General Hospital: When the Veterans Come Marching Home

By Marlena De Lacroix a.k.a. Connie Passalacqua Hayman

The late Jim Reilly used to say that writing a soap was like baking a cake.  You mix in various ingredients, maybe a little bit more or less of some, bake it, and then, voila,  there’s the show, rich and delicious. The main ingredient mixed into GH this past year has been veterans.  With the 50th anniversary coming up April 1, veterans are becoming more than the flavor of the month — they are almost the entire show.  In addition to all the characters we have “mixed in” already, coming soon are Kin Shriner (Scotty), Rachel Ames (Audrey), possibly John Stamos (Blackie) and the beloved Jackie Zeman (Bobbie.)

Kin Shriner

Rachel Ames

What do you think of all the veterans that have been “mixed in” so far?  Are there too many, or can’t you wait to see more? I’m curious what you think. I think the return of so many GH actors  greatly enriches the quality of the show, stirring up our emotions, bringing back memories and leaving us wanting more of our favorite old characters. Mr. Carlivati has done a marvelous job as a “baker,” using veteran characters to launch new storylines or make old ones better.

 But there’s something peculiar I’ve noticed about soap fans, especially longtime ones. I always wonder that the first questions viewers (particularly online) seem to ask each other when vets make their first appearance after years (or decades) is “How do they look?”  In other words, “how well have they aged?”

Tristan Rogers

Lynn Herring

Well, some, like Kristina Wagner (Felicia) look younger than springtime. Some have aged remarkably well and look really distinguished, like Tristan Rogers (Robert) and Marlena’s heartthrob Ian Buchanan (Duke).  Some just look remarkably great, like Finola Hughes (Anna), Lynn Herring (Lucy), Robin Mattson (Heather) and Sean Kanan (A.J.).  Poor Jack Wagner. When he recently reappeared as Frisco Jones, after what seems like centuries (it was actually decades) he looked like someone whose face had been put through too many wash and dry cycles.

Genie Francis
Fabulous at 50

Some veterans look even better than they used to, their growing maturity actually thrilling us.  Doesn’t Genie Francis look gorgeous?  Her hair is a bit darker, but otherwise she looks exactly the same as she always did. I can’t help but think that Laura’s inner beauty as a character makes us love her even more. Laura is one of the few female daytime characters who have realistically grown as a person. We first met her when she was 14; Genie is 50 now. Sure, Laura was kidnapped and was catatonic for a while, but for the most part the character avoided more extreme storylines such as being an identical twin, or turning into a murderer. Perhaps because of the way Francis plays Laura, or the person Genie is, Laura is now wondrously womanly wise, the kind of leading lady that makes us glad we’ve watched GH for centuries (or decades). Welcome back, Ms. Francis!

So, readers, why are we fans so obsessed with the way our returned veterans look? Is it because we are so concerned with our own aging process? Who looks good and who doesn’t!    Marlena has no shame in asking this and I feel her readers should have none either in answering it!  So let your hair down, Thinking Fans – assuming you still have some.


  1. Dear Connie/Marlena,

    It really is remarkable how we’ve had so many returning favorites to ABC’s “General Hospital.” Oh, what a trip! Robin Mattson was fantastic during 2012. (And she may end up finally winning an Emmy after four previous nominations during the 1980s.)

    Genie Francis having just returned to “GH” is the best hope for one needing a breath of fresh air. A lot of heavy, head trips these females who populate Port Charles! It’s entertaininment, of course, but Luke gets to be too much without Laura. I do hope head writer Ron Carlivati and his staff handle well this return (for however long Francis is on board).

    Side Note: I am a forum poster at awards expert Tom O’Neil’s website, Another member, named eastwest, revealed Feb. 10 that another soap website has a lowdown on who is in the Emmy hunt for a possible acting nod. “GH” is in the game … big time.

    Lead Actress listees include: “GH’s” Finola Hughes (Anna), Kelly Monaco (Sam), Kelly Sullivan (Connie/Kate), and Laura Wright (Carly). Also seeking noms are: “The Bold and the Beautiful’s” Susan Flannery (Stephanie) and Heather Tom (Katie). “Days” has submitted Deidre Hall (Marlena) and Peggy McCay (Caroline). “The Young and the Restless” is hoping for Sharon Case (Sharon), Jeanne Cooper (Katherine), Michelle Stafford (Phyllis), and Melody Thomas Scott (Nikki). And, between supporting and lead hopefuls, Kassie DePaiva (Blair) is the sole bid for “One Life to Live” (which last aired Jan. 13, 2012 on ABC).

    Lead Actor listees include: “GH’s” Maurice Benard (Sonny), Roger Howarth (Todd), and Jason Thompson (Patrick). Also listed are: “B&B’s” Don Diamont (Bill), John McCook (Eric), and Ronn Moss (ex-Ridge); “Days'” Galen Gering (Rafe) and Joe Mascolo (Stefano); and “Y&R’s” Peter Bergman (Jack), Doug Davidson (Paul), Christian LeBlanc (Michael), Michael Muhney (Adam), and Stephen Nichols (Tucker).

    Supporting Actress listees include the above-mentioned Kassie DePaiva, for playing her original “OLTL” character Blair on “GH,” along with the following cast mates: Julie Marie Berman (Lulu), Nancy Lee Grahn (Alexis), Carolyn Hennessy (Diane), Rebecca Herbst (Elizabeth), Jen Lilley (ex-Maxie), Lisa LoCicero (Olivia), and Robin Mattson (Heather). Katherine Kelly Lang (Brooke) has stepped down from lead to supporting for “B&B.” She is listed with costar Kristolyn Lloyd (Dayzee). “Days” has submitted Judi Evans (Adrienne), Lauren Koslow (Kate), Suzanne Rogers (Maggie), and Arianne Zucker (Nicole). And “Y&R” is going with Judith Chapman (Gloria), Jessica Collins (Avery), Melissa Claire Egan (Chelsea), and Elizabeth Hendrickson (Chloe).

    Supporting Actor listees are: “GH’s” Bradford Anderson (Spinelli), Brandon Barash (Johnny), Sean Kanan (AJ), Erik Valdez (ex-Trey), John J. York (Mac), and Dominic Zampronga (Dante). Kanan is also listed for a possible nod for playing Deacon on “B&B” along with cast mates Scott Clifton (Liam) and Jacob Young (Rick). “Days” has submitted Blake Berris (Nick), Shawn Christian (Daniel), Bryan Dattilo (Lucas), James Reynolds (Abe), and Greg Vaughan (Eric). Hopefuls from “Y&R” are Robert Adamson (Noah), Jeff Branson (ex-Ronan), Billy Miller (Billy), Peter Porte (ex-Ricky), and Greg Rikaart (Kevin).

    Nothing was listed for Younger Actress and Younger Actor. I haven’t been following too many of the latest rules for nominations. The way it’s been going, with the broadcast networks, it’s amazing there could be an Emmy awards which would include the daytime dramas.

    Marlena says: Marlena has personally known Tom O’Neil and his prognostications going back to early 80s, when he presented his Emmy knowledge in the press room every year at the Daytime Emmys. Terrific guy and great website! Interesting pre-nomination choices, but I’ll wait until the official ones come out to comment.

  2. I am a relatively young GH watcher, having started during the 90s when I was in high school. I loved the character of Laura and am so excited she’s back, although she hasn’t had much time on air since her heavily hyped return this past week. I look forward to what’s to come but I’m also cautious. I enjoyed her other short returns the past several years but am always disappointed when she leaves again. I don’t know if this is Genie’s decision or the show’s, but I’m really hoping for a longer stint for her this time. As for the other returning veterans, I have a feeling this is a stunt for the 50th anniversary and that they won’t stay long either. Therefore, with their limited time, they won’t get much of a story that they deserve. And even if the show wanted to keep them for longer, how could they afford all of their salaries?

    I don’t really notice a whole lot how the veterans look when they return unless it’s a dramatic change. But I have noticed on many boards that if a current actor changes their appearance, people will still critique them. Like Carly’s recent haircut. I’ve read people debating whether it looks good or not. And sometimes people get downright nasty. Unfortunately, I think that’s our beauty and youth obsessed culture.

    Marlena says: As I’ve said, it’s a terrific balancing act to schedule all these vets, and give them the time on the show the viewers want. I, too, want Genie to stick around. And interneters are way too rough on the appearances of characters, I think. But I broke down and wrote a whole column, perhaps being kind of over tough on what they look like, didn’t I?

  3. horselover says:

    Great column Marlena. I have watched GH since 1977 and I have loved every single vet return under this regime. My only gripe is that we don’t seem to see enough of them but I understand that they are bringing back a lot of vets. I love it! Thank you Frank and Ron!

    After wincing every time Phelps and Guza brought back an old favorite to turn them into an unrecognizable character, I was pleasantly surprised how well FV and RC have handled the vet returns. it’s clear this regime values the vets. I just wish they had more money to bring back more vets. But so far so good for this longtime GH fan. Thank you Frank and Ron!!

    Marlena says: Thanks, horse! In addition to Carlivati, of course Valentini is repsonsible for all the return of the vets. They’ve done a great job considering how many vets they’ve brought back (a lot!) and all the salary/schedule negotiations they’ve had to resolve. Again, these guys are real showmen. I well rememeber how Guza really ruined guest returns like Brenda’s and especially Holly’s. The vet returns are now done with a real reverence for the past and a desire to keep all the characterizations consistent with the show’s storyline history.

  4. I think it’s just human nature to wonder how someone looks now, after not seeing them for a while, especially the older ones. Being a woman of a certain age myself, I compare myself to those in my age range and see who’s held up better. Of course actors have an advantage over the average person in that they can afford to have “work” done, and for the most part, that’s fine. As actors, it’s important for them to portray an image. What’s sad is when they start too young and go too far…and there are many of those! (Most of the B&B cast comes to mind.)

    I’m excited to see all the veterans on GH. Some were on during a time I didn’t watch (I was working pre-VCR’s and DVR’s) and it’s been fun to get to know those characters. I’m glad they’ve been bringing them on gradually too. If they all came on at once, just for the anniversary show or Nurse’s Ball, they would have no storyline at all. This way they are all getting “extended cameos” and acting in current stories. I’m also glad some of them are sticking around…Anna, Laura, possibly Duke…as they enrich and enhance all the storylines they are in.

    Now if only CarTini would get rid of all the ridiculous SL’s going on…Britch/Patrick/Selena, Maxie/surrogacy/Spinelli, anything/everything vampire…I would be completely satisfied!

  5. I love having them back again!!! The more the merrier!!! What I don’t want is for them to just be set decoration.. I want story… good story for as long as we can get them! I have been a fan from almost the very beginning and am 50 something and a female who is aging and not loving all that it brings. I of course… notice how they look… but I am just so happy to see them back on as the charcters that I love… that I don’t waste much time thinking about it. For instance… Finola Hughes… who is a beautiful lady… shows age… but she wears it so well and she has a glow that to me makes her look almost more beautiful than she did back when she began… maybe it is character, experience and life. They all look great and Genie looks fabulous and happy to be back and playing Laura the way we want to see Laura be. It’s al good… loving GH and hope more come back and grace our screen. I am loving GH and what they are doing!!! The vampire story can end soon though…

  6. Marlena — Of all the former GHers being talked about, I’ve seen nothing about Tiffany and Sean. Are their portrayers quote unavailable unquote, or has nobody asked them? And if they came back, where would TPTB put the secret WSB room. In Mac’s bar? The Haunted Star? Can you imagine the script possibilities with the old timers solving one more world crisis?

    Marlena says: There have been some rumors that the 50th anniversary would include something about the Ice Princess. So far, GH hasn’t announced anything about the reappearances of Sean and Tiffany. Love your speculation about where the secret WSB room would be located.

    • Jim… that is a fun idea to think about. I think it would have to be on the Haunted Star. How cool would that be to have Robert, Anna, Frisco, Sean, Tiffany, Luke, and Laura fight against the Ice Princess together… even though they are not all WSB. I would love it!!! We can hope!!!

  7. It took ten years of complete “General Hospital” torture (2001-2011) to get to the other side and see the sun rising and how fantastic this show could be once out of the hands of show killer Jill Farren Phelps.

    I feel so sorry for those folks over in Genoa City where the sun is now dimming and they are due a long, cold dark (ratings challenged) “winter.”

  8. Why James E Rwilly?. He was not the best soap writer in the world.

    Becuase Jim knew his soaps and was a great, creative guy! Miss you, Jim!

  9. Hi Connie,
    It almost feels like we are back where we started! I will never forget that morning when you called me out of the blue to ask if I’d be a reviewer for ATV, and stunned, I stammered that I only watched one soap and didn’t think I had the emotional stamina to watch all of them all the time! So we left it, and then came another call…one I couldn’t refuse! How I loved those GH years and writing those early stories…

    I think Ron C has really done a super job, but he’s been challenged by the PP vs ABC thing and having to get 3 stars off. That took time away from returning vets. There’s an awful lot going on–maybe too much– and the stories get put on hold too long for good continuity, but I can certainly see the problems. Easton has to exit, also Todd and Starr, and they are all in good stories. Other stories have to wait until those are solved. I will especially miss Easton and hope they can work out his coming back to GH. I’ve liked him so much better on GH (but maybe that’s because he is Nat-free here!)

    Genie looks great, and I am so happy they gave her that moment where she sees Luke and he looks up and sees her. The eyes say it all. Always did. There’s a way TG looks at her that is so readable. Love it.
    And I can tolerate Scott as long as I am assured he won’t be around long!

    I agree about Jack Wagner. I thought it was just me, because I never cared for him much as Frisco and always admired Brad Maul as his brother Tony far more as both a character and an actor. Jack seems to have lost his screen presence–or is that too harse? I had trouble recognizing him, ever recognizing the character. He seems light-weight and tired now. Of course, how easy can it be to have to do intense scenes with your ex-wife? Felicia seems to look like she did when they first met; he seems to have aged in advance of whatever time passed. Maybe it’s all that WSB field work. Or again, maybe it’s just me.

    So grateful Finola has a contract and is now full time. Love her. Glad we are seeing John J York, but he needs to have more of a story and one that involves Mac with Kevin. The show needs to keep Kevin as the resident shrink (PC really needs one!) at the hospital. With all the characters that need therapy, he’d be very busy looking into what makes Olivia have those ESP visions, what makes Kate come out while Connie is having sex, why crazy Heather can always find a way to escape, and why AJ has panic attacks. Right there is a couple year’s work, at least.

    I presume Genie signed a contract and will be around. If she had been treated right, she would by now be the ‘Erika’/’Viki’ of GH and should have a mantle full of Emmys. She’s one of those actresses that can pull you into her emotions, her stories, her viewpoint. I am SO sorry Julie is leaving because she was perfect casting as L&L’s daughter, able to echo Laura’s look, mannerisms, voice, and Genie’s talent. She had to endure all the Guza years where she was not valued, and just when Genie is back, she leaves.

    Meantime, I want Tristan back, and Holly, too. Will Lucy stay around, do you think? Of course, not all these vets can stay, but there are certain ones that work so well into the fabric of GH–such as Tristan–that it seems a shame to limit their presence. Speaking of looks, Monica looks marvelous and so does Tracy. And Heidi is right, Finola wears her age so well. Who cares how old she is? She’s our GH heroine.

    Marlena says: it’s been 30 years since we first met, dear friend Marilyn, and here we are still watching and writing about GH! How I miss those fun, fun, fun, early days when you wrote for me when I was editor of Afternoon TV magazine. And of course, all these years later, I agree with all of your points. Jack Wagner does look and act off and Kevin really needs to stay on the show, because as you so aptly observe, just about everyone on GH now needs a good shrink. I wonder which vets GH will keep around. Everyone loves Lucy, although they haven’t done well by the character this time I think with the awful vampire story. I think the one they’ll keep is Genie, who after all these years is still lumuninous (especially with our Tony) and as ever, the heart of our show. Here’s to another 30 years of friendship…and GH!

  10. Maybe we see the age of the vets because, they haven’t been there for a while and all of a sudden there they are. Genie ,Anna, Kristina, Tristan, Robin M, Kevin, Lucy all look as they should an older version of themselves. I hate when they give in to the thinking they need to be young. No they need to age, as we do.

    I don’t think even Frisco is to bad, he has aged more than some but I myself am happy he returned. Jane must have great genes because she looks great she has been on the show for a while as has TG so their faces are normal to us. That’s them.

    I am thrilled to see Genie back,and now that Guza is gone I am sure FrankenRon have more respect for her history and will write her story so. Kin. His hair is funny, but he is another character who has been demonized by the old regime.
    I have watched the show a long time , off and on depending on how far off tptb wrote the show, Right now I watch and there are still some characters I try to avoid watching but, it is a major improvement over Guzas times.
    I guess after the nurses ball we will see who stays and who goes. I hope they have the money to keep some of the vets,
    If I never see another DID story it will be tooo soon. But I am willing to give FrankenRon a chance.

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