By Jenny Peters
When German-born, now staunchly proud American citizen Eric Braeden thought about writing a memoir of his life in front of the camera, he hesitated.
“I was so reluctant to do it,” the 76-year-old star of “The Young and the Restless” recalls in a recent phone conversation with German World. “I had serious doubts about finishing it, too!”
But that was then, this is now. “I was prompted to write it by my son and my wife. And then when I saw the finished product, I liked it! And I didn’t expect it to become a best seller, I didn’t expect that at all,” Braeden says.
That recently released memoir, “I’ll Be Damned: How My Young and Restless Life Led Me to America’s #1 Daytime Drama,” isn’t just about his long-running role (37 years!) as Victor Newman on that popular CBS soap opera. Not by a long shot. Beginning with his birth in 1941 in Kiel, Germany, in the midst of World War Two, Braeden lays his life bare, from his father’s Nazi ties and untimely death (when Braeden was only 12), to the poverty that he, his mother and his three brothers faced after the war and on into his ultimate fame as a multi-faceted actor.
“I left Germany and came to America because of the almost abject poverty in my family,” the man originally named Hans-Jörg Gudegast remembers, “and the almost impossible chance to sustain any kind of studies in Germany.”
So the tall, handsome and very athletic German made his way to the United States in 1959, eventually finding himself in Montana, where in 1960 he won an athletic track scholarship to University of Montana. But as he tells it in his page-turning autobiography told in a conversational style to journalist Lindsay Harrison, the cold of that northern state was too much for him, and he jumped at a chance to make a documentary about a two-man river trip on “The River of No Return,” the Salmon River in Idaho. He and his partner did return, and then took that film of their adventure to Hollywood.
As Braeden recounts in “I’ll Be Damned” (named for his signature utterance in “The Young and the Restless”), the rest was history. Sure, he worked in various odd jobs while trying to break into Tinseltown, but he soon began booking work as a TV actor, which led to his starring role as a Nazi captain in “Rat Patrol,” beginning in 1966. Countless roles followed in shows ranging from “Gunsmoke” to “Hawaii 5-0,” with movies – including “Titanic” in 1997 – thrown in along the way. But from 1980 on, it was “Y&R” that made the actor a worldwide star.
Along the way, Braeden met his wife Dale Russell in the early ’60s; married now for 51 years and the proud parents of one son, Christian Gudegast, Braeden’s memoir chronicles their lives together as he also rubbed shoulders with famed entertainers, politicians, philanthropists and athletes.
But as he is the first to admit, his family has always been the glue that has kept him grounded, focused and always looking for the next challenge. Which right now is passing the torch of Hollywood success on to his son.
“I’m about to go and do a cameo role in my son’s film. My son is a screenwriter and he’s directing a screenplay that he wrote called ‘Den of Thieves’ and it stars Gerard Butler and 50 Cent, a very good cast. I’m more proud of that than anything else. I’m so deeply proud of him.”
About the Author: Eric Braeden
Braeden’s journey from a hospital basement in Kiel, Germany, where he was born in 1941, to the soundstages of Los Angeles has taught him more about joy, heartbreak, fear, courage, persecution and profound responsibility to the global community than he could have hoped to learn in several lifetimes. Growing up in the years after Germany’s defeat, Braeden knew very little about the atrocities of his parents’ generation, until he arrived in America as a teenager—a discovery that horrified and transformed him. Trying to redress the wrongs of his homeland, he has dedicated his life to humanitarian work—even forming the German American Culture Society dedicated to German-Jewish dialogue —working for decades to show the world that what we share as humans is far more important than what separates us from one another.
Since February 2, 1980, Braeden has starred in “The Young and the Restless,” winning a Daytime Emmy for his role as Victor Newman. The athletic actor even won the U.S. National Soccer Championship in 1973 with the Los Angeles Maccabees.
Filled with sixteen pages of personal photos, his autobiography “I’ll Be Damned” will be a treasured keepsake for “Y&R” fans, and immigrants from all walks of life. <em>(Source: Dey Street Books)</em>
Published by Dey Street Books, an imprint of Harper Collins Publishers.
ISBN: 9780062476111. E-Book ISBN: 9780062476142.
List Price: $26.99 USD (hardcover).
Available at www.harpercollins.com – www.barnesandnoble.com – www.amazon.com