animated pic of Sonny

(And Maurice Benard, The Man Behind That Moody Mobster Mask)

Nearly four years ago, Sonny Corinthos hit town, and those creaky floorboards on the Port Charles waterfront docks instantly snapped to attention. Part Brando, part bruiser and part strip club Hamlet, Sonny brought a new dimension to the classic concept of soap opera rogue. Other Don Juan Dangerouslys made a bad habit out of tumbling off cliffs and coming back from the dead. From the start, Sonny was far more grounded in reality, but this guy sauntered through a kind of emotional half-dead limbo that was scarier -- and more exciting -- than any who-switched-the-coffin-caper ever was. Even his bouts of ennui (after Lily's horrifying death) were electrifying.

Now with Maurice Benard scheduled to leave GH shortly, we take pause to pay tribute an actor who truly stretched the limits. So put your memory on Rewind and let's scroll back a little...

(Facts Compiled by Soap Opera Digest Online; All Photos by Jim Warren)

1) Maurice Benard debuted as mobster Sonny Corinthos on August 13, 1993.

2) Within two weeks, Robert Newman returned to GUIDING LIGHT as Joshua Lewis, and Sydney Penny taped her first scenes as ALL MY CHILDREN's Julia Santos.

3) At the time of his GH debut, Benard only planned on a limited stay in P.C. "Maurice is starting a one-year contract," his spokesperson announced, "because he is concentrating on his film career. So [GH] is going to make use of him for the one year."

4) In March 1994, Brenda started dating Sonny, much to everyone's chagrin. Lucy warned Brenda to stay away from the moody mobster, but Brenda said she liked the challenge. Later, Lucy became Sonny's pal and even bailed him out financially.

5) Vanessa Marcil told Soap Opera Digest that Brenda's early attraction to Sonny was strictly a forbidden fruit reaction: "When you're 18, you do everything that people tell you not to do. Brenda doesn't look so smooth and in control with him. He completely throws her off. He makes her very nervous."

6) Sonny actually referred to boxer Jagger as his property. He said that promoter Marco Dane had "sold" Jagger to him.

7) In the early days, Sonny wasn't exactly an upscale restaurateur. He owned a sleazy club called the Paradise Lounge.

8) Karen was the first girl Sonny pursued in Port Charles. She won an amateur strip contest at his club.

9) Sonny had a rotten childhood. His mother died, and his stepfather used to beat him.

10) The future Corinthian kingpin grew up in the Bensonhurst section of Brooklyn, N.Y. He played stickball on the same streets where Lois Cerullo (the future Mrs. "Eddie Maine") played hopscotch.

11) Before biological dad Mike Corbin showed up in town, Maurice Benard speculated on possible long-lost fathers for Sonny. Choice #1 was Dr. Steve Hardy. ("John Beradino is Italian," he said, "and I think we sort of look alike.")

12) Benard's Choice #2 for a TV dad was Dr. Alan Quartermaine. Benard thought he and Stuart Damon shared a strong resemblance.

13) In 1994, Benard explained why he liked working with Anthony Geary (Luke) so much. "He has a sense of humor that really makes me laugh, and I don't laugh a lot," he confided.

14) Maurice Benard's dressing room is covered with wall-to-wall photos of his two best gals -- wife Paula and daughter Cailey.

15) Benard's best friend on the GH set is Steve Burton (Jason).

16) His closest friends off the set are actor Danny Quinn (son of Anthony Quinn) and SUDDENLY SUSAN co-star Nestor Carbonell.

17) Benard and TV dad Ron Hale are backstage buddies. They share a true father/son affection for each other.

18) Ron Hale once explained what Mike and Sonny have in common (besides DNA): "I would say loneliness," Hale remarked." Mike is the only family he's got. Sonny is a very lonely person."

19) MB and wife Paula are major animal lovers. They have a bulldog named Corleone (after Marlon Brando's "Godfather" role), another dog, a cat, two snakes and an aquarium filled with all kinds of exotic fish.

20) The actor now munches on ostrich burgers, which have zero fat content, instead of the beef variety. Paula whips them with just enough spice to make them tastier than anything you'll find at the Golden Arches.

21) During the early days of Sonny and Brenda's romance, they used to double date with Stone and Robin.

22) The first time we saw Sonny behind the wheel, he was driving a Jaguar.

23) Brenda once dreamed about Sonny becoming a boring insurance salesman, and she woke up shuddering. She then dreamed that he tucked a gun under her pillow at night, and she smiled in her sleep.

24) The mobster and the Maine-liners never really hit it off. Sonny once announced, "Tell the Quartermaines that I'm on my way over, so they should put on their disapproving frowns."

25) Sonny and Brenda once made love in a Washington, D.C. hotel room. Brenda seduced him to make him miss Eddie Maine's rock concert, because Ned had threatened to cancel the gig if Sonny came to his show.

26) Sonny and Brenda officially broke up on July 17, 1995 after he denounced her for wearing a police wire. Lily comforted him.

27) When Sonny and Brenda broke up, the song playing in the background was "Shadows in the Mirror" by Chris Isaak. The song was a cut from Isaak's album, "Forever Blue."

28) Benard told Soap Opera Digest (12/5/95) that Vanessa Marcil's acting during the breakup scene blew him away. "My mouth was open," he confided. "Watching her grow [as an actress] is better than anything I do in my work. I went to her the next day -- I think I was on my knees -- and I told her, 'That's what you want to do.' It was so wonderful."

29) Nearly every weekend, Maurice plays softball on a local LA sandlot. His team usually includes wife Paula, Jonathan Jackson (Lucky) and Ron Hale.

30) Sonny once concocted his own "Hansel and Gretel" story -- and cast himself as the gingerbread witch. Anxious to blackmail adversary Ned, Sonny hired a barfly named Gretel to spike Ned's drink and arrange for the trust fund troubadour to pass out naked in her bed, so Sonny could gain some incriminating Kodak moments.

31) In the summer of 1995, Disney took a Lion-King-sized bite of the TV industry when it purchased the ABC television network. Soap Opera Digest immediately predicted GH's next supercouple would be "Sonny and Pocahontas."

32) In September 1995, Sonny and Lily made love on the floor of Luke's club.

33) MB turned in stellar performances when Sonny's young sidekick, Stone Cates, died of AIDS in the fall of 1995. "I think for the first time we are really going to see Sonny break down. It's going to be a good challenge for me [as an actor]," he declared when word first came down from TPTB that GH was wrapping up the Stone saga.

34) Long before Sonny married Lily, Benard occasionally wore a wedding ring on screen. Explanation: he'd sometimes forget to remove his real-wedding band before taping. "I usually put it in my pocket," he said, "but sometimes I leave it on and viewers see it."

35) The actor doesn't like to sit still for photo sessions. He finds getting his picture taking "boring." But once he's in front of the camera, he relaxes and proves to be a great subject.

36) On the GH cast list of contract players, Sarah Brown (Carly) is sandwiched alphabetically between Maurice Benard and his close pal Steve Burton. All three stars were nominated for Daytime Emmys this year. Brown was took Outstanding Younger Actress honors.

37) On May 3, 1996, while caught in a cabin during an avalanche (with a little help from Brenda), Sonny and Brenda kissed and made peace with the past.

38) Sonny donated the $30 million that he inherited from Lily to a Stone Cates Memorial Wing at GH.

39)"The truth is like ice water: it shocks you when it hits but no one ever died from it." (Sonny to Brenda, on November 11, 1996, after bringing Jax's not-so-dead wife to Brenda and Jax's almost wedding.)

40) How did Sonny spend Christmas Eve 1996? Selling Christmas trees (the woman who ran the place was busy giving birth). An added bonus: He charged Edward Quartermaine $5,000 for one!

41) Sonny is claustrophobic because his stepfather, Deke, would lock him in the closet and beat him.

42) What did Sonny say while he was wheeled into the hospital ER after someone tried to kill him by injecting him with heroin? "I love you, Brenda."

43) On January 13, 1997, Sonny buried his wedding ring at Lily's grave because he couldn't fight for Brenda with Lily's ring on his finger.

44) On March 7, 1997, Sonny and Brenda admitted their love and made love for the first time since their painful breakup.

45) Sonny loves to cook, and his least favorite partner in the kitchen is Mike.

46) According to Sonny, Brazilian coffee has a better aroma than Colombian.

47) When Lucy asked Sonny to perform at the Nurse's Ball, his response was: "I write checks, I don't tap dance."

48) Sonny's rival at the age of eight was Bensonhurst bully Tommy Bruce.

49) Sonny was Lois Cerullo's first crush.

50) Cinema pundits and soap critics have noted that the death of Lily Corinthos is reminiscent of the death of Michael Corleone's Sicilian wife, Apollonia, in "The Godfather."

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Updated slightly 03/15/03 .        


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