Jackie Cooper’s Adventurous Life Parallels The Southern History Topics Of His Writing
ATLANTA, Georgia (November 2, 2006) --- Jackie Cooper is making the rounds. From member of the South Carolina bar, JAG captain in the U.S. air force, and The Joker¹s Wild contestant, to film critic, columnist, book reviewer, and author, the journey of this southern man has been as varied and full of twists and fascinating turns as the history of the South itself.
While Jackie Cooper isn’t yet a household name, he’s certainly well-known in Georgia, and is beginning to get a reputation in places as far flung as Kitchener-Waterloo, Ontario that¹s north of the border, in Canada. Every week, Cooper’s syndicated entertainment columns run in Georgia’s Rockdale Citizen and Newton County Citizen.
Touted as “The Entertainment Man” in Georgia, Cooper’s interviews with celebrities like fellow Georgian Julia Roberts, John Travolta, Sir Ben Kingsley, Wanda Sykes, Will Ferrell, Matthew McConaughey, and Mel Gibson are eagerly read by moviegoers. Today’s MGT (Macon Georgia’s NBC affiliate) broadcasts his Entertainment Report during Friday’s news programs, and Georgia Public Broadcasting (GPB) radio airs Fridays With Jackie, a show covering everything new in the world of entertainment.
”Julia Roberts and John Travolta are my favorite interviewees,” explains Cooper. “Travolta is simply one of the nicest people I’ve ever met. I interview him every year, and he is always so gracious and totally responsive to all of my questions. Julia and John are genuine people. I don’t ever feel like there is a facade I have to get through in order to get to the real person.”
Following in the footsteps of a long line writers who’ve written about their beloved southern soil Nobel Prize winner William Faulkner, Mark Twain and his Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Margaret Mitchell in her epic Gone With The Wind, and Pulitzer Prize winner Harper Lee for her classic southern tale, To Kill A Mockingbird in addition to being a film critic, Cooper now has four books under his belt.
And it’s true that you can take the man out of the south, but you can’t take the south out of the man. All set in the south, Cooper’s reflections are an unveiling, a sharing of the deep humanity that lies in this luscious land of bayous, the scent of magnolia trees, and everywhere people who are bound together by a rich, cultural uniqueness.
”I’m inspired by people and their incredible stories,” says Cooper. “The tales in my books are taken from my journals. Each day, I set down my observations, stories that people have shared, things that I remember from my mother and dad, tales my kids have told me. And what I have discovered is that we’re all so similar, no matter where we live.”
Cooper’s first book, Journey of A Gentle Southern Man, was published in 1999. The journey continued in 2001 with Chances and Choices a book about the importance of recognizing and responding to opportunities. His third offering, Halfway Home, was released by Mercer University Press in 2004, and the writer’s latest title, The Bookbinder, appeared on the shelves this fall.
”My stories strike a chord,” explains Cooper. “People say, ‘Oh, yes! I knew someone who that happened to.’ And they are comforted by the thought that we are all intrinsically bound together by an invisible thread.”
Cooper began his career as a lawyer, working as a real estate attorney in North Carolina for Hardee’s in the 1970s; served as a JAG (judge advocate general) captain for four years in the U.S. air force; and then did a 15-year stint at Robins Air Force Base, Georgia, as a civilian labor lawyer. Eventually, he decided he was no longer passionate about the law, and embarked on a somewhat circuitous route toward becoming a writer and film critic.
After moving to California, Cooper ended up winning $30,000, a trip to Greece, and a brand new vehicle as a contestant on The Joker’s Wild, a popular game show in the 1970s. The windfall gave him the opportunity to do what he loved, and he seized the chance by writing book reviews for newspapers. And the good fortune Cooper experienced on The Joker¹s Wild “where knowledge is king and lady luck is queen” continued.
When he returned to Georgia to carry on with his writing career, he was invited after writing a letter to the editor to pen a film review column for the newspaper which evolved into columns in four additional newspapers, a radio show, and doing film reviews on television. Cooper was eventually asked to attend a press junket for a newly released film in New York and, one step at a time, through his incredible networking skills, he found himself being granted interviews with box office celebrities.
But perhaps it’s Cooper’s weekly column The Best Is Yet To Be that gives his fans the truest sense of the kind of man he is. A weekly installment of Cooper’s views on living in the South and how it affects one’s mental, physical, and spiritual life, The Best Is Yet To Be is a celebration of life itself , one in which Cooper often reflects on his delight and enjoyment in the simple pleasures of being alive.
”I don’t want to feel old by constantly referring to all the great things that have happened,” says Cooper. “I want to focus on what’s happening today, and what the future may hold. I think the anticipation of wondering what’s coming around the corner is the thing that keeps us young. We are never as good as we can be...we never do exactly what we ought to do, and so we can always strive to be better. The Best Is Yet To Be focuses on the road ahead, rather than the one we¹ve already traveled.”
With the introduction of FoxFaith, 20th Century Fox’s new brand dedicated to producing films on religious themes suitable for the whole family, Cooper remains optimistic about the future of the film industry.
”I’m very optimistic about some of the new trends,” says Cooper. “There are going to be some family films made that will not be just pabulum. The film industry is recognizing they’ve gone to an extreme with violence, profanity, and sexual explicitness. With 20th Century Fox setting up a religious film branch, I think that we’re on the verge of seeing some great new films...of the ‘It’s a Wonderful Life,’ ‘The Sound of Music,’ and ‘Heidi’ caliber.
”There are good stories out there with complicated plots,” he continues. “If you go back to the reaction to The Passion of the Christ, this illustrated a strong, untapped audience of churchgoers who will support a movie that appeals to them. That’s why we’re seeing films like One Night With The King 9th overall in the country last week and they’re being given a shot.”
What’s the secret to Cooper’s forty year winning streak success?
”All the things that I¹ve been able to do and am still doing...it’s because I’ve got a great family who love me whether I fail or succeed,” explains Cooper. “I have a strong base along with my faith. And you’ve got to take risks, even if you fail miserably.”
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