This interview appeared on the TV Guide website on October 4, 1997. It is "reprinted" from the February 16, 1991 issue of the magazine.

STILL LUKE-WARM UNDER THE COLLAR, ANTHONY GEARY CHECKS BACK INTO GENERAL HOSPITAL
by Michael Logan

This week--in a profile on Tony Geary from the Feb. 16, 1991, issue of TV Guide--Logan talks with the Emmy-winning legend about his surprising return to General Hospital as Luke Spencer's look-alike cousin, Bill Eckert.

"Daytime television," according to Anthony Geary, "can be the most exploitive area of show business next to the carnival sideshow--and I was the prize freak. I was treated like one, and I behaved like one."

The actor--who caused an instant sensation in 1978 when he appeared as bad boy Luke Spencer on ABC's General Hospital--quit the soap in 1984, only to show up this month as Luke's cousin, Bill Eckert, a German-Italian machinist. Geary's decision to return was a stunner--especially considering how unhappy he became during his original stint on GH.

Playing Luke, the curly-topped antihero, was, on the surface, the gig of a lifetime. It earned Geary a Best Actor Emmy in 1982, a Newsweek cover and a roster of luscious leading ladies: among them Demi Moore, Emma Samms and, most memorably, Genie Francis. It also made him the hottest hunk on the planet--a distinction Geary found as welcome as a kidney stone and twice as painful.

"I never needed or encouraged idolization," he insists. "The heartthrob routine disgusted me. I fought it every step of the way." But Geary didn't have much choice. Luke Spencer--a villain originally intended to hang around only 13 weeks--proved strangely appealing to the show's female viewers. Stranger still, the character's popularity skyrocketed when he raped Laura on the floor of an empty discotheque. "You have no idea," says Geary, "how awful it was to go on public appearances where literally hundreds of women would scream, 'Luke, rape me!' Simultaneously, I was attacked by the feminists for having glamorized such a heinous character." His contempt for his devotees grew. ("To me, fans were people who hung outside my house and left cooked turkeys at the door till they rotted.") But so did his anger at the way ABC whitewashed his role.

"Luke started out a deregulated nightmare," says the 43-year-old Geary. "He was greedy, chauvinistic, violent. But when he became popular there was a need for ABC to make him more 'regular.' They pretended the rape was really a seduction. Luke became mayor of the city and every year he wound up saving the earth."

Meanwhile, the tabloids had a cover-story field day over his alleged affair with Elizabeth Taylor (who briefly appeared opposite him on GH in 1981). And Geary did his level best to make a spectacle out of himself. Heading his list of embarrassments: a 1982 Atlantic City club act in which he belted out "It's Not the Meat, It's the Motion," while a bevy of showgirls, known as the Slut Queens, waved slabs of beef at the audience. Geary winces at the memory. "I needed to prove that I wasn't Luke Spencer."

And he's still proving it--despite a post-GH résumé that would make most other soap-opera fugitives salivate. Says Kin Shriner (GH's Scott Baldwin): "Everybody has a different idea of success. For Tony, it's always been the chance to act--not to be in the spotlight." Upon abdication, Geary nixed offers from every prime-time soap ("They all wanted to re-create Luke--maybe with a different name and a horse ranch--but Luke nevertheless") and settled instead for a low-key, high-octane gallery of character parts. He did Ibsen and Tennessee Williams to rave reviews at the Los Angeles Theatre Center and embarked on a national stage tour [in the title role of] Jesus Christ Superstar. He made several TV movies (including CBS's acclaimed Do You Know the Muffin Man?) and nearly a dozen independent features, including the upcoming Scorchers, a Southern drama that opens with a bare-bottomed Geary making love to Faye Dunaway.

 

 
         
 
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