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1979: When 'General Hospital's Luke Raped Laura While Herb Alpert Played The Trumpet

Entertainment | October 5, 2020

Source: Newsweek.com

Luke and Laura are the General Hospital couple everyone knows, but their famous soap-opera romance had a dark side. In an October, 1979 episode, Luke and Laura met at a club, and Luke committed a jailable crime against his future wife, as a Herb Alpert disco hit played on loop. Was 1979 so long ago? Culturally speaking, yes it was. The Luke-and-Laura story arc is problematic, to say the least, given 21st-century attitudes about rape and sexual assault. 

A Storyline To Improve Ratings

Source: (Media Village)

General Hospital, which premiered in 1963, was set in the fictional town of Port Charles, New York. Throughout the 1960s, it had decent ratings, but in the ‘70s, the show’s popularity was in decline. The network was about to cancel the show in 1978, Instead, they decided to expand it from 45 minutes to an hour, but with an ultimatum: the producers had to improve the ratings in a short period of time.  

Luke Was Only Supposed To Be A Temporary Character

Scotty (Kin Shriner) and Laura (Genie Francis). Source: (Soap Opera Spy)

Gloria Monty decided to move Laura Vining, a teenager played by Genie Francis, to the forefront of the show in order to attract younger viewers. Laura began a relationship with Scotty Baldwin, which caused Bobbie Spencer to bring her brother Luke, played by Tony Geary, to Port Charles in order to break up Scotty and Laura. His initial contract was for 13 weeks, and once that contract was up, he would die in Laura’s arms.

A Confession Of Love Beforehand

Luke and Laura at the disco. Source: (Pinterest)

In 1979, Pat Falken Smith became the head writer and wrote the rape storyline. The scene was initially intended to be violent, but Monty removed some of the brutal language and violence, and re-choreographed it so that the scene appeared more like a seduction, but it was clearly a rape.

When Luke arrived in Port Charles, he started to work at the Campus Disco, where he met Frank Smith, the money-laundering mobster who was using the disco as a front. Laura, who had married Scotty, also began working at the disco, trying to save money to buy Scotty a law library. The night of the rape, she was waiting for Scotty to pick her up in the darkened disco when Luke arrived, turning on the lights. Laura attempted to comfort the distraught Luke, who was being forced to marry Frank Smith’s daughter. After Luke tells her that he is going to die in a month, he proclaims his love for her and then says that he is not going to die without holding her. With Herb Alpert’s “Rise” playing in the background, they dance as Laura resists him. They fall to the floor, with Laura telling him “no.” When police find Laura in the park, she does not reveal the name of her rapist.

Happily Ever After? Of Course Not

Luke and Laura's wedding. Source: (Pinterest)

Eventually, Scotty does find out that Luke was the rapist, throws him overboard on the day of Luke’s wedding, and Luke is presumed dead. Of course, Luke is not dead, Laura and Scotty divorce, and Laura marries Luke, but not before the pair defeat the evil Mikkos Cassadine and his powerful ice machine and save the world (this is a soap opera after all).

Everyone Cheered For The Couple

Elizabeth Taylor in her cameo on General Hospital. Source: (Pinterest)

Luke and Laura’s subsequent marriage on November 16, 1981 was watched by 30 million viewers and became the highest rated hour in American soap opera history. Elizabeth Taylor, a fan of Luke and Laura contacted the show to ask for a cameo just so that she could attend the wedding. During the cameo as Mikkos’ widow Helena Cassadine, she cursed the happy couple.  

The Scene Made "Rise" A Hit

Herb Alpert. Source: (uDiscover Music)

Critics of the storyline have called it an example of "forced seduction."  General Hospital tried to sugarcoat the rape, explaining that Luke raped Laura out of love. The scene actually helped to cement the couple’s popularity with fans, and they became a "supercouple."  It also helped a song rise on the charts. After the episode, Herb Alpert’s song “Rise,” which was played during the rape scene, and again whenever the rape scene was referenced on the show, became a number 1 hit.  

Finally Confronting The Past

Luke, Laura, their son Lucky and his love interest. Source: (Pinterest)

But these were different times, and recently, General Hospital has finally confronted the storyline they had created 20 years earlier. For about a year, the soap opera confronted the issue of rape in a different way, with the introduction of Liz Webber, who was also raped. Luke and Laura’s son, Lucky becomes involved with Liz and Lucky finds out about his father’s actions. Part of the storyline focused on Lucky’s discovery, and part of it focused on Laura finally confronting Luke and seeking counselling.

Tags: General Hospital | Herb Alpert | Luke And Laura

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Cyn Felthousen-Post

Writer

Cyn loves history, music, Irish dancing, college football and nature. Social media is also her thing, keeping up with trends and celebrities with positive news. She can be found outside walking or hiking with her son when she's not working. Carpe diem is her fave quote, get out there and seize the day!