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Damon had been struggling with renal failure, KABC reporter George Pennacchio said in a Facebook post about Damon’s death, quoting Damon’s son, Christopher, who said of the elder Damon’s time on the soap, “It was his favorite place to be. He loved playing Alan and was always so appreciative of that role and that job. It was his passion.”
After beginning his career on Broadway, the tall, dark-haired Damon shot to prominence when he portrayed the prince opposite Lesley Ann Warren in a lavish 1965 CBS musical production of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella.
He then worked for a dozen or so years in London, where he starred as a secret agent on the 1968-69 ITV series The Champions, appeared on shows including The Saint, Steptoe and Son and The New Avengers and toplined the West End musicals Charlie Girl, a long-running hit, and Man of Magic, as Harry Houdini.
Damon joined General Hospital in May 1977 when Alan Quartermaine, a member of a rich, dysfunctional family, arrived in Port Charles to help Dr. Steve Hardy (John Beradino) raise funds for a new hospital wing. He sticks around and weds Dr. Monica Webber (Leslie Charleson) in 1978, and their marriage is tested by affairs and murder attempts over the years.
“He’s really one of the most interesting characters around,” Damon said in a 2010 interview. “He’s loving one day, but he’s also a failed murderer who wound up in a hospital on two occasions. … I’ve just played some scenes with Monica in which you couldn’t be sure whether I’d kill her or screw her.”
Following six Daytime Emmy nominations without a win, Damon finally took home the prize on his last attempt in 1999 when Alan got addicted to painkillers while attempting to recover from career-threatening hand surgery. (The actor also spent 1997-2001 on the GH spinoff Port Charles.)
Damon was fired from GH in late 2006 — Alan would die of a heart attack after being taken hostage in a hotel — but he occasionally returned as ghostly apparitions or in flashback sequences through 2013. Meanwhile, he worked on two other soaps, CBS’ As the World Turns and NBC’s Days of Our Lives.
The son of Russian immigrants, Stuart Michael Zonis was born in Brooklyn on Feb. 5, 1937. He graduated in 1958 from Brandeis University, where his classmates included Louise Lasser and future advice columnist Margo Howard.
He sang on Broadway in 1959 in the ensemble of First Impressions, a musical comedy version of Pride and Prejudice that was directed by Abe Burrows, then spent more than a year in two roles in the original Broadway production of Irma la Douce.
Damon appeared in a 1963 Obie-winning off-Broadway revival of The Boys From Syracuse, which featured music by Richard Rodgers and lyrics by Lorenz Hart, then was back on Broadway in 1965 in a featured part in Do I Hear a Waltz?, from Rodgers and Stephen Sondheim. (He also was heard on that cast album and others as well.)
On The Champions, Damon played spy/pilot Craig Stirling opposite British actors Alexandra Bastedo and William Gaunt. Their characters worked at a Geneva-based law enforcement organization known as Nemesis and used the exceptional powers given to them by an advanced Tibetan civilization to save the world.
Damon later starred for two seasons (1976-77) on the World War II-set ITV comedy Yanks Go Home before returning to the U.S. to work on a soap opera. “I was thinking General Hospital might be a 13-week gig, and 31 years later, I was still there,” he said.
“I tried to make [Alan] as complete as possible,” he added. “I wanted to make sure that this character had an edge, that he wasn’t Mr. Good Guy or Mr. Bad Guy — he wasn’t black or white, he was gray. I wanted to make him someone you didn’t mess with.”
Damon also showed up on other TV shows including Naked City, Fantasy Island, Hotel and Diagnosis Murder and in the 1983 feature Star 80, directed by Bob Fosse.
Survivors include his wife, British-born actress, singer and dancer Deirdre Ottewill, whom he married in 1961, and their children, Jennifer and Christopher.
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