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TV Soap, Vol 3 No 10, October 1997

Young Doctors Farewell First 'Super Lover'

Tony Alvarez, star of one of Australia's longest-running soap operas, The Young Doctors, is dead at the age of 41. As irrepressible Spanish medico, Dr Tony Garcia, he and Judy McBurney (Nurse Tania Livingstone) won Australia's hearts as our first TV super-couple.

Former co-stars at his funeral included Judy, Lynda Stoner, Peter Lochran and Tim Page, as well as several contemporaries from other shows.

When Tony quit the series he cracked the tough Hollywood industry, working on major TV hits including General Hospital and The Bold and the Beautiful, and movie roles in A Man Called Horse and Mambo Kings.

Tony Alvarez returned home to Kirribilli, Sydney, to die of cancer not far from the Mitchell Street studios where he first found fame. "He had some dance scenes in Mambo Kings with Amman Assante and Antonio Banderas," songwriter friend Peter Threlfall told TV SOAP. "He was wearing a white suit and looked so much like Banderas, everyone commented on it. Later they struck up a friendship and realised they were both from the same town in Spain."

Close friends Richard Kent, Peter and Judy kept vigil at Tony's hospital bedside.

Threlfall said, "Some people come into our lives like soft summer breezes. We enjoy them and they are gone and forgotten. Then there was Tony. A life force as strong as a hurricane."

'I'll Never Forget Him'

says Judy McBurney

She was the demure blond nurse. He was the archetypal Latin lover. Together Judy McBurney and Tony Alvarez formed a history-making duo as Australia's TV supercouple. "I'll never forget him," Judy said. "You either liked him instantly or you couldn't bear him. He insulted everyone! He liked to shock people, me included."

"When he was near death his friend, Richard Kent, had to leave his bedside for a moment. Richard had stayed with Tony through his hospitalisation, sleeping on the floor." "When Richard returned, Tony glared at him ad said, 'Where have you been?'" "Richard was taken aback, then Tony produced that cheeky wink of his. Tony went through a really hard time. His body let him down but he never ceased being outrageous." Judy and Tony came together at a time of innocence and magic, when Australian soap opera was poised to swamp the British and European markets. Before Ally Fowler and Peter Phelps on Sons and Daughters. Before Kylie Minogue and Jason Donovan on neighbours. Before Vicki the Vet met Dr Bowen on A Country Practice.

"We were the first," Judy said. "Unlike today's romantic leads, we were not braced for the amazing response we got from Australian and British fans."

"When we were engaged we got gifts and cards from people who really couldn't distinguish in those days from actors and the characters. They simply saw us as real people and as part of their lives." The young, beautiful medicos held viewers spellbound with their war-like love affair. The tempestuous relationship between Dr Tony Garcia and Nurse Tania Livingstone had an amazing impact on their viewers throughout the Seventies.

The Grundy Organisation, which was to capitalise on the world market with Neighbours, took advantage of the national appeal. The romantic twosome toured the country to celebrate their on-air wedding.

"We couldn't believe our popularity. People handed us wedding presents everywhere we went, or posted them to us. Tony and I split them up. I still have some of them!"

When the pair divorced, the nation was plunged into shock. Worse still, Nurse Livingstone fell for one of Tony Garcia's colleagues, Dr Peter Holland (Peter Lochran). "After Tony's funeral, Peter laughed when I reminded him of our TV affair. I had fallen in love with Peter but was knocked down by a truck walking across the road from the Albert Memorial to Bunny's disco." The trauma sent her blind.

"Tony thought it was the biggest chuckle when Peter called and asked me to marry him in the show - and I could suddenly see again!" Judy said she and Tony had a baby, "a cat called Santa Claws. Tony gave it to me one Christmas. He wanted to call it Santa Maria, but I thought that was too over the top."

"Although we all went on from The Young Doctors to other things, Tony's funeral reminded us all how much a family we were. We don't se each other all that often, but we spent all that time together. It really means a lot."

Judy went on to star in Prisoner, become a 'voiceover queen' and now she lives in country NSW as a vegetarian raising ducks and cows.

-Ben Mitchell

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