(CNN) — Luke has left Port Charles.
Thirty-seven years after first playing Luke Spencer on “General Hospital,” actor Anthony Geary recorded his final episode of the long-running ABC soap on Tuesday.
The day was not without emotion, as current and former “General Hospital” cast members — including Genie Francis, who played Luke’s onetime wife Laura — were there for the show, according to Entertainment Weekly.
“Thank you for putting up with me as a petulant teenager,” Francis told Geary. “Thank you for the best acting partnership I’ve ever known.”
“General Hospital” premiered in 1963, but it wasn’t until the Luke and Laura romance began in the late ’70s that the show’s popularity entered the stratosphere. Geary joined the show as Luke Spencer, the brother of a nurse and former prostitute, Bobbie Spencer, in 1978.
In an attempt to break up a relationship between Laura and her then-lover, Scotty Baldwin, Luke raped Laura — a plotline that was both incredibly controversial and, when their relationship turned to a surprise romance amid regret and recrimination, incredibly popular.
The song playing during the rape, Herb Alpert’s “Rise,” hit No. 1. By the early ’80s, the idea of “Luke and Laura” was so well-established that even non-soap opera fans understood the reference.
On November 17, 1981, the two were married.
The episode was watched by more than 30 million people, still a record for a daytime drama. (Elizabeth Taylor, a guest, watched in person.)
Given the splintered nature of television audiences and the state of the soap these days — besides “GH,” only “The Young and the Restless,” “The Bold and the Beautiful” and “Days of Our Lives” are left — it’s a record that will probably never be broken.
Geary, 68, still sees promise in the genre, however.
“It’s enjoying a bit of a resurgence,” he told EW. “It was scary there for two or three years when every thing was being canceled. The network thought that talk shows should take over because people weren’t going to be interested in soaps. But there has been a resurgence and I think that’s hopeful sign.”
Geary had left the show before: He was gone from 1984 to 1991, when he returned as Luke lookalike cousin Bill Eckert, and resumed the Luke role in 1993. He’s won eight Emmys for his performance.
Tuesday, however, was really the end (apparently; this is a soap, after all).
Geary got emotional when the show’s cast and crew toasted him with a montage of some of his most notable moments.
But Luke and Laura’s wedding? He’s long since over that.
“It was 33 years ago, people,” he said. “For Christ’s sake, let it go.”
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