Author: ericbraeden

usa today

USA TodayUSA Today

October 2, 1987
Interview by Barbara Manning

TV’s ‘RESTLESS’ actor meets the president
Everything’s coming up roses for Eric Braeden.

The dark-haired German actor has received such attention for his portrayal of dashing Victor Newman on The Young and the Restless, he’s been invited by President Reagan to join him in the White House Rose Garden today to celebrate German-American Heritage Day.
“For someone who came to this country with $50 in his pocket, I am deeply touched and very honored,” Braeden says. “It is nice for once to be identified as a German in a positive light.”
Braeden, 44, who was born Hans Gudegast in Kiel, West Germany, and came alone to the United States at age 18, knows all too well the other side of the coin. For nearly two decades he was mired in roles that portrayed Germans in the most negative way.
He turned to acting (after attending Montana State University on a partial track scholarship and working for a time as a cowboy) when he wound up in L.A. seeking a distributor for a documentary about the Salmon River in Idaho.
He heard German actors were being sought and figured he’d give acting a shot.

“We read poems and excerpts from plays aloud in school and I was good at those,” says Braeden, who learned British English in high school.
His first role was in the feature Operation Eichmann. By 1966 he was cast as Capt. Hauptmann Hans Dietrich, commander of an armed unit and nemesis of the Rat Patrol in the series of the same name.
Braeden was still going by Hans Gudegast. But when Colossus: The Forbin Project came along he was pressed to change his name. “Eric was a family name and Braedenback the name of my village in Germany.”
Eventually he tired of playing Germans all the time – especially Nazis who cracked their whips and snarled “Heil, Hitler.”
“I was determined to play other things after 16 or 17 years of playing the bad guy.” Friend and tennis partner Dabney Coleman encouraged him to try the soaps route. “Dabney had done a soap and told me I’d love it.”
Although Victor premiered as a bit of a sleaze, he has mellowed and become a key character on the hit CBS soap.
“I’ve been on the show for almost seven years and I love my work thoroughly.”
Braeden, his wife of 21 years, Dale, and their 17-year-old son Christian live in Pacific Palisades in a contemporary house overlooking the Malibu Canyon. On a clear day you can see the Pacific Ocean.
The 6-foot-1 actor, a German youth champion in discus, javelin and shot put, keeps fit by playing soccer and working out in his home gym, which he calls his “temple.”
“I sit and regather my thoughts and strengths,” he says of the remodeled garage that houses barbells, boxing gloves, slant boards and exercise machines.
“I workout usually in the evenings from 45 minutes to an hour and a half.”

Lifting weights has a calming effect. “You actually feel the tension leave the body.”
He has adjusted comfortably to life in the USA. And one of the special pleasures, a recent boon, is that “they recognize me in Bergdorf-Goodman’s in New York now, at airports and even on the park benches in Central Park.”

sports illustrated

Sports IllustratedSports Illustrated

August 7, 1995
Interview by Franz Lidz

All Victor’s Children

Victor Newman of “The Young and the Restless” has a hold on jocks young and old.
Part of the glamour of big-time athletics is the glittering lifestyle that we
imagine the athlete leads. Fancy cars. Mansions with endless corridors. All
the champagne and caviar one can gulp down. The idea that a top athlete might
run down to the 7-Eleven to pick up a can of tuna or recline on a Barcalounger
to watch a soap opera doesn’t quite fit our image.

And yet . . . around lunchtime you would be surprised how many athletes munch
tuna sandwiches and watch soaps. Though the brands of tuna vary, many jocks
watch one particular soap. And many watch one particular character, the same
character who enthralls homebodies, students, the terminally unemployed and
those who keep up with their favorite soap via VCR. His name is Victor Newman,
and he is a mainstay on The Young and the Restless. This spectacularly affluent
tycoon runs his business with the ruthlessness of a Chinese warlord and sheds
his redundant wives as easily as he does his tuxedo.

Newman’s boardroom power plays and bedroom reconciliations are followed
slavishly by boxers and ballplayers, golfers and gymnasts. “Jocks relate to
Victor,” says former Philadelphia Phillie pitcher Larry Andersen. “He relies on
intimidation, manipulation . . . He’s got most of the ‘-ations’ down pat.”
Jocks relate as much to Newman’s Machiavellian intelligence as to his swaggering
reserve a sense of throttled rage that gives him an almost sinister allure.
“Victor never lets his emotions show through,” marvels former NBA star Mychal
Thompson. “He can explode, but it takes a lot for him to lose it.” The
unflappable Newman hangs tough no matter how many barbarians try to crash his
gates. “Victor’s a guy’s guy,” says New York Yankee slugger Danny Tartabull.
“Always poised, always in control. And he always gets his revenge. We all
strive to be that way.”

Professional athletes have so much time and so little to do with it that many
get swept off in the sudsy flood of soaps. “Teammates used to tease me about
watching them,” says Thompson, who in his days with the Portland Trail Blazers
taped as many as five a day on road trips. “But they all knew the characters’
names even the exotic ones like Cord and Blade and Suede. Obviously, the
players were secretly kicking back on their beds, watching too.”
In these more tolerant times, few soapstruck athletes feel compelled to hide
their habits behind chained hotel doors. “I don’t watch sports,” says Chicago
Bull guard Ron Harper. “I do sports for a living. Soaps relax my mind and keep
me out of trouble.”

No soap has athletes in more of a lather that Y and R, a sprawling epic that is
as hard to summarize briefly as Finnegans Wake. The show is set in real-life
Genoa City, Wis., where, at least on Y and R, marriages fail with depressing
regularity and everyone is desperately involved with everyone else. The crises
faced by these New World Genovese run from straying affections and frayed
reputations to comas and bouts of amnesia.

In the middle of this melodramatic maelstrom is Victor Newman, a Fortune 500
buccaneer whose very name couples winning and rebirth. As played by Eric
Braeden, Newman is among the most mercurial of TV characters. One minute he’ll
warble some soap-opera aria such as, “Defer to your elders, or I’ll crush you.”
The next, he’ll peer soulfully through candlelight and whisper, “I love you with
every fiber of my being.” Newman is higher in fiber than oat bran.
Newman was soap scum when he surfaced in Genoa City in 1980. He sealed his
first wife’s lover in a basement dungeon and fed him baked rats. He met his
second wife at a strip joint, where she performed erotic aerobics. After a
failed third marriage he got hitched to the glamorous chemist who had been his
lover during his second marriage. Newman stumbled onto his fifth wife a blind
farmer named Hope after his Rolls-Royce was car-jacked at a diner. For months
he was presumed dead because he never bothered to phone home.

Immediately after meeting Braeden on an L.A. street a few years ago, Harper
called his mother. “Mom flipped out,” he recalls. “She said, ‘You didn’t
really meet Victor Newman!’ I said, ‘Yeah!’ It was hard to tell who was more

Newmaniacs often talk of their hero as if he were about to step through the
front door. “As cool as Victor is, he’s not my role model,” Thompson insists.
“I’m not going to jump into different beds or pull off some dirty business deal.
But if I had to, he’d be the one to show me how.”

“Victor Newman can make your life so miserable, you’re going to sit on your
grave and wish you were buried,” says Houston Oiler wide receiver Haywood
Jeffires. “He has power, and with power you can be as ugly as you want because
you know you’ll look beautiful in the end.”

The three-time Pro Bowler has followed Victor since his freshman year at North
Carolina State. “Victor’s got all the money,” he explains. “He’ll say, ‘It
costs $10 million? Call my accountant.’ He’ll say, ‘Let’s go to Europe for
dinner.’ The jet will be waiting and the Dom Pérignon will be on ice. Is that
power or what?” Jeffires doesn’t call his favorite soap The Young and the
Restless anymore. “To me,” he says, “it’s just Victor.”

Jeffires is such an avid Victorite that he rushes home from practice to catch
the last 45 minutes during lunch break. Clutching three remote controls, a
glass of milk and a stack of Oreos, he’ll move from room to room, TV to TV.
Jeffires gets so lost in Victor that his wife, Robin, makes him wear a receiver
in his ear. “Haywood!” She’ll shout into a mike. “Didn’t you come home to be
with me and the kids?”

“No, honey,” he’ll shout back. “I came home to look at Victor! I want to see
who he’s messing up today.”

If Newman goes a few days without messing somebody up, Haywood goes haywire.
“I’ve thrown my glass at the screen 15 times,” he says. “Repairs have run me
$6,000.” Robin jokes that she used to worry that he would hurl his infant son,
Haywood III, at the screen. “I need Victor to be controversial,” Jeffires says.
“The Lone Ranger and Tonto ain’t no more. It’s the ’90s. Time for the bad

They don’t come much badder than Victor. “When he loses, he just finds another
way to win,” Jeffires says. “In my next life, I want to be Victor Newman.”
Victor Newman has all that knowledge and yet he doesn’t know about women,” 59-
year-old Baseball Hall of Fame pitcher Bob Gibson says. “He loves everybody and
divorces everybody. But he never gets rid of his ex-wives. He still wants to
control them.”

It’s 11 a.m. and a telephone rings in Bellevue, Neb. And rings and rings . . .
“Call me at 11, chances are I’m not pickin’ it up,” says Gibson, now a St. Louis
Cardinal coach. “That’s my time for The Young and the Restless.”
The man with the glare, the man with one of the meanest dispositions in baseball
history, spends the off-season watching soaps. “The only way to get me mad now
is to interrupt my watching,” Gibson says.

His memory of his first soap-opera is as indelible as soap-opera lipstick: “One
day when I was about 30, my first wife told me, ‘Tom died.’ I said, ‘Who?’ She
said, ‘Tom.’ I said, ‘How long have you known him?’ She said, ‘He’s on my
soap.’ I said, ‘Oh’ and pulled up a chair. The next day I was back in front of
the set. I wanted to know what happened next.”

Gibson tries to keep up with Y and R when the Cards are out of town, but when
that’s not possible he enlists his second wife, Wendy, to watch for him. “I
call home to ask if Victor has left Hope yet,” Gibson reports. “I couldn’t see
him staying with her to begin with. With Hope being blind, Victor thought he
could control her. He’s finding out it’s not that way and starting to reach
back to his ex-wife Nikki. As self-assured as Victor is, he’s insecure about
Hope.” Last Christmas, Wendy bought her husband a portable television for his
car. “Reception’s a problem,” he says. “Makes me nuts.”

That and Victor’s teenage son, Nicholas. “How could Nick send his girlfriend a
$500 coat and not tell her it was from him?” Gibson sputters. “If Victor cares
about you, you’ll hear about it and very soon! What the hell could Nick have
been thinking? Teenagers! Puppy love! Drives me up a wall.”

Gibson shakes his head like a pitcher who’s just walked the bases loaded. “I
don’t know,” he says. “Some of that stuff just isn’t real.”

Victor Newman is the height of swa-vay!” says cruiserweight boxer Thomas
Hearns. “He got it going, and what’s going he gets done. I like how smoothly
he talks, and how he squashes people in a sneaky way. I once saw him driving
around Los Angeles. I was in a Rolls with darkened windows, and I had the
driver pull my car over next to his. Pulled up besides Victor Newman! Rolled
down the window and said, ‘Victor! My man! Anytime you have trouble with those
beautiful women, you give me a call.’

“I only get to see him on TV. I watch him two, three times a week, except when
I’m in training. Can’t watch him then. He’s got way too much going on. I
can’t concentrate on what’s going on with me. Victor won’t let me concentrate.
Women can rob you of your concentration too. They can make you do things you
had no intention of doing. Victor’s the same kind of treacherous. Which is
why, when it comes to training, I don’t have no Victor.

“Tommy Hearns has got it goin’ on in boxing. But in soaps, Victor’s got it
goin’ on. Get in his way and it’s all over. We approach women, business, life
the same sort of way like cobras. Before I became the Hit Man, I was the
Cobra. I pass that torch on to Victor. I just wish he could pass the smooth
and the swa-vay on to me.”

“Victor Newman,” says Sam Cassell. “Vic-tor Newman. Vic-tor Newman. Victor
“On the final day of the Houston Rockets’ regular season, the point guard
repeats this pregame mantra to his locker room cubby. “Sam!” says teammate
Vernon Maxwell. “You know about Victor?”
“Who don’t know about Victor?” says Cassell. “He’s the man. The Victor
Newman. Victor is cold.”

“Cold and debonair,” says forward Robert Horry. “Very sure of himself.”
“Man with that much power coulda married anyone,” Cassell says. “But he fell in
love with a blind woman. Not for what she is, but who she’s about.”
On the road Horry, Maxwell and Cassell watch Victor in the privacy of their
hotel rooms. “You need to be lying on your bed,” says Horry.
“Stretched out,” interjects Maxwell.

“Buck naked,” says Cassell.

The three were initiated into the Newman cult as teenagers. Cassell would skip
class at Florida State to watch the show. Happily, his political science
professor taught the same course at night. “I didn’t tell him why I needed to
take a later class,” Cassell says. “I couldn’t. What would I say? ‘I got to
see my Victor?”

Cassell claims to have sighted his hero a few years ago in the Memphis airport.
“He was talking on the phone,” Cassell recalls. “I screamed, ‘That’s my man
right there! That is Victor!” He didn’t say anything. He didn’t have to.
He’s Victor Newman.”

“Victor Newman is the kind of guy I wouldn’t put up with,” says 31-year-old
golfer Cathy Johnston-Forbes. “He’s too controlling. I’d tell him to go jump
in a lake. It probably wouldn’t come out like that, though.”
The 10-year LPGA veteran has been hooked on The Young and the Restless since
1973. But Newman still perplexes her. “Sometimes I like him,” she says,
“sometimes I hate him. He has everything he ever wanted, except satisfaction.”
She doesn’t see why women find Victor so irresistible. “He’s not that
handsome,” she protests. “Maybe they like being treated like queens. As
domineering as Victor Newman is, he can be sensitive, a gentleman. He treats
women like a crystal he never wants to hurt them. But in the end, he hurts
them anyway.”

She likes Victor best in those heady months after one of his innumerable
marriages. “No other women are in the picture,” she says. “Everything’s going
good.” Inevitably, other women enter the picture and everything goes bad. “I
thought Victor and his fourth wife were perfect for each other,” she exclaims.
“And then he falls back in love with wife number two. For the next six months I
hated him.”

It didn’t take long for number two to give way to number five. This left
Johnston-Forbes puzzled. “It’s not like I can’t understand men,” she says. “I
understand my husband, Foster. He’s nothing like Victor. The only similarity
is that Foster is real thoughtful to me.”
Foster caddies for Cathy. At lunch they watch Y and R. During the show Foster
has been known to pick up an imaginary phone and say, ‘Hello, this is Victor
Newman.’ When Monday Night Football is on, Foster sometimes says, “I’m going to
have a Victor drink.” Then he’ll straighten up, puff out his chest and pour
himself a Wild Turkey and water.
“Victor Newman reminds me of Tony La Russa, the Oakland A’s manager,” says
umpire Rocky Roe. “Tony’s a good-looking, swashbuckling kind of guy who’s
always in charge. Unless he’s arguing with me.”
Ever wonder what umps talk about between innings? If you’re Roe, you’re asking
your crewmates: “Has Dimitri found out the truth about Erica’s daughter?” Roe
is a dyed-in-the-gut All My Children fan. “I like Erica,” he says. “She still
looks good after 47 marriages.”

On this dull spring day in Orlando, Roe is folded into his family room La-Z-Boy,
a pouch of chaw in one hand, an empty Juicy Lucy’s cup in the other. Until
recently he didn’t know Victor Newman from Alfred E. Neuman. “I’ll watch,” he
says, “because I like the actor who plays him. If I’m not mistaken, he was
Captain Dietrich on The Rat Patrol.” Roe is not mistaken.

At first Roe finds Restless as mysterious as Kabuki. But within 10 minutes he’s
tracking story lines as if they were forkballs on the inside corner. “After 17
years of soap watching,” he explains, “I know the drill.” Roe anticipates, if
not relishes, every telling pause, every heartfelt stammer, every Mysterious
Fatal Disease.

The camera pans the cabin of a Learjet and settles on a man in black whose face
is bathed in white. “You know Victor’s wealthy,” Roe says. “He’s making phone
calls from the air.” Newman speaks in a deep, rich German accent that hangs
thickly on his sentences, like wet snow. “Great resonance!” says Roe,
dribbling tobacco juice into his cup. “Extremely expressive face. You can see
he’s anguished. He doesn’t even have to say a word.”

Newman has flown to Kansas to persuade his blind wife to return with him to
Genoa City (it would take too long to explain). “I can see why Victor wants her
back in Wisconsin,” cracks Roe. “The cheese is better, and the beer’s colder.”
He reaches across his ample belly to grab an iced tea.
As surely as the world turns, Roe says he can predict how the episode will end:
“Victor will be standing outside the door of a hospital room, looking in
anxiously at his bedridden wife and her old boyfriend.”
But it’s still early, and Newman is leering in his Lear. His nostrils twitch as
if at an offensive smell.

“Oh, my!” says Roe.
Newman curls his lower lip into the most malignant of sneers. His face suggests
a clenched fist.
“Jeez, Victor’s foaming like a Maytag!”
Newman swells with righteous indignation and begins talking LIKE THIS. Roe’s
lips tremble like strawberry Jell-O. “Oooooooooh! Evil!”
The episode ends with Newman standing outside the door of a hospital room,
looking in anxiously at his bedridden wife, who has just given birth, and her
ex-fiancé. “I think I’ll give Victor another look tomorrow,” Roe says. “If he
doesn’t grab me, I’ll put my finger on the remote and switch to another
channel.” In other words, he’ll give Victor the thumb.
“Victor Newman is not only omnipotent, but omniscient,” says Braeden. “He’s
forceful, yet reacts in an emotional way. That is what athletes dream about.”
The man who is Victor Newman is exercising his acting muscles on an L.A.
soundstage. He has just taped a wrenching scene with Signy Coleman, who plays
Hope. Coleman continues weeping. Braeden has long since detached himself. He
and the crew are playing catch with a balled-up page from the script. “Sports
keep you honest,” he says between tosses. “The joy is real, the pain is real.
Acting is innately fake. The challenge is to be real.”

It is somewhat ludicrous, Braeden says, to be alive in the time of your own
legend. This was never more apparent to him than the day he met George Foreman
in a dressing room at CBS Television City, where The Young and the Restless is
taped. “Oh, man, I am blessed,” said the heavy weight champ. “Oh, man, I am
blessed. I met Victor Newman.”

To keep himself Victorious, the 54-year-old Braeden spars and pumps iron in the
home gym he calls his “temple.” He plays tennis with Alex Olmedo, the 1959
Wimbledon champ. He coaches the Los Angeles Soccer Club on which his 25-yearold
son, Christian, is a sweeper. The team successfully defended its Golden
West League title this year.

Soaps, Braeden doesn’t watch. Even his own. “I watch sports,” he says. He
sees in premier athletes an arrogance that borders on the Newmanesque. “My
admiration for Muhammad Ali and Sugar Ray Leonard is boundless,” he says. “Joe
Montana’s self-possession was almost unshakable.”

Compromise has never come easy to Braeden. Born Hans Gudegast in Kiel, Germany,
he grew up under difficult circumstances. “My father died when I was 12,” he
says, “and I saw a lot during World War II. One assumes a kind of armor to
cover the pain.” At 18 he came alone to the United States, where he attended
Montana State on a partial track scholarship. He left Montana without
graduating and wound up in L.A. While taking some courses at Santa Monica
College he heard that Hollywood was looking for Germans. He turned actor.
Braeden got typed as a Nazi. “The experience was dehumanizing,” he says. “I
wanted a chance to play a complex human being.” That chance arrived 15 years
ago when he became Victor Newman. It is now difficult to say where Eric Braeden
ends and Victor Newman begins. “We’re both capable of enormous tenderness,”
says Braeden. “And ‘Don’t screw with me’ attitudes.”

That attitude sometimes gets Braeden in jams that even Newman couldn’t bail him
out of. In 1991 he got in a dressing room brawl with the actor who plays
Victor’s nemesis. Braeden and his publicist refuse to comment on the incident.
Braeden does say that “I have a lot of anger, defiance, rage. You need not to
squelch that. Anger is the fuel that fires many people.”

Sports, says Braeden, help channel his rage. “They’re a way of expressing
deeply felt emotions,” says Braeden, who has been married to the same woman,
Dale, for 29-years. “Isn’t love just a jockeying for position? You worship and
are worshiped. You leave her, she leaves you. Jealously is a form of defeat.
You fear you’ve lost the struggle to be Number 1 on the playing field of
another’s life.”

For all Braeden’s love of competition, last year’s ice escapades of Nancy
Kerrigan and Tonya Harding left him cold. “I saw the difficulty,” he says,
smoothing the corners of his mustache. “I saw the artistry. I saw the
athleticism. But ultimately, it bored me. And you know why? “It was soap

la times

LA TimesLA Times

Entertainment / The Arts / TV Listings
April 18, 1994
Interview by Libby Slate

From a ‘Rat’ to Playing ‘Young and Restless’ For the past 14 years, Eric Braeden has portrayed wealthy Victor Newman on CBS’ top-rated daytime soap opera, “The Young and the Restless.” A powerful, sophisticated and sometimes ruthless international businessman, his character has been involved for most of those years in a volatile, on-again, off-again relationship with ex-stripper and one-time wife Nikki Abbott, played by Melody Thomas Scott, and is now in love with blind farmer Hope Adams, played by Signy Coleman. Braeden came to the daytime series after a successful acting career in films and in prime-time television, including a starring role in the 1966-68 action-adventure series “The Rat Patrol” under his real name, Hans Gudegast. A native of Kiel, Germany, he was pressed to change his name upon landing a leading role in the 1969 Universal feature “Colossus: the Forbin Project,” when he says studio chief Lew Wasserman told him that no German actor would star in American films. Braeden had come to the United States about 10 years earlier after his high school graduation. Unlike his “Y and R” character, Braeden has been married to one woman, Dale, for 28 years and has a 24-year-old son, Christian, a UCLA Film School graduate. A lifelong athlete, he won the 1958 German Youth Championship with his team, the Rendsburger T.S.V., in track and field and the 1972-73 National Soccer Championship with a Los Angeles-based team, the Maccabees. In 1990, he co-founded the German-American Cultural Society to promote a positive, realistic image of Germans in this country and to advance German/Jewish dialogue.

Q: Daytime television is often compared to performing in Siberia, by actors and the entertainment industry at large. But you thrive on it. Why? A: Prior to my work on “The Young and the Restless,” I’d worked for 16 years in this town, mostly as a bad guy. I’d run dry. I think there was an enormous need in me as a German actor to show that we have feelings just like anyone else, that we have enormous conflicts just like anyone else, that we are very emotional people. I think that because of the dehumanizing effect of playing nothing but bad guys-and often, as it was in the very early parts, Nazis-there was an enormous need to connect with something in my work that had warmth, empathy, commiseration, that conveyed more positive feelings. I’m eternally grateful to this medium and specifically this soap for having given me that chance.

Q: Victor’s relationship with Nikki has registered an enduring appeal among viewers. Why do you think it has so captured their fancy? A: Arguably, it’s the idea of this incredibly powerful, wealthy man taking a woman who comes from the wrong side of the tracks into his life, and shaping her and forming her more to his liking. But, of course, no one can shape or form anyone-she remains who she is, has retained her strength, and that causes conflict. Those are the outward appearances. But what I think happens to us on screen is that she and I fight very well. When Mel and I have these emotional scenes, and there are many of them, something just clicks. I can’t explain it, except to say that you always hope to reach with an actor or actress some truth, some honesty, some reality, and in scenes with her I approximate that. And now I have that with Hope-Signy Coleman. I don’t know why that happens between some actors and not with others.

Q: “The Young and the Restless” celebrated its 21st anniversary last month.
It has been the No. 1-rated soap for the past five years, week in and week out. How do you account for that astonishing track record? A: Because (co-creator/senior executive producer) Bill Bell deals with basic emotions-love, hate, greed. Then he intertwines social issues in the stories that affect our lives in one way or another, be it alcohol, AIDS, divorce, teen-age pregnancy, teen-age marriage. So he taps into things people can identify with. Now, you embellish that by creating characters like Victor Newman, for example, who’s enormously wealthy and can call up his pilot any day to fly to Paris at the wink of an eye, and is mixed up with beautiful women. So you have what Hollywood has always provided: a visual pleasure but also a means by which the audience can identify with the characters’ emotional metamorphoses, conflicts and ups and downs.

Q: Unlike most soap actors, you also appear occasionally on prime-time television, such as a Perry Mason movie, the miniseries “Lucky/Chances” and, most recently, “The Nanny.” A: I usually do not do prime time, for a very specific reason. In the early 1970’s, a studio-and I won’t say who-summarily lowered its guest-star salaries by two-thirds. That, to me, was one of the most egregious affronts to actors. Agents cowardly acquiesced, and nothing was done about it. I still resent that situation and will not help perpetuate it. That’s one of the major reasons I’m doing the soap. I did “The Nanny” because I have great respect for (series star, co-creator and co-producer) Fran Drescher and the way she brought the whole thing about. And my wife thought it was a funny show.

Q: Your soap role is not your only outlet to communicate the fact that Germans are not the cold, heartless people that historically inspired stereotypes would hold. Why did you help create the German-American Cultural Society? A: I’ve listened for over 30 years to vilification of where I come from. The concept of Germany is usually synonymous with that 12-year period (surrounding World War II). I’ve always been deeply, deeply upset and angered by that, but it’s a kind of impotent anger, because what happened, happened. We are trying to have open dialogues between Germans and Jews. You openly talk to each other and discover what we have in common as human beings, not what differentiates us from a stupid religious point of view. We’ve talked about whether normal relations are possible, about German and Jewish contributions in America, present-day Germany, the consequences of reunification. What it really boils down to is this: Jews must not make the same mistake that was made about them. They were collectively and dismissively called “The Jews.” Don’t collectively and dismissively call us “The Germans.”




When I was accepting the invitation to speak at this Banquet, I began to ponder anew the question What is it like to be German, or German-American? How do I define my Germaneness? In personal terms, I have early memories of bombings and fires, of having to be carried frantically into a basement, of fear that gripped everyone at the sound of approaching Allied bomber squadrons that would inevitably unleash their destructive fury on cities and villages like mine, only to leave burning farms and screaming animals in flames in their wake.


I have memories of being hoisted onto the shoulders of my teenage brother so that I could see the city of Hamburg aflame after one of those devastating firebombings that left the city an inferno of which tens of thousands of civilians perished in one night.


I have memories of thousands of homeless and hungry people descending like desperate vultures, from devastated cities like Hamburg and Kiel, onto the countryside to frantically dig for any left over potatoes or kernels of wheat.


I have memories of Christmas Eve when my brother and I had to recite poetry to the local Santa Claus and sing “O Tannenbaum” and “Stille Nacht, Heilige Nacht” and only then could we turn to our presents, a pair of shoes perhaps, which would have to last until next Christmas.


I have memories of impromptu ice hockey games on frozen ponds and soccer games with pig bladders because we could not afford a real ball. Memories of a beloved father and hard school benches, of teachers who had come back from the Russian front with no legs and one arm, and great bitterness.


Memories of long hiking excursions on hot summer days, singing “Mein Vater war ein Wandersmann und mir liegt’s auch im Blut,” of secret rendezvous and adolescent kisses with my first love, Rosely, on country lanes. Of my mother saying, “Das koennen wir uns nicht leisten,” when my brother and I were coveting a pair of soccer shoes in the store window. Oh, when I think of my hardworking, proud mother and father, who experienced the two most cataclysmic and devastating wars in the history of mankind, and who each time had to start with nothing.


I remember Tanzschule, waltzing and doing the tango, and Elvis Presley, and Louis “Satchmo” Armstrong, and I remember leaving it all behind one day in May, when I was eighteen, while standing aboard the Hanseatic waving goodbye to my family while the orchestra was playing “Junge, Komm Bald Wieder”.


I remember the first sighting of the Statue of Liberty, the skyline of New York City, the sweltering heat, the frenetic hustle and bustle of white- and black- and brown-skinned people, of taking the Greyhound bus through Southern cities, where they had separate toilets and drinking fountain for whites and blacks, and where a genteel Southern lady expressed her love for castles on the Rhine and apfelstrudel, and asked me what I thought of Hitler, and I said, I didn’t and I hadn’t.


I remember fulfilling my childhood dreams of being a cowboy when I was in Montana and going to university there, and being asked, one day in a lecture on philosophy, in front of the whole class, how it was possible that a county that had produced Goethe and Schiller and Beethoven and Schubert could produce Hitler and concentration camps. I was eighteen then and couldn’t answer.


I remember the experience that left an indelible mark on my brain, and theretofore innocent German heart. It was in Los Angeles in a movie theater, where I saw a documentary of called Mein Kampf. I went to see it because its title promised something about Germany, and I was homesick. It showed scenes of concentration camps, goose-stepping soldiers, of Hitler kissing babies, corpses piled high in makeshift mass graves in concentration camps, of dead German soldiers standing frozen in the wind and the snow-swept steppes of Russia. It showed American soldiers liberating walking skeletons from camps.


It was then that I had lost my innocence, and no one was there to explain or quiet my deeply felt sense of anger, betrayal, and shame. Had my beloved mother and father been a part of that?


They just could not have, and yet I remember sending letters filled with anger and bitterness an inexplicable disappointment to my mother.


I remember later playing for a Jewish team called Maccabees. I fought hard for them, perhaps in vain hope of atoning for the sins committed by some members of my parents’ generation. I met Jews from Hamburg, a village in Hessen, from Cologne, Jews who had left in the thirties and who seemed more German in their old-fashioned ways and attitudes than I was. I met Jews who accepted me because I was too young, and Jews who did not accept me because I was German, and Jews who talked nostalgically of their favorite prewar soccer teams: Eintracht Frankfurt, or Dresden, or Hamburg or reminisced bitterly about the insidious ways of anti-Semitism. I met Germans who called me a traitor because I played for a Jewish team, and I remember an Israeli teammate who talked like a racist about blacks and was suspicious of me because I was German.


I remember my first agent in Hollywood, a Jew, who was kindhearted and helpful, and gave me my first break in this tough business of acting. I recall Americans coming up to me when I played Captain Dietrich on The Rat Patrol, saying, “I wish you Germans had wan the war, we wouldn’t have to worry about the damn Russians.”


I remember fighting with producers on how to play my role in The Rat Patrol. They wanted an eye patch and a limp so as to perpetuate the stereotypical image of a German soldier. I insisted on playing the Rommel-like figure as a human being with dignity because the German soldier of the Wehrmacht, who came back from the Russian front, was decent and brave and tough and fought for his country just like any other soldier. I remember a conversation with Curt Jüergens on the way to the theater in New York where I played his son in a Broadway play. He thought I should go back to Germany because in America I would play nothing but those damn Nazi roles, and I said it may take me a while, but I was determined to help destroy that caricature. I was determined to show that we were human beings with all the strengths and frailties, with all the feelings and thoughts, of any human being.


I remember my son coming home from grade school one day and telling me that he had been called a Nazi, and asking me what that meant. I remember my trying to explain something I had taken years to study and understand to a little boy.


I remember reading William L. Shirer’s Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, and Alan Bullock’s Study in Tyranny, and Albert Speer’s Inside the Third Reich, and the best book about that faithful period, Sebasian Haffner’s Anmerkungen zu Hitler (Anecdotes to Hitler).


I remember Simon Wiesenthal, during an interview, saying that the actual perpetrators of atrocities numbered about a hundred thousand, and Henry Kissinger say under no circumstances is the postwar German generation to be held responsible for Auschwitz. I remember admiration and respect of the German National Soccer Team, playing the World Cup in Italy. And then we became world champions. It was almost all too good to be true. Then came some editorials in the newspapers about the renaissance of German power and the caricature of Helmut Kohl as the new Hitler, and the many scathing remarks made by the cheap English press and character assassination by Margaret Thatcher and her cabinet, all warning of German power while bemoaning the loss of their own.


As a German, I wanted to shout out to the world “When will you ever stop talking about those damn twelve years? When will you ever give us credit for more than forty peaceful democratic years during which Germany has been an exemplary democracy, a loyal ally of the Western Alliance, an unwavering friend of both America and Israel, a patient initiator through its Ostpolitic with a Communist East, and a country that has opened it arms to more politically disenfranchised, the persecuted and hungry, than any other except perhaps America? When will you ever talk about and acknowledge the untold contributions made by German immigrants who toiled for you, America, as carpenters, farmers, mechanics, long-shore-men, doctors and nurses, coal miners, machinists, lawyers, surgeons and generals, teachers and scientists? When?” I ask.


Well, it will happen when we German immigrants and Americans of German descent start talking about it, and when we start addressing the issues that concern us, when we open our hearts and extend our hands to each other and to those who were wronged by another generation, when we became aware of our profound contributions to the success in freedom and democracy that is America.


For that purpose, a few friends of mine and I have founded the German American Cultural Heritage Society of Los Angeles. We want to preserve the histories of German Americans and their immigrant ancestors – be they Catholic or Protestant or Jew.


Our formerly divided Germany will become one again. Let us not forget Reagan, Bush, Baker and Mitterand, Kohl and Genscher, Gorbachev and Shevardnadze who made the seemingly impossible a reality, and the thousands of brave East Germans who courageously cried out for freedom.


Because of our historical legacy, we Germans have a profound responsibility to be tolerant of others and to cooperate as equal partners in this world of many peoples. Tonight, let us remember the many positive contributions the Germans have made to mankind.


What does it mean to be German? It means that we are part of a community of mankind with a specific and complex heritage, and I am proud of that heritage. Thank you.



Speech given at the Phoenix Club
October 10th, 2000

Dear Mr. Gorbachev and Ms Gorbachev, Deputy Consul General
Beck and Mrs. Beck, president Kunkel and Mrs. Kunkel, ladies and gentlemen: It is my pleasure, and I feel deeply honored to have been asked to say a few words of introduction about this evening’s keynote speaker and guest of honor. His courage and vision are directly and profoundly tied to our celebration of the tenth anniversary of German reunification.
In the last ten years a formerly divided Germany has become an integral part of a progressively unified Europe; for the first time in modern history Germany is at the center of a peaceful alliance. It has become the driving force of economic and political cooperation on the European continent. It’s neighbors to the East are no longer poised to wait for it’s demise, but instead are eagerly inviting German assistance in economic, scientific and technical terms.

No longer are mighty armies, with the most devastating arsenals the world has ever known, facing each other across an Iron Curtain that ran through our beloved Germany like a never healing wound.

The nightmare of a mutually assured total annihilation has given way to a lively exchange of ideas, and economic and technical interdependence. No longer is European soil the arena for the nuclear arms race, densely saturated with missiles of unimagined destructive force, nor are the world’s oceans teeming with floating weapons so powerful, their deployment would have ended civilization as we know it. No longer do Germany and America, along with it’s Nato allies, face a Soviet Union that in the 1980s spent a disproportionate 25% to 30% of it’s gross national product on weapons of destruction, nearly six times as much as the U.S. and it’s Nato allies.

Germany in the last ten years has extended it’s helping hand to most of the satellite nations of the former Soviet empire. The demand for German language instruction in Eastern Europe has increased dramatically. Personal contacts and visits among ordinary citizens – something completely unthinkable only twelve years ago – are now a commonplace occurence. Free enterprise and budding democracy have increasingly replaced the iron grip of dismally inefficient, centrally controlled economies. For the first time in over 70 years it is now possible to visit the country whose people have suffered through centuries of unimaginable deprivation and hardship and yet have given birth to the genius of Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky and Solshenetzin, and the music of Tchaikovsky, Borodin and Rachmaninov.

The fall of the Berlin Wall, the disappearance of the Iron Curtain, the free exchange of ideas and goods and people across heretofore hermetically sealed borders, all this is revolutionary and was borne of the efforts of many people, most notably former Presidents Reagan and Bush, foreign secretaries Schulz and Baker and Shervadnaze, Chancellor Helmut Kohl and Aussenminister Genscher. But no one person was more responsible for the most profound change in the geopolitical landscape of the second half of this past century, more directly involved in initiating the deeply longed for thaw in the icy and potentially explosive relations between the two hostile superpowers than this evening’s guest of honor. At the risk of losing his own life he perhaps spared the lives of hundreds of millions who would surely have perished had the insane arms race continued unabated. It was his vision of democracy and openness, of glasnost and perestroika, his dream of peace amongst former bitter enemies that allows us tonight to celebrate the reunification of Germany. Let us say “thank you” to the steadfast loyalty of Presidents Reagan and Bush and the American people. But none of their efforts alone would have made this the more peaceful world it has become in the last ten years, without the enormous courage and deeply humane vision of one of this century’s most brilliant and important statesmen. Whenever he sets foot on German soil he is spontaneously welcomed with outpourings of the deepest warmth and affection and gratitude. Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome the last Secretary General
of the former Soviet Union and now citizen of Russia and the world, Mr. Mikhail Gorbachev.

eric braeden
a german life


a german life
a german life 2
a german life 3

November 1994
Interview by Andrea Schulte-Peevers

The fighting Spirit of Eric Braeden
MOST AMERICANS KNOW HIM as Victor Newman, the handsome leading man on the
daytime soap The Young and the Restless. But many will be surprised to learn that actor Eric
Braeden began life as Hans Gudegast. Born in 1941 in war-time Kiel, he still remembers being
taken to the basement every night during the Allied bombing raids. After the war, change came
slowly to economically depressed northern Germany. “Post-war Germany was a tough place to
grow up,” claims the actor, whose most painful experience in life has been losing his father at
age 12. In 1959, fresh out of high school, he turned his back on the provincial atmosphere of his
hometown, booked a one-way passage on an ocean liner, and sailed for America in search of
adventure and opportunity.
After stints as a cowboy, university track star, and lumberjack, Gudegast landed in Hollywood
and soon captured his first part as a Nazi rogue in the 1963 film Operation Eichmann. Six years
later, after hopping from one villain role to the next (most notably that of Captain Dietrich on the
1960s TV series The Rat Patrol), he was offered the lead in The Forbin Project. The one
condition was that he Americanize his name; “no one with a German name would star in an
American Picture,” Braeden was told. Reluctantly, Hans Gudegast became Eric Braeden, in
memory of Breadenbek, a village near Kiel. Other movie roles followed before he made the part
of Victor Newman his own some 14 years ago.
On the day of our interview, Braeden had just finished taping 40 pages of dialogue for an
upcoming episode of the soap. Exhausted, he stretched his lanky frame out on the dressing room
sofa. He looked like he needed a couple of weeks of R and R. But Braeden, a devoted boxer,
knows how to call up deep reserves of strength when he’s on the ropes. When the conversation
turned to the image of Germans in America, lethargy quickly gave way to intensity.
A man of depth, intelligence, and sensitivity, Braeden’s concerns go well beyond the personal
level. As co-founder of the German-American Cultural Society (GACS), he has dedicated
himself to promoting an accurate and fair portrayal of Germans and Germany in the American
media, as well as to encouraging dialogue between Jews and Germans. For his continuous
efforts in this area, he was appointed to the German-American Advisory Board, joining Henry
Kissinger, Alexander Haig, and Katherine Graham. In 1991, he was awarded the Federal Medal
of Honor by then German President Richard von Weizäcker, whom Braeden greatly admires, for
“his courage and moral leadership.”
The 53-year-old actor talked to German Life about his frustrations and hopes, the roots of the
recent rise of anti-Semitism in Germany, the need to identify with one’s country, and what being
German means to him.

GL: You have spent most of your life in America, yet you never stopped identifying as a
German. What prompted you to found the German-American Cultural Society?
Braeden: I founded it because I’ve been very angry about the way we are misrepresented in
this country by the media.
GL: How do you define that misrepresentation?
Braeden: The image of Germans, almost exclusively, relates to the Second World War,
relates to the Nazis. It’s as if Germans did nothing else but put people into concentration camps
and fight these wars.
As a German of the post-war generation, I resent being identified with the Nazi period. I
resent being presumed to be of the same attitude as that crazy Austrian private with his insane
racist attitudes named Adolf Hitler. (This identification) dehumanizes me. It has done to me
what the Nazis did to the Jews. Germans are being dehumanized. We may be good mechanics
and good brewers of beer, but we’re never represented as full human beings. And it’s that which
I resent deeply.

But I want to be very specific about this: my anger does not reach the point where I become
revisionist, where I deny what happened. There are some here who do, to my dismay. By
denying those things you only make it worse.

GL: How do you counter these misconceptions and misrepresentations through the GACS?
Braeden: The way the GACS tries to incrementally do this is by engaging in dialogue. I
know when I meet a Jewish person or anyone else who is not from Germany, they will
immediately have certain presumptions about me. And I understand that. I say, ‘All right. I
know what you think of me, but now let’s sit down and talk.’
I personally believe that if we don’t do that, we run the danger of allowing stereotypes about
each other to be perpetuated. Therein lies an enormous danger. We must discover what we have
in common as human beings. We must not be separated because of some stupid ethnic
That is what I’m fighting. I know it’s a hopeless battle because certain images are being
perpetuated all the time. But I’m a defiant bastard. I tell people straight from my heart how I
feel about it.

GL: What should Germans do to reach out to the Jewish people?

Braeden: I think it is incumbent on us Germans to always be the ones who proffer the
conciliatory act. We can’t expect that to come from others who have suffered because of the
Nazi leadership’s decision to start a Second World War.
I know there’s a sentiment among lots of Germans to say, ‘Enough is enough. I don’t want to
discuss it.’ I understand that sentiment. However, what I always ask those Germans to do is to
put themselves in the shoes of an entire ethnic group that Hitler tried to destroy totally. If I had
been part of that ethnic group, I would probably be angry forever.
I’m not blaming Germans of that time for having followed Hitler initially. What I’m saying is
that everyone was had. I’m absolutely and thoroughly convinced that the vast majority of
Germans would never have allowed to happen what happened in concentration camps.
However, how do you as a German today convince someone who is not German of that?
Because all you see in the media are stories that indicate that the Germans knew all along. Of
course they knew about anti-Semitism. They knew that a lot of people disappeared in
concentration camps, not only Jews but Germans as well. But the way Schindler’s List – an
excellent film – extrapolates one particular issue of World War II and now puts it onto the front
pages as if (the extermination of Jews) was the main concern of the German people…It was not!
It simply was not.
When the German people found out in 1945 what really happened, I’m absolutely certain, I
know that the vast majority was aghast. In other words, it’s not only that Hitler pulled the wool
over the eyes of countries who fought us eventually. I think the German people, too, were had,
were raped in the worst way.

GL: Anti-Semitism is back on the rise in Germany and finding supporters among all age
groups. How big is the problem and what should be done about it?
Braeden: It’s a many-sided problem that not only emanates from those who are incorrigibly
racist. It also emanates from those who feel that nothing they do is ever good enough. A lot of
resentment among Germans comes from the absolute unwillingness – on the part of the Allies
and on the part of Jewish groups – to embrace my generation of Germans which has done
everything possible to make good.
And don’t give me that shit that you can’t ever make up for it. (Since the end of World War
II) Germany has always been conciliatory – to America, to Israel, to everyone. But if you stretch
out your hand often enough and you get beaten each and every time, you eventually pull it back
in defiance and say, ‘to hell with it.’ And therein lies the danger.
And that, I tell Jewish groups, you must become aware of. Don’t just always cry about how
bad Germans are. You must at one time or another recognize what my generation has done.
Appreciate it, say something good about it, don’t just negate it.
What I have to tell Germans in the leadership is that it’s about time they developed a healthy
self-consciousness as to who they are. They’ve done great things in the Bundesrepublik. If
people attack us for not participating in the Gulf War, then you have the responsibility as a
German chancellor to say, ‘Wait a minute. The reason we’re not participating is because our
constitution does not allow us to participate militarily outside of German borders;’ this, too, is a
legacy of World War II. What do you think would happen if we sent German soldiers overseas?
Then you’d see a reaction.
We have to have leaders who are vociferous about this, who have backbone to say, ‘Don’t
constantly identify us with that 12-year period.’ That doesn’t mean that they have to be
nationalistic, that they’re Nazis. We have as much of a right to be proud of who we are as
anyone else.
When we look at America, we don’t constantly talk about the decimation of Indians or the
disgraceful treatment of Blacks. We don’t remind the English of excesses in their colonies. But
perhaps we should start to!

GL: You really are angry.
Braeden: Very. Because I hear it over and over and over again. Ad nauseum. (He sighs.)
You caught me at a time when I’m vulnerable, I guess. But I’m very passionate and very angry
about this.

GL: Other than anger, what’s the emotion that drives your personal commitment to
improving the German image? Is it quilt? Responsibility? Pragmatism?
Braeden: It’s not pragmatism. If I were pragmatic about it, I’d say, what do I care? I had
nothing to do with it. But the sins of the fathers are visited upon the sons. We are, in a sense,
victims of that period as well. What is sad about my generation is that, when we became
conscious of who we were, we did not necessarily become conscious of our German-ness
unequivocally. We became aware of it with mixed feelings.
I think it’s very important for the psychological health of a human being to have identified
positively and unequivocally at one time with their country. You may later on become critical as
you look at things, as Americans do when they look at their own past. But we (Germans) never
grew up with that absolutely free, clear enthusiasm about where we were from. It makes us more
self-conscious, and it makes us very wary of expressions of patriotism and unbridled
GL: If there was one thing you’d like non-Germans to know about Germans, what would it
Braeden: That we Germans have as many doubts, as many depressions, frailties, as many
human feelings as anyone else does. We may have a tendency to have a stiff upper lip
sometimes, but we are just as human in every respect as everyone else.

GL: You recently played tennis with George Bush and emceed an evening for Nancy Reagan.
Does that mean you’re involved a lot with Republican causes?
Braeden: When you ask me, am I mostly with Republicans, that’s not true. I’m respectful
and I’m trying to remain objective. I think one of the great malaises of the Western democracies
is the fact that people think of policy in polarized terms. That’s what’s happening in Germany
between the CDU and SPD. It’s a polarization that is artificial, resulting in the inability to solve
problems objectively and rationally. So if you ask me, am I SPD, CDU, Democrat, (or)
Republican, I will tell you, it really depends. What we must try to arrive at is the means by
which we avoid trying to solve problems from a narrow perspective of partisan politics.