So the other night I was watching the Kennedy Center Honors for Outstanding Achievement in American something or other by an American thus-and-so (my high school French teacher used to say “thus and so”; I always found it quaint). I wanted to see the tribute to Bill T. Jones. Because I don’t know much about dance but I like Bill T.
I have always found ballet similar to basketball — impossible to watch on t.v., compelling in person. I can’t remember which ballet it was that I last saw performed by the New York City Ballet — Coppelia? Swan Lake? — something in which I thought well, for God’s sake, if it’s that hard to do, and it looks so hard to do when you’re doing it, don’t do it! It’s like the triple-axle, triple-salchow, triple-triple-death-spiral nonsense of the Winter Olympics — at a certain point, we just want the beauty, not the suffering.
So I haven’t seen Black Swan, nor will I. I saw Requiem for a Dream, by the same director, and I am only now getting over it.
But the beauty of the body in motion is not the topic here. It is that I was watching the Kennedy Center Honors for Outstanding Whatever — there was Oprah Winfrey, Jerry Herman, I think? (musical theater guy), Bill T. Jones, Merle Haggard (sweet!) and Paul McCartney. (Maybe someone else, but I’m proud of myself for remembering Jerry Herman, because I’m not a musical theater type, be gentle in your comments.)
So, was I thinking, but Paul McCartney is not American, so why is he receiving an American honor? (Truth be told, I was.) Was I thinking, why is Oprah acting like she invented Paul McCartney (although, for a little, as she clutched him and beamed, I was?) Was it, as some young woman younger than I am (and I am seriously younger than all of his children, and yet, and yet. He is ever and always a romantic ideal) groping him in proprietary pleasure when the kids on the stage launched into “Let It Be,” who the hell is that one, now? Yes, there was some of that.
But I what I was really thinking was, Paul McCartney finally looks like an old man. Not a decrepit old man, or a sad old man, but just, a man, near the age he probably, biologically, is.
So, I wondered, was Paul now the age of the actor who played his grandfather?
Nope. Paul is 69. Wilfrid Brambell at the time that A Hard Day’s Night was filmed was 52.
Originally published Saturday, January 8, 2011