For most of its 345 years, Harvard University remained breathlessly blasé. Then for two days last month, Harvard was just plain breathless. “This is my one reason to get out of bed before 3 p.m.,” exulted one student. Dozens of others dashed around campus fast on the trail of not a scholarly éminence grise but an éminence sleaze: He is Anthony Geary, 34, the raffish but wildly popular Luke Spencer on TV’s top soap, ABC’s General Hospital. Geary and co-stars Jackie (Bobbie Spencer) Zeman and Norma (Aunt Ruby) Connolly had been invited to the Cambridge, Mass. campus by a student club for a weekend luncheon and acting seminars that turned into a sort of preppier-than-thou version of a “Meet the Stars” shopping-mall bash.
“His show is really a big thing in our dorm,” admitted psych student Maura Scanlon. “You can’t walk onto a floor between 3 and 4 p.m. without finding someone watching.” Added Jamie Raskin, who tunes in between classes and organizing for the radical student Peace Alliance and the Committee on El Salvador, “Geary’s character is a young upstart type, and I think that’s what endears him to this campus. Most of us here see ourselves taking over the world someday, just like Luke wants to do.”
Geary’s own ambitions had received a setback two days earlier, when he lost out as best actor in the daytime Emmys to Douglass (Mac Cory) Watson of NBC’s Another World. “I wanted it and was disappointed,” he admitted.
At Harvard, though, he remained cordial and enthusiastic, delivering a mock-Emmy acceptance speech (“I’d like to thank Kate Smith, Aldo Ray and everyone else who has not recorded New York, New York”) admitting that General Hospital plots could change at whim (“We’re not dealing with Shakespeare, folks”) and revealing that his love scenes may be, unfortunately, even steamier than they look (“I sweat a lot and have a tendency to stink”).
Of course, not all students are soap freaks. “Luke’s disgusting,” sniffed a junior woman, but by the end of the visit Geary’s popularity seemed secure. One student even claimed to know professors who watched the show, but refused to name names. “Some things,” she said, “are still sacred on this campus.”