Laura Spencer, A History: Youth
Laura Webber is perhaps the most well known daytime character to ever grace our television screens. From the humble beginnings when her character was written as a complication for the reigning Daytime Television queen, Denise Alexander, to her triumphant return to our screens on October 26th, 2006 Laura has been a soap opera phenomenon—one often copied but never quite duplicated, before or since. In order to fully appreciate the rich texture and history of Genie Francis's Laura Spencer I have compiled a history of this fascinating, mercurial character.
Denise Alexander made her debut as Dr. Leslie Williams on General Hospital in 1973. She arrived as a private duty doctor to care for Meg Baldwin, (Lee's wife and Scott's mother) who was being released from the mental hospital. This didn't prove to be the best move to make, since Meg's mental illness manifested itself in the form of jealous rages over Lee and any human in a skirt. Meg went into total pre-nuclear meltdown in a jealous rage of the gorgeous Dr. and actually had a stroke and died!
Poor gorgeous Dr. Leslie was unlucky in love. It was clear that the she had had her heart stomped on. As a doctor trained on the cutting edge of modern medical techniques, she was a dedicated professional. She rarely spent much time dwelling on her personal life, choosing instead to move rapidly onto her next professional case and to try to keep her personal demons at bay. What could haunt Leslie so mercilessly? It didn't take long for the pieces of that puzzle to start falling together.
Near death, one of Leslie's patients, Florence Grey, confessed to colleague Peter Taylor that the patient's husband, Professor Gordon Grey, had had an affair with a student and fathered a daughter. Leslie was stunned. She was that student! Things became even more complicated when Gordon reentered her life and told her that he wanted to leave his wife for her. Convincing Gordon to stay with his sick wife, Leslie continued to be tortured by thoughts of giving birth to, and then losing, her precious baby.
After a disastrous romance with a dying co-worker, Leslie finally found love. When she met handsome and suave business millionaire Cameron Faulkner, she was ready to be swept off her feet. By financing her free clinic, he managed to win her heart. Shortly after her wedding to Cameron, an elderly maternity nurse on her death bed confessed that Leslie's father had bribed her to switch Leslie's live child for the still born daughter of another patient. Floored by this revelation, Leslie wanted to search for her daughter immediately. However, her friends and family suggested that it would not be in the child's best interest to do so because such knowledge would only cause the child heartache.
Haunted by the knowledge of a living child, Leslie could not let go. Finally, convincing her reluctant husband to hire a private investigator, they discovered that her daughter, Laura, was being raised less than five miles away from their home by Barbara and Jason Vining.
Precocious even as a child, Laura was often upset that her parents, who lived on a teacher's salary, could not buy her all the lavish gifts and toys she felt deserved. To put it frankly, Laura was a preteen pain in the neck. Meanwhile, discovering that Laura (then played by Stacy Baldwin) was Leslie's child, the Vinings vowed never to let her go, while Leslie showered the impressionable child with lavish gifts her other family could not afford.
The custody battle was inevitable, and the judge (quoting Gary Warner's The Complete General Hospital Scrap Book) "realizing that both mothers had been wronged twelve years before, postponed making a decision to allow Laura to get to know her birth mother." In his verdict, the judge ordered temporary custody of Laura, for one month, to Leslie; after which Laura would have to choose where she wanted to live.
Developing a "crush" on her step father, the head strong preteen was thrilled with her new luxurious life, but she still missed her friends and family. She specifically missed her little sister, Amy, with whom she was very close. Leslie worried about losing her and began to overreact, smothering the girl in a frenzy of emotion that can only be called hysterical.
Emotionally distraught, Laura came down with a serious illness early in 1976. Medical experts determined that her illness was brought on by the trauma of being forced to choose between her two mothers. In an effort to ease Laura's distress, Leslie gave Laura up to her adopted mother, which fit Cameron Faulkner's desire to have Leslie all to himself perfectly. With Laura out of the picture, Leslie could devote all her time and devotion to him, and him alone. Shortly thereafter, Leslie discovered that Cameron had paid the Vinings to take Laura, move away and disappear. Enlightenment came too late for Leslie, though, and Cameron kidnapped her, intending to take her away to a place that she would only be able to pay attention to him. His plan backfired when his feisty wife fought him to his death, killing him by wrestling the steering wheel of the car he was driving away from him during the abduction. Leslie was widowed, but broke, and she set about rebuilding her life.
Life in Port Charles carried on. A new family arrived in town. The family of Steve Hardy's best friend, Lars Webber, relocated so that newly wedded husband and wife Jeff and Monica could attend General Hospital for their internships. The couple was mourning the death of Jeff and Terri's brother, Rick Webber, who had been engaged to Monica before his disappearance. When Rick came back very much alive, it began a sordid triangle that would literally rock General Hospital for years to come. Monica still wanted big brother Rick, but Jeff would not let her go and Rick would not make time with his little brother's wife, even if he did love her. Widowed Leslie Faulkner soon became the object of Rick's affection and the rivalry of Monica and Leslie took on a life of its own.
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