By Marlena De Lacroix a.k.a. Connie Passalacqua Hayman
The Young and the Restless: Like gossip on old movies and TV and the soap opera world? Like to laugh? Wanna get all the inside whispered into your ear by a great soap opera icon? Then get yourself a copy of Not Young, Still Restless (HarperCollins) the very frank and entertaining autobiography of 83-year-old Jeanne Cooper, who has starred as Katherine Chancellor on The Young and the Restless since 1973.
Cooper, who was brought up in a modest household in Taft, California, fell in love with theater and became a Hollywood contract player (and later television freelancer) during the 50s, all before she came to Y&R. She appeared in such movies as The Girl From Wyoming with Maureen O’ Hara (who initially tried to push younger actress Cooper into the background) and Let No Man Be My Epitaph (where she became friends with Shelley Winters.) For more than two decades she was a most prolific guest star on primetime shows (from Wagon Train and Perry Mason to The Man from U.N.C.L.E. and Bracken’s World) getting to really know such stars as Barbara Stanwyck, Raymond Burr and her dear longtime friend, Barbara Hale.
And right off the bat, Cooper tells you who she slept with in those glory days — David Janssen and Robert Taylor (!) were just two. Very quickly you see that the strong woman who survived and thrived in the difficult word of Hollywood had tremendous vulnerabilities, revealed through her running painful description of her love/ hate relationship with her husband, agent and producer Harry Bernsen. He was a handsome, cheating money moocher, and she eventually divorced him. But their three children (actor Corbin, Collin and Caren) became and remain the lights of her life. What a proud, deeply loving mother she appears to be! (She now has eight grandchildren in a tight knit family.)
Cooper confesses that The Young and the Restless saved her life. After her bout with alcoholism, Bill Bell personally sent her to rehab. Cooper delightfully details all the leading names of the actors and backstagers she’s known through the Y&R years, including Bell (with whom she continually bickered) and his wife, her dear classy friend Lee. You’ll chuckle at her remembrances of the mercurial Brenda Dickson and admire her longtime personal devotion to such co-stars as Eric Braden, David Hasselhoff (whom she mentored), Christian Leblanc, the late Terry Lester and Jess Walton, among others. She also details the friends she’s had trouble with — a two-year freezeout from Melody Thomas Scott and an incredible story about that would-be knife-in-the backer Kate Linder (who plays Katherine’s goofy maid, Esther.) Plus there are memories of her three back stage lovers — Donnelly Rhodes (Katherine’s second husband, Phillip), Quinn Redeker (Rex Sterling /Brian Romalotti) and a serious love affair with younger man Beau Kayzer, who played Katherine’s own son Brock.
The best part of this book is the feeling that you are actually having a visit with the idiosyncratic Cooper. Although she had a co-author, the text sounds exactly like her, told in her infamous hilariously candid voice, complete with asides.
She asks, wasn’t it just insultingly tacky the way the TV Academy treated her and a group of other distinguished daytime vets on an Emmys broadcast on the occasion of their induction into the TV Hall of Fame? She remembered when Y&R was so much more luxe and rich, complete with lushly detailed sets. Cooper says it certainly isn’t that way anymore! She confides that Y&R’s first producer John Conboy taught her Katherine’s elegance. And she reveals that Doug Marland pledged to write a new character and a story for her on As the World Turns just before he died. Wow!
If you don’t already admire Ms. Cooper for her well-known forthrightness regarding her six-decade career, you will by the end of this amusing, but deeply heartfelt book. There is nothing like a candid, very, very human dame!
General Hospital: So this week, Alexis was so knocked out silly by the sight of Shawn’s (albeit mighty fine) chest during their (artfully directed) game of strip pool, that she had numerous flashbacks of the experience the next day. Is this the simple way a very intelligent woman falls for a guy? Whose fantasy is this? Yes, I know Alexis is hard up and ready for some action. (Can you believe Marlena actually typed that sentence?) Even if this is a soap opera, our cerebral Alexis melting away at the mere sight of superbly chiseled musculature was just ridiculous. As a brainy babe myself, I even felt a little put down watching it.
By the way, there’s nothing Marlena loves more than watching old soap episodes on a big television screen. So I’ve been adoring SoapNet’s Gold Medal Moments, vintage General Hospital episodes that aired in primetime this week and will run through August 10th. Even if the episodes aren’t as classic as we old, old veteran Monty-era fans prefer (most episodes are from the 90s and the 00s), it’s still exciting to see such characters as Bobbie, Rick, Stefan, young original Lucky and Laura again. These episodes were voted on and selected by GH viewers — recent ones, it seems.