Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Not Young, Still Restless


I have a great affection for broads - women who don't suffer fools gladly, women who hold their own yet don't steamroll over others in the process, just all-around kick-ass women.  Not Young, Still Restless is Jeanne Cooper's memoir.  Since 1972 Cooper has played the role of Katherine Chancellor on the daytime soap opera, The Young And The Restless.  A soap I religiously watched throughout my teen and college years, and only really gave up once I started working for a living and discovered romance novels.  But to this day I adore Mrs. Chancellor.  She's totally balls-out fabulous, not unlike the woman who has portrayed her for the last 40 years.

This is a very breezy, chatty memoir, written with the help of co-author Lindsay Harrison.  Cooper tells it like it is (and was), yet never wallows in self-pity or sentimentality.  It happened, here it is, the end.  There are moments she probably could have delved deeper into (more gory details about her failed marriage, her alcohol addiction, rehab....), but you get the impression from the book that isn't her style.  If you're a reader into a lot of long, detailed, floggings about the bumps in the road of life, this may be disappointing.  But I think it gives a good, accurate picture of the real woman that is Jeanne Cooper.  One who acknowledges that she made mistakes, yet wouldn't necessarily trade in any of those experiences if she had the luxury of doing it all over again.

The highlights of the book for me were the details of her failed marriage to Harry Bernsen (yes, actor Corbin Bernsen is their oldest child....) and the Y&R "stuff."  Of Harry you get the impression there are more than a few sour grapes there, but if even half of what Cooper alleges in this book is true, it's easy to understand why.  But I also appreciated that has much as Harry put her through, she doesn't throw the baby out with the bath water.  She acknowledges that he was a good businessman, a great agent for many of his clients, and he gave her three fabulous children whom she clearly adores.  What I was most struck by was the opening paragraph to the chapter that delves into her life with him:
"Here's my theory about what happens when we women meet someone to whom we're too attracted to for our own good: I don't think it's a matter of not noticing the red flags that signify this relationship is not a good idea.  I think we notice them and, because those red flags don't mesh with what we think we want, we come up with euphemisms for them, to trick ourselves into believing they're part of what makes him interesting."
As interesting as the details about her life outside of Y&R are, let's be honest - nobody would probably be reading this book if it weren't for her work on Y&R.  So I feel fairly comfortable declaring this book as being mostly "for fans."  Cooper landed on Y&R at the perfect time in her life.  She jumped on board during the early days of TV and built a solid, reputable career for herself as a "guest star" on many of the popular shows of the day.  This was back when you could earn a decent living just doing guest spots on shows like The Big Valley, The Man From U.N.C.L.E, The Twilight Zone, Perry Mason and the like.  But with her marriage crumbling around her, her children mostly grown, Y&R meant long-term steady employment with a full-time paycheck.  Forty years later she's still there, and dishes on some of her costars.  She has fond memories of David Hasselhoff, Eric Braden has a "playful" sense of humor (really, Victor Newman?!), she had a relationship with the actor who played her son Beau on the show (!), and the differences between Terry Lester and Peter Bergman (the two Jack Abbotts).  I also appreciated that she calls the world of soaps like she sees 'em - at least by today's standards.  She's not above calling out studio execs and prime-time programmers who treat daytime like red-headed step-children.  She also calls out story lines she loved (Marge Catrooke, Rex Sterling etc.) and hated (Jill could be Katherine's daughter!, killing off John Abbott.....).

In the end this was an entertaining memoir and delivered exactly what I wanted as a lapsed Y&R fan.  It was a quick read with just the right amount of self-deprecation and offered insight into a woman who has carved out a very interesting career, and fulfilling life for herself.  And it really made me want to go back in time and watch those old episodes of Y&R again.  Back when everybody attended fabulous soirees at The Colonnade Room.....

Final Grade = B

7 comments:

  1. Thanks for the review. I'd thought about picking up this memoir but got distracted by my fiction TBR. I, too, watched Y&R while growing up. Second only to Stephanie Forrester,Katherine Chancellor is my favorite tv Grande Dame. I love behind-the-scenes and the Bell shows are a dynasty I can't wait to read more about.

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  2. I checked this book out before but it was too high on Kindle. Today it's only $2.99 so I snatched it up because I am curious about some of the Y&R stuff. I read that her and Melody didn't talk for years and Jeanne never knew why. That's wild working together every day and not knowing why you aren't speaking! Can't wait to read it.

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  3. I meant to say "the price was too high";)

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  4. Jamie: For me the only reasons to watch B&B were Stephanie Forrester and Sally Spectra :)

    Cooper does give some behind-the-scenes stuff, but she stops short a couple of times - I suspect because she still works with so many of the players. But it was a fun trip down memory lane. I hadn't thought about the Gina Romalotti character IN YEARS!

    Goddess: It's a good deal at $2.99 because it is a short book. The print copy literally only clocked in at 200 pages. It's very chatty and breezy, but a fun read for fans (IMHO). And she talks about the Melody stuff but doesn't really offer an "explanation" - mostly because, I think to this day, she doesn't really know what brought it on. She has suspicions, but that's about it.

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  5. Y&R is not my soap, but I might have to get this one out of the library anyway.

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  6. Thanks, Wendy. I'm really enjoying it so far.And you're right, she didn't say much about the Melody thing OR the Eric vs. Peter fight. I'm guessing cuz she has to work with these people:) A tad disappointing but totally understandable.

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  7. Samantha: It's a very solid library read. That was actually how I got my hands on it - borrowed a copy from work!

    Goddess: It was really interesting to see what she chose to dish on and....what she was more coy about.

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