GENERAL HOSPITAL Stars Remember the Late Susan Brown (EXCLUSIVE)
Susan Brown hasn’t been seen in Port Charles since 2004, but in the wake of her August 31 passing, it’s clear that the beauty who brought Gail Baldwin to life is still cherished by her GENERAL HOSPITAL family. In fact, Kin Shriner (Scott), Leslie Charleson (Monica) and Jacklyn Zeman (Bobbie) can still recall their first experiences with the late actress. “In 1977, Gail came to Greenwich Village to get young Scotty, because she wanted to reunite him with Lee,” Shriner told Soaps In Depth. So Susan was the first person I worked with on GH, and it was certainly the best way to come onto a soap. She kind of shepherded me right through the whole thing.”
Brown had joined GH earlier that year — armed with 20 years of TV experience — and along with the late Peter Hansen’s Lee, the Baldwins would become an important Port Charles family in the ’80s. Gail was also Monica’s foster mom, which meant Brown got to welcome Charleson to the fold when she assumed her role from Patsy Rahn… during a strike… on the morning Elvis died! “It was a nightmare of a day, Charleson recalled. “Nobody really liked me, and it was not a comfortable situation, but Susan was kind and gracious — as she always was! — and she got me through it. “I just adored her,” she continues. “And those scenes we had when Monica slept with Gail’s husband were some of the most fun I’ve ever had actingwise. Working with someone who challenges you only makes you better — and that’s what she did.”
While Zeman remembers being awed by Brown’s legendary beauty, it was the voice that got her. “She had a very calming, low, embracing voice that made you feel good,” she reflected. “She was one of those people who just made you feel warm and fuzzy.” It turns out, much of Gail’s sensibility came from Brown. “Susan brought her class and style right to the show,” Shriner shared. “She played a psychiatrist, and she certainly knew how to talk to people and was very good with them. She was understanding and loved laughing. She’d come out of New York and soaps and commercials, so she had this great, wry humor.”
But Brown’s laughs were never at any one else’s expense. “You couldn’t get any dirt out of her,” Charleson said. “She was fiercely loyal. She was generous. She always had a smile and a nice thing to say. She had impeccable taste. And everything she wore never wrinkled. I mean that!” Chimed in Zeman: “You can’t always count on people who are such free spirits to give you the right line or cue, but they’re a lot of fun on set, so they get away with it. But Susan always hit her mark, always knew her line, always looked beautiful. She was sheer perfection.”
During GH’s heyday, Brown’s dressing room was a hub of activity. “Susan always had the door open,” Shriner recalled. “There were a lot of laughs! And I looked forward to any time I had scenes with her and Peter. I knew we were going to have a hell of a lunch. Susan and Peter loved to eat!” While Gail was written off in ’85, Brown recurred in the ’90s and even brought her character to the spin-off PORT CHARLES before appearing on GH one last time in 2004. But whether she was on the show or not, her GH family lunches continued. “On Sundays, there were usually four or five of us going to lunch, and Susan was always dolled up — even when we picked her up to go to DuPar’s,” Shriner chuckled before noting that most of their favorite eateries, including that diner, have since closed.
“Everything in L.A. eventually disappears and now, Susan’s disappeared,” he concluded wistfully. “She and Peter are up there in soap heaven, doing some Lee/Gail scenes without me… but she’ll be locked in my memory for the rest of my life.”
For additional heartfelt memories from Brown’s GH and PC castmates and friends, browse through the galley below.
For more on your favorite GH stars, keep reading the ABC edition of Soaps In Depth magazine.
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Anthony Geary (ex-Luke)
“Susan Brown was the first actor I ever worked with in daytime. She played my foster mother in my first soap opera, BRIGHT PROMISE. I had never been on the set of a soap before and, like every daytime newbie, I was overwhelmed by the speed of the process. This was 1970. My first six months or so, the show was ‘live to tape.’ Which meant, once we were counted in and the cameras rolled, we only stopped long enough for commercials, which were inserted from a studio in New York (we were at NBC in Burbank). There was no stopping to re-do mistakes or fix performances that weren’t working. If there were mistakes made or someone ‘went up’ — forgot their lines or missed a move — we learned to adjust and keep going. I already had some experience on stage and a facility for improvisation so these conditions didn’t scare or intimidate me once Susan sat me down and explained I should think of every show as a play. The cameras roll, the curtain goes up — same thing. You live the life of the character until the curtain comes down or the stage manager says, ‘And... we’re out,’ meaning the show’s taping was over. In that one conversation, Susan Brown taught me how to work in the medium, a lesson I turned into a career. As the years went by, I actually grew fond of moments when mistakes were made or unexpected things happened because it forced spontaneity into scenes that might not have been there when things ran smoothly. I had the pleasure of working with Susan again when I joined the GH cast. She was a beautiful person, inside and out. A class act; she was genuinely kind and caring, a good friend and a genuinely warm and generous actress. All these qualities were abundantly present in the characters she played and in her incomparable professionalism. Rest In Peace, Dear Lady.”
Jon Lindstrom (Kevin)
“My favorite memory of Susan wasn’t actually on the set of GH. It was at a read-through of a screenplay I had written and we were going into production with soon. I had seen her work as Pat Nixon and other roles and already knew she was an amazing actress, so I asked Susan if she would read the role of a lady gangster. There was a scene where her character uses a pair of pliers to break the lead character’s finger, but before she does it, she says, ‘You know, I should say that I hate to do this... but I don’t.’ Susan, this sweet, beautiful, well-dressed, unassuming and very feminine woman, delivers the line in front of all these male producers and financiers, all of them a little too ‘macho,’ if you know what I mean, and the room erupts into very nervous laughter, and I knew that little Susan had just scared the living [bleep] out of all of them. It was classic!”
Jane Elliot (ex-Tracy)
“Susan Brown was a woman of extraordinary gifts. To say that she was generous, loyal and kind would be profoundly understating the blessing it was to have her in your life. To have had the privilege of acting with her, the gift of knowing her and the joy of a friendship with her is something I will always cherish.”
Wally Kurth (Ned)
“I don’t have a specific story to share about the remarkably sunny Susan Brown. Sadly, I never got to act with her. But off stage, she was a hoot. Always game for a good laugh. Her presence was warm and friendly and made everyone around her smile. I’ll miss her.”
Carly Schroeder (Serena, PC)
“Susan Brown was the classiest woman I’ve ever known. I learned a lot from her and am better for having known her. Susan was like a real grandmother to me. I called her ‘Grandma Gail.’ We would have slumber parties, and our families would celebrate every holiday together with her and Kin Shriner for years. We were a family both on and off screen. I’m filled with such great sadness right now, but the compassion that she instilled in my younger brother, Hunter, and I will live on forever.”
Marie Wilson (Karen, PC)
“Susan defined grace, class and kindness. Since I was a novice to acting when I met Susan, everyone suggested that I ask her any questions. She always had the proper etiquette combined with a witty sense of humor in approaching situations. I learned so much from her, and she touched many people’s lives.”
Maurice Benard (Sonny)
“I remember her well as the sweetest, kindest, woman I’ve ever met. I would’ve loved to work with her more than I did.”
Lynn Herring (Lucy)
“Susan embodied true class and calm. When everyone around her was unsettled or frenetic, her soothing voice and warm smile would put everything in perspective for all of us at GH and PC. When you spoke with her, she was truly interested in what you had to say, and she cared deeply about how your day was going. I treasured having scenes with her, and because one of my best friends, Kin Shriner, had such a unique and special bond with Susan, I was privileged to get to know her away from the set, too. We had so many laughs together at Kin’s expense, but the laughter was always filled with such love and mutual admiration. Susan will be forever missed.”
Kathleen Noone (Ellen, AMC)
“I rented Susan’s guest house when I first moved out [West] from NYC. Susan took me under her wing as a sister, and that she remains, even now in spirit. We get the chance to meet some special people in our lives, and she was at the top of that list. I miss our walks, talks, her kindness, care, fun, laughs, our dog walks, but mainly, her and the fullness of all that means. God bless you always, my friend/sister.”