They’re both daytime legends and together they were magic on General Hospital. Leslie Charleson and Stuart Damon brought doctors Monica and Alan Quartermaine to life for over three decades. During that time, they shared a deep friendship that continued long after his exit from the soap in 2007 when Alan died. Now, after the news of Damon’s passing, Charleson is speaking with Soap Hub about her beloved co-star and friend.
Leslie Charleson Remembers Stuart Damon
Soap Hub: Can you take us back to the beginning?
Leslie Charleson: I really lucked out having Stuart as my leading man. Tom Donovan, who had been the producer and director of Love Is A Many-Splendored Thing, a show I was on in New York, became the producer of General Hospital. I had left [LIAMST] and moved to California, deciding I never wanted to do a soap again — until Tom called me. He asked if I’d come in to meet with him. So, I went in and, of course, Tom was so wonderful just as he had been on [LIAMST] that I said, ‘Okay, I will.’
We held auditions for the role of Alan Quartermaine. I auditioned with two actors and I chose Stuart. I didn’t even know that he had played Prince Charming [on television]! I had no idea! He was so wonderful. I was grateful that the show accepted my choice. I say this with all the love in my heart [getting choked up] — we had a wonderful time together.
We started working together at a time when the show was fun and creative. We sat with each other and helped each other become better. You can’t say much more about actors who want to help each other look good. I could say to Stu, “Don’t do that, Stuart. No, you’re looking for a laugh with that line. Don’t do that.” And he would say things back to me as well.
We had a wonderful relationship. I was his “daytime wife” and he went home to Deirdre, his forever wife, and we all had a wonderful relationship. He was not only a good actor but, as he was taller than me, I could just rest my head on his chest. That was nice. I’d lean up against him and say, “I could just take a nap right here.”
Also, if I was screwing up with the lighting [and my position], he could literally just [pick me up] and move me to the proper place. We worked at making each other laugh. It paid off in our performances and in real life, too. We just had a lot of fun. We’d get angry at each other, too. It was as if we were a married couple.
Would you say it’s one of the longest relationships you’ve had?
Without a doubt, it was the longest relationship that I’d ever had with anyone. We kept in touch [after he left GH], seeing each other. Sadly, as for a lot of people, the pandemic and the isolation didn’t help because we couldn’t visit him. A few of us — Jacklyn Zeman [Bobbie], Kin Shriner [Scott], Wally Kurth [Ned] — would meet with him at a restaurant near the Motion Pictures Home where he was living. But we couldn’t do that over this past year and that was hard. I know Stuart. He was a very social person. He liked the camaraderie — well everyone does — and being stimulated intellectually. Not being able to have that was hard for Stuart.
Just this morning, [I spoke with] his son Christopher, who was extremely close to Stuart and his daughter Jennifer and his grandson Alexander. They’re all really sad. We’re all sad. We learned from each other. We worked with each other, and we had fun with each other. What else can you ask for?
What are some things that might surprise people about Stuart?
I didn’t know this — because they lived in England before he and Deirdre came over to the United States — but he built their house for them! He literally did! [Laughs] I never would have thought that Stuart could lift a hammer! He had some really wonderful, some incredible stories. Now whether he was lying to me, which is absolutely a possibility, I’m not sure. Stuart used to say, ‘Go tell Leslie, she buys everything!’ Now, that’s still really true. But [he said that] he built a farmhouse for them in England. He used to be an excellent equestrian. His wife Deirdre was also. He gave it up. I’m still riding, so I’ll carry on. He did a lot of things that I would not have ever thought he would have done. And also, he was a wonderful poet but he didn’t know it.
Do you have memories of the storyline you did with Stuart and Chris Robinson (ex-Rick) where Alan tried to kill Rick and Monica after he found out about their affair?
That was fun. Well, it was supposed to be horrible but Alan was kind of being a klutz. Things either blew up or fell down on him.
What do you recall about working with Stuart during the breast cancer storyline?
That storyline brought us closer. That and the AIDS storyline [with Kimberly McCullough, who plays Robin, and Michael Sutton, who played Stone] was when we were really dealing in reality. We weren’t freezing out the city. Instead, we got real about important issues. The wonderful thing was that the producers and directors were mostly women who were handling the breast cancer storyline. And I have to say that Stuart was so amazingly supportive to me — especially during that time.
We showed that breast cancer affects the husband, too. That was important. We both learned a hell of a lot during that time. I became involved with the Susan G. Komen Foundation. We got letters that said, ‘Thank you. I am the husband of a cancer patient and I want to thank you. I didn’t know this.’ We tried to give viewers the most honest depiction of what it was like to be a breast cancer survivor or victim. I thank everyone who was involved with that story. That’s when Stuart and I really sat down and decided we’d be as honest as we possibly could because this was real life.
Those scenes were so powerful and resonated for so many watching.
Thank you. They did for us, too. It was the first time in many years that it was hard to leave Monica in the dressing room, come back the next day, and pick it up again. It was a pretty good, tough stretch. I am grateful I had him as my backup, as my wingman. And I got lucky. I got very lucky.
So did the viewers. Fans loved watching Alan and Monica.
I hope so. I hope so because it’s rare that you have a long-lasting relationship both on camera and off camera and it translates. If it did that for the fans, well, that’s all we can ask. That’s what we wanted…that was my pal.