I wish my life was a non-stopHollywoodmovie show,
A fantasy world of celluloid villains and heroes,
Because celluloid heroes never feel any pain
And celluloid heroes never really die.
Ray Davies (1972)
When Ray Davies wrote what many consider the best song of his still-active career, he was less than two years away from his 30th birthday.
Although The Kinks were international stars and he was a multi-millionaire, the Big 30 was tough for anyone born during the first half of the baby boom.
We were told by friends and the culture born of the perfidy of the Vietnam War and Richard Nixon to never trust anyone 30.
Yet life inexorably moves on, and soon we were part of that group we were told never to trust. It is no wonder Ray Davies wanted the simplicity of a world where heroes never feel any pain and never die.
Ten years later, I reached my 30th birthday. I dreaded it, partly because it would put me in that totally untrustworthy group and partly because my father died at age 35 before I really knew him. I was convinced I had only five years left to accomplish whatever I was going accomplish.
Never mind that I had already accomplished more than many in my profession do in a lifetime. Never mind that I was in good health. Never mind that I was soon to be a father.
March 1, 1983 was a black day indeed. It was then that Celluloid Heroes really spoke to me, providing one of those impossible dreams that would somehow make everything right.
Forty wasn’t nearly as bad. Thirty five had come and gone four years into our adventure in Oologah with no ill effects. So had 36, 37, 38 and 39.
Fifty was a different story. Health issues were in the forefront—in fact, my favorite gift that year was a very distinguished cane for dress occasions.
Sadly, it has become my ever-more-constant companion over the past decade. (It has weathered the years far better than I have).
Now the Big 60 looms, just over a week away. Hearing Celluloid Heroes on the Classic Vinyl XM channel while recovering from a really nasty bug brought all those long ago fears and dreams back.
You can see all the stars as you walk along Hollywood Boulevard,
Some that you recognize, some that you’ve hardly even heard of,
People who worked and suffered and struggled for fame,
Some who succeeded and some who suffered in vain.
Those lines have always hit home especially hard, because I was born to a Hollywood writer and his wife.
He died too young to see them, but the Walk of Fame now has stars for some of those whose lines or scripts he wrote.
In fact, the initial Walk was not unveiled until more than 18 months after his death. And today, it is undergoing a massive renovation program because even “permanent” tributes to stars wear out.
It turns out there’s another family tie to the Walk—Walt Disney, who went to high school with my grandmother in Kansas City a century ago, was on the initial selection committee to identify the stars to be honored.
My grandmother, mother and father are buried inKansas City. We’re the only ones left to visit their graves. When we’re gone, there will be no more visits and no one to make certain that the graves are maintained.
We could be buried in that family plot, but if we were there still would be no visitors. Three thousand miles would be an awfully long way for James and Alison to travel just to visit a cemetery in a town where he last lived at the age of nine months and she has no real ties.
Burial in Oak Hill might get us visitors for a few decades at most.
In a way, we’re luckier than most. People will visit the Oklahoma Journalism Hall of Fame as long as there are new inductees every year. And nobody walks on the plaques like they do on the Walk of Fame stars or gravestones everywhere.
Everybody’s a dreamer and everybody’s a star,
And everybody’s in movies, it doesn’t matter who you are.
There are stars in every city,
In every house and on every street,
And if you walk down Hollywood Boulevard
Their names are written in concrete.
The Walk was just a decade old when Davies wrote those words. Time has shown that even concrete offers no permanence.
Yes, the Big 60 will be tough. It does make part of me wish my life was a non-stop Hollywood movie show.