In just two weeks the ABC daytime drama General Hospital will once again host the Nurses’ Ball. The inaugural Ball aired in 1994 and became an annual fixture of the soap until 2001. After a lengthy eleven year hiatus, the tradition was resurrected in 2013. But just what is the Nurses Ball and what is the story behind the events initial creation?
In the simplest of terms, the Nurses’ Ball is a melding of entertainment and social message. It is a black-tie extravaganza that gives the characters (and their portrayers) the chance to display their musical, theatrical, and dancing talents. At the same time, it is used as a platform to disseminate facts and raise awareness, about HIV and AIDS.
During the summer of 1992, Reverend Andrew Carpenter, his father General Sloane Carpenter, and a host of other characters on ABC’s One Life To Live attended a ceremony in which eight sections of the Names Project AIDS Quilt were displayed. Reverend Carpenter planned to add a quilted panel for his brother William whom Sloane (one a vehement homophobe) was finally able to admit had been a gay man who died from AIDS-related complications.
In his Los Angels home Neil Tadken, an actor and activist, found himself deeply moved by the dedication scenes and the fact that a soap opera was openly discussing homosexuality and HIV/AIDS.
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Believing that daytime television was the perfect medium to teach an audience acceptance and compassion he sat down and wrote a letter to the producers of each soap opera and issued a challenge: On June 21, 1993 mention AIDS or HIV in some way.
GH accepted the challenge and on that date (dubbed by the media as Day of Compassion) Bobbie Jones was shown counseling a young woman who had been diagnosed with HIV. One year later the soap debuted what would become a much beloved annual event: the Nurses’ Ball.
In the fictional world of General Hospital, the Ball was an idea presented by Lucy Coe to raise the much-needed funds for the Dominique Baldwin Pediatric AIDS Center and AIDS Outreach Programs. The entire event was underwritten by Damian Smith (the son of mob boss Frank Smith who sent Luke and Laura running for their lives all those years ago).
However, it was obvious that the sleazy businessman had ulterior motives and they included nurse Bobbie Jones whom the lecherous Lothario was trying to seduce away from her husband Tony. General Hospital airs weekdays on ABC. Check your local station for airtimes.