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Home Features Inside the Bubble Jeanne Cooper, goodbye my friend

Jeanne Cooper, goodbye my friend

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Jeanne Cooper (Katherine, Young and the Restless) (c) CBSEvery writer loves to write, but this is the type of piece you hope you never have to do, so here goes.

Even though the inevitable was there, hearing the reality of it is hard to accept. Jeanne Cooper Soap Icon Dies.

I had to stop what I was doing and say to myself this can't be true, or maybe this is a new soap opera twist, but then the reality sunk in that daytime TV and the entertainment industry lost one of it's greatest and I lost a true friend.

To be an icon, and be able to achieve legend status is to be applauded, and Jeanne Cooper, who has played the Grand Dame Katherine Chancellor on the Young and the Restless for 40 years is in a league of her own.

My friendship with Cooper goes back 25 years. I was working for a TV station in Chicago and was sent to do a behind the scenes of Young and the Restless, so of course...I interviewed the stars and the co-owner, Lee Phillip-Bell.

Now picture this. In true Katherine Chancellor fashion, Cooper enters the room that is all set up to interview Lee Bell. The interview with Bell is in progress and Cooper suddenly enters the set and sits down and joins right in. In reality, she wasn't supposed to, but how can you say no to a lady larger than life? In fact, Lee Bell had nothing to say other than welcome her aboard. I must say that to today, it is my most treasured interview, and a new friendship emerged.

Bell, whom I already was friends with, introduced me to Cooper and the rest is history.

I still remember telling the audience that I was sitting with two of Hollywood's most stunning ladies and Cooper looked at Bell and she replied, "Frick and Frack." It was priceless.

Speaking of priceless, that is the word that describes Cooper's persona and personality. I would always joke with her that when she was created they threw away the mold. Her reply was, "They had to. I had it copyrighted," and of course, that voice and famous laugh that followed.

I recently spoke to Lee Bell to reminisce about that famous show and her good friend. Bell said, "Without a doubt Jeanne was a special lady. I will miss her, as well as everyone else. If there was a plan I'm so glad Jeanne got see the 40th anniversary of Y&R, a show that she helped make."

She made television history. In 1984, Cooper's real-life face lift was televised on the show as her character underwent a facelift at the same time, and she had no regrets about doing so.

"It opened up reconstructive surgery for so many people, youngsters getting things done," she said. "To this day, people will come up to me and say, 'Thank you so much for doing that. My mom or I had something done, and not just cosmetic surgery.' That was an incredible experience in my life."

She also brought alcoholism into the storyline, a disease that she battled, conquered and won in real-life. In fact, she would always give attribution to the Bell family for saving her life. Once telling me that Bill Bell (co-creator of Y&R) would pull her aside and say Jeanne UR UR UR. "I believe this family really saved me."

Jeanne Cooper and YR cast members in Price is Right publicity photo

And then of course...there was the duel role of playing whacked out Marge. Who can forget the hysteria? Cooper always loved doing the roles. She said, "I have to tell you that when that ended, I wanted to kill the writers."

And the secret child she had that she told no one about. In every role she played she created magic on the screen.

Much like the character of Katherine, Cooper had a way with words, and a zest for life that was remarkable. At 84 years-old, she was a ball of fire. She always said that she had a lot of Katherine in her and that is why for 40 years she was fun to play.

Retirement was never in her vocabulary. She was an early riser. Whenever we'd talk on the phone she wanted to be called at 7 AM. She also was so proud to have reconnected with her sister in Las Vegas. Every morning the two ladies began a ritual of calling each other to begin the new day.

Cooper said that a day is to have a purpose. Life is to have a purpose, and that is how she lived. In fact, every New Year's Eve she celebrated in Vegas. She'd always say, "Where else can an old broad go?"

I always looked forward to the holidays because that meant calling Cooper to find out what she is doing. She loved the holidays and always shared her Christmas traditions, and she was one lady who knew how to Deck the Halls.

I have never found Cooper to be a loss for words. In fact, sometimes her language would make one cringe. Dare I say...like a drunken sailor? But I believe Cooper would agree. Every time we chatted, if for an interview or just to talk, the conversation lasted two hours. She would begin by asking if I had my cup of coffee?

Cooper was briefed on many of today's topics and can put rings around the younger generation. Always the economy was on her mind and how rough it's out there. She'd talk foreclosures and the problems of everyday life. And I always knew better to never get her going on politics, or we'd be on the phone all day. But one thing...every phone called ended with "God Love You, and God Bless, and Live Life."

On a personal note, when I had trials or tribulations in my life, Copper always had the words. She always had a way of making you see the other picture. When my parents passed, again she had the words. My dad was 94 years-old and a fan of Y&R. When I told Cooper of his super-fan status, she insisted on talking to him on the phone. It made his day. But again...that was her style. Under the rough exterior she was probably one of the kindest human beings around that was a loving caring individual.

I recall a Chicago visit a few years back, where Cooper and I went to dinner at Oprah's restaurant. As she strolled about the Windy City, she was gracious to everyone on the sidewalk and stopped to talk. I was like Jeanne...we have reservations, but that was her.

Soapdom's Mark Wilows and Jeanne Cooper (Katherine, Young and the Restless)

Cooper had a great love for her fans that supported her career. In fact, her recent memoir "Not Young, Still Restless" just came out and she always said that this is for the fans to get to know her and she wanted to bring them into her life.

I can go on and on, but I know she'd say Mark...ENOUGH!!!! Cooper was never about being admired, she always said, "I have a job to do like everyone else."

Corbin Bernson, who shared details of his mother's battle with her illness and love of life with fans on his facebook page, and cherished the thoughts and prayers fans sent Cooper's way in return, with his mom, Jeanne Cooper, in better days.

I will end by saying... the world not only lost a great person, Y&R lost one of its most memorable characters and actor and friend. As one actor said, 'the halls will be hallowed'.

So goodbye my friend. You will live in my heart and in the hearts of many. Heaven just gained a precious angel that added a touch of more class to what is said to be a beautiful place. Every time the sun shines I will think of you sending down the ray telling us to live and follow your philosophy of making each day special.

Soapdom and myself want to offer Cooper's real life family, actor Corbin Bernsen (Psych), Collin, and Caren, and her beloved grandchildren that she cherished our deepest condolences.


Cast, crew, friends and family will gather this upcoming week on set at The Young and the Restless to tape a special tribute to Jeanne Cooper that is set to air May 28th. 

“Jeanne Cooper was a legend, and we want to give her the tribute she deserves,” CBS Daytime SVP Angelica McDaniel said in a statement. “The cast will honor their longtime friend, family member and co-worker in the greatest way possible, as we celebrate her life and vibrant spirit and share it with the audience who loved her as much as we did.”



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