How Victor Newman appears during the opening credits of the show.
(Photo from Conversations with Marva)
For those of you who don't watch soap operas, first of all, I am sorry for you. But more to the point, Victor Newman is one of THE characters in daytime drama. Where Erica Kane (played by Susan Lucci) on All My Children is the female diva of daytime, Victor Newman is the male lion of the pride.
Victor Newman is a billionaire CEO of a company he created, Newman Enterprises, which of course sells cosmetics. He is a manipulative son-of-a-bitch but he is also a consummate romancer. He has been married to six different women, twice to Ashley and three times to Nikki, his one true love. He uses his billions to buy the women he loves jewels, horses, and chalets in France. He also uses his billions to influence judges, bring in the best surgeons, and completely reconstruct the face of a crazy woman whom he set on his arch rival, Jack Abbott.
Jack and Victor's feud is a consuming, never-ending passion for both of them, and yet at times they also regard each other with something like affection. Jack often refers to Victor as "The Mustache."
This is a montage of things that Jack Abbott and Victor Newman have said to each other over the years. It's echoey because Jack is remembering all this. It's also a bit loud. When Victor smashes his self-portrait, what he shouts is, "I will crush you!"
See? Where else would you encounter such a figure so ripe for drama and pure TV pleasure?
But wait, there's more. Victor was an orphan as a child, so sometimes when he's feeling angsty, he pushes everyone away, shouting things like, "I grew up on my own, I did all this by myself, and I certainly don't need you!" and storming out of the room. Every once in a while he also disappears from Genoa City, like the time he needed to avenge the death of one of his wives, Sabrina. Incognito in a black baseball cap and sunglasses, he boarded a bus to Mexico in search of her mafia killer. No one heard from him for weeks and it was up to his grown children, Nicholas and Victoria, to reassure the shareholders that his company was on sound footing in spite of Victor's unexplained absence. They often have to soothe those jumpy shareholders.
He's been arrested and tried twice for murder -- but he was innocent, of course, most recently framed by his dastardly son Adam -- put in a psychiatric hospital, and shot. He's had epilepsy, amnesia, and he's undergone a heart transplant. Yet through it all he remains his autocratic, manipulative, troublemaking, romancing, tough-guy self.
(Photo from Daytime Dial)
He's been on the show since 1980. After twenty-nine years, so many storylines and characters revolve around him, if you were to remove Victor Newman from the show, you'd have a great big vacuum right in the middle of it.
But according to the news as of last week before I left for my trip, that's exactly what was happening.
To know what's going on with Victor Newman, it helps to know a little bit about the man behind the character, Eric Braeden.
- Nearly every soap opera has a character with an accent, but in this case, Victor's is real because Eric Braeden is originally from Germany.
- Like Victor, whose name was changed from Christian Miller, Eric Braeden was born with a different name: Hans Gudegast.
Hans Gudegast, decades before Eric Braeden or Victor Newman existed.
(Photo from Confessions of a Pop Culture Addict)
- He was very athletic, excelling in track and field as he grew up. In the US, where he emigrated while still a teenager, he worked tough jobs, as a cowhand and in a lumber mill.
- Though he went to college on a track & field scholarship, he got interested in film and made a documentary with a friend about boating all the way up the Salmon River, which had not been done before.
- He landed his first major acting role in 1966 as a German officer named Captain Hans Dietrich on The Rat Patrol.
- He appeared in several other supporting roles, and then after he got the lead role in Colossus in 1970, Universal Studios suggested he change his name. Gudegast and the studio argued over that until, reluctantly, he agreed. He's been Eric Braeden ever since.
- When he was offered the part of Victor Newman in 1980, he was reluctant to take that on, too. But he's also been Victor Newman ever since he agreed to that.
Victor Newman in his earliest days on The Young & the Restless.
(Photo from Confessions of a Pop Culture Addict)
- He's been nominated for an Emmy award five times, and he won once in 1998.
Eric Braeden holding his Emmy for Best Leading Actor in a Daytime Drama.
(Photo from Confessions of a Pop Culture Addict)
- Unlike Victor, Braeden has stayed married to one woman. He married his college girlfriend, Dale Russell, in 1966. They have one son, Christian Gudegans.
So this is the guy who's been playing Victor Newman all these years. In a lot of ways, the two people have a lot in common: tough, loyal, athletic, vigorous, and for a long time now, used to being at the top. This is the guy the studio is trying to say needs to take a pay cut.
Even mugshots.com seems to confuse the actor and the character. They have this photo of Victor Newman, who lives in Genoa City, Wisconsin, tagged as a photo of Eric Braeden.
(Photo from mugshots.com)
- Most soap opera actors, once they're entrenched in a role, can't really ever play anybody else because the audience always sees that actor as that soap opera character.
- Nikki Newman, for example (played by Melody Thomas Scott), recently went through a contract dispute of her own. After the studio asked her to take a pay cut, she threatened to leave the show, and her character disappeared from the storyline for a while.
- But I didn't believe she'd ever really go. She's played Nikki Newman so long, I didn't see how she would go on to anything else.
Victor and Nikki from their first wedding
(Photo from The Young and the Restless Wiki)
Victor and Nikki from wedding number 3, I think.
(Photo from MSNBC)
- But in Braeden's case, he's 68. He's probably earned enough money to retire very comfortably, and if he really didn't want to come back, he probably wouldn't have to.
- From his account of how the negotiations went, it sounded like he was well past negotiating with Sony anymore, and that the whole thing might be done.
- Here's how it went down. All the actors in the union of which Eric Braeden is a member have a clause in their contracts that says the studio can revisit the contract every 26 weeks if they so choose. Even though the contracts typically go for 3 years, the studio can change the terms of the contract every 26 weeks.
- Braeden said CBS/Sony had never pulled the 26-week thing on him before, but they did this time. Economic times are tight, and soap operas in general have been losing viewers and money, and they asked him to take a pay cut.
- I don't know exactly how they "asked" him to do that but apparently it wasn't in the most respectful of terms because here is how Braeden reacted:
"You expect to be talked to in a sensitive way, not suddenly hit over the head by invoking a clause that was never invoked before and to say 'What the f*** happened?' "
"There is no appreciation of the fact that I've been an important part of the show for 27 years that has been No. 1 in the ratings. That's extraordinary. So to be dealt with in a perfunctory matter as if you had just known these people for a few months is what is most offensive."
"I have shown flexibility, they have shown none. It is over. I pulled the plug. I will not negotiate with people who remain aloof and arrogant about the whole thing. Not after 30 years, I won't do that."
"If I signed a three-year f***ing deal, you honor it!"
I imagine, when Eric Braeden said these things, he might have looked something like this.
(Photo from SoapNet)
- This was on top of a pay cut he already took two years ago. They interrupted that 3-year contract at its 2-year mark and said they needed to cut his pay still further. He got very angry and stormed out of the negotiations.
- So the writers wrote him out of the show. The word was that he taped his last episode on September 23, due to air on November 2. Other actors said that, on his last day, he was very professional, thanked everyone for working with him, and left the studio calmly.
- The story the writers came up with was that Victor was sent to rehab, presumably for his heart transplant, somewhere out of town. This plan allowed for the remote chance that Braeden might come back and his character could come back home. If his departure was to become permanent, they would kill the character.
- But then fans from all over the place protested. Here are comments that people posted to all sorts of news articles about the contract dispute and Victor's departure:
Erica said: I love Victor Newman more than life itself, yes call me nuts but I do. Hes my soap opera husband and has been for years. I know this is a sick joke, or at least it better be. I will never watch again if Victor leaves.
jacqueline said: There is no Young and the restless without Victor Newman. That's my husband all day everyday. Loveyou Victor.
Suzyq said: CBS needs to leave this man alone! The show will flop without him. I've watched the show for years....my 82 year old dad even watches this show to see Victor Newman. He needs to stay! He is the show.
Jane said: Whoever is negotiating from Sony is an idiot and knows nothing about the show and why it's number one. I've been watching Y & R since the first year it was on the air. Without Victor Newman. viewership will plummet and fall off a cliff. I know I certainly won't be watching. They might as well just cancel the whole show.
c ryan said: If CBS lets Eric Braeden leave the show I will no longer watch it. My mother and all of our friends have been watching him on the show for over 30 years. We think the show will not be as good if Victor Newman leaves. Please don't let Eric Braeden leave.
TimT said: I’ve watched the show for as long as I can remember. The character Victor, is pretty much the reason for this. He goes, I go too I guess. RIP Y&R!
murphy said: I’ll be stunned if Victor leaves. He’s the man I love to hate.
Chris said: As Victor would say, "This show go on without me??!! The Hell you say! Never! Never I tell you!"
A T-shirt for die-hard Victor Newman fans, available in several colors, long sleeve or short sleeve, for about $25 from Zazzle
Now that I'm back from vacation, of course I had to check on this state of affairs and see if there have been any new developments. And yes, Entertainment Weekly has reported that Braeden and Sony have settled on a new contract.
"What actually changed my mind, to be honest with you . . . was the reaction of the fans, of the audience, [which] was so overwhelmingly supportive. . . . That helped me change my mind."
"It is like a divorce, after 30 years, after having been enormously loyal to that show and having deep feelings about it, to then suddenly be confronted with the reality of maybe having to leave it is tough."
He signed a three-year contract. He took a "substantial" pay cut -- though he still reportedly will make seven figures -- and it still has that troublesome 26-week clause in it so the studio could step in again before the three years are up. But for now, both parties seem satisfied.
(Photo from Auntie Fashion)
Now all that's left is for the writers to write Victor Newman back into the show. Entertainment Tonight in an interview with Eric Braeden asked this:
ET: What do you look forward to for Victor in the future?
Eric Braeden: To come back and take revenge!
ET: He is so good at that.
Eric Braeden: He is very good at that.
The Young and the Restless airs weekdays at 12:30 pm on CBS and also at midnight on SoapNet.
UPDATE: Victor Newman has returned to the show as of Friday, January 15th's episode, and he's pissed off. Welcome back, Victor!
Hal Boedeker, 'The Young and the Restless': Can it go on without Victor Newman? Orlando Sentinel blog
Michael Starr, "'Restless' Braeden quits CBS soap," The New York Post, October 9, 2009
Lynette Rice, "Braeden on Y&R exit: 'It's outrageous,'" EW.com , October 8, 2009
"Actor Braeden says no more 'Restless,'" UPI, October 17, 2009
IMDB, Biography for Eric Braeden
Shelley Fralic, "Daytime TV's best villain, Y&R's Victor Newman, barely survives to terrorize another day," Vancouver Sun, October 29, 2009
Y&R's Eric Braeden on Good Day LA (in this video, he talks about the contract negotiations, and also about politics!)