I’ve never really been a seeker of autographs. Okay, there was that period in the 1970’s when everyone seemed to have the little books and we collected each other’s signatures and we also signed each other’s yearbooks but that isn’t the kind of autographs I’m referring to. I mean the celebrity autographs.
I did have a few autographs from musicians of my younger days – but I have no idea where they are now. I collected them at various concerts I attended.
My most treasured autograph is a framed picture of Mel Blanc and many of the Looney Toon characters that I picked up at a celebrity auction back in the mid 1980’s. A local high school was raising money for their drama club.
But, today, I want to tell you about another treasured autograph that a friend got for me.
The exact date of this is hidden somewhere in my memory bank, but to the best of my ability, I believe that this happened in 1991. I was living in a building in north Winnipeg and had suffered my detached retina just a few months earlier (November 1990). In late summer of 1990, I had started getting to know one of my neighbours - John. We weren’t romantically involved, but we enjoyed spending time together, listening to music and chatting the night away. It didn’t take long for us to discover that we both enjoyed “The Young & The Restless” (Y&R). He had spent several months travelling in Asia and Indonesia, so wasn’t really up to date on storylines so I brought him up to speed. If he wasn’t working that day, we would watch the show together.
Y&R often sends various cast out to promote the show and many of the cast also do a lot of charity work, so if you are lucky, you may just find yourself in a city with a visiting soap star! That was the case for us in 1991.
The Grande Dame of Genoa City herself – Katherine Chancellor - who is so amazingly portrayed by Jeanne Cooper - was coming to Winnipeg for a local charity event. I think it was for the Winnipeg Humane Society, but she was also scheduled to make a mall appearance at the mall in our neighbourhood. There would be a question and answer session with the audience and you could get autographs after.
I was just getting used to my new limitations with being legally blind and I hate being in crowds, so I never really thought about going. I knew it would be very stressful for me. John had to work part of the day but wasn’t sure if he could make it or not, so I never really thought much more about it.
Unbeknownst to me, John made it to the mall a few minutes before the event was to start. He was standing at the back of a large crowd looking around to see if he knew anyone when he spotted someone he recognized standing off to the side - out of view of the main audience. He walked over and introduced himself to none other than Jeanne Cooper herself!!
They chatted for several minutes before she was introduced to the audience. John later told me how gracious and down to earth she was. Among other things, they had talked about traveling and he had briefly told her about his trip to Indonesia. I believe she had told him about a family member also traveling in that part of the world.
He stuck around for the Q&A session, then got in line to get an autographed poster. There were several to chose from – a couple of Jeanne or one of Jeanne and Jess Walton (who portrays Jill Abbott). They were already autographed by Jeanne (and Jess for the one with both) but you could get it personalized for an additional small fee.
Due to time limitations and the size of the crowd, there was a limit of one per person for the personalized posters. Well, John - being John - wanted two posters autographed. He paid for the posters and was giving the names he wanted the posters autographed for, to the person who was assisting Ms. Cooper. He was trying to explain to the person in charge that he wanted one for a close friend who loved the show but couldn’t be there because they were dealing with a major health issue. The person in charge wasn’t having any excuses and insisted that it was one per person – no exceptions.
Jeanne, who was busy signing autographs, overheard the conversation and saw that it was John who wanted the extra poster. She looked at the person in charge and said that John was a friend of hers and that if he wanted two personalized posters then he will get two personalized posters! John thanked her and gave her my name for one of the posters.
A short time later, John was at my door and started telling me about his afternoon. As he got to the part about the autograph, he pulled the rolled up poster out of his backpack and gave it to me.
To say I was shocked was an understatement! I wasn’t shocked at how John had handled the whole thing as he has this quality of making friends quickly, but I was surprised that he had gone that extra step to get mine personalized!
I must admit though that I wasn’t exactly thrilled that he had gotten me the one that also included Jess Walton as ... well ... let’s see, how do I put this politely? Jill can be a "bit difficult" and really hadn’t been that nice to my heroine Kay! John assured me, that since I had only been watching the show for about 4 years at that point, that I would come to love Jill as well. Well, he was partly right! I really do respect the actress – Jess Walton - as she is a marvellous talent and Jill can be quite loveable, but I have to admit that there are still times I want to throttle her!
My personally autographed poster is framed and still hangs in my apartment! Every time I look at it, it makes me smile and think of John and how he did something so kind and wonderful for me at a time when I wasn’t feeling very good about what was happening with my sight and my life. I wish I could have gone with John that day and met Jeanne myself but I have the next best thing – a personally autographed poster!
I took a picture of it the other day and uploaded it to the PC, so that I could post it here. Using a photo editing program, I blurred my name to protect my privacy – but I swear that my name is under there!
Jeanne Cooper is almost 82 now and still going strong on Y&R! Her character, Katherine Chancellor, has been through a LOT of ups and downs and countless adventures since she first aired in the fall of 1973, but Ms. Cooper truly is the class act that she appears to be both on and off camera.
Thanks for being such an inspiration Jeanne - and thanks for the autograph!