Eric Braeden is on our short list of Sexiest Grandpas Ever! Since 1980, he has lent his dark and brooding good looks to the character of Victor Newman on The Young and the Restless, making him a mainstay in the lives of the show’s 120 million viewers, who span 30 countries on five continents. In addition, he has appeared in more than 120 primetime television series and feature films. A German immigrant, Eric has worked tirelessly to change stereotypes formed during the World War II, and has twice been honored with Germany’s Medal of Honor for his efforts. He also is a recipient of the Ellis Island Medal of Honor, which honors immigrants who exemplify the best values of their adopted homeland, even as they preserve their own cultural heritage. Mr. Braeden was happy to talk to Grandparents.com about one of his favorite real-life roles: devoted grandpa to two beautiful little girls.
What’s the most important lesson you hope to teach your grandchildren?
Eric Braeden: Kindness to others. I hope they’ll learn from me the importance of being considerate and having empathy. I want them to understand how important it is to really listen to other people and respect them, even if they have different beliefs.
How has your role of grandfather changed as they’ve grown?
EB: I love them more every day. When Tatiana or Oksana come into my sight, it just warms and melts my heart with unrestricted love. And I love having granddaughters. I grew up with brothers, and then had a son, so having little girls is new to me. It’s different and I absolutely love it.
What’s the best piece of advice you learned from your grandparents?
EB: Nothing. I grew up in Germany during the second World War. My grandparents lived in different towns and travel wasn’t feasible, so I barely knew them.
What’s the hardest thing you’ve ever done?
EB: Emotionally? Losing my father when I was 12, and dealing with that. We were very close. And then, leaving Germany when I was 18 years old to come to the United States. Saying goodbye to everyone I’d ever known was hard. And I remember the mix of emotions I felt as the ship I was on pulled into the harbor at dawn, and the skyline of New York came into view. I was from a small German village, and in New York, everything seemed larger than I could have imagined. It was a real adjustment.
What’s your proudest accomplishment?
EB: If I had to choose just one, of course it would be my son. His birth was the most joyful moment of my life, and he is an ongoing source of pride for me.
I’m also proud of my athletic accomplishments: winning the German Youth Championship for shot put, discus and javelin in Track and Field in 1958, and the U.S. Championship in soccer in 1973. I think sports are so important. They teach resilience and respect, and help one develop an understanding that there are strong people everywhere. It would be a better world if all politicians played sports and got knocked on their ass a few times; it would keep them from having a false sense of power.
Forming the German American Culture Society, to open a German-Jewish dialogue that breaks stereotypes and lends the understanding that what connects us is stronger than what separates us is another source of pride.
Finally, I’ve been blessed with many successful moments in my career, but I really like my star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame!
Do you have a favorite recipe you’d be willing to share?
EB: I don’t cook, really. I mean, I can boil water, make eggs, but nothing complicated. Anyway, I like food too much to choose any one thing as a favorite. When you grow up in a time of scarcity, as I did, you have such a deep appreciation of food. During the war, 96 percent of our village was destroyed. I remember what it is to be truly hungry and I’m always thankful for a good meal. I love a really good cheeseburger! And German hot dogs are one of the best things in this world! I love Italian food and sushi . . . good pizza – like Ray’s Pizza, in New York City. A nice steak and a good salad. Oh, and I do have a concoction I invented and make for myself – rice, mixed with lean turkey, corn, peas and chopped tomatoes – which is very tasty. Especially if it’s in combination with a double shot of tequila or a glass of California cabernet.
What’s the best-kept happy secret about aging?
EB: A healthy mind in a healthy body, and you have to keep them both in shape. Make sure you continue to work out. I remain very active, and I know that’s important. I do Olympic lifting. I box – but never give or take head shots. I still play tennis. And I love taking long walks with Kaiser, my German shepherd. I also read voraciously – mostly magazines and newspapers, including German publications like Die Zeit and Der Spiegel. I memorize Shakespeare – I have a one-man show of Shakespearean monologues. And I stay current with documentaries and televisions news and sports. Great athletes have been a source of inspiration for me throughout my life.