Sunday Reflections 4: The Young and the Restless’ Jeanne Cooper Book Reviewed; General Hospital

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.  

Comments

  1. Leona says:

    As an old-time Y&R fan (I watched in the 1970s), I can’t wait to read the book! Thanks for the review.

    Marlena says: Leona, great to hear from you!

  2. SZima says:

    I look forward to reading Jeanne’s book…love biographies that aren’t afraid to tell it like it was!

    I agree with you about the Alexis/Shawn scenes. I actually had to FF through them and the flashbacks. I wonder if NLG really thinks these are good storylines as she says on her facebook page. She always seems to be excited about up-coming stories, but when I see them, I’m embarassed for her. She deserves better and I was hoping CarTini would give her the good stories she deserves. I’d love to see her in a love story worthy of her.

    Marlena says: We’ve been waiting SO long for Alexis to have a love life again! I’m glad I’m not the only one to think this little pool scene belittled Alexis. What happens to her from here? Isn’t it interesting that Alexis’ unfortunate ex, Jerry Jacks, is back in town? Maybe Shawn can save her from him. This would all be typical General Hospital, no? Let’s hope (sarcastic LOL) the current regime at GH treats Alexis with dignity now that her love life is finally going to perk up.

  3. Esther says:

    GREAT review of Jeanne’s book — left me wanting more and may motivate to get her book. Just perfect!

    Ugh, I gave up on GH a while ago and if they’re doing that to my favorite character, that’s not going to bring me back. Alexis is super smart. Wish the writers were too.

    Marlena says: Thanks, Esther. You will really like the book. Since you are a primo Alexis fan, I’m glad you missed this week’s chest-happy sequence. But perhaps a rich, real and deep romance for Alexis would bring you back into the fold.

  4. James says:

    Chere Marlena,

    Thanks for the review of Jeanne’s book. I’m looking forward to reading it. Between that and the new Bill Bell biography, should be lots of interesting Y&R reading ahead.

    The General Hospital “Gold Medal” repeats have been OK so far, but hardly the best episodes the show has ever aired.

    Was really hoping we’d see episodes from the 80s. So far, the oldest episodes have been from 1999. Guess that just goes to prove that the long time viewers were indeed turned off when GH became Sonny and mob-centrice a decade ago. If more of the lifelong viewers were still around, they likely would have voted for some of those 80s and early 90s episodes that I so wanted to see. Luke figuring out the password to the weather machine was ICE PRINCESS, Laura’s reunion with Luke in 1983, BJ’s heart transplant, etc.

    Marlena says: I agree that these episodes are far from GH’s best. But I have friends who asked not only why they didn’t go back to the 70s and 80s, but the 60s too. Perhaps many people voted for the episodes from the years GH has been on SoapNet.

    • Chris says:

      Well, it looks like the true GH fans have come out and voted for the REAL CLASSIC episode where Maxie gets B.J.’s heart from 1994 for “Best Tearjerker” for the recent Golden Moment episode that aired on wendsday! I hope that Luke and Laura are the ones that get “Hottest Supercouple” (even though there may be a chance that Jason and Sam will probably win that one since some of the other fan voted choices were recent ones from the 2000′s) and their famous 1981 wedding gets “Best Moment” since I voted for those two in those categories! I thought the episodes that were from 1999 which were Liz and Lucky’s Valentine’s Day vows and when Laura lashed out at Sonny, Jason, and Luke after Lucky’s “death” were really fantastic episodes, and Genie Francis gave an outstanding performance in the latter episode!

      Marlena says: I’m actually writing about the B.J’s heart episode (sob!) in Sunday’s column. During the Golden Moment episodes, why doesn’t SoapNet tell us 1) what category it has won and 2) the episode’s date? All this going back and forth is very confusing! There are so many monumental performances in these episodes. Genie’s Laura was always just superb, younger or older. Bring her back!

  5. horselover says:

    How can viewers vote for 80s episodes when there are no CHOICES from the 80s? I guess SoapNet (along with GH) wants us to believe GH didn’t start until Sonny came to town.

    Marlena says: LOL, horse!

    • Chris says:

      There were a few nominees that are episodes from the 80′s like Frisco and Felicia’s wedding in the Best Wedding category (which didn’t get picked and Robin and Patrick’s 2008 wedding did!) It’s just that there weren’t a lot of 80′s episodes to choose from! I wish that Soapnet would tell us who won before they aired the episodes too Marlena, but I guess they wanted to be secrective about it to grab some ratings away from the summer olympics I guess!

  6. horselover says:

    Hi Chris. How can you say there weren’t a lot of 80s episodes to choose from? Really? Tracy withholding Edward’s heart medication, Alan trying to kill Monica and Rick, Luke coming back from the dead and seeing Holly married to Robert, Duke “dying” in an explosion while little Robin and Anna screamed and on and on. GH in the 80s was a cultural phenomenon so I’m not sure how only mentioning two things from the 80s (F&F and L&L) makes any sense. Does SoapNet really want me to believe that a Liason or Jasam seduction scene were so much better than any of the Robert & Holly sauna scenes or that Robin and Patrick were a hotter supercouple than Duke & Anna? Really? No worries though. I’m pretty used to people thinking GH started when Sonny came to town.

    • Chris says:

      I meant not a lot of 80′s GH episodes to choose from that were nominated for fan votes in certain categories for the Soapnet Golden Medal Moments event, horselover! I love 80′s GH too!

  7. tia says:

    I read the book–very nice job, typical, life-loving Jeanne Cooper.

    She only name drops a few guy’s names and doesn’t go into detail, but the one guy she had a fling with and speaks of lovingly, as he remained a friend until the day he died, is, believe it or not, Raymond Burr, who yes, was gay, as we found out after his death. Well, after what Jeanne says, we’d have to say “bi.”

    There’s a great audio interview with her at this link. It runs about 36 minutes (it’s the long version of a shorter posted one): http://www.scpr.org/programs/offramp-extra.xml

    Scroll down and you’ll see the interview with her.

    Marlena says” I’m glad you liked the book. Thanks for the url. Your letter reminds me of an interview I did with Burr towards the end of his life. He was so warm and charming I instantly wanted to be his friend. I grew up on Perry Mason! He and Ms. Cooper must have had a wonderful friendship, filled with a lot of laughter and fun over the years.

  8. janet says:

    I also was a big fan of Raymond Burr. I also grew up on perry Mason and I also was a big fan of Ironside. That was also a good show. The actors all seemed to actually like each other.
    I will look for Jeanne s book. I watched the show in the beginning.I tried to watch lately but they have their own version of the character who ate the show .So I have stopped.
    As for GH. I am liking the show a little more lately, not all the mob .I will not miss Steve I just wish he would take MB with him. They have eaten the show .

    Marlena: Such a pleasure to find out one of the icons of my childhood was such a sweeite. Was the character who you say at Y&R Victor by any chance?

  9. Beacon says:

    I wonder if Marland wanting Jeanne on his show was an agenda to snag the top stars of the number 1 rated show (he’d already got Terry Lester), so World Turns would reclaim the crown it held for so many years.

    I wonder if Marland and Bill Bell kept tabs on what the other was up to, and if there was a competitive vibe between them? Any gossip?

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