The ballad of Hans Gudegast

THE YOUNG AND THE RESTLESSNo matter what big, splashy storyline you might be watching onscreen these days – Carly returning to Salem? Tea and Todd getting married? Who really killed Stuart Chandler? – that story can only pale when compared to the high drama and the twists and turns provided by the story of Eric Braeden and his job status as Victor Newman on The Young and the Restless.

The story reached its climax on Friday when it was announced Braeden would be returning to the role of Victor. It was a culmination of a series of events worthy of Victor Newman. Braeden gave a slew of “exclusive” interviews and played hardball.

According to Sara Bibel’s Deep Soap, the tide appears to have turned when entertainment news sites like Entertainment Weekly reported that the salary that Braeden claimed was a “lowball” salary was still in the neighborhood of a million dollars. When Sony played those PR cards, Braeden’s camp appeared to be in a more conciliatory mood.

All personal feelings about the character and the actor aside, I think the whole Braeden story is a fascinating study in office politics and the power of public relations.

And it clears up one mystery that both We Love Soaps‘ Roger Newcomb and I had been puzzling about for so long. Namely: why the HELL does Eric Braeden get so many Soap Opera Digest covers?  It’s been no secret that Braeden’s publicist has for years maintained a sweetheart deal for Braeden – if he talks to you about story, Eric is on the cover. Period.

Was it ego? Perhaps. But in light of his now-temporary departure, I see it as solid insurance for a man working in a genre that has pushed many other actors in his age range and pay range down the elevator shaft.  This all hit me when I read Michael Logan’s interview (an “exclusive” one) with Braeden earlier this month. Logan’s interview with Braeden included this very telling comment:

ERIC BRAEDEN: It’s not that I’m not cognizant of these difficult economic times. One has to be stupid not to be aware. I’m also aware of certain decreases in the [Y&R] license fee that took place recently, but now it’s sledgehammer time, you know? [And that’s wrong] when you put your ass on the line for this show for 30 years, and have done as much publicity as I have. I still sell more [daytime] magazines than anyone in this medium, as you know. And I am very proud of that association.

Braeden’s insistence on being a cover boy could be called a lot of things – but stupid isn’t one of them. Those covers came in handy in the public relations battle that followed.

I’ll admit that, from a creative perspective, I’m not a huge Victor Newman fan. And whether it’s the character of Victor, or Braeden’s acting skills, I’ve felt that Victor was a pretty limited character. For years, I thought he was the Ridge Forrester of Y&R, a wooden character who’s more of a figurehead than anything else.

But while Braeden may be no Olivier or Branagh, it occurred to me the other day who he IS – daytime’s Clint Eastwood. Eastwood doesn’t have an A to Z acting range, either. But he plays the hell out of the few letters he does have in his range, and he’s smart and thoughtful about trying to make those characters more than one-dimensional stick figures.

In any event, the band playing the sad ballad of Hans Gudegast (Braeden’s real name) has left the rathskeller, and that ominous violin music is back, heralding his return. The Mustache, Father Time, The Great Victor Newman (TGVN) – whatever you call him, he may have been down, but he’s definitely not out.

You got that?

6 thoughts on “The ballad of Hans Gudegast

  1. I differ from you in that I LOVE Victor Newman. He’s despicable. He’s abusive. He’s an egomaniac. He has no conscience. He’s a borderline sociopath. He is delicious to watch.

    I’m so glad you make a point of saying that, no mater what your opinion of Braeden or Victor may be, Eric Braeden is NOT stupid. Too many people who dislike him and/or the character he portrays have been quick to jump on the “Braeden demands too much, all the time!” bandwagon. The fact is, he’s in a business where no one is simply going to hand over great deals out of kindness. Great deals have to be worked out and, often, seized. How does an actor close to 70 years old get his face on a different magazine *every month of the year*???? How does an actor close to 70 keep top billing on a successful television show and keep his character front-and-center? He MAKES these things happen, which may not make him many friends at Sony, but I don’t see Sony making these things happen FOR HIM.

    Detractors may call him arrogant, greedy, selfish, egomaniacal – whatever. But only an ignorant fool would call him “stupid.”

    Lana, I see your point. Early vintage Victor was fun to watch – I just feel like the character fell into a rut that I’ve seen other characters (like Alan Spaulding) fall into – utter predictability and or utter repetition of the same actions over and over, without finding a different note to play.

    Braeden and his team are very smart. They, and Crystal Chappell and her team, oughta give lessons on business action plans!

  2. I sort of have to disagree with you on the point concerning magazine covers.

    It could very well be true that he won’t give interviews without being on the cover. However, no magazine would ever interview him/put him on the cover if he didn’t sell magazines. To me it is sort of a wash or a win/win.

    I whole-heartedly believe that if Adrienne Frantz or Judith Chapman (or anyone really; Bob the Builder) would sell more issues of SOD we wouldn’t see EB on covers (or read interviews) because those people would be on time and time again.

    Bob, my comment about the cover isn’t mere speculation. It’s been confirmed to me by several people I’ve talked to in the industry, and Charles Sherman, Braeden’s publicist, hasn’t been particularly coy about it, either. At least with Soap Opera Digest (and perhaps with Soaps In Depth, though I admit I never read that magazine), Eric talks when he gets a cover.

  3. Patrick,

    Victor Newman has never been my favorite character, but his presence on the show is very reassuring. I always feel like I’m home when Victor is on that day. That’s the same way I used to feel about Doug and Julie on Days. Certain actors ground the show both by their longevity and the way the show revolves around them.

    While Braeden has gone out of his way to say that the show wrote Victor into a bad place in order to turn the audience against him, I disagree. I’m glad to see justice being served for so many of his misdeeds that have been glossed over in recent years. And I have no doubt Victor will come back triumphant.

    And as tired as I got of all the “exclusive” interviews Braden gave (how exclusive can it be when you’re talking to every reporter in town?), it definitely was a brillaint PR ploy. He managed to get mainstream attention. I mean, when was the last time you saw Entertainment Weekly give regular updates about the contract negotiations of a SOAP star? Of course, it helps that EW reporter Lynette Rice is a huge Y&R fan who even moderated a Y&R panel at the Paley Centerin 2008.

    At the same time, I wonder if other soap stars shouldn’t have followed the same path. Might we still have Julia Barr on our screens if she’d talked to the press about the way AMC was treating her? Instead, she kept her mouth shut and never even got a proper send off.

  4. Okay, but I still don’t think they’d continue to put him on the cover if he wasn’t selling magazines. The only reason the magazines cave to his demands, in my opinion, is because it proves advantageous to their sales. If he didn’t sell magazines they would say ‘no thanks’ and put someone who does sell magazines on the cover.

    I don’t disagree that Eric sells magazines, but I think it’s more complex than Eric’s face automatically equals sales. SOD also put Josh Morrow and/or Sharon Case on the covers a lot, partly because Nick and Sharon were heavy in story. I think SOD likes to have Y&R on its cover as much as possible, since it’s the number one show. Based on the last year, SOD (or Y&R’s publicist) feel that Braeden (and his love interest at the moment), Morrow, Case and Michelle Stafford are their ideal people for story coverage. And we know Braeden will be featured on the cover if he participates.

    I am not criticizing him for doing so – it seems like a smart move. And he’s hardly the first star to do so, only the most noticeable at this time. Ken Corday was specific with Digest that any coverage had to culminate in a cover as well, and for a time I stopped buying it because every cover was a DAYS couple.

    The only criticism I have is the fact that featuring the same cover or same feature over and over will eventually bore readers (who wants to read the 12th version of “Nick makes his choice….again!”). And though the magazines are a for profit enterprise and owe nothing to any show, I think there’s a direct correlation between coverage, or lack thereof, and the health of a show. You can’t tell me GL or ATWT has had NO story at ALL in the last two or three years that didn’t merit a cover. But neither show has had one.

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