As I write this, I have watched the December 23rd episode of General Hospital, but the much lauded Christmas Eve, 2003 episode has yet to air. Personally, I'm good if the show goes off the air right now, not because GH is so bad, but because today was so great after such an incredibly long time of it being so bad. I found myself with tears in my eyes several times as I was watching, whether it's the time of year, the change of life or Anthony Geary's deft hand sweeping the history and emotion back into the show.
Regardless, I was watching Regular Old General Mobspital until the (wtf?) *hospital* showed up, as did Jackie Zeman's breasts, which I thought I'd never see again! Newcomers to GH have absolutely no clue how important Bobbie's breasts have been to the show in days past. The Bobbie that you see now is nothing whatsoever like the Bobbie that we vets know and love. Bobbie's boobs earned her the nickname of "Boobie" on message boards everywhere and honey, she was what the therapists call "acting out."
But then, none of the original Spencers were anything but damaged when they first came to the show. Bobbie was the first to come to us and she was very much the conniving, wicked bitch antithesis to Laura Vining's blonde, virginal ingénue. Yes, those people to the left are the same actors, Jacklyn Zeman and Kin Shriner, circa 1977. She made Sage and Carly look like amateurs as she schemed her way into Scotty's bed and humiliated Laura at absolutely every turn.
Since her arrival on the show and up until a couple of years ago, Bobbie has entered every scene of GH crotch and boobs first, never being timid about being a sexual creature. From her relentless pursuit of Dr Noah Drake (Rick Springfield before he wished that he had Jessie's girl) to her sexy tango with Damian Smith to the heated polishing of the GH board room table with her ass while in passionate delicto inflagrante with Jerry Jacks (caught on film accidentally by Emily Q and broadcast at the Nurses Ball, after which Bobbie held her head high and refused to be unbalanced by it), Bobbie has embraced her sexuality with a fierce passion, making more than a few GH viewers secretly (or blantantly) wish for her confidence and her body.
Jackie Zeman's boobs were the subject of much discussion, primarily whether or not they were home grown or planted after the fact. Regardless, it was great to see them out and about again today and I hope to see more of them soon. Much like Audrey, the Quartermaines and the seventh floor nurses station, they are a vital and integral part of the GH cast. For your viewing pleasure, here is a sampling of promos shots of JZ's boobs and her basic hotness through the years (clicky clicky to see the large versions):
Everyone has their own preference, tastes and interpretations of beauty, but even if you don't consider Bobbie to be your own impression of classic loveliness, it would be difficult to watch her in action over her years on GH and not admit that the gal is raw sexual energy. I think the best representation of Bobbie is this "Face of Deception" (a moment of GH history) advertisement created by the Queen of GH Satire and general hilarity, Marzi Pan, for General Shmospital: http://www.generalshmospital.com/FODad10.htm
This column, however, is not about Bobbie OR Bobbie's breasts. It's about Luke. This was all just to qualify that over the years, Bobbie has been a busy girl and while she has existed as an intensely sexual personality, she has also consistently lived (again, until a couple of years ago), a conflicted dual pursuit. She deeply desires a "normal" family with the security of a man who loves her and freedom from the threat of poverty. Convexly, she never fails to undermine the relationship as the "bad girl" in her convinces her she isn't deserving of that life and gets her in trouble every time. (Enviably, she has gotten herself in trouble with some of the hunkiest stars of ABC Daytime... I mean, if you're going to screw up your life, make sure it's with someone who's hot enough that you can say, "Damn, this sucks, but I sure banged the hell out of Stefan Cassadine, Jerry Jacks, Roy DiLucca, Damian Smith, Jake Meyer..." The girl has quite a dance card notched onto her bed post (and the floor of Kelly's and her sofa and the GH board room...)
Where Bobbie strives desperately for wisdom, normalcy and some degree of stability, Luke was always the exact opposite. Luke did not act out promiscuously as did Bobbie, having only a handful of lovers during his twenty-five years on the show (thinking and probably missing a couple... Jennifer Smith, Laura, Holly, Felicia, Tammy the Hooker... I think that's about it and only Laura was for any duration). Coming from a horrific childhood riddled with abuse, abandonment and neglect, both of the Spencer children entered adulthood with a closet full of skeletons and an attic full of broken toys. Luke's pain was more of a bi-polar, psychotic nature than was Bobbie's. Hers involved the search for security, validation, love she deeply desired but for which she never felt worthy and at ultimately, a sense of peace. Luke's was less defined or formed, more nebulous and has always circulated around a sense of madness and a blurred line between right and wrong.
When Luke came to Port Charles in the form of Anthony Geary, he was a deeply disturbed character who was basically hired for a bit part to last only a handful of episodes. Such was Geary's appeal in the translation of Luke Spencer to the screen that he was invited to stay, then contracted again and again for a quarter century.
Far from the avenging, dark knight hero he was to become, Luke was shady and skulking, running the Campus Disco for the Port Charles mob, where Laura was working as a waitress to buy a set of law books for Scott. Luke came to see Laura secretly as his "angel" who represented everything that was good and pure, something his life had convinced him to that point did not exist. He watched her. He stalked her. He ached for her. She was oblivious and naive, seeing him as someone who very much needed a friend. With Scott immersed in law school, she felt neglected and welcomed his friendship after a while. It didn't take Luke long before Luke was ordered to perform a hit on DA Mitch Williams (admittedly, if ever a dog needed killin', it was Mitch, but that's beside the point). In a moment of clarity that would forever change daytime TV, Luke decided he was a dead man walking (he'd be killed if he refused to kill Mitch and be a fugitive if he did) and in a night of desperation, he decided he would, come hell or high water, have something sacred and special before he died: he'd have his angel. At first, he only asked her to dance and she reluctantly did so. As the sounds of the song "Rise" by Herbert Alpert filled the disco, Luke frantically and clumsily confessed his love for her while tearing at her clothes. Despite her pleading protests, Luke raped her on the dance floor while the disco ball turned. Regardless of the spin put on the event at varying times over the years (Although it was explored extensively when Lucky learned of the rape from an angry Nikolas, plummeting Laura into a horror of reliving the experience without the denial and sugar coating she'd developed over time), at the point of the original airing, it could be construed as nothing but rape.
I'm not going to go into Luke's full history ad nauseum here, but I did want to illustrate that the love story of the soap century was not born over stolen looks across a crowded room, passionate gropes in a store room or gentle courtship over time. It was created when a friendship was betrayed by a single act of violence perpetrated by a man emotionally and psychologically damaged by his horrible childhood and the clear knowledge of his own impending death.
Laura was deeply conflicted after the rape, lying about who had committed the act, dealing with the aftermath on her own trauma. Roy DiLucca died (and returned 20 years later just in time to boink Cesar Faison on the head with a lead pipe as he was terrorizing Luke, to which Luke replied, "What took you so long?") attempting to carry out the hit on Williams when Luke was delayed. Laura was implicated in Luke's mob activities and was in danger. Luke was forced to marry Jennifer Smith by her father. Scotty found out about the rape, stormed the yacht where the wedding was taking place and punched out Luke, knocking him overboard. Luke surfaced some distance away at the feet of a terrified Laura and thusly began the greatest lam of history, including Beecher's Corners, The Left Handed Boy, Sally, the hit man in drag, Hutch, the hottie hit man and a whole bevy of disguises and adventures. Laura fell in love with Luke eventually, but recanted later in her disorientation over being back in Port Charles in the face of flashbulbs popping in her face and friends and family eagerly embracing her.
True love ultimately prevailed and on an Indian Summer November afternoon in 1981, more viewers turned in to watch Luke and Laura marry than to watch Prince Charles marry Dianna Spencer four months earlier (the year of the Spencers!).
As their love and their lives grew older, they went from adventure to adventure, as pictorially documented below. Luke went through almost as many adventures as hairstyles moving from the super permed guy to Amish guy to his current barely there hair.
The beginning of Luke and Laura's marriage was probably the only time of their relationship that was basically untainted. Almost immediately afterward, Laura was kidnapped by the Cassadines and it would seem that the curse Helena placed on them at their wedding was becoming fulfilled in a profound way. After that moment, Luke acquaintance with peace was forever shattered. Even though Laura returned to him, having escaped from the Cassadines (rewritten later as having abandoned her newborn son to do so), Luke was never really happy again. He was forever tortured by fear of the Cassadines and hell bent on exacting his revenge, this being exacerbated by the revelation many years later that Laura had given birth to a Cassadine son prior to their own son, Lucky.
Even before he knew this, Luke (and Laura by proxy) allowed their life together to be dictated by a balance of his paranoia and the very real fallout of his daring adventures. Having incurred the wrath of both the Cassadines and the mob family headed by Frank Smith, they became nomads, moving from place to place, changing identities and fleeing at a moment's notice with Luke playing the avenging marauder, defending his family against all evils real and imagined. It gave him excitement and it gave him purpose. It also gave him distraction from the possibility of domesticity forming around him. As Lucky got older, however, Laura began to feel an intense desire for roots and a sense of home. She was through running and hiding and wanted to go back to Port Charles.
To please the woman he loved so dearly, Luke agreed to buy an old farm house and settle down. Thinking his wild side would be assuaged by running a blues bar, Luke tried to ease into the role of family man and patriarch, but without the drama of being on the run, he was basically unfulfilled. Although he was thrilled when their daughter, Lesley Lu was born, life was quickly thrown into turmoil when she developed aplastic anemia and required a bone marrow transfer. With no matches available, Laura called Stefan Cassadine, who we met for the first time when he arrived in town bearing secrets about Laura's time away when she was kidnapped, not the least of which was a teenage son who was very angry over being abandoned. When Luke learned of this, his entire image of the Angel he'd been protecting all these years, not only to compensate for their violent beginnings, but also as the symbol of purity in his life, was shattered. She'd lied by omission to him for almost two decades and had slept with not only one, but two Cassadines during her captivity, even going so far as to fall in love with one when convinced that Luke was dead.
The betrayal he felt was immense, closing him off from everyone around him and bringing a cloud of dark misery and violent anger to descend around him. He couldn't feel anything any more, even for his children, who were the extension of the one true, perfect thing in his life: his marriage to his angel and the love they shared. Now that the source was "contaminated," so were the progeny. Nothing was sacred any more, so he slipped into the worn suit of desperation and pain that he was dressed in when he arrived in town, wrapping it around him like an old friend. His world was dark and murky and painful and nothing could penetrate that perception, not Laura's desperate pleas to love her anyway, despite what had happened, not the reasoning of his son, who was going through his own crisis over the situation, not the innocence of his daughter and not the wisdom of his Aunt Ruby, the only other part of his life that had ever made any sense. He collapsed into his pain, pushed everyone away and vowed to continue the only thing besides Laura's love that ever made him feel alive: his revenge against the Cassadines who brought all this pain upon him. Helena's curse was in full force. His marriage broke apart and Laura reconnected with Stefan, her Cassadine lover, in an effort to cope with the break up of her marriage and the ensuing loneliness she felt as a result. Stefan adored Laura and showered her and Lulu with material opulence and affection. Luke glared from the sidelines. Ruby died, furthering his path to total destruction. Lucky was killed in a fire and he was even further devastated. By the time Lucky returned, Luke was so far into his pain and anger that he couldn't really love anyone any more. He was officially looking at the world through shit brown glasses and there appeared to be no reprieve in sight.
This all changed for a fleeting moment in 2002 when Luke and Laura reconnect in a glowing way and again planned their lives together. As their wedding day neared, Laura began to do battle with demons that Luke could not fight: her own memories and the devastating effect they would have. Laura regained, a fragment at a time, a memory of the murder of a woman her stepfather, Rick Weber, (rewritten to be a womanizing letch by the evil and irreverent powers that be of the moment) had cavorted with in the attic of her childhood home. As the memory resurface (medically suppressed for years by a drug administered at the time of the murder by Rick), Laura at first thought Rick was the murderer, only to find in one blinding moment of clarity that she herself had killed the woman, after which, Rick and Scotty covered up the murder. Terrified of Rick when he confronted her in the same attic, hoping to again administer the drug that would erase the memory, Laura killed Rick before realize it was actually she who had killed his mistress and now... him. Luke helped her cover up the murder and they went on the run while the town waited for them at their own wedding. After murdering Rick, Laura's mind fragmented more and more to the point that she became catatonic, self-destructive and violent, requiring care in a mental institution in London (ironically the same town to which Genie Francis, who plays Laura, relocated with her husband, actor/director Jonathan Frakes of Star Trek, The Next Generation, when he was working on The Thunderbirds movie for a year).
So there it is. I didn't tell you that long, rambling history to take you on a walk down memory lane necessarily, but more to show you that as much as we'd love, as his devoted fans (and I truly am) to believe that Luke is different than he is, the truth is that in the very beginning, Luke was a twisted, damaged person and not much has changed in the interim. After a golden moment of winning Laura's heart and saving the world a few times, he has evolved into exactly what his original character would have been, given the notion that he could survive, which he did. He's embittered because life fooled him into thinking he could be happy, not once, but twice and then showed him that it is just as unforgiving and mercilessly cruel an experience as he originally assessed it to be. Laura was his hope and his proof that the world could be a glorious place, far too much responsibility to saddle onto one person with the inherent frailties of being a human being. When her flaws became apparent, he was destroyed and his illusion was broken. When he reconciled her flaws and vowed to love her for the person she is, she was taken from him completely, this time through no fault of his own. How particularly knife twisting that Stefan and others blamed Luke for Laura's final drop into madness as he desperately tried to coax her back into her right mind again. In a painful twist of irony, he was held accountable for the one calamity in his life that in no way originated from his own actions.
Yesterday and today, we watched the set up for tomorrow's Christmas Eve special in which Luke is visited by the Cassadine spirits of Christmases Past, Present and Future. We observed Luke at his most wretched, yet most vulnerable self. We saw him react to Skye's attempts at Christmas cheer, not to mention affection under the mistletoe, that drove him into a rage of resistance. This was not simply a romp in the hay with best friend Felicia or comfort sex from Tammy the Hooker. He has real feelings for Skye and they scare him to death. He sees in her his own challenges and his own strengths. She has Bobbie's red hair, she is an abandoned child and she has no family to speak of and has learned to live by her wits alone. She's shrewd and smart-mouthed and has her own guards up around her. She's a kindred spirit if ever there was one on the show and he genuinely likes her. When those feelings were awakened under the mistletoe, he reacted the only way he could, which was to violently lash out at the feelings that had brought him so much pain and heartache over the past twenty-five years; the very feelings that proceed the accompanying feelings of loss and betrayal. Luke has learned to reject love in all of its forms because it is too costly when he has no more currency to pay the bill. He's a lost soul mired in the pain and rage of what might have been and what never will be.
Particularly obvious and excruciating to watch was his rejection of LuLu and Lucky, with LuLu begging for any drop of affection and validation from her father while Lucky watched angrily, fuming at his father's callousness. Again, he can't feel anything and simply cannot risk loving anyone, only to lose them ultimately.
Carefully crafted by Geary himself, Luke's history has been skillfully honed to this critical point of redemption via the paranormal haunting by the very family that helped him to become what he is today. With both the writing and the acting in the talented hands of Mr. Geary, I will guarantee that tomorrow will be a GH episode for the history books, almost making up for the years of no Nurses Ball and the "special episodes" dedicated to Sonny & Co that made me want to chew my foot off to get away from them.
I applaud whatever forces acquiesced to Anthony Geary taking hold of this episode and setting into place the events that will allow us to watch the Christmas transformation of Luke and the promised "lasting effect" it has on him. What a marvelous Christmas gift for this die hard veteran fan of Da Man. On the other hand, I curse his 5 week vacation that takes him away almost immediately afterward, no doubt giving life to the tried and true sage advice of show business: Always leave them wanting more.
Whatever tomorrow's show may bring, and I fully anticipate it will be marvelous, today's airing was worth two years of episodes that left me wondering why I was even watching the show.
Rock on, GH.
Pictures used are scans from about a million different magazines as well as promo shots from ABC Daytime.