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Valerie Bertinelli, 'One Day At A Time's Barbara Cooper, Then And Now

Entertainment | April 24, 2021

Valerie Bertinelli starred as Barbara Cooper Royer in the CBS television program "One Day at a Time." (Photo by CBS via Getty Images)

Valerie Bertinelli is best known for her role as the teenager Barbara Cooper on the 1970s hit series One Day At A Time -- and for her marriage to Eddie Van Halen, the late, legendary rock guitarist. She started her career at a young age and grew into one tremendously capable actress so it was no surprise that her beauty and charisma attracted the Van Halen rock star. Although her marriage was not the fairytale it seemed to be, Bertinelli was a remarkable talent all in her own right.  

The Bertinellis Couldn’t Stay Put

 Valerie Bertinelli was born on April 23rd, 1960 in Wilmington, Delaware into an exceptionally Catholic family. Before she was born, her older brother Mark passed away tragically of accidental poisoning when he was barely 18 months old. Valerie’s mother Nancy gave birth to three other sons, Valerie’s brothers David, Patrick, and Drew. Because her father Andrew Bertinelli was an executive at General Motors, the family was constantly on the move and spent time living in Delaware, Michigan, Oklahoma City, California, Louisiana, and even more locations. It was difficult for Bertinelli, teased as a “GM Brat,” to hold on to friendships as the family never knew how much time they would have in each location.  

Bertinelli Landed A Dream Role With Little Experience

 While her family was living in the entertainment hub that is California, Bertinelli befriended the daughter of a television producer who would become her first true inspiration for how she envisioned her future. Through the mother, Bertinelli felt driven enough to study acting at the Tami Lynn School of Artists, and she landed her first acting job working in just one episode of the series Apple’s Way in 1974. That one little moment made a huge impact on her entire life as producer Norman Lear scouted her out and encouraged her to audition for a role on a new sitcom. Bertinelli took him up on the offer and landed the part as the witty teenager Barbara Cooper on the extremely successful hit series One Day At A Time, a show depicting the adventures of a mother raising her two teenage daughters by herself.  

Valerie Bertinelli Was A Showbiz Natural

Bertinelli was only fifteen years old when One Day At A Time debuted in 1975, and she remained on the show until it finished in 1984. Bertinelli’s portrayal of Barbara was so authentic that she won the Golden Globe for “Best Supporting Actress” two years in a row. Throughout the 1980s, Bertinelli produced some films through her production company that she founded, which included Shattered Vows in 1984 and Silent Witness in 1985. She acted in a few mini series and movies throughout the decade, but nothing ever remotely compared to her memorable work in One Day At A Time

A Match That Seemed To Be Made In Heaven

One of the most newsworthy aspects of Bertinelli’s life was her loving, but tumultuous marriage to Eddie Van Halen, one of the most famous rock stars of the era. The pair met backstage at a Van Halen concert in 1980 and immediately fell head-over-heels in love with each other, and married eight months later in 1981. Everyone around the couple could feel their deep love for each other and they were known for having an incredible relationship in the beginning. Van Halen’s road manager Bob Daitz once said about the lovebirds, “They were a wonderful couple. They finished each other’s sentences and knew what the other wanted.”  

Valerie And Eddie's Relationship Had Problems From The Start

 Unfortunately, the honeymoon phase slowly declined as Eddie’s love for alcohol competed against the love for his wife. Along with his addiction to alcohol, Eddie also was heavily abusing cocaine so much that he influenced Bertelli to take part in the drug in order to keep up with his wild antics. The partying became so intense that when Bertinelli would join him on tour, they would sleep in separate rooms so that Eddie could be alone with his guitar, cocaine, and alcohol. Bertinelli also became extremely addicted to cocaine and used it to keep her weight down to unhealthy levels. Eddie actually had to first convince her to stop with the cocaine and to start eating again.  

Despite A Divorce, The Pair Remained Lifelong Friends

By the mid ‘80s, Bertenelli cleaned herself up and got her life back on track, but unfortunately her husband struggled to do the same. She wrote, “I was done with coke. I didn’t like the way it made me feel… It made sense that I was angry...It wasn’t one thing or ­another as much as it was everything together. There was a lot going on: Ed’s fights with Dave [David Lee Roth], Ed’s drinking and coke, his obsessive work habits.” After Bertinelli gave birth to their son Wolfgang Van Halen in 1991, she couldn’t stand Eddie’s alcohol and cocaine use, and their fighting became worse and worse for the remainder of the decade. After Eddie underwent a hip replacement surgery at age 44 and was diagnosed with tongue cancer, he promised his wife he would give up drugs and alcohol entirely. However, Bertinelli later found cocaine in his wallet and decided to separate in 2001 until they officially divorced in 2006. Despite the chaos, Bertinelli admits they never stopped loving each other and were still able to remain great friends up until the day Eddie died. When Eddie married Janie Liszewski in 2009 and Bertinelli married Tom Vitale in 2011, they both attended each other’s weddings. She was even with Eddie, along with their son and his second wife, in his last moments as he passed away on October 6th, 2020 and posted the following, “40 years ago my life changed forever when I met you … I’m so grateful Wolfie and I were able to hold you in your last moments. I will see you in our next life my love.”

Bertinelli Is Now A Cooking Sensation

 Since the wild ride that was the 1980s, Bertinelli impressively stitched her life back together and made a television comeback in recent years. After struggling with her weight for many years, she eventually lost fifty pounds on the Jenny Craig diet in 2009 and became a spokesperson for the company appearing in many of their commercials. The next year in 2010 she co-hosted ABC’s The View and later that year starred in the series Hot In Cleveland alongside Betty White until 2015. Currently, she is recognized as a television chef since she has been hosting Food Network’s Valerie’s Home Cooking, Kids Baking Championship, Family Food Showdown, and Family Restaurant Rivals.  

Tags: Ladies | Sitcoms | Valerie Bertinelli | One Day At A Time

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Emily Morenz

Author

Despite her younger age, Emily Morenz (Emo) is a serious 1960s/1970s enthusiast who is pretty much the Austin Powers of this decade. Through her all-vintage wardrobe, obsession with old time rock 'n' roll, and her mid century bedroom and 1,200+ vinyl collection you might think she just stepped out of a time machine. Emo plays the rare gems of the ‘60s and ‘70s on her radio show on OC’s 101.5 KOCI and teaches rock ‘n’ roll history on her podcast “The Rock & Roll Sweetheart.” When there's not a pandemic, she's rockin’ out with all the middle aged-men at every single classic rock concert happening around the town, and she will battle her away to front row and dance hard. Paul McCartney even once brought her up on stage to dance...while she was in a walrus costume. You also might find Emo surfing waves, skateboarding through a neighborhood, groovin' '60s gogo style, and pretending like she can play bass. And she's obsessed with peanut butter and corgis.