Victor Newman, CEO of Newman Enterprises and mercurial patriarch of the Newman clan, has been married 10 times (Julia, Nikki x 3, Ashley x 2, Hope, Diane, Meggie and, in a particularly ughhhhhh storyline, his former daughter-in-law, Sharon). Eric Braeden, the actor who has played Victor for his entire 37-year run on The Young and the Restless, has been married but once, to his college sweetheart, Dale. He recounts their courtship and enduring marriage in his new memoir, called—what else?— I’ll Be Damned.
The book, obviously marketed toward Y&R obsessives (of which I am one) is 10 percent frothy soap actor bitchery (including a delicious passage in which Braeden outlines his contempt for Michael Muhney, the OG Adam, who was fired from the show for allegedly groping the actor who plays Summer), 30 percent Hollywood memories (his extensive IMDB includes stints on the original Hawaii Five-O, Gunsmoke and The Mary Tyler Moore Show), and about 400 percent more serious than I had anticipated. The 75-year-old actor—who was born in Germany during World War II—has spent much of his life coming to terms with his country’s atrocious past. Of course, his trademark phrase is used liberally throughout when discussing a variety of topics: “I’ll be damned if I’m blamed for [Michael Muhney’s] firing;” “I’ll be damned if I’m going to tolerate my image being defined by the Nazis.”
In a recent interview, Braeden is refreshingly frank about writing a memoir: “Just talking about show business bores the shit out of me,” he says, in what can only be described as a very Victor Newman-like tone. His real interests, he continues, are politics, history and sports. That said, he humours me by answering some admittedly pedestrian questions about love.
Pedestrian questions yield pedestrian answers… at first. The secret to a long-lasting relationship, like his and Dale’s?
“Women love flowers,” Braeden says, noting this is something he had to figure out over time. “When you grow up in a man’s world, you are a little bit insensitive to what women like.” (Can you not just picture Victor saying this? And yes, I am choosing to disregard the “man’s world” business.)
We move on to discussing his favourite of Victor’s many, many relationships. Aside from Nikki, Braeden is partial to his character’s multiple embroilments with Ashley. [Editor’s note: Zzzzzzzzzzz.] Then, he asks me for my favourite of Victor’s wives and I can’t reply fast enough: Hope, mother of Adam.
Braeden seems momentarily transported. His response is magical and I present it here, in its entirety, for your pleasure. [Editor’s note: For best results, imagine in Victor’s German drawl]:
“Hope at the farm, it evoked something so sad and beautiful and filled with longing. Victor was lonely, away from everyone, misunderstood. And he happens upon Hope’s farm and meets this blind woman. I can hear some Willie Nelson in the background. It’s a very lovely story. I grew up in the countryside and it lends itself to a lot of longing and dreaming. You hear the sound of the wind going through the corn and the trees… When I go back to my village on Germany, I just get on a bicycle and ride around the country roads where I met my first girlfriend. I will never forget that sweet, sweet time of first falling in love.”
Then we move on to his least favourite relationship of Victor’s—and mine too: his brief marriage to Sharon, which angered many of the show’s fans.
“That storyline could have been totally different,” says Braeden. “I suggested an entirely different storyline.”
Then, without any prompting, he continues:
“Sharon is obviously very attractive, and Victor succumbs to it one night. That’s a taboo unlike any other; having sex with your son’s wife. That only happens once, and Victor is so ashamed of it that he leaves the country. Next, you see the countryside in Santorini and you hear Gregorian chants and nothing else.
Imagine the breeze. [Editor’s note: Imagine the breeze!!!!!!!]
You hear these chants in a monastery—it’s a working monastery—and you see these hooded figures and you see Victor and he’s in a hood and he’s chanting.
The next morning, Victor wakes up in his room at the monastery with sweat on his brow. He is so ashamed of having given into that momentary whim of having sex with Sharon. Paul [Williams, Genoa City investigator-turned-chief of police] flies to Greece and is looking for him, but he loses his trail. They eventually find Victor among the homeless in Los Angeles. He is despondent and distant but slowly Nick [Victor’s son, Sharon’s on-again, off-again husband] forgives him.”
This is quite possibly the best response I have ever received during an interview.
But alas, the reverie is soon broken.
“What they did with that storyline was bullshit,” concludes Braeden, reverting back to no-BS abruptness. “They really f-cked it up.”