Hardly ever interview soap stars, but was glad to talk recently with Eric Braeden. The daytime icon was in the news recently when word surfaced that he was leaving The Young and the Restless after nearly 30 years when talks to renegotiate his contract broke down.
Times being what they are, especially in the daytime television business, Sony Pictures were asking all their soap stars to take a pay cut. Braeden–earning $1.5 million a year according to reports–refused. Sony said Nov. 2 would be Victor Newman’s swan song.
Braeden, 68, had a last minute change of heart and the two sides hammered out a deal. I have a story all about it on the cover of Starweek magazine in Saturday’s Toronto Star, where, among other things, you can read about how Braeden and his Y&R costars really aren’t all that close off-screen.
Braeden’s a real pro and a great interview. A CBS publicist called a few minutes before the appointed time to confirm that things were a go and also to declare that it would be a true one-on-one, with no third party publicist on the phone. “That’s how Mr. Braeden likes it,” I was told. Hallelujah, trust and confidence. Hiow Victor Newman.
Braeden is a big fan of Canada, having traveled north many times over the years to promote Y&R. He’s also well acquainted with several Canadian sports stars and even played hockey with Wayne Gretzky several years ago at a charity game in No. 99’s home town of Brantford, Ont. A bix boxing buff, one of his close pals is former heavyweight Ken Norton, who co-starred with him in the recent independent film The Man Who Came Back. He still spars, but, after suffering four concussions in his youth, tells his training partners no more shots to the head. Braeden still works out twice a day, and was off to play tennis right after our phone call.
The German native grew up worshiping Max Schmelling, the former heavyweight champion who fought two historic and symbolic wartime matches against Joe Louis, winning one and losing one. “Meeting him was the high point of my life,” says Braeden, who was amazed at how lucid Schmelling remained well into his 90s.
Braeden also had high praise for former Canadian champion George Chuvalo, who took on Ali, Frasier and everybody else in the ’60s and ’70s. “What a brawler he was!” says Braeden.
He also met and has great respect for disgraced sprinter Ben Johnson. Braeden, who was a track and field star as a young man back in Germany, feels Johnson was targeted as an Olympic scapegoat. “I felt very sad and angry when they kicked him out,” says Braeden, who feels all Olympic records should be viewed under suspicion after 1968, “especially in the explosive track and field events. It all comes down to milliseconds,” he says. “They’d do anything to gain an advantage.”
Braeden says all the athletes know when to use performance enhancing drugs and when to taper off and feels there is more to the Ben Johnson story “than anyone realizes. Some hanky panky went on.”
And I thought all the hanky panky was on daytime TV.