A Young and the Restless look back: Jeanne Cooper's groundbreaking facelift turns 40 years old

Posted Thursday, March 28, 2024 1:01:40 PM
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The Young and the Restless legend Jeanne Cooper made television history when her facelift was shown on air as part of the story.

On March 28, 1984, The Young and the Restless' Jeanne Cooper went where no other television star had gone before when she allowed the soap to air footage from her real-life facelift. It wasn't something the actress planned when she first decided to do this for herself, but Y&R producer Bill Bell thought it would be fitting for her character, Katherine Chancellor, to do the same.

After Cooper asked for time off work to recover from her procedure, Bell asked her if they could go a step further.

"He came down to the dressing room one day, and he said, 'Jeanne, how would you feel about if we put Katherine through this?'" Cooper told the Television Academy in a 2009 interview. "I said, 'Well, it's a very good idea, since I'm going through it now and I am Katherine.'"

Once Cooper was on board, she insisted that everything be done with the utmost attention to detail, documenting the emotions that come with such a procedure, as well as the stark medical facts. Thankfully, Y&R had a stellar researcher on staff named Elizabeth Harrower who was in constant consultation with Cooper's plastic surgeon.

In fact, when we saw Katherine's bandages removed, we were really watching Dr. Harry Glassman's hands as another actor off-screen read Katherine's doctor's lines.

The event got people tuning in to Y&R four decades ago as they never had before when ratings went through the roof. People who had never watched a soap before watched this well-publicized episode. The episode also shined a new and more positive light on plastic surgery.

"We had 52 percent of the viewing audience of television that day, one of the highest ratings CBS has ever had," Cooper marveled. "Fifty-two percent of the people watching television were watching The Young and the Restless and this operation. It was so successful that it broke cosmetic surgery wide open."

Katherine's recovery was also true to life, as the show took cues from Cooper's experience during her own recovery.

After her facelift, Cooper remained on Y&R, entertaining legions of fans as Katherine for another 29 years. She last appeared on-screen on May 3, 2013, and passed away five days later. During her 2009 interview looking back at her life and career, Cooper called the 1984 surgery one of her "proudest moments."

What do you think? Do you remember Jeanne Cooper and Katherine's facelift? We want to hear from you -- so drop your comments in the Comments section below, tweet about it on Twitter, share it on Facebook, or chat about it on our Message Boards.

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