“Dazed and Confused” read the headlines describing 74-year-old Robert Mueller’s appearance the day after the hearings (confusion over collusion), or worse he seemed like either “El Cid” on his last legs, or the dragged corpse from “Weekend at Bernie’s.” Gaping carp mouth, haunted lost eyes, and nervous hands.
He has become part of the now popular “Seventies Syndrome.” Look at 79-year-old Nancy Pelosi – at times her eyes have that blank stare and her teeth don’t seem to align with her mouth when she speaks. Even poor 76-year-old Joe Biden simply looks spooked and collapsible half the time.
Turning 70 is when the “shit happens.” There is no other way to say it. That’s the decade when heart issues, stent operations, joint replacement, and brain lapses become the norm — not to mention the loss of friends and loved ones. We are recently on the meds or off the meds and either way our reactions are not all there. We all get “hit” at 70 and frankly the idea of making a “full comeback” is not always assured.
I guess you just do the best you can. I feel like I’ve been on a 20-second delay for the last year. No real reason. My doctor and 97-year-old mother insist “It’s age — deal with it.” Adapt! Or as Walter Cronkite used to say in his nightly sign-off, “And that’s the way it is.” Everyone seems in permanent “recovery” mode from something major or minor and I accept that I am no longer “on top of my game.” But nobody else seems to be either. Maybe 73-year-old Trump is the kind who can fake it till he makes it. Good for him.
There are symphony conductors, architects, judges and artists that maintain their robustness well into their 90s. And they have their marbles and their careers. Maybe it has to do with genes and true passion? But honestly, they are few and far between.
With Mueller — I was so shocked since I had never heard him actually speak or even seen him walk before. Even his gait into the room was bent-over and frail. It was a sad final performance, but who knew what actual shape he was in to begin with? I commend him for just “showing up.”
And believe me, I honor those vigorous seniors who continue to continue – who run 10 triathlons at 80 or climb Mt. Everest or perform daily chin-ups with their sagging six-packs. There are even those who binge all day on Bridge. I’m just wondering if getting back to doing what you always did is so smart if you look and seem like half the person you were. Ego can carry you far in “getting back in the saddle.” But what if the saddle doesn’t fit? “You must acquit” (Thanks, Johnny Cochran) or as Kenny Rogers sings, “know when to hold them, know when to fold them.” This all comes under the heading of accepting or creating a “new normal” — a phrase everyone now hates, but there is no other way to describe it.
Look at pathetic 78-year-old Faye Dunaway’s recent Broadway show firing. She was let go for abusively screaming and acting ridiculous towards the cast and crew. Even her extreme plastic facial surgery appeared in serious meltdown. That’s an example of an aging ego running amuck. This is particularly bad with senior celebrities who are addicted to the spotlight. Then again, you have Doris Day, who at 45 took the high road to live happily ever after in Carmel with her dog charities. Or Brigitte Bardot, who left at 28 and also took to the dogs and animal rescues in seclusion. She didn’t take to massive plastic surgery, her visual for some is shocking but the woman did “move on.”
There are some stars like Angela Lansbury who is still at it at 93, and in full view with brilliance. Even Ronald Reagan made it through his presidency at 73 (though some question his final jelly-beaned-brain White House years) before Alzheimer’s took him out. Mick Jagger at 76 (and recently stented heart) is still hop scotching across the stage in tight pants. But those pictures of him post-performance are frightening, and I wonder how he really feels. He doesn’t need the money, but his audience needs the memory of him and so his melody lingers on. Mick and his fans are co-dependent till death do them part.
Basically, movie stars have it the hardest getting off the scene. There have been rumors that Jack Nicholson’s troubled recall skills have kept him out of the movies, but he is still at the Lakers courtside. And wasn’t it Ray Milland who was finally forced to retire early because he had to write most of his lines on his hands or the co-actor’s shirts? Sad, but memory loss is what I hear about the most in the Seventies Syndrome.
Last week, 4 of my friends called me all deeply concerned that they have lost their energy (another losing game) and that they not only can’t remember names (we all have that) but are having a hard time recognizing people who approach them, whom they know pretty well. Perhaps memory loss has more to do with the fast-paced culture we live in — the bombardment of information, the polluted air we breathe, the devices we are addicted to — all of it is TMI. And though we can jiggle our brain lapse with Google and Siri, I don’t think that really helps.
My mother and I spend a fortune on memory “Brain” supplements. I can’t remember the names or when to take them. But it makes us feel like we are trying to stay on top of it — even if staying on “it” is now beyond my “purview” and must be repeated most of the time (and this is why Mueller seemed like such a symbol of a certain demographic). Even if you take the jelly fish for your memory or collagen for your drooping jawline, your brain still gets lost and your ass will still sag because plastic surgery only pulls the “drapes” too tight. It can’t touch that innate youthful vitality.
By the way, there is a whole fresh career for aging celebrities on tv with “senior” product endorsements. Tom Selleck is a brand-new star as the portly heart-felt spokesman for AAG reverse mortgages. William Devane doesn’t even have to dye his hair while pushing gold coins, and good old Pat Boone is everywhere with severe sagging under-eye bags and deep facial lines. And then there is William Shatner getting in his bed showing off his sleep apnea machine’s new cleanser. That’s a show stopper. There’s a big new world out there for celebs selling hearing aids, diapers, and catheters. I think they make more money doing that than appearing in Vegas! Even Kathie Lee Gifford is now hyping a service called TAKL, similar to Angie’s List. I can’t imagine she ever uses it — but she has found her new demographic. So … who needs to act, sing, or dance, or even memorize many lines anymore?!
The media talks a lot about the importance of “optics” — how people look (as “Fernando” used to say: “It is better to look good than to feel good, and my friend, you look Maaahvelous.”). Mueller had lousy “optics.” But meanwhile in the same week, Boris Johnson had great optics as the new Prime Minister bowing to the Queen (who at 91 is the best celebrity optic alive). He let his scraggly blonde bangs hang all over his face at the end of his bow, but who cares?
Shortly after his PM “swearing in” an old picture of Boris and Trump together started circulating in the media. It was a riot to see BoJo and “DoJo” looking like Tweedledee and Tweedledum. Now THIS is an optic — “Blonde Bombshells Unite.”
Finally, speculation has it that Mueller will quickly disappear and maybe move to Montana and grow a giant beard. But by then, who will remember, let alone care!