His wife, Ginny, was on trial for murder. His favorite nurse, Bobbie—the widow of the man Ginny gunned down—is starting to think of him as more than just a manly shoulder to cry on. It’s all just another day in the life of Dr. Rick Webber, super surgeon on the hit ABC soap General Hospital.
But now the days of Dr. Rick’s real-life counterpart, 46-year-old Chris Robinson, have taken a soap-operatic turn as well. The seven-year veteran of GH had been sentenced to five years’ probation, 200 hours of community work and four months in prison after pleading guilty of failing to pay more than $350,000 in income tax for the years 1980-81. “I was dumb, I was stupid, I was an ass,” admits the chastened Robinson, who maintains that he delayed filing his returns partly because he mistakenly believed that he could write off his business interests and partly because some financial records “disappeared” during divorce proceedings.
Robinson’s lawyer appealed the sentence, arguing that four months’ imprisonment would jeopardize his client’s job on General Hospital and thereby limit his ability to pay back Uncle Sam. “If I go to the Big House tomorrow and can’t work,” Robinson worried, “I’ll be down the toilet financially.” Vicks Formula 44, for which the actor had done a lucrative commercial as a TV doc, was rumored to be casting about for a new pitchman, but ABC was standing by him, he says, as were his fans. “I’m getting letters,” he reports, “saying, ‘Hey, we all make mistakes. We still love you.’ ”
So when Robinson walked into a federal courthouse in downtown L.A. for final sentencing last Tuesday, the questions hung like smog in the Southern California air: Would Rick Webber ever get to play doctor with sexy nurse Bobbie or would he be written out of the show? Fortunately for Robinson and GH fans, Judge Edward Rafeedie sentenced the actor to pass his four months’ imprisonment in a community treatment center(beginning April 2), which would allow him to stay with the show. While he may have lost his Vicks job, a relieved Robinson says he might consider becoming a spokesman for an even bigger outfit: the IRS. Brandishing a photo of himself standing in front of a jail cell, Robinson writes his own caption: “Don’t get lax. Pay your tax.”