Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Y&R matriarch doesn't hold back in bio

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At age 83, Jeanne Cooper, Katherine Chancellor on The Young and the Restless, is one of daytime TV's busiest and most famous actresses.

Since 1973, the American Emmy Award winner has acquired millions of devoted viewers on CBS's most highly rated soap opera.

Despite the recent cancellation of such enduring soap classics as As the World Turns and Guiding Light, Cooper and Y&R continue to thrive, even in the face of diminishing audiences for the daytime genre.

Cooper's memoir, written with a little help from her friend Lindsay Harrison, is a no-holds-barred tell-all, in which she discloses that she was sexually abused by a male family friend when she was five years old and by a 16-year-old male neighbour when she was 12.

Her mother died when Cooper was 16 and she lived with friends to finish high school.

Cooper, divorced for many decades, says that she has always been sustained by "the love affair between me and an audience."

That affair has spanned movies and prime-time TV prior to her nearly 40-year stretch in the same role as Y&R's wealthy matriarch and mogul.

But Cooper claims her greatest love affair is with her three children and eight grandchildren. She writes with joy of the time in 1987 when both she and her son Corbin Bernsen, who was then starring on L.A. Law, were nominated for Emmys.

Cooper was nominated for playing her son's mom on L.A Law in a few episodes. Although both lost, their shared recognition meant so much to both of them. In 1993, Cooper also became the first daytime actor to receive her own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

She describes her late ex-husband, Hollywood agent Harry Bernsen, as a pathological liar. They divorced in the late '70s after 23 years of marriage.

Cooper discusses the erosion of soap opera budgets over the years. These days, she laments, "short of knocking over a piece of scenery or falling face-down in the middle of an important line of dialogue, we get one take, like it or not, and then it's on to the next scene."

Previously, there was the artistic luxury of many rehearsals and scenes were shot "until we got it right."

Cooper's passion for her craft and for her life leap off the pages of this refreshingly vibrant autobiography.

A survivor of cancer and of rehab for alcoholism, Cooper was also the first woman to have an actual facelift on television when Katherine had one on Y&R in 1984. With this act, Cooper boasts, she and her producers "co-created television's very first reality show."

Y&R's creator, the late Bill Bell, earns kudos from Cooper, as do most of the show's cast members. She credits Bell with never killing off the soap's core characters. That has not been the case since his 2005 death and Cooper laments the fact that John Abbott, one of Y&R's main patriarchs, was allowed to die on the show in 2006.

Cooper admits to having had romantic entanglements with a few of her Y&R co-stars -- including with Beau Kazer, two decades younger, who still plays her son, Brock, on the series.

Jeanne Cooper is a natural storyteller and that fact, plus her fascinating life, makes this book so much fun to read.

Brenlee Carrington, a Winnipeg lawyer and mediator, is the Law Society of Manitoba's equity ombudswoman.

Not Young, Still Restless

By Jeanne Cooper, with Lindsay Harrison

It Books/HarperCollins, 224 pages, $26

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 1, 2012 J7

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