We often take the Internet to task; today we praise it. Last week, "The Young and the Restless" legend Jeanne Cooper became gravely ill. If any one actress deserves to be called a national treasure, she does. Things looked grave indeed, and we were anxious for any tidbit we might learn about her health. Almost as a form of therapy, her son, actor Corbin Bernsen, took to social media to update her loyal and loving fans about her condition. He poured his heart out. Slowly, his missives became more and more hopeful. At the time of this writing, Cooper was out of intensive care and reportedly being quite vocal about her desire to vacate the hospital all together.
Bernsen showed much love toward his mother's fans and was always aware of how anxious they were for news of her condition. It was as if he hoped that if all of us banded together through him, we might will her to wellness.
Sadly, we have written too many posthumous tributes to daytime legends. We have to admit that when we heard of Cooper's illness, we were fearful that we would have to write another one. We almost wept when we learned that her health was on the upswing. We want to celebrate Jeanne Cooper now.
I want to share a personal story of the first time I met her, more than 20 years ago. She greeted me like a long-lost friend, with great compliments on my weight loss. We engaged in a marvelous, lengthy chat. To this day, I have no idea who she thought I was -- we had never met, but I was not going to contradict Jeanne Cooper. In part, maybe I believed she was akin to her character, the imperious Katherine Chancellor, and woe to anyone who contradicted her. Nothing could have been further than the truth. I found a warm and giving woman instead, which viewers have gradually found her "Y&R" character to be, as well.
Cooper, despite her long years in the business, has rarely been on the back burner. Most shows have their elder characters take on a supportive role. Very few seniors remain vibrant and front and center. Even now, with a story about memory loss, Cooper is in the spotlight. No one wanted to see her Katherine end up with Alzheimer's, which seemed like a definite possibility for a while. Cooper knew that, and recently stated that if that were the ultimate trajectory of the story she would not have played it. She did not want people to see her beloved character this way. She could and would have played the hell out of it, but she wanted her character to remain strong and independent. Indeed, it is not Alzheimer's -- her character has a brain tumor. We expect her to come through it with flying colors.
If Cooper ever chooses to retire, she has earned it. She has endured just about every fate that any character could go through. Yes, she has come back from the dead, played a dual role, had more husbands and lovers than anyone could remember, and even found out that her worst enemy was her daughter, who then turned out not to be her daughter. We could go on, but you get the picture.
Cooper commands the screen, whether she's sharing it with women one-quarter her age or merely half. She and her character -- who helms a powerful corporation with tenacity and grace -- are simply magnificent. Brava to our favorite legend.