ABC’s ‘General Hospital’ celebrates its 50th year on the air by resurrecting the Nurses’ Ball dedicated to HIV/AIDS awareness

By Sari N. Kent,

April 1, 1963, was the day the very first episode of ABC’s General Hospital aired on television. People were introduced to Dr. Steve Hardy, played by the incomparable John Beradino, and Nurse Jessie Brewer, played by Emily McLaughlin. Their trials and tribulations, as well as those of their patients, became the show's basis, and the soap caught on like wildfire. Even after 50 years, the Hardys have a presence at General Hospital, as Steve Hardy’s grandson and namesake was a doctor there until recently.

Over the years, the focus has shifted from hospital drama to the lives of the other residents of Port Charles, a seaside town in New York. Storylines over the years have included mob wars, romantic triangles, deadly viruses, and even vampires.

However, for the show’s 50th anniversary, the writers decided to resurrect the Nurses’ Ball, a fictional charity event dedicated to HIV/AIDS awareness that's replete with musical performances by Port Charles citizens. It’s also dedicated to a specific character, Dr. Robin Scorpio-Drake, played by Kimberly McCullough. Dr. Scorpio-Drake was a revered character on the show who contracted AIDS from her boyfriend, Stone Cates. Their love story captivated audiences and is still remembered as one of the show’s most heart-wrenching romances.

Yet with the Ball’s resurrection comes one major change - a partnership with amfAR (The Foundation for AIDS Research) which is one of the world's leading nonprofit organizations dedicated to the support of AIDS research, HIV prevention, treatment education, and the advocacy of sound AIDS-related public policy. This marks the first time the Nurses’ Ball will be linked to a non-fictional charity and helps to continue amfAR's vastly important mission of raising HIV/AIDS awareness. The inaugural Nurses' Ball aired in 1994 and became an annual event until 2001.

In addition, characters long gone from the show have been reappearing in past weeks, even dead ones. Both Rick Webber (played by Chris Robinson), who was killed off in 2002, and Alan Quartermaine (played by Stuart Damon), who was killed in 2007, will be reappearing as ghosts to their true love, Monica (played by Leslie Charleson). Other returning popular living characters include Brenda Barrett (played by Vanessa Marcil), Jasper Jacks (played by Ingo Rademacher), Nurse Bobbie Spencer (played by Jackie Zeman), Scott Baldwin (played by Kin Shriner), Helena Cassadine (played by Constance Towers), Nikolas Cassadine (played by Tyler Christopher), Frisco Jones (played by Jack Wagner), Dr. Kevin Collins (played by Jon Lindstrom), and of course, Audrey Hardy (played by Rachel Ames). Audrey, Dr. Steve Hardy's widow, came onto the show’s canvas six months after the show’s debut and is the show’s longest running character.

Another returning character, Lucy Coe (played by Lynn Herring), will be MCing the Nurses’ Ball as she has done in years past; and as fans know, wherever Lucy is, hilarious shenanigans are sure to follow as well as impeccable style. She has 12 gown changes throughout the event.

The Nurses’ Ball kicks off April 1 on General Hospital, so don’t forget to tune in for a great party to honor a worthy cause and to celebrate a show that has made sure to honor its longtime fans with resurrecting its rich history and newer fans by giving them the backstory they need to truly appreciate this iconic show. Happy 50th, GH, you’ve come a long way and you’ve only just begun.

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