'80s Soap Stars, Still Making Sparks (and Fur) Fly

(By Ron Tom -- Abc Via Associated Press)
By Bridget Byrne
Special to The Washington Post
Thursday, November 23, 2006

If there's an entertainment phenomenon as powerful as buzz, it might well be nostalgia. How else to explain the current public appetite to see '80s soap opera stars reunite?

Decades after two soaps pairings -- Luke-and-Laura and Krystle-and-Alexis -- fascinated millions of Americans, apparently our nation turns its eager eyes to them. Again.

"I'm sure it's not as simple as their being so overwhelmingly taken with Luke and Laura, but somehow it's a signpost in their own lives, I imagine," says Anthony Geary, who's spent the past few weeks promoting the 25th-anniversary celebrations of the wedding on the daytime ABC soap "General Hospital" -- when his dicey character, Luke, swore eternal love to sweet young Laura.

The wedding episode became a cultural touchstone as a soap opera record 30 million people tuned in and the union made magazine covers. Last week, fans watched "General Hospital" reunite Genie Francis, who left the show in 2002, and Geary (their characters renewed their vows after Laura awoke from a four-year coma).

Tomorrow, SOAPnet, a cable channel devoted to the genre, will air five hours of special programming, titled "Luke and Laura 25: Something Old, Something New," that includes the original wedding sequence and the stars sharing their memories.

"We have just had fans going crazy over this," says Deborah Blackwell, the channel's executive vice president and general manager. "It's one of those events that everybody remembers, and they know where they were and what they were doing."

Also back in the limelight are good blond Krystle and brunet baddy Alexis -- or at least the women who played them.

Twenty-three years after their famed lily-pond catfight helped propel "Dynasty" to high ratings, Linda Evans and Joan Collins share billing in the touring show "Legends!" The James Kirkwood comedy, about aging movie star rivals, has begun a two-week run here at the National Theatre.

"I can't speak for the audience, but they certainly know why they have come," Evans says.

Pamela Bellwood, who starred with Evans as "Dynasty's" Claudia Blaisdel, says she knows why: "It's all cyclical. "If people don't come up with new ideas, they go back to nostalgia."

Bellwood notes that at least one current TV hit, "Desperate Housewives," is really little more than a take on classic soaps like "Dynasty" and "Dallas."

"Nostalgia is just one step before tongue-in-cheek," she says.

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