February 20, 1984 12:00 PM

There is a mad rapist on the loose on ABC’s All My Children. Pine Valley’s resident gigolo, Tad Martin, is two-timing his way through the town. Snooty Erica Kane has been dumped by her fiancé and her millionaire admirer is losing his marbles. But overshadowing the show’s routine agonies is this week’s ratings bonanza: The long-awaited Valentine’s Day wedding, taped last month, of nice-guy Greg Nelson to wrong-side-of-the-tracks Jenny Gardner. To the dismay of the show’s 14 million faithful, the deeply-in-love pair—a cleaner-than-thou college student and a sweet, selfless model—have been kept apart for the last 2½ years by everything but beriberi. Two months ago Greg, 20, rescued Jenny, 18, at the altar from marrying a man she didn’t love. “We have kept them apart almost too long,” concedes producer Jacqueline Babbin. But that hasn’t hurt their popularity. Since the ever-passionate Luke and Laura checked out of General Hospital, Greg and Jenny have carved a niche for themselves as daytime’s No. 1 darlings.

Played respectively by Laurence Lau, 29, and Kim Delaney, 21, Greg and Jenny may be even more frustrated than their fans. While others on the show believe chaste makes waste, “Greg and Jenny prove that there are values more important than physical lust,” says Lau. Still, you can’t have a wedding without a wedding night, and costume director Carol Luiken left few New York lingerie stores untouched in her hunt for the perfect nightgown. “This girl has been a virgin so long,” says Luiken, “that I want it to be something people gasp at.”

Gasp they may, but not on the set, where true love is all in a day’s work. On the morning of Jenny’s wedding the absent Delaney is having her brown hair highlighted at a Manhattan salon, while Lau sits still for a backstage trim. A cast bowling party the night before, however, is generating more hallway gossip than the impending nuptials. And in the studio, logistical glitches are still being tended to. “Hey, any way we can raise the cross?” yells a crew member, pointing to the four-by-six crucifix hanging behind the chapel’s altar.

Later, during a break from rehearsal, Delaney discusses the long-awaited wedding-night showdown. Apparently Greg and Jenny will be making up for lost sack time. “If you have one bed scene in a script, it’s usually a big deal,” Delaney says. “But these two, every page.” Says Babbin: “You’ll see Greg and Jenny begin to make love in one show and finish making love in another”—a feat that may earn Greg a spot on That’s Incredible!

Around 1:30 the cast returns from lunch. “I couldn’t eat,” Delaney reports. “It’s like a real wedding.” She disappears to begin hair and makeup preparations. Nearby lurks Natalie Ross, who plays Greg’s widowed and much-hated mother, Enid; she has used everything but the A-Team to bust up her son’s romance. In fact, Natalie is friendly, funny and a woman with soap opera needs of her own. “I want a man!” she exclaims. Actress Dorothy Lyman, who played Jenny’s tacky mom, Opal, and left the show for an exclusive deal with NBC and Mama’s Family, won’t even be watching the wedding. “I had a great two years on that show, but I have absolutely no desire to tune it in,” she says.

Shortly after 4 p.m., with silk lilies woven delicately into her hair, Delaney receives a behind-closed-doors dressing-down from producer Babbin, who is upset about Kim’s primping. “Right now everybody starts screaming because time is money,” explains Delaney. “Afterward, they always say ‘Thank you.’ ” Still, she slips quickly into her $875 ivory silk, Victorian-style gown on loan from a Brooklyn wedding outfitter. Outside Lau is prowling the corridors. “Is it okay for the groom to see the bride?” he yells. “No,” she yells back. A few minutes later Delaney sweeps toward the set. “Aw, you look beautiful,” says a beaming Susan Lucci, who plays the normally less charitable Erica. After the oooohs and aaaahs subside, one of the cast sings Here Comes the Bride.

The Philadelphia-born, sometimes tart tongued Delaney is hardly as shy as her TV alter ego. The fast-talking daughter of a United Auto Workers official and a secretary, she planned to be a “court reporter, get married, have babies, the whole bit.” After attending an all-girl Catholic high school, she modeled in Philadelphia before signing on with New York’s Elite agency in 1980. By that time she was studying acting. In 1981 she won the part of Jenny over 50 others. She and Lau now appear as morning-after lovers in a Noxzema shaving-cream commercial. Offscreen she broke up last spring with longtime hometown honey Bobby McGowan and has no steady now. Kim shares an East Side apartment with her older brother John, a graduate student at New York University. “Right now,” she says of her newfound fame, “I have no complaints.”

Lau, too, is decidedly upbeat, even when confronted with his third set of wedding vows. Twice divorced, he refuses to kiss real-life marriage goodbye. “I certainly have the kinks worked out,” he says. “I know what doesn’t work.” The second son of a writer turned financial consultant and real estate broker, Lau grew up outside Portland, Oreg. He moved to New York in 1971 to attend an experimental high school and later attended Columbia University and Brigham Young University, where he took up acting. While working at an all-night newsstand in L.A. in 1978, he was spotted by an agent and soon won parts on Happy Days and The Waltons. An alert ABC exec noticed him in a TV movie and flew him to New York to audition as Greg. Though he happily shares a Greenwich Village apartment with aspiring Broadway actress Dona Petrucci, he regards Delaney as somebody special. “She charms me to death,” Lau says.

It’s after 6:30 p.m. and the taping of the wedding scene is about to begin. “What are my first words?” asks the nervous preacher. “All stand up,” someone reminds him. Delaney and Lau are smiling and cool, but after a grueling day the rest of the cast is edging toward mutiny. “Let’s do this mother!” yells an impatient Susan Lucci in mock disgust. After a few minor snafus, Greg and Jenny, at long last, are man and wife. “Thank God,” a jubilant Babbin proclaims in the control room. In soapland, of course, nobody lives happily ever after, but Greg and Jenny won’t be suffering anytime soon. “We want them to stay happy for a while,” says Babbin. “I’ve got six other story lines to deal with.” It is another two hours before Lau and Delaney finally shed their wedding attire and bolt for the door—in opposite directions. Lau wants to catch a late showing of Ingmar Bergman’s Fanny and Alexander. Delaney simply wants to get some sleep. This is TV, don’t forget. Her wedding night is still three days away.

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