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.