I have had a very unique vantage point from many other people who have had the opportunity to cross paths with the legendary Jeanne Cooper. At some points in my relationship with Jeanne, I was to be the journalist, always questioning her, awaiting her forthright, humorous, and take-no-prisoners answers to anything I threw at her. And then at other points, I had the honor of being her dear friend.
I always knew the days I would come to the Y&R set and sit in her dressing room with her was going to be a good day. Jeanne would always greet me with a smile and a joke, and when I would tell her, “I love you” at the end of our interviews or visits, she would say back. “And I love you, too.” I knew she meant it. I felt her love and friendship for many years … always! She always had my back. She never judged me. Both Jeanne and I had many ups and downs in our lives, and when we would get the chance to talk, we shared them with each other. But as I am trying to wrap my head around the devastating loss for Jeanne’s family, her Y&R family, her scene partners, her fans and her friends worldwide, I feel so fortunate to have learned so much about her, and how she feels about so many people whose lives were enriched by knowing her, too.
I know that she had a very soft spot in her heart for the boys on the show. (Well, they were men, actually!) In particular: Doug Davidson, Greg Rikaart, and Christian LeBlanc … Oh, how she enjoyed each of you, and loved you. She told me that so many countless times. I knew she respected, enjoyed, and protected Katherine’s relationship with Jill, and her enduring relationship with Jess Walton. And, I knew how much Jeanne’s children and her grandchildren meant to her, as they were often the topic of conversation. And, I knew when the chips were down that I could count on Jeanne.
In 1999, I hosted on-camera The Young and the Restless 25th anniversary party for Sony Pictures Digital Entertainment’s Soap City.com. We were streaming live from the CBS soundstage 41. Against the party atmosphere and the large Y&R logo backdrop, and the 25th anniversary Olympic sized medals I placed around each of the performer’s neck in honor of the milestone, I was told earlier that day that my contract was not being renewed after four years. So that evening, I was addressing the online viewing public and the cast, while hosting this soiree’, only I had to figure a way to sign off as “Soap City Michael”. I waited till Jeanne Cooper was with me. I knew if Jeanne was holding my hand and next to me, I could get through it and just blurt it out that I am signing off. A stunned and upset Jeanne called over Peter Bergman, Michelle Stafford, and Christian LeBlanc, none of whom knew what on earth was going on! But with these people surrounding me, thanks to Jeanne, I got through it.
To say that she lived a fascinating life is an understatement. Everyone got to learn more about it when Jeanne released her memoir, Not Young, Still Restless last year. My final interview with Jeanne was this somewhat technically odd Skyped split-screen interview, with her while she was in New York on her press junket with Harper-Collins for her book, and me at home in Los Angeles. I have to thank Harper-Collins for letting me do this chat with Jeanne and making it happen, so I will have it with me forever. But through the magic of the Internet, and even with the look of it, and even with audio problems, I swear, it was the defining interview of my time with Jeanne. It was there that Jeanne and I shared laughs, tears, and even talked about our friendship more publicly for the first time. (You can view our final interview together below.)
The world will never be the same without our Mrs. C. … an amazing actress, a kind soul, a loyal friend, and a true legend deserving of that title many times over! I hope Jeanne has some hilarious stories to share with me, when we conduct our first interview in heaven together. Till then, I will hold you in my heart, Jeanne.