"I guess I must have done something right."
Soaps.com recently had the great pleasure of chatting with "Y&R's" Jeanne Cooper, who in addition to continuing to rock her iconic Daytime role of Katherine Chancellor, has become a best-selling author! Read on to hear her insights on the memoir, "Not Young, Still Restless," as well as her thoughts on the recent departure of Maria Arena Bell, which really hit her heart, and more on "Y&R."
Soaps.com: Congratulations on making the New York Times Bestsellers list!
Cooper: Oh my gosh! I never in a million years...it's new to me.
Soaps.com: How did you find out and what was your reaction?
Cooper: Harper Collins. I was in my dressing room at the studio and picked the phone up. I was expecting a call from my wardrobe designer, but there was this big, "Congratulations!" I thought, "It's not my birthday." But it was Harper Collins congratulating me. I made the tour in New York without any kind of a problem, and I said, "What, what, what?" They said, "You made the New York Times Bestsellers list!" My stomach just went 'kadiddledump'. [laughs] It was just amazing; just a phenomenal kind of thing. I was totally embraced by everybody, and that in itself is an affirmation that what you've been doing all your life has reached a lot of people, especially when you have seven decades into the entertainment business. I guess I must have done something right.
Soaps.com: Early on in your book, you refer to yourself as shy, yet your story paints you as a woman who is confident, social, and, of course, comfortable on stage and in front of the camera. Did you outgrow your shyness or do you still see yourself that way?
Cooper: Well, I still sort of see myself that way. When I assert myself, that's just me bringing myself up to speed and saying 'this is something you must do'. I'm very private about a lot of things, but when it comes to my life, and what is happening in my life, I've been very honest and very open and unafraid, and that's the other core part of me that functions as one person, and the portrayal becomes a second person; so in many ways I guess I am Katherine Chancellor and Jeanne Cooper. I still won't force myself into a situation or that sort of thing; I don't go to a party and just swing through it. [laughs] I won't put myself in a position to be uncomfortable if I can help it.
Soaps.com: What was the most challenging aspect of writing your memoirs – besides trying to remember everything?
Cooper: Lindsay [Harrison] who is a dear friend and also a very fine writer, said [of the book], "Jeanne, I will help you but it's gotta be done. Here's a recorder - that's 'on' and this is 'off' - so turn it on and say something when you feel like it." [laughs] I felt like a complete idiot. So I turned it on and said, "My name is Wilma Jeanne Cooper," and turned it off. About 3 weeks later I turned it on again and said, "I was born in Taft California," and then things just started popping out, and I began to realize that there's a lot of my life that people don't know anything about. There are so many things that happened in 83 years of living, what do you choose? Lindsay was marvelous about it because when I got on a subject that I found I had a lot of anger about, she would say, "No, no Jeanne, remember Marcia Wallace's title of her book - 'Don't Look Back We're Not Going That Way'. So I basically made that a rule of thumb - stop looking back because there's nothing you can do about it. I decided to forgive but not to forget let's put it like that. A lot of things that have happened to me in my life, other people have had happen to them in theirs, I think that's one of the interesting things they will find in the book. I have never ever said, "Look at me, look what I've done." I've just done a lot and it was very difficult...so it was Lindsay's and my choices to bring out what we did. There is a slice of me and a slice of Katherine Chancellor.
Soaps.com: You were very candid about your experiences with your wayward husband, Harry Bernsen. Did anything you revealed about him in the book come as a surprise to your children or family members?
Cooper: Not really, no. Some accepted it and that was the way it was, or they wouldn't accept it and that's the way it was, and I, of course, thought I could overcome it, or him, or he could overcome whatever it was. We know that's a red flag. Hey, he was who he was. I've forgiven him, but I sure as hell can't forget it.
Soaps.com: So, the kids always saw him for who he was?
Cooper: That was their dad and that's who he was. I don't know if they liked it or not, we didn't really discuss it to any degree because they were busy discussing their lives, and our association with one another. We're all very very close, and he was not that kind of a person. If you had a family reunion he wouldn't be there. It's just one of those things...he was who he was. You can't look at an elephant and say I'm going to make you a giraffe. [laughs] It just doesn't happen.