When to Say When
Part of me has always wanted to be famous—the fashion, the parties, the life of luxury, the (not-always-requisite) talent…but there are parts of being a superstar that must be hard. In your prime you are a talent, a beauty, a world-class something, a living legend who is revered. But unfortunately, time marches on and as youth fades, so do and good looks and youthful talents. The problem is we don’t let these celebrities fade into the sunset. They keep touring, hosting, singing and dancing and we watch their wilting on the national stage. The powers that be leave us no choice but watch their painful collapse. They keep putting them on tour and on TV and it’s impossible to look away.
Case. In. Point. Bob Dylan at the Grammys last week.
Years of hard living inspired some of the greatest lyrical poetry, but unfortunately have caused the poet’s voice to suffer. As much as I love his songs and appreciate his iconography and his living legend status, it is flat-out painful to hear him perform these days. He sounds awful.
Clearly I could post a video here of him sounding like death, but instead I am going to honor him in his prime by listening to my favorite Dylan tunes from the days of yore. I suggest you do the same. “Shelter from the Storm,” “You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere,” “Queen Jane Approximately,”With God on Our Side,” “Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues,” You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go,” and “Tangled Up in Blue,” are a few personal favorites.
If I were him I would mysteriously fade out of the spotlight, move to Italy and spend my days counting my money and writing my tell-all autobiography.
Dick Clark is another aging celebrity that continues to bask/flounder in the limelight, even if just once a year. Dick Clark has been hosting the televised NYC ball drop since 72. Quick do the math. That’s almost 40 years of counting down and filling the dead airtime until the clock strikes midnight. Not an easy job, and made exponentially harder after he suffered a stroke a few years ago. Hosting the program doesn’t look easy or fun for him anymore due to his slowed movement and quivering voice.
I have to watch the ball drop on another channel because it is too painful to watch Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve without getting sad and thinking about aging parents…and grandparents…and losing loved ones….and the impermanence of it all… and how health and youth are so fleeting…and…
See? Exactly what you don’t want to be thinking about out at a party in the first moments of a new year.
I’m thinking his reluctance to call it quits on his annual gig is because he must own the rights to the ball drop—or perhaps he coined the phrase New Year’s Eve in the first place. Sorta like like “PUSH: A Novel by Sapphire” or M Night Shyamalan’s resistance to letting a movie title stand without his name attached…
Someone needs to politely tell Mr. Clark to spend next New Year’s (Rockin’) Eve at home, with his family instead of narrating the play-by-play. I’m sure Ryan Seacrest is chomping at the bit to take over. Let him have it.
Not that I am particularly exited about ringing in the New Year with Seacrest either…
Sometimes men need a sports analogy to help them tie it all together, so here you go: It would be like asking the aged Michael Jordan to join in the dunk contest. He would hobble up to the basket and bank a layup. There would be no jumping and certainly no dunking. It would be too sad to watch. They know this about athletes, and they let them play during the prime of their career then they get them jobs at ESPN. At least that’s my observation.
For us non celebs, our wilting won’t play out on the national stage, but it might be just as painful to watch. Years and years from now, it will no longer be age-appropriate or sightly for me to move my stuff to the rhythm of the baseline in public. People will stare and youngsters might grimace and look away. I’m hoping when that day comes, Someone Who Loves Me will gently tap me off the shoulder and lovingly take me off the dance floor.
We all need people in our lives that can tell us when to say when—someone who loves us enough to tell us no. Bob Dylan and Dick Clark’s people need to step up to the plate. Consider this a gentle tap on the shoulder to get off the dance floor.
And Kathy Lee Gifford, consider this your first warning. Your clock is ticking.