shine when he talks about this play. "It's nice to be scared again," he smiles. "It's a bungee-jump. Sometimes, you spring into the air magnificently and sometimes, you smack your head on the rocks below. Can't stop you from jumping off the bridge, though, if that's what you do." As for Luke, "I don't spend time anymore wishing for things to happen," he reflects. "I do have my hopes up with this new writer that Luke will have a little more blood in his veins, and the danger will be closer to home. But I'll try to do whatever they give me. I'll give it my best."

Sidebar: Just the Facts

Real Name: Tony Dean Geary. "I changed it to Anthony because Tony is a nickname." Other Nicknames: Dean; Dutch. Religion: "My spirituality--like most of my life--is between me and God." Favorite Hobby: Rollerblading. He Dreams Of: Buying a canal house in Amsterdam. The Role He Originally Tested for: Tracy's husband, Mitch Williams. Why He Doesn't Like To Talk About His Personal Life: "I'm saving it for the book."

Sidebar: The Day You Saw Tony Geary Naked

"I'm the first man to ever do full-frontal nudity on daytime TV," brags Geary. In those days--just to keep things interesting--I did my bed stuff nude if the actress didn't mind. And very few of them did. When Emma [Samms] first came on the show, Luke and Holly spent the night in sleeping bags. In the morning, I put my pants on during the scene. Well, if you run that scene in slow-mo, it's 'Hello, America!'"

Only GH Director Marlena Laird caught his indecent exposure. "She called me and said, 'Well, you've done another first.' I said, 'No, you're kidding!' I went to her house, she ran it in slow-mo, and sure enough, there it was. Big as life and twice as pretty. I'm very proud. If you've got those tapes, slow 'em down and check it out." (And ABC thought it had a good thing with Luke and Laura's wedding video.) Will this be available soon? "Well, I work for Disney now, so I'm really not allowed to say," cracks the actor. "But between that and my ass all over the screen with Faye Dunaway in Scorchers, it's been quite a career." He throws back his head and starts to laugh. "And they say I'm a recluse!"

 

From the Table of Contents for the Issue

 

 
         
 
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