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
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.
by Michael Logan
"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
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.