Wow. The Pacific Princess, which served as the backdrop for the original Love Boat series has just been sold to a Turkish demolition company as scrap for 3 million dollars. I remember when it was all shiny and new. No mention was made as to whether or not Captain Stubing, Julie, Isaac or Doc would also be sold for scrap, though I suspect that has already occurred. When was the last time any of them appeared anywhere?
Last week, Davy Jones of the Monkees passed away suddenly, and a few weeks before, the great Etta James left us. There are only two Beatles left alive and Springsteen’s album downloads can’t get past the #11 spot, while someone named Adele is #1 according to Forbes.com. Each year, when the Oscars pay tribute to those who are no longer with us, I find myself thinking, but they were so young. Of course, I’m really surprised to find that the newly departed were in their 80s, which then begs the question, how did that happen?
Jamie Lee Curtis, who in her youthful days, sent many a young man and woman home from the movie theater with enough fantasy fodder to last for a solid month, is now using her silver-haired sex appeal to tout the joys of regularity one gets from eating yogurt. Lee Majors, the Six Million Dollar Man, apparently can’t even hear the doorbell anymore, and is now hawking hearing aids on TV. It’s kind of sad to think that Lee is the old guy in the next apartment that you constantly complain about because he plays his TV so loud at all hours of the night. Lindsay Wagner, his Bionic Woman counterpart, can’t sleep either without the aid and benefits she gets from her Sleep Number Bed.
It appears that my generation is mortal after all, despite what we have believed our entire lives. Sex, drugs, and rock and roll are rapidly being replaced by erectile dysfunction, anti-depressive medication, and John Tesh; and there’s nothing anyone can do about it.
Even though we baby boomers represent one of the larger segments of our population, as witnessed by the ever growing burden we are placing on the Social Security System, we are being pushed aside to make way for the next group of contestants who are charged with moving humanity forward and to evolve both socially and morally. Advertisers know that we are soon to be gone from here and would much rather devote their money to those who are likely to have more time on this planet it spend it. The Pepsi generation has been replaced by the Five Hour Energy crowd.
The generation I knew, which forced huge social changes in the areas of civil rights, and who, by voicing their opinions ended an unjust war, who conquered space because we were challenged to do so by our President, is weary from life. The “come alive” Pepsi generation that was us can no longer tolerate the fizz of life, they tell us. We are now, for the most part, comfortable with replacing it with Philips Milk of Magnesia and reruns of the Golden Girls. And while that is probably true for a good segment of my crowd, it is a generalization. Some of us still want to play. The questions are; will they let us and will we just roll over and let them stop us?
What prompted this article is sense that I’ve been getting lately that there might not be a place for me in the world of stand-up. In addition to being transgendered, I’m also older, fatter, grayer and more wrinkled than most of my peers out there. And while I’m as funny as I ever was (perhaps even more so now), I seem to be having difficulty in moving back into the mainstream of comedy; and by that I mean bookings or lack thereof.
Looking around at the comics who are in my age range, I see that many have gone on to bigger and better things. Some have had one or two series on television by now. Some are superstars. Others became writers and producers. So I can understand why the average booker would have both a credibility and sale-ability problem with me. I am an unknown quantity to them. Why should they choose me over someone younger? By now, I should have been ‘established’ with a following that consistently puts asses in the seats. It is not for them to care what I’ve been doing for the last eleven years; only what I can do now. To them, I am as much a newbie as a kid half my age who steps on a stage for the first time. And even though I can disrepute that image just by performing for them, I can understand their hesitancy in doing so. Their feeling is that perhaps I can’t connect with younger audiences and/or the people who are my age won’t come out to a comedy club.
None of that really bothers me, though it can be frustrating. What frosts my pumpkin, gets my goat, and generally just ticks me off is the question of viability; that somehow age proportionately reduces one’s ability to contribute to the arts and society. Arthritis, acid reflux, and artificial joints aside, I would like to remind people that the minds, if not the bodies of the white-headed remain sharp and vital.
I was reminded of this last night as I watched a PBS special in which 85 year old Tony Bennett was the focus. The Great Performances special had to do with his latest Duets II album... no wait.... his Grammy winning, platinum selling album, which debuted at #1 on the Billboard 200 chart. Tony performed with such wonderfully talented (and much younger) folks such as the late Amy Winehouse, Lady Gaga, John Maher, Josh Grobin, Andrea Bocelli and host of others. There’s old Tony, just as relevant and cool as he ever was, schooling the kids and loving every minute of it. What was especially nice was to see was the admiration and respect that these artists have for him and vice-versa. I loved every minute of it. And you know what else? I came away with a new respect and understanding of Gaga and Winehouse because of it.
And let’s not forget 90 year-old Betty White, who is about the hottest thing on television these days. Or 80 year-old Rita Moreno, who is co-starring in a new series with Fran Drescher, or even the late George Burns who worked up until he was 100 years old. All had, and still have, something to offer in the way of creative contributions to the performing arts.
But we are now, as we were in my generation, a society that too easily casts its elders aside, and I believe that we will be a poorer nation because of it. Of course, I’m saying this now that I am actually a member of the older generation and I am seeing life through different eyes. Still, it makes perfect sense to me that the generation who in its youth, made its mighty voice heard and changed the world’s attitude toward its young, shouldn’t and couldn’t do the same now that they are not so young.
It is kind of sad, on one level, to think that the Love Boat will sail no more and that it will be nothing more than scrap metal soon because for many of us, we view our lives and our worth to the world in the same way. But on the other hand, it is also uplifting to remind ourselves that the same metal will be used to build new things, like ships and buildings.
And that’s the key, really. We must continue to re-invent ourselves like Tony Bennett and Betty White do, because by doing so, we stay connected the stuff of life that makes a kid stare wide-eyed upon seeing a skyscraper or a Broadway show for the first time. Age is a fact of life, not a crime. But losing one’s sense of wonder about life is a crime against self and humanity because it robs subsequent generations of the belief that there is life after fifty, sixty, or even ninety years of age.
The world will continue to whiz into the future and we can all sit on our lawn chairs and watch it go by, or we can join in the fun. Don’t turn over the keys for the future to the kids just yet. I’m here to say we’re not done, but it’s up to us. I’ve made my choice; have you?
All aboard-we’re expecting you!
That’s it. I’m done bitching. Everybody hug. Everybody eat. Abbondanza!