Saturday, June 10, 2006

Birthday's a'comin' - Part I

I'll be fifty in early July. I'm emotionally numb and perfectly okay with it at the same time. My faith helps me over the "I'm an old failure" moments and my sense of humor helps when some young whipper-snapper at the office marvels at some memory I have that happened when they were five.

I got a major case of list-mania over the last few days, thinking about what's happened to me and to the world in the last fifty years. Everything's in fives, in honor of my five decades. Let's start:

Five Famous People Who Died Way Too Young

1. Judy Garland, died at 47. She was a psychological train wreck, but her great good taste in music would have been fascinating to see in its maturity.
2. John F. Kennedy died at 46. Don't you wonder what he would have accomplished? I have a feeling he would have become more and more like his brother Teddy, a natural leader with a shallow and convenient integrity.
3. Jim Henson, died at 53. I can only assume he would have continued his quirky genius. What an individual talent!
4. Steve Goodman, died at 36. Maybe he's too much of a Chicagoan for you to know, but he wrote The City of New Orleans and wonderful folky and funny songs. Couldn't have gone anywhere but up.
5. Rod Serling, died at 50, uh oh. The scariest TV show of my childhood (that I was actually allowed to watch) was "The Twilight Zone." The creepiest episode I can remember is the one where the man who works for a wax museum takes home all the figures when the museum closes, and they begin to speak to him and tell him what to do.

Five x Two Degrees of Separation

These are famous people I haven't met, exactly, but I know someone who knows someone who... I have an aunt who specializes in this, her happiest boast being that her hairdresser used to do Cher's hair.

1. My mother dated Arthur Lake, the movie and radio Dagwood of Blondie & Dagwood. Looking at the picture on the link, I have just realized how much like Arthur Lake in coloring, height, hair and build my father looked! Hmmm.

2. I had the same grade school teacher as Mike Douglas, the talk show host. Don't laugh - Sister Bertwina was very proud of that! She taught him in eighth grade and taught me in first grade. His brother, Bob Dowd, stayed in town and was a well-known good neighbor and volunteer.

3. In WWII, my dad was in the Coast Guard with Carl Ballantine (fourth from left in the linked photo, it was really hard to find a photo of him in his prime). Said "he was a very nice fellow."

4. Tom O'Horgan, the director of the original Broadway production of Hair, sang at my parents' wedding. When the musical became famous, they were embarassed and defensive, although it occurred long before his "hippie days," but they thought any music newer than Patti Page and Vic Damone was beyond consideration. Hair as a cultural phenomenon could reach down into a small Chicago suburb; because of their "connection," my parents went to see it and I can remember them being apologetic about going among our more pious Lutheran and Catholic neighbors and relatives.

5. I brought a can of pop to Cyndi Lauper before her open-air performance on the plaza at NBC Tower in Chicago. Our office was used as a changing room for the performers (NBC asked us and we enthusiastically abandoned work once a week to comply) and it was fun. Her accent is part of her act; she called home to check on her family and spoke like a normal Jerseyite, and then ramped her accent back up to 125% to thank me for the Diet Coke.


Anonymous said...

Not to worry, darlin'! I hit the big 5-0 in February this year.

So far, I haven't fallen apart or anything. But it was more of a psychological barrier than I thought it would be.

Roz said...

The degrees of separation thing sounds fun, but you're way better connected than I am. Let's see . . .

Arthur Godfrey used to live on the same block as my grandmother.

I met Maria von Trapp (remember the Sound of Music?) and a couple of her daughters.

Someone at college with me married Roseanne Barr's ex-husband. (Okay, that's really a reach.)

I once ran a congressional campaign against Gerald Ford's younger brother. (Think about it -- it was Jerry Ford's brother. How do you think we did?)

My sister met Al Kaline.

Oh, yes, and one of notable trivia moments of my life is that I was once yelled at by Rensis Likert, but if you're not a social scientist this will mean nothing to you.



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