Saturday, February 24, 2007

Ralph Nader and Cary Grant

In his last years, Cary Grant would phone me once in a while. It started when I asked him to pose for a magazine cover with his daughter. He said yes, but his former wife said no. Grant and I discussed it and finally gave up.

After that, he would call every so often, and we found ourselves discussing his opinions of journalists, working mothers, parenting and anything else that crossed his mind.

After one of those pleasant conversations, it struck me: He missed being Cary Grant. In his eighties, long retired, he was on corporate boards and surely had a busy social life but, in these calls, he was the Cary Grant he once was, a great star, sought after by editors, the object of endless interest.

Over time, we all lose our faces and bodies to age, but what keeps us going, beyond family and friends, is our sense of ourselves that tells us we are still who we were, no matter how diminished.

Most of us can avoid mirrors, but what must it be like to confront on TV a younger self or see in the eyes of strangers the cliché question, “Didn’t you used to be...?”

So we have the sad spectacle of faded figures lending their former fame to execrable movies, embarrassing commercials and tacky TV roasts to reassure themselves they still matter. By comparison, Cary Grant’s phone calls were a modest and dignified way of filling the void.

Now we have 73-year-old Ralph Nader popping up everywhere to convince himself he is still the Ralph Nader he used to be, flirting last evening with Wolf Blitzer about running against Hillary Clinton, promoting his book about his family, still defending himself against charges that he gave us George Bush and, to Blitzer’s surprise, plugging his favorite airline while blasting all the others in supporting a passenger’s bill of rights.

Attention must be paid, to quote Mrs. Willy Loman. But Ralph Nader should fight the encroachments of age by getting a talk show, writing more books or babbling on a blog (like me). He should do anything he wants to get attention but stay the hell out of Presidential politics.

1 comment:

Naomi said...

Thank you for putting both Cary Grant and Ralph Nader into perspective.

I miss Cary Grant very much. And I would like Mr. Nader to go away, so that I might miss him, too.

Six years ago, I thought he was racing the clock. Since he's older than I, I can imagine he felt, "It's now or never." Two years ago, both his do-over and his credibility were totally ruined by the GOP money he accepted.

In my mind, he is forever branded, "Whore!"

Best wishes...