General Hospital crafted two especially poignant episodes that honored both the late Jacklyn Zeman and her character, Bobbie Spencer. It wasn’t just the citizens of Port Charles that needed to mourn Bobbie but also the millions of fans who’d watched her ever since she arrived on the scene over 45 years ago. In these back-to-back shows, GH helped viewers say goodbye to a character that they went from loving to hate to loving to love to hating to lose.
Bobbie Spencer: Love and Laughter
Soaps have been known to limit the number of characters who appear in episodes due to budgets but the show appeared to not put a cap on the number of players who turned out to honor Bobbie. There were, of course, her family members — daughter Carly (Laura Wright), and grandchildren Michael (Chad Duell) and Josslyn (Courtney Fulk), but also longtime friends Robert Scorpio (Tristan Rogers), Laura (Genie Francis), Felicia (Kristina Wagner), and Scotty (Kin Shriner), the man Bobbie once wanted more than anything.
The show had invited the performers and background artists who recur as nurses on the show to be at the funeral, which added to the memorial’s authenticity. And, the episodes would not have been complete without Bobbie’s son Dr. Lucas Jones (Ryan Carnes) in them. The actor brought understated pathos to his character as Lucas mourned his mother, who has now joined both his father Tony (Brad Maule) and sister BJ in the great beyond. Wouldn’t it be nice if Bobbie’s son returned to a staff position at General Hospital?
The show did not forget Elizabeth’s (Rebecca Herbst) connection to Bobbie as she helped her following her brutal sexual assault. “Bobbie never made me feel ashamed,” Elizabeth said. “She offered me love and support,” adding that Bobbie inspired her to become a nurse.
It was appropriate for Laura and Scotty to eulogize Bobbie as they knew her the longest and also, at her best and her worst. Their triangle in the late 1970s played a huge role in propelling GH to the top of the ratings. Laura referenced the days when she was a candy striper (actually, she donned a blue smock and worked in the hospital bookroom) and Bobbie was a (student) nurse. Their origins were filled with angst and conflict. One time, Bobbie relentlessly taunted Laura until she attacked her, hoping to send her off to reform school. Her scheme failed; over time, the two women became friends and sisters courtesy of Laura’s marriage to Bobbie’s brother Luke (Anthony Geary).
For Sean Donely’s (John Reilly) memorial a few years ago, GH invited his portrayer’s real-life daughter, Caitlin Reilly, to appear on the show as Annie, a WSB agent. The show came up with another creative way to make Bobbie’s memorial extra special with the character of AP journalist Angela Brighton. Veteran viewers and eagle-eyed social media followers of GH quickly identified Angela as actress Brighton Hertford, who played Bobbie’s daughter BJ, who died almost 30 years ago following a school bus accident. BJ’s heart was donated to her dying cousin Maxie (Kristen Storms).
At first, it appeared as if Hertford’s character was everything she said that she was — a reporter doing a story on Bobbie, who was helping trafficked women in Amsterdam find asylum in the United States. That certainly explained Bobbie’s extended stay abroad. Lucas, Liz, Lucy (Lynn Herring), Laura, and Scotty shared their stories of Bobbie with Angela so that they could help her finish her story on the caring and crusading nurse.
Having a large number of actors in an episode is costly, and so is adding in flashbacks to help tell your story. However, GH spared no expense in providing classic moments from the course of Bobbie’s life so viewers could relive them. Bobbie taunting Laura with the fact that she couldn’t come into Scotty’s apartment because they had plans and “three is definitely a crowd” was one of her crueler moments. We also saw flirty moments between Scotty and Bobbie, as well as Bobbie threatening Tracy (Jane Elliot) if she didn’t leave Lucas alone, and Felicia and Bobbie going through the trauma of BJ’s death.
In scripts written by Kate Hall and Dave Rupel, GH gave us not only an emotional tribute to Zeman and Bobbie but also numerous other heartfelt moments throughout these two episodes. There was Anna reminding Robert that Bobbie was one of the people who helped raise Robin (Kimberly McCullough) during the time that Anna and Robert were presumed dead; Lucas and Felix (Marc Anthony Samuel) sharing a tender moment after the service; and Tracy (Jane Elliot) and Lucy (Lynn Herring) agreeing to call a truce over their current battle for Bobbie’s sake.
GH wrote a lot into these two episodes. There was Bobbie’s funeral, characters telling stories about Bobbie to journalist Angela, and Carly and Felicia flying to Amsterdam and later Canada to help complete one of Bobbie’s final goals — helping a woman named Cornelia (Ellie Darcey-Alden), who was in danger of being trafficked, get asylum in America. Felicia and Carly also hashed out the past and forged a new dynamic between them.
There were twists, too. Maxie couldn’t find any evidence of an “Angela Brighton” being with the AP in Amsterdam. Just who was this mystery woman? She wasn’t “Angela” but rather an angel — BJ, to be specific. Who better to be at Bobbie’s memorial than the daughter she loved so dearly and was taken from her so suddenly and unfairly? Major props to GH head writers Chris Van Etten and Dan O’Connor for coming up with the idea, to GH for locating Hertford after close to three decades, and to the actress for coming back to see her GH family.
Separately, Felicia and Maxie, who put her hand to her heart (BJ’s heart), each realized just who Angela was. Outside of Kelly’s, Angela called Lucas “Champ” — BJ’s nickname for him; he turned to her but Angela was gone.
Believing that BJ would return to earth in the form of Angela is something that soap fans can wrap their heads around. Felicia and Carly traveling so quickly from New York to Amsterdam to Canada and back to Port Charles — perhaps less so — especially as Carly suffered a head wound during the last leg of her journey. She didn’t stop for a bandage until she got to General Hospital.
It would have been nice to have seen a flashback or two of Geary and Zeman as their portrayal of siblings Luke and Bobbie Spencer was one of the more believable brother/sister acts in daytime drama. Bobbie had many love interests over the years, including Dr. Noah Drake (Rick Springfield), Roy DiLucca (Asher Brauner; A Martinez), and Dr. Tony Jones. It would have been great to see some of those moments.
Lastly, GH decided to have Kelly’s be renamed “Bobbie’s” as a tribute to Zeman’s character. It’s worth pointing out that the show did not rename Kelly’s “Ruby’s” after Ruby (Norma Connolly), Bobbie and Luke’s aunt, died in 1999. From now on, characters will say that they’re going to “Bobbie’s” — not Kelly’s. Let’s hope folks don’t show up at the old brownstone that Bobbie lived in back in the mid-1980s! What’s going to happen to all those mugs? Kelly’s social media platforms will have to be updated, too.
Seriously, Kelly’s has been a mainstay on GH since 1980 when viewers were introduced to Paddy (Frank Parker), his wife Rose (Loanne Bishop), and Paddy’s son Joe (Doug Sheehan). Ownership transferred from the Kelly clan to the Ruby after Rose Kelly left Port Charles. The name switch may take some getting used to.
Might a more appropriate tribute to Bobbie have been naming a wing at the hospital for her? After all, she spent more time at General Hospital tending to patients than she did at Kelly’s serving up pie and coffee. At any rate, we expect to hear the name “Bobbie’s” quite often as the eatery that now bears her name is a Port Charles mainstay. And that’s a good thing.
GH honored Bobbie in these episodes by reminding us that the character embodied joy, love of family, optimism, and compassion — just as Zeman did. Bravo to everyone involved for paying tribute to both Barbara Jean “Bobbie” Spencer and her portrayer, Jacklyn Zeman.