I Love Dead Men
if he were still alive, would be 95 when this is posted. Now, let's face it. Even if he hadn't died by "misadventure," no way was this guy making it to 95. Odds were against him living past 70. On the other hand, my dad did. Of course, in my dad's family, dying at 77 was actually somewhat early. Okay, back to wherever we were headed.
My love for William Holden developed slowly over about 30 years, and then suddenly, bam! I could not get enough of him. At nearly 45 years old, I was crushing hard like 1977 ripping pages out of Tiger Beat hard. And after about a year of rewatching his films and catching up on so many I'd never seen, he started invading my thoughts. In 2011 I plastered one of my Tumblrs with him, posted about him here several times, and then last year I saw so much of him at other Tumblrs, etc., I was jealous. I mean that in the possessive sense. I've never minded sharing Gene Kelly or Hugh Laurie, etc., but Bill Holden was mine. What did a lot of young persons know about that world I was birthed into, the world which shaped who he became, and informed my sensibilities as I grew up and as it passed away? This world, the one we're in right now, is unrecognizable by comparison. To love this glowing yet damaged creature fully outside of context is to love a different person than do I. Yes, I cropped his wife Brenda Marshall out of this photo. It's a metaphor.
But that's mostly preposterous, of course. I know this. I know what it says about me, too. It's not, though, like I'd get into internet fights about it or whatever. It's just a reflection.
It's like how I am about James Garner. I can barely speak of it and risk suddenly being surrounded by a spontaneous retroactive adoration that waters down this particular intensity I've held onto for over 40 years. It's weird, but it isn't really weird at all. It's dreadfully, drearily ordinary. I so dislike confronting how ordinary I am sometimes, don't you?
William Holden was like Dean Martin in certain respects. He did what he did because that's what he did. He was both laid-back and very fussy. He appeared to be all surface; handsome, handsomely wearing what he wore, looking effortless, like sprezzatura.
Looking back, it's obvious how smart Dean Martin was, and that he was laughing at everyone else and how seriously they took themselves. I mean, their effort. He was serious when he needed to be, without all that energy-consuming effort.
I'm not sure Bill Holden was quite so smart, but I do think he possessed the same sharp view of himself, other people, the whole world. Some people, they're tortured by it all, and he was one of those people. And so, Africa, right? But also so much booze and cigarettes and needing to bathe over and over again. Perhaps trying to wash away something he could never take back. Anyway, it wasn't all effortless effort for him at all. Yet he kept at it.
I can love all that only retroactively because I've seen it in others, first hand, and because I'm fascinated by the puzzle of it all. In the every day present here and now, I like my puzzles to be crosswords or mazes on a little screen, and I am way, way over tortured passion. But it is a seriously groovy fantasy, not unlike when you're 15 and you find out a movie star you love prefers other men and you think, because you are 15 and silly, I could change him. He'd want me.
Nah, it's not really like that. It's just intensity, power, a sort of kinetic chiarascurro, and that's exciting; knowing what you know now, all that experience filters your view and colors your desires. You know how to play with fire, or at least imagine that you do.
Is someone reading this and thinking very earnest thoughts? Let's turn the record over and consider this. It is raining hard as I write this, the iPod across the room is playing a gentle jazz tune, I forgot to wash some of the paint off my legs from when I was working on a new canvas earlier, and in a few minutes, when I turn out the light to sleep, I'll press one of the pillows to my side in this great big bed, and contemplate something only briefly earnestly.
Bill Holden was a movie star, a box office hero. Did he want to be revered for more than that? Did he want to be revered at all? Probably not. Who can ever live up to it?
I watch this and grow sad and think, yes, he died too soon. It was a "wrong" death.
But I cannot be serious for more than 9 minutes at a time. (And as pt 2 appears to be missing, that's just as well.) So then I go back to thinking of him as my boyfriend Bill, just before I drift off to sleep.
More photos collected here.
Okay, this is Frank singing for Columbia Records in 1948. He was 32ish. This is a little over 3 minutes long.
And here he is for his own label, Reprise Records, in 1960. He was 44ish. And it's about a minute shorter, which is too bad, but it's because there's not so much horn action.
I mean, you see what I'm saying here? They're both very good. But only one of them sends me.
Youth is wasted on the wrong people.
Here he is, holding a variety of pointy objects. Oh, you wanna read stuff? Look at the two previous posts, in which I wrote stuff. :-) All Bill Holden posts, both obvious and less-obvious, here.
One of the best things about watching a William Holden movie from the mid-50s to early 70s is there's a high degree of likelihood he'll be in some state of partial undress, rather a lot of the time. In fact, if you look at candid photographs of him out having his real life adventures, you'll see that he's often shirtless in those as well, or unbuttoned, wearing shorts, barefoot, etc. The man clearly enjoyed being a natural part of nature, though they say (they who say these things) that he was obsessed with showering, too. Well, maybe there's the answer; you take a shower four times a day, you tire of putting on a new set of clothes each time.
But, and this is true of other Hollywood stars of his era and earlier, he is often seen onscreen with a hairless chest. They (same they or possibly another set altogether) say this was done for Picnic (1955) because he was (definitely but who cares?) a bit too old for the character he played, and the bare chest made him look younger. I dunno. That doesn't really add up for me, but whatever. His chest is also hairless in Love is a Many-Splendored Thing (1955) and The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957,) but not Sunset Blvd (1950,) The Bridges of Toko-Ri (1954) or Paris When it Sizzles (1964.) I don't remember at the moment what his chest hair condition was in The World of Suzie Wong (1960) but I think the reason we saw less of him in that film is in case it led us to figure out just what a man does with a call girl, and that would be bad.
So maybe in his case there was some kind of mid-late-50s ban on very hairy chests, which had him continually shaved up between Bridges and Paris, but other actors previously had this treatment as well. Funny Hollywood. They took the hair off men's chests, but added it to so many of their heads.
I mean, Bill Holden had one seriously hairy chest. And even though I grew up in the hairy man 1970s, this is not something I normally find specifically appealing. However, there are sometimes special circumstances. I do like hunting for treasure.
Here's the man, hairless and hairy.
Soon I'm going to do another gratuitous post about Bill, with images of him holding various (and mostly pointy) objects.
More William Holden pictures here, 3 pages so far. Yes, well.
(also posted at http://liliales.tumblr.com)
Something I saw earlier on Tumblr has been nagging at me. It was a photo of the most attractive man I can name, with a mild note of misery that he had inevitably aged. They were enchanted with the face, but maybe not the man wearing it.
This is wholly enchanting, isn't it?
We celebrate youth, and we sometimes celebrate the aged, but we rarely celebrate the process from one to the other. I think that's what I'm attempting to do as middle age crawls over me like a late summer afternoon shadow.
I would never wish a celebrity or anyone I knew would stop aging or look or act just the same as some one point in time. But I sometimes wish there would be a point at which we're old enough and wise enough to travel fluidly back and forth in our own time stream, to witness events and people as they were then, but from our current point of view. We'd be sensible enough to stay out of our own lives, of course.
You may know the year I was born fascinates me.
It was so dualistic in every arena; concurrently buttoned-down and loosened up. I'm both of those things in one small (ish) package. I believe in dressing up to go out, in manners and dignity and respect and slow-growth investment, and I'm also so open-minded I don't have any doors in my head, and I don't wear shoes unless I absolutely have to, and I just really don't care for money at all. I could dig outside in the dirt all day long, but rarely without my iPod or satellite radio plugged into my ears. I love Dave Brubeck, Dave Gahan, and the Dave Clark Five. And I love absolute silence.
Many people I know who are the same age as me feel like that. We're products of what I truly believe was a unique point in history. You may think you know just what I mean, but unless you're between 41 and 46, you really don't. I'm explaining it very poorly because it isn't explainable.
Anyway. I'd definitely visit 1965. All my first loves, I still love em. I watched them grow up, grow out of date, die or grow old. I don't love those people and that stuff only for what it was when I first made the discovery; I love all they were and are and will be. After all, as Madeline L'Engle once put it, "I am all the ages I've ever been." We're just flowers; we open up, take in light, produce seeds and begin to dry out and get droopy. People preserve flowers in books, to carry the memory of when their scent was fresh. It's the same flower, though, whether fresh or dried-out.
We preserve star photos at Tumblr the same way. But if you could go and visit the moments those photos were taken, what would you discover? How would it affect how you see these people now, so many years after their youth faded or they passed away? I guess it depends on whether you're viewing them as real people, or only a glorified reflection.
When I was a very little girl, my ideal of a man was a distinct cross between Bret Maverick and Speed Racer. This largely informed my view of men in general, so you can imagine I spent a few years somewhat confused and disappointed at what I saw around me. But still I've never not loved men utterly, for all their strengths and frailties and just basic maleness. (Except their socks. I can never love those.) And I've been thinking about kissing men for over 40 years now, though I've still never kissed a race car driver or a western anti-hero.
Much later on, when I reflected back on those early crushes, I read up on James Garner, who played Bret Maverick and another favorite TV character, Jim Rockford. I decided I'd probably like him even more than the characters he often portrayed. It wasn't possible to do this with Speed Racer, but I've read lots of books and articles and watched lots of interviews with all my other childhood favorites, and I found I liked them even more, most of the time, when I learned about their ideals and humor and weaknesses and real-personnesses. Would they like me in return? Well, who thinks about that? (In Fantasy Land, I have straight pretty teeth, though, and the rest is easy.)
In 1965, I'd want to watch some of these people and certain events right at the genesis of all that social change which flavored my childhood. They may have largely ignored it all, but it didn't ignore them, either raising them up or viewing them with disdain.
Now, inside my aging head, my brain still sees me as the young hopeful woman with a 24-inch waist and long lean legs, socially awkward, casual in manner and formal in speech (or the reverse, depending,) slightly manipulative yet confused by outright duplicity…very little of this has changed except my waistline. And I'm calmer and wiser, and much less awkward as a result.
So more even than just visiting my birth year, I'd most like to go back and see some of my favorite stars when they were the age I am now. (Except possibly Bill Holden. I'd meet him post-vasectomy, pre-Audrey Hepburn, but that's another tale altogether.) I want to see if they were recognizing then what I'm recognizing now.
This is the time in life to start defining what contentment really means, and to realize it's mostly just a choice we make, if we're willing. To be willing, we have to accept the utterly tiresome loss of collagen, a thickening waistline, sometimes the hair on our heads. The tradeoff is totally worth it, though. Youth is wasted on the wrong people. Aging can be very sexy, because it becomes a choice rather than an imperative. In our current era, we have more leisure to contemplate this, but I suspect plenty of people have known it right along, only it's a native secret that you can't quite understand until you're fully initiated into the club.
And if you reach the age in which the contemplation of nature and all that came before now takes up the largest part of your day—that age at which, apparently, you're taking in more data than ever before, but don't feel so much like bothering with it all—you've earned the privilege of laughing at the notion that prettiness is largely defined by youthfulness. Even if you're a little wistful about it at times.
Artie Shaw is playing, and I’m wishing there was a tie here that needed loosening. But it’s just me and the angry cat, who is snoozing her life away on the corner chair, probably dreaming of killing one or more of us so she can lap up our blood in tyrannical satisfaction.
There’s no use hiding the fact that in my imagination, the tie is being loosened from around the neck of someone who looks exactly like Bill Holden. He’d be 1950-attired right down to his skivvies, whatever passed for those 60 years ago. Um, no. Make it 1954, when the profile was leaner, the tie was longer, the shoes more casually elegant. Or elegantly casual, is probably the thing I mean. He smells faintly of shave lotion, Wildroot hair oil, laundry soap, the glass of Scotch he had at the train station bar before the ride home. The combination is subtle, yet coaxing. The back of his neck is sunned except right at the hairline, which is crisp, razor-sharp from a lunchtime visit to the barber. I know the texture of that skin so well, I can almost feel it under the weight of my fingertips as I press these keys.
The tie is discarded, collar unbuttoned, and he leans in to hum lightly in my ear as he pulls the clip from the back of my head, letting my hair cascade onto my shoulders and down my back.
I just realized it’s no longer thundering or pouring rain outside. The wind seems to have calmed, as well, and the silence is palpable after an evening of water hitting the roof, pouring out of the drains, rattling the windows—no, not quite silence, but it’s all background noise that emerged when the rain ceased. The clock ticks, the cat snores, the old TV hums as I’ve muted the music channel in order to properly think some of these things through. And asthma lingers. You can’t tell your lungs that since the weather has improved, they should instantly work better. But in 1954, I don’t have asthma, and my sharp intake of easy breath is stopped short as he tips my chin up and kisses me, teasingly tugging on my lower lip, pulling it in, and I bring my arms up under his to grip his shoulders, pressing against him. More thunder rumbles outside, interrupting my thoughts.
Where were they going to go, anyway? I can imagine the roughness of his cheek against my own, and I can imagine the somewhat unusual yet resonant tone of his voice as he whispers silly, intoxicating nothings in my ear. Right now, imagining much more than that would turn this loneliness into a kind of prison, which it already is, and the acute awareness of that is turning my thoughts from sensual fantasy to a kind of inexpressible nihilism. How ironically post-modern of me.
Can I not fully conjur it because it never fully existed? Oh, there’s the rain again. It’s swiftly, in half a minute, built from crawling and clamboring to a full stampede.
Cereal sounds good.
I remember seeing certain deaths in the newspaper at breakfast when I was a child, and hearing the adults comment on them. Harry Chapin comes to mind, and Jim Croce. I was 8 when he died. That affected me because I knew a couple of his songs and I knew he wasn't old. He just up and died, accidentally, shockingly.
Then there was Groucho Marx. I'd just finished reading his hilarious autobiography around the time he died, and I was kinda crushed. I felt like I knew him a little bit, you know? That was the first one that hit me hard, at age 12, and I've never forgotten it. (Elvis had just died three days earlier, and that barely affected me at all.) I can picture the column in the newspaper, below the fold—maybe there was something important going on in the world that day—just as I saw it that morning at the table. I cut it out and saved it in my scrapbook, actually. Wish I still had that.
I was very into old movies by around the age of 10. We'd always watched old stuff at our house, anyway, and all my fondest TV memories are in black and white. Well, plus we didn't have color TV until 1981. Since most of what I loved wasn't even in color, that never bothered me much. People were crap at adjusting their greens and oranges, anyway.
I had early crushes on James Garner, Robert Stack, and Raymond Burr. But then I had a lot of time to myself starting in 1975 because of family illnesses and other difficulties, and I became infatuated with Cary Grant (pretty much been over that for a long time, but I do love him like an old boyfriend I outgrew,) Gary Cooper, and Gregory Peck. I was sad to learn Gary Cooper was dead, and that launched me into a decade of reading biographies and obsessing over which film stars were alive and dead. Every time I'd see one I hadn't noticed before, I'd ask Mom if he was alive. Most of the time she knew, sometimes we had to go to the library to look it up.
Things weren't at all like they are now, of course. Old movies were 20, 30, 40 years old, not 50, 60, 70. That's real history now!
In high school, I added Jimmy Stewart, Joseph Cotten, Gene Kelly, Rossano Brazzi and a few others to my growing list of loves. They were all still alive. I also developed mad passions for Jack Lemmon, Rex Harrison, and William Powell. Among a number of others, of course and sigh.
Two actors I've always enjoyed but was never enamored by, Clark Gable and Humphrey Bogart, were long dead. Then Bill Holden died, and Steve McQueen. My love for Holden has grown immensely over the past 10-15 years, never so much into McQueen.
But then, starting with William Powell when I was 19, my true classic loves all started to depart. One by one by one since then, all my childhood loves have died, except for James Garner.
I'd only just rediscovered Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra around the time they died, and it was a gripping realization to have; these guys were in their prime before I was born, and now I was in that time of life myself. But they lived long rich lives, as did Grant, Stewart, Kelly, Peck, and Lemmon. So mourning them was more like mourning a bygone era than anything else. Also, I was an adult, mourning something lost from my childhood.
When Jim Garner, who is nearly 83, passes from this world, I don't know if I'll be overcome with sadness. It's a confusing thought. I mean, I love 1957-1985 Jim Garner of film and TV. He is, by all accounts, a very fine man for his family and friends to know and love, but to me he is mostly a collection of screen memories. Well, let's be honest. In considering all my oddly intense feelings for a handful of famous men, living and dead, he is the one about whom I've composed the most and most deeply, intricately detailed sexual fantasies. But also, he was so honest as a man on screen; a real man. A Jim Garner character is always a person we'd wish to know and we do know that extends to reality as well. There aren't that many big stars about whom we are certain this is true.
I cannot remember a time in my life I wasn't basically in love with him, from very early childhood. Of course I don't really know him, but he always made you believe you could, right? And the point is, he was my first love, beginning over 40 years ago. Before I knew what sex was and before I wanted it, I wanted him. Don't take that wrong because it isn't. And I've never stopped wanting him. But when he dies, I'll still have everything of him I was ever going to have, anyway. His family will mourn the real person they knew and loved, and, as is generally the way, celebrate their lives with him.
I think I'll be mourning an ideal that seems impossible to ever conjure again. But I guess I'm mourning that already.
I'm tickled remembering the summer of 2005 when I was making fake blog titles that mimicked bad ad slogans. Clearly I've stopped trying. Anyway.
I've been taking inventory of my personal DVDs. I don't have lots, and have bought many more for the family and/or individual kids than for myself over the years. But it's a semi-solid collection for how little money and effort I've put into it. There needs to be Nero Wolfe. And more movies starring my favorite old loves. I'd like to have Anchors Aweigh. I know everyone likes On the Town more, and I'd like that, too, but the other would come first for me. And then a couple other movies featuring Frank Sinatra. (As much as I love Guys and Dolls, I can never watch it without remembering Gene Kelly should be in there instead. Same with Pal Joey of which I have the vinyl soundtrack but not the film itself. But Sinatra acquitted himself well in those roles and a number of others.)
I would like to have the latest special edition of Singin' in the Rain. It was at Costco last year but so was An American in Paris that day and I had money for only one of them. Then Singin' in the Rain sold out so I never got it. It was my second choice and I lost the gamble on it. But I have it on the DVR right now. There are a few movies I record each year and keep around for months until the need for space bumps them off the list for awhile. The current crop is marked with a K here:
James Garner, Gene Kelly, Jimmy Stewart, what could be better? Well, the addition of Jack Lemmon, mainly. But I watch those three particular movies over and over again. Now, of course I love Singin' in the Rain? It has a couple of incredible musical numbers. But I honestly do love An American in Paris slightly more. It's a different kind of art, more what I'm into, is all. I like its contemporary time period and music, love love love the Gershwin, and how each frame was composed as a work of art. Love Minnelli. I liked it less when I was younger because it made me impatient. Now I think I could watch it go on for another hour if it liked to.
I love the Singin' in the Rain time period as well, but it's not one of the ones I'd like to quietly slip into for awhile. It's a different sort of treat for me. The movie also has more stress and anxiety than the other, for which I have less patience than when I was younger. And I think the talky fashion show scene is pretty, but really no longer interesting to me. So they've switched positions in my heart, but not by all that much.
I watched An American in Paris twice yesterday, second time with the commentary on, and Singin' in the Rain today, and each fit its respective day beautifully. I painted a sort of modern jazz thing during the former, did some cooking and cleaning during the latter, pausing the TV to head into the kitchen for a new task from time to time.
One task was to make simple syrup and squeeze lots of little key limes for the first gimlet of the season. It's a bit cold out, but was sunny all day, and the first buds are appearing on the dogwoods and other early bloomers in the neighborhood. In my backyard, the oregano has started to grow, and some of the mints. So it's nearly summer gimlet time, and I even had cucumber for garnish, but you can't see it in this photo.
For a week or more, a couple months ago, I made a nightly effort before sleep to imagine a romantic scenario which could appear in a dream for me to enjoy, though not usually with a specific person, even from my giant catalog of dead actor loves and the dozen or so living ones I'd meet at the jazz club in the holodeck if only our paths ever crossed. But I kept getting distracted. I have so little focus lately, and so my thoughts would turn toward simply shutting my mind down for rest. Yet I always feel that if I could put myself in the right frame of mind, I could have many more such dreams, as I used to quite often. This morning's dream took me by surprise and now I feel rather unsettled and curious.
There aren't, by the way, certain defining characteristics possessed by every dream man except that he's fit, knows how to talk...well, that's about it, really. They've come in a variety of ages, heights, levels of confidence, etc., otherwise. This one was in that indistinct time of life one thinks of as 40, and was, shockingly, someone I recognized.
It's too late, you know, to remember more than impressions and sensations. I had to get up and get moving a little earlier than usual, and my focus was instantly removed. Our brains immediately put away all the unnecessary elements and then, too, reshape and define what we can't recall but wish to retain.
So I remember this: he took me down, on a bed in the middle of a room, and made love to me. I remember the feel of his hands on my skin, light and firm and serious. I remember how his skin felt beneath my hands; taut, that is to say, perhaps slightly younger than my mind tends to conjure when I picture him (if you happen to be my age or older, you may know what I mean by that) muscular, but in a strong or sinewy sense, not overly large or overly developed. I don't remember some of the things you remember about a real man, like how the hair on his legs feels when they are intertwined with your own, or running my hand down the length of his spine to rest my fingertips in the hollow at the back of his waist. I wish I could remember that. I remember his scent. I remember my hands at the back of his neck, and recognizing the tenor of his voice, not fully polished, but soft, confident, and retaining that unique resonance which is so charming on screen. I remember my hand on his chest, just below the hollow of his throat, and I remember the way his eyes looked as he bent forward to kiss me, with one hand on my shoulder.
When we stood, he was just perceptibly taller than me, his nose above my own, but he was speaking then, and I kept thinking about the way he sounded; I was really focused on it, and I felt completely drawn in and taken over. That sensation hasn't left me. Also, I hadn't before considered how dark his hair really was, but I kept touching it as he spoke, and then we would fall together, connected all over again. That happened two or three times.
We talked a lot, like people who really know each other and have spent solid time together. But the only topic I remember is the lake nearby, and him telling me we'd spend a lot of time there. He was playful when he spoke, but when he touched me he became very serious.
Well, the dream went bats, and there was a baby, and I was feeding it a bottle attached to my breast with some kind of Nuk nipple, and an old female celebrity whose identity I can't recall was talking about the silliness of Playtex bottles and when they were invented and we commiserated over that, which is strange, since my six kids were mostly all breastfed, with two short-term exceptions. And I remember thinking back then that those Playtex ones were a good idea.
And I kept drifting in and out of sleep, realizing in half-waking state what I'd just conjured and wanting desperately to go back to the more precious moments of it.
Why did my semi-conscious brain choose this man as an object of desire? He wasn't on my mind last night. As I said, I've had many romantic and/or sexy dreams, and it's not usually anyone recognizable, which at the moment I'm thinking is a good thing, because in this case, I won't be able to look at him now without wondering if I know something of what it would have felt like to have his arms around me, but that doesn't, after all, make him any more real or corporeal, does it?
I discovered William Holden the day he died. I was in the 10th grade. Not a novice to gruesome celebrity deaths, at first I thought this one was just another crazy Hollywood dude gone wrong. I'd heard his name before but never took notice the way I already had with Grant, Cooper, Stewart, Cotten.
The first few movies of Holden's that I saw bored me a little, though it was easy to see that he had a handsome, affable charm. He just wasn't my type.
Born Yesterday changed my mind first. I didn't appreciate Judy Holliday then as I do now (and I do, a lot!) but Holden's ease and sharp charm grabbed hold of me.
And now that I'm so much older and see many movies differently than I once did, I love him in Executive Suite, Picnic, Sabrina (did you know Joseph Cotten played the older Linus role on Broadway? I wish he'd done so in the movie as well, instead of Humphrey Bogart,) even Paris When it Sizzles, though that movie is not nearly as good as it should be. I don't recommend it unless you're being completionist about Holden or about Audrey Hepburn. It is a very pretty movie, to be sure.
My favorite Holden films are from what I believe is a visually captivating era. This is a still taken for Sabrina.
That era is known for creating overwhelming sexual tension on film, as well, particularly in the blue collar setting found in Picnic.
I love him less in Stalag 17 and Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing, but those are good movies I can recommend. When I saw The Moon Is Blue I was disappointed by it (kinda like they were in M*A*S*H,) but it's a piece of film history you may want to look into if you're a student of how the Code was applied in different eras.
And I still have mixed feelings about Sunset Boulevard. I get why it's so good. But I just don't really enjoy it. However, Holden is so handsome and pathetic in it, the sets are perfect, Gloria Swanson is fairly awesome in her role, and the whole thing builds in a sort of thick intensity. If you can watch biting dramas, you have to see it. It's another important piece of film history.
When you think about it, William Holden appeared in quite a few important films. I've actually seen only about half of his films so far; he made 70 or so. There are at least a dozen more I hope to view. Maybe I'll count them up sometime.
Watch this when you have a quiet moment in which to bite your lip:
Watch this, too, if you have time. It's actually the penultimate scene from Executive Suite, carefully worded to suit both your economic view and mine...and grippingly well-delivered.
My type hasn't changed much over the past 30-35 years, but I will say it's matured and better-developed. I don't miss being a youth who didn't understand how to appreciate this:
William Holden was a long-time alcoholic and it did him in at the end, but he has an amazing film legacy for us to appreciate. Check it out in an interesting blog post here.
It's been quite awhile since I did a nice long focus on one actor in particular. That's no longer so difficult to find; there are hundreds of blogs these days devoted to the daily worship of dead celebrity, and mine has long since fallen into an abyss of chaotic randomosity. But I've got someone in mind I always meant to talk about, and it's long overdue.
Nearly everyone in my dream lover pantheon is tall, with just a few exceptions. Only a couple so far, I think, are what I'd actually call short—under 5' 9". I just enjoy looking up at a man by a nice 4 or 5 inches or more. And it can be said that a man's height often has bearing on his personality—I'm more attracted to a tall bearing, so there it is. But let's face it; some of these guys were just really tasty eye candy. How many of them could I say I truly admire? Ten? If so, here's one who definitely belongs on that list, even though his chin would probably rest just above mine.
When you encounter a man who stands tall no matter the length of his frame—no slouching and folding himself up to be less noticeable if he's tall, no anxious Napoleonic giddiness to make up for a lack of height if he isn't—it's usually because he's completely self-aware, at ease with himself, and with you as well. It's impossible to not take notice of such a man. When I was a kid we often referred to that quality as "je ne sais quois," but honestly, often you do know just what that certain something is. It's not mysterious or ineffable. It's an inner strength, expressed externally in this way and that. Sometimes it's expressed in a long beautiful jawline, set just so.
There can never be "another Gene Kelly," and that's not something that can be overstated. Whoever the next guy is, who stands tall in a crowd of lanky models, who can throw himself around a room with grace, elegance and humor, who can demonstrate kindness and yearning and bitterness all in the same line of dialogue, well, I hope I have the privilege of watching him work his magic. But standing in the same room or on the same set as this guy here is something none of us will ever get to do, and those who did were in the presence of a unique individual.
this is about 1200 words. not for everyone. self-indulgent, but almost honest, and very much me. and there's a lot more to come. (other things to come include a short book review for my friend Alex, and a couple quick movie reviews this weekend. i feel like writing again, yay.)
First, the shoes. Proper shoes, from a time before men could get away with wearing so-called athletic shoes all day every day. Shoes that don't look quite right with jeans, because they were meant for something better.
The digression spirals. It's a game I'm no longer very good at. At which I'm no longer very good. Further digression into concerns over syntax for sentences that were never going to be written, because they're all forgotten by morning. And then, as though I'm 17 years old again, bored in class and working over my list of requirements for the Composite Male, I suddenly start worrying about the feet inside the socks inside the shoes. Of course the socks are all right; a man with the correct shoes will naturally be wearing the correct socks. But what deficits do they hide?
When you are 17, this can seem to matter greatly. When you are 45, it shouldn't even enter your mind. But it enters mine, because I can no longer easily trade in idle fantasy; reality intrudes and keeps me from sleep. Because that's all this is: an exercise for sleep, my own version of counting fire engines.
The point is, or was, the shoes are a deal-breaker, or would be, should a situation ever again arise during which a deal might be struck. This is the theory, anyway.
I've always been a very good sleeper. And whenever I have been not such a good sleeper, I play a game; the exact same game I have played for 30 years. Creating a man to find in my dreams. At 15, these men were most often major league baseball players, classic film stars, or exotic Mediterranean men who were looking for just the right girl to coax them fully into heterosexuality. I had no experience with men at that time, of course, or even boys. Externally, that was my Awkward Year. I had all the right clothes and shoes, but my skin and teeth were a mess, my hair frizzy and unmanageable, my countenance still sometimes too quirky for comfort—not yet balanced out by my growing inner confidence. I wasn't thinking about sex yet, at least not in the way I came to understand it later. That sort of hunger that takes hold of most of us just hadn't presented itself yet. I wanted to experience the tension that comes before the sex; the little tastes of pleasure that lead us toward more, though more of what I did not spend much time considering. It was largely about the drama, and it was also about the presentation.
He'd have a short, sharp haircut with dark hair that set off his angular features and well-chiseled lips. He might have a slight early bit of grey over the ears. With strong, squarish hands, he'd be slim and possibly lanky, standing four to seven inches taller than me, and he'd know how to dress and how to walk in what he wore.
My tastes in this regard have changed little, though the typical baseball player's physique has changed considerably, and I'm no longer interested in showing any man on which road his sexuality should naturally travel. He will have already sorted that out in the Navy, or college, presumeably.
The thing about the shoes is that it demonstrates a particular strength of character; one that fits well with my own, indicates an attention to detail, and also reveals a becoming sense of self-satisfaction. So it's not just one certain style of shoe, you see. It is a manifestation of personal style. But to think on this too long spoils the game, and that's the problem I'm dealing with lately.
When I was younger, it was enough to compose a picture of someone with an attractive countenance, and then decide what I wanted to happen next. I'd drift off to sleep in the midst of a cool or cozy date, and not unoften, end up seeing it played out in my dreams. Lately, burdened with a sensation of being permanently stuck on an elevator going down, I keep stopping at the shoes, mind wandering off in no good direction, restless and bothered by the heat of the pillow.
Because, of course, now I know what comes next. All the excitement, pleasure, joy, misery, pain, loss, confusion and loneliness. Neverending grief over what was, and what was, what is, meant to be. But at night, none of that should matter at all. At night, only the sleep and the dreams should matter. The dreams should be composed of anything I like, and not merely the unravelling knots of consciousness that tangled themselves through another endless, relentless day. Even if the combination Jimmy Stewart/John Slattery/Craig Ferguson of my creation doesn't appear during sleep, and he rarely does anymore, the counting still leads to a more peaceful rest. Only the numbers, worse than appearing out of order, keep getting stuck at one.
So. The shoes. I chose them for him, and although he wouldn't have stopped to look at them twice, he's delighted with how they fit and how he somehow thinks he looks taller in the mirror. I warn him they'll take a little breaking in, but once he has, he'll feel like they always belonged there. He strides away with confidence, attracting the eye of a woman younger than me as he passes out of the store and sets off down the sidewalk. She catches up to him and I watch them both laugh as they disappear around the corner.
Well, that's hardly the guy, is it? I never even got to imagine loosening his tie and unbuttoning his collar. Just handed him off to someone younger, the same way it happens to women my age in real life.
(No one ever tells you about that when you're 17, and that hunger begins springing to life. You think you'll be 17 forever, and, worse, you have no inkling of how much that hunger grows, demanding to be fed and to feed another in turn, only to learn that a man's hunger is often fickle, desirous of newer, if not always more raw, energy. Sometimes the hunger still comes alive at night, in dreams, and these are not the dreams of a girl fumbling through the newness of sexual identity. But neither are they, by now, the dreams that startled you awake, sated without quite understanding or remembering how. So, like Ernie counting fire engines, I surround myself with pillows and compose a scene that will never happen, but might happen, in the enchantment of sleep. It's a romantic scene I attempt to compose, but it is not the romance I had in mind before I'd ever experienced any of my own. And much less exciting than fire trucks.)
(Now, it's easier to love a dead celebrity than a live one, and if you're good to yourself, you never imagine the real person, only some character he played, or one you imagine him playing. Because let's face it; we now know too much about anybody famous to be able to imagine one of them as the guy with whom we spend an enchanting afternoon exploring the cemetery, or the art museum, or just sitting outside a cafe, sipping coffee, watching people walk in and out of the big beautiful hotel across the street before he whispers in our ear, "Let's go in.")
(Plus, a fictional man will always be wearing the correct shoes, if he's the man for me.)
It's a day off for the kids because schoolkids are out whooping it up for Columbus Day. One of those beautiful October days that sneak in and trick you into thinking impending winter might not be so bad after all. All the boys have congregated for it elsewhere, and it's very quiet here.
So, after a weekend spent largely in bed with what would manifest itself as a simple cold in other people, but in me takes the form of a vague, sinking malaise, along with experiencing up-close the mysterious ebb and flow of life's energy in the form of a tiny cat, I decided to indulge myself.
I'm cleaning the bedroom. It takes me all day, because I use it for catharsis. Dusting, rearranging, vacuuming, etc., just a little bit at a time, and in between bits, putting together the following:
Today's Love is still Jack Lemmon. I watched Cowboy (1958) this weekend, and How To Murder Your Wife (1965,) and lots of bits and pieces of other things on YouTube. Here's one of them.
[I noted that in the Netflix reviews for Under The Yum-Yum Tree (1963,) which is a silly movie I meant to watch but they screwed up the Instant streaming for—and I think it was in a review for that movie, but could have been another—someone stated it wasn't credible for Lemmon to play a character who was such a swinger, with so many women interested in him. I guffaw. Surely this statement was made by a man, because so many men just have no clue what attracts women in reality.]
Then I scanned the May 1964 Jack Lemmon Playboy interview for your perusal, while listening to Herb Alpert, because that seemed right for the magazine.
I have 7 or 8 Herb Alpert albums on vinyl, but the songs in this post are from the Definitive Hits digital recording.
When I was a young girl and teenager, Crown Center in Kansas City held these international festivals several weekends each summer. My favorite was always the Greek Festival. It was fairly authentic, as there was a travelling group from actual Greece, who would go around and put these things on. One year, when I was 13 or 14, I met a boy there, who played bouzouki in his parents' band. He was just dreamy. We stared at each other a lot, then took a walk around the festivities, him speaking in broken English, me probably giggling too much. He squeezed my hand when we said goodbye. I don't remember his name; his last name ended in -olopoulos, but then, so many do, don't they?
An actual living crush of mine made a gorgeously asinine tribute to Jack Lemmon:
And, well, the fact is, when I was an even littler girl, I also had a deep giggly fondness for Herb Alpert himself. I would get really moony every time I heard this song.
I still do. But then, I'm like that most days these days, anyway.