Anthony Geary played Luke Spencer on "General Hospital."

Anthony Geary played Luke Spencer on "General Hospital." Credit: Handout

Luke Spencer, one of the most popular characters in the history of daytime-TV dramas, has officially died off-camera, nearly five years after Anthony Geary last played him on "General Hospital."

On this past Monday and Tuesday episodes of the long-running ABC soap opera about the trials and tribulations of the citizens of fictional Port Charles, New York, viewers learned that the character introduced in 1978 had died in an Austrian cable-car accident. Luke had gained infamy with his 1979 rape of married 17-year-old Laura Baldwin (Genie Francis), and ironically became a soap-opera icon after he and his victim fell in love and eventually married in a two-episode arc on Nov. 16-17, 1981, that together drew 30 million viewers. The couple later had a son, Lucky.

Monday's episode ended with Luke's longtime partner Tracy Quartermaine (Jane Elliot) — to whom his marriage had been annulled in 2015 — arriving after midnight at the home of the remarried Laura and her husband. Haltingly, Tracy delivers the news: "It's Luke. He's … he's gone."

Then shortly into Tuesday's episode, Tracy awakens from a fitful sleep on Laura's couch. "Can't believe he's gone. Luke's gone," she says in a daze. A few minutes later, Laura tells her, "I was able to reach Lucky, and he had heard about the cable-car crash in Austria, but he didn't know his father was on it."

"It was horrifying," Tracy says. "I was glued to the television, watching the wreckage in flames, and I was hoping that Luke wasn't on it. But then the authorities brought me his personal effects and told me that they had identified his remains."

Geary, 74 and living in Amsterdam, played Lucas Lorenzo Spencer Sr. — variously a mobster, nightclub owner and other vocations including mayor of Port Charles — from Nov. 20, 1978, to 1983, briefly in 1984, and then from 1993 until announcing his retirement in May 2015. He was last seen on-air that July 27, except for a one-episode cameo in May 2017.

Geary, who won a record eight Daytime Emmy Awards for lead actor, plus eight additional nominations, has no social media and has not commented publicly on his character's death.

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