Thursday, February 4, 2021

Long running soap opera, "General Hospital," features Montana actors


Veteran actors Jeff Kober, left, and Wally Kurth, have both been in the profession for decades.
They have more in common than that, though. Both are native Montanans and now share billing
on one of the daytime TV's most enduring and popular dramas,"General Hospital."   


In 1994, actors Wally Kurth and Rena Sofer
were married in real life. Sofer played the
lively character of Lois, from Bensonhurst.
FANS OF daytime soaps have long known that Billings, Montana, native Wally Kurth plays a compelling character named Ned Ashton  Quartermaine on the enduring daytime TV drama, "General Hospital." The long-running show has remained hugely popular, since its 1963 debut, thanks to fine writing, trending storylines and sound acting. 
With dozens of interweaving stories, plot twists and complex characters, it spins together melodramatic tales, radiating from the hospital into the characters' homes and private lives.
RECENTLY, a second native Montanan signed on to the engaging soap. Enter Billings born Jeff Kober as villain Cyrus Renault. His character -- like Kurth's -- intrigued fans so his role was quickly expanded.
Masking between takes, actors
Jeff Kober and Wally Kurth.
Generations of devoted GH followers have watched avidly as characters marry, divorce, conduct affairs. They've seen them through accidents, illness, missteps, addiction and triumphs. The early stories were set mainly on the seventh floor of General Hospital, in an unnamed midsized Eastern city (the town was called Port Charles in the late 1970s).  "The concept was of a big wagon wheel – the spokes as the characters and the hub as the hospital," says Kurth, 62, who -- except for a few years' hiatus -- has been with the show for decades as the head of a complicated, well known family. Both actors are praised for their authenticity before the camera. Kober, 67, as the nefarious Renault, 

Wally Kurth is in the unique position of appearing
in two daytime soaps -- "that's just fine with me,"
he says, but it's a lot of work and many lines.
found his antagonistic role expanded both because of his talent and fan interest. Soap production is an evolving proposition, demanding many pages of memorization from the actors, backed by timely, quick and creative writing.
INITIALLY, THE TWO Montanans played their parts in separate scenes, and GH veteran Kurth "knew" his fellow actor only through his home TV screen, and his body of work. "He is a fine, solid actor," Kurth says, noting Kober's impressive resume. Besides logging a string of memorable movie roles, Kober, who also lived in Park City, won acclaim for his TV roles.  Fans remember his Dodger in "China Beach," Jacob Hale Jr. in "Sons of Anarchy," and Joe in "The Walking Dead."

Jeff Kober joined the soap with an impressive
dossier of movies and TV shows and guest spots.
Both actors have been praised for their genuine quality, critical in making a show work.
Says Kurth, "At first, I didn't realize Jeff was a fellow Montanan. Because of the Covid shutdown, it took a while for us to meet." After the quarantine, months went by before the show resumed shooting. Ironically, Kurth's first scene back was with Kober. "We were both wearing masks -- so it  was a little odd. It's nice when the masks come off."
LIKE MOST talented people, each man has other interests. Kurth is a talented musician who does benefits for special causes. Kober, who played trumpet in high school band, teaches meditation and yogic philosophy, signing his emails with a friendly "peace." 
While Kober was establishing a successful film career in the 1980s, Kurth was becoming a soap star, a distinction he's held since 1987, as the only actor featured simultaneously in two soaps. He plays Justin Kiriakas on "Days of Our Lives" as well as "General  Hospital's" Quartermaine.  Kurth holds dear a real-life hospital, internationally known Shriner's Children's Hospital, a favorite charity.

Kober's character has startling connections to the town, here
 with Donnell Turner, who plays detective Curtis Ashford. 
OCCASIONALLY, LIFE IMITATES art -- in Hollywood and at "General Hospital." Kurth and GH actor Rena Sofer were love interests on and off the set in 1994. Their brief marriage produced a much loved daughter, Rosabel, who is pursuing her MFA in Fine Art at Carnegie Mellon. Says Kurth, "She is an amazing artist. I'm so proud of her."
"General Hospital" is filmed in Prospect Studios.
What accounts for the show's enduring appeal? A devotee from Menifee, California, GH aficionado Melody Cogsdill, follows the show's intersecting storylines and credits its popularity with sound acting, compelling storylines and inventive writing. "I think they have the best writers and actors in the business," she reflects. Kober's character Renault "was introduced as an unredeemable villain," says Cogsdill. "He is a wonderful actor, so I couldn't stand his character! Now I am fascinated by Renault -- and Kober's acting skills." Giving viewers a glimpse into Renault's past, she adds, "lets us see how his upbringing affected his moral compass. I look forward to more scenes with him."
About Kurth's character, the longtime fan says, "He’s adorable. I really miss him when he isn’t on the show. I can never tell if he is underhanded and charming, or just plain charming. He is perfect as the head of the Quartermaine clan."
Jeff Kober with Linda Hunt in an NCIS: Los Angeles episode.
FINE WRITERS, Kurth says, continue the intention of GH creators Frank and Doris Hursley, offering a captivating series of vignettes reflecting the panoply of life and the human condition: loyalty and devotion, adultery, drug and alcohol addiction, betrayal, car wrecks, theft, death, marital affairs, con artists, manipulators, idealists. There's plenty of tragedy and surprise, but also celebration -- with memorable characters, continually evolving.
The story of one famous pair, Luke and Laura, broke viewing records in 1981 when 30 million Americans tuned in for their wedding. The  episode featured famed actor Elizabeth Taylor,  a GH fan,  cast in a cameo at the wedding as the widow of Mikkos Cassadine. She bestowed a curse on Luke and Laura, believing they'd killed her husband.
Elizabeth Taylor made a cameo
appearance at Luke and Laura's
wedding, watched by 30 million

 COGSDILL BELIEVES both Kurth's suave Quartermaine and Kober's villainous Renault are intriguing to viewers.  She hopes they both endure. Kurth speculates that Kober's character will stick around, noting that his colleague's 40 years in the business include memorable guest spots with acclaimed actors such as Linda Hunt, on "NCIS: Los Angeles."
Actors Anthony Geary and Genie Francis had a torrid
love affair as Luke and Laura on "General Hospital."

Jeff Kober 's Cyrus Renault spars in a scene
with Alexis Davis, played by Nancy Lee Grahn

 (Check your TV guide and ABC for airing times.
We recommend this tour, too, once the Covid
restrictions ease

On set, masking and safety protocols make the work even more challenging, the men agree. Says Kurth, "We are required to wear our masks as soon as we leave our cars in the parking lot. The only time we take them off is for make up and while the cameras are rolling. It’s a little daunting running our lines at rehearsal with a mask."
It's a nice surprise, the men say, to see actual faces for the first time when the cameras roll! Perhaps, says Kurth, "It adds to our “fresh” performances!"
LEARNING huge numbers of pages in a day could tax lesser actors, but the two Montanans and the seasoned cast keep up with the pace which, says Kober, "can get crazy." He adds, "I’ve been incredibly fortunate. It’s a gift to be employed in this business at any time, but particularly in the middle of the pandemic. I couldn’t be happier."
Says Kurth, "It's challenging, going back and forth between the two shows. But I wouldn't have it any other way."  
Keller and Cookie set off on Flagship's comfy
Marietta, to be rewarded with the sighting of five
grey whales on one of their best whale watching
 watching adventures (they'velogged more than 50
whale watching trips worldwide.) 


 Perfect weather, a beautiful ship and gifted narration by
an experienced guide result in perfect whale watching this time of year in San Diego. Come with us aboard Flagship's Marietta, to explore the migratory patterns of the graceful grey whale. You'll learn about the life of this remarkable animal, nearly driven to extinction. We were pleased with the distancing, masking, safety aboard with one-quarter capacity and a helpful, informed crew. Flagship offers quality time and prime, leisurely viewing of the greys. Meanwhile,  remember to explore, learn and live and catch us each week for a fresh look at travel, nature, the arts, family and more. Please tell your friends and share the link:


  1. I never miss this. Tuning in at 1 p.m. here in Encinitas! Thanks for a lively read. Montana...... ah, it is on my bucket list!

  2. Santa Barbara SailorsFebruary 4, 2021 at 7:18 AM

    You have a wonderful ability to tell a story. I'll bet Montana misses you, Cookie.

  3. Thanks for giving this great soap some nice ink. Fun story.

  4. This is one soap I never miss, hooked for decades. Thanks for going out of the way to find this story and the Montana link of two interesting and talented fellows.

  5. Such fun, a talented pair of Montanans. I know there are many people from your native state who have gone on to "wider pastures." Including YOU!! You and your insightful writings are deeply missed.

  6. Who knew? Montana guys, and a handsome talented pair. Your state is small in population, large in talent.