A diamond celebration: ABC weekday staple 'General Hospital' turns 60

Very few television programs last for 60 years, especially in the current media climate.

That makes it a big deal, indeed, that the ABC drama "General Hospital" - which has won the Daytime Emmy Award for outstanding drama series 14 times, a record - is marking its six-decade milestone with special moments before and after the actual anniversary: April 1, which falls on a Saturday this year. Still, the Monday-through-Friday episodes surrounding that date will honor legendary characters and stories (including a tribute to late co-star Sonya Eddy), and bring back the popular Nurses Ball being staged for the first time in three years.

Rebecca Herbst has played nurse Elizabeth Webber for 25 years on ABC's "General Hospital." Courtesy of ABC

Created by Frank and Doris Hursley, the saga of the residents of the fictional Port Charles (now guided by executive producer Frank Valentini) has transformed since its 1963 debut, reaching one of its peaks with the 1981 wedding of Luke and Laura Spencer (played by Anthony Geary and continuing cast member Genie Francis) ... to date, the highest-rated dramatic hour in daytime-TV history. However, for whatever romance or espionage has been factored in, the center of the show always has been the title medical facility.

One of the longtime characters reflecting that is Nurse Elizabeth Webber, portrayed by Rebecca Herbst, who's marking her own "General Hospital" milestone by celebrating her 25th anniversary with the series. The part was created for her, and with her alter ego having gone through affairs and kidnappings and pregnancies over a quarter-century, the three-time Daytime Emmy nominee appreciates that she remains prominent on the show.

"It certainly does not feel like it's been 25 years," the pleasant Herbst reflects. "We have so many cast members, I do not envy the writers with their job of keeping everybody on the canvas in these complex stories. It really is amazing to me."

Dr. Terry Randolph (Cassandra James) and Elizabeth Webber (Rebecca Herbst) share a celebratory moment during ABC's "General Hospital." Courtesy of ABC

Herbst confirms that the mood on the "General Hospital" set has been quite spirited lately. "I feel like we look at each other and just chuckle in a way," she muses, "because this show has been around for 60 years. We're not surprised, because it's been a popular show forever and our writers have done a really great job of keeping up with the times. We're just incredibly grateful that we're still here!"

Married to former "General Hospital" co-star Michael Saucedo, with whom she has three children, Herbst almost left the show in 2011 due to a storyline shift. Fans spoke up against that - loudly - and effectively saved her job.

Expressing her ongoing thanks for that, Herbst says that lately, the initially rebellious Elizabeth is "not too far off from who she was when she came to Port Charles. It's really nice that I've been able to add so many layers to the character over the years."

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