Dear, well, Elisabeth Schwarzkopf has died. I checked and Opera-L is buzzing enormously, as expected--even a thread linking Mel Gibson's recent hoo-ha with the Dame's endlessly-debated Nazi connections. (In general I can take that listserv only in smallish bits; the drama is so heavy it's like trying to fight your way through a wet quilt--there is nothing on earth to compare it to. Not only that, the feverishly high pitch of erudition--no room for even a reasonably well-informed dilettante; everyone's a raging expert--makes the air there very thin and not very sustainable for most life forms. I do love their absolutism, though; if you need the Real Answer on anything, that's the place.) Poor Dame E--I always find something particularly poignant about the deaths of opera singers--this sounds inane--it's not a compare and contrast thing--it's just that so often they *did* (have to) Vissi d'arte first and d'amore second, due to the demands of the profession, but even when it was flipped (Callas?) it can be sad. It's not even just that, though--it has something to do with the fact that these people have through their art already brought you close to the emotions engendered by death and love...
I didn't know she was Norman Schwarzkopf's aunt! He has weird family connections (father was cop on the Lindbergh baby case).
I feel a little surprised that people are surprised about Mel Gibson. Feels related to the idiotic and dead-end workings of the celebrity culture we live in, where the cameras are farther and farther inside people's hides, sticky with information, but what We Know is farther away and less clear and sometimes so completely contradictory. I'd say there was plenty of evidence, including the serious nicotine lines and capillary bursts on that man's face, to let you know he had some drinking problems, and his entire career to look at if you were wondering about Mel and The Jews. Who would need a drink more than somebody who fancied himself if not just the tiniest bit Christ-like, then (equally gnarly) the favored story-teller of Christ's life, especially in the double context of Hollywood, which is as inclined toward Worship as an MO as the churchiest church anyhow...
If you are noticing a new, more mature confidence, and firm handshake in my prose, it is because I turned 40 yesterday. Ahem. The list of people with my birthday grows more and more complete with tools like the Internet--this year I was excited to see Gary Merrill on it! (who knew--I do love him so in All About E) and Per Wahloo, because who doesn't need a Swedish crime novelist to feel connected to. Others include: Pete Sampras AND Aaron Krickstein, Mary-Louise Parker (blech), Cynthia Stevenson, Apollonia ("Sex Shooter": worst Prince song ever), Butch Patrick. Andrew Gold, Kathryn Harrold, Lance Ito (oh gawd), Joanna Cassidy, Isabel Allende, Wes Craven, Peter O'Toole (yay), Ireland, Betsy Bloomingdale, Carroll O'Connor and Myrna Loy (yay oh yay).
Thanks to darling HB, I have both the lyrics to and a recording of Sophie Tucker performing the following song-y monologue (on my iTunes it segues immediately into the overture to The Marriage of Figaro THEN "Home" by Stephanie Mills, which is kind of a exhilarating combination). I quote the lyrics here because, well, they rock, and Sophie Tucker becomes only a cooler role model as this shit gets realer, yo.
LIFE BEGINS AT FORTY
I've often heard it said and sung
That life is sweetest when you're young
And kids, sixteen to twenty-one
Think they're having all the fun
I disagree, I say it isn't so
And I'm one gal who ought to know
I started young and I'm still going strong
But I've learned as I've gone along...
That life begins at forty
That's when love and living start to become a gentle art
A woman who's been careful finds that's when she's in her prime
And a good man when he's forty knows just how to take his time
Conservative or sporty, it's not until you're forty
That you learn the how and why and the what and when
In the twenties and the thirties you want your love in large amounts
But after you reach forty, it's the quality that counts
Yes, life begins at forty
And I've just begun to live all over again
You see the sweetest things in life grow sweeter as the years roll on
Like the music from a violin that has been well played upon
And the sweetest smoke is from a mellow, broken and old pipe
And the sweetest tasting peach is one that's mature, round and ripe
In the twenties and the thirties you're just an amateur
But after you reach forty, that's when you become a connoisseur
Then it isn't grab and get it and a straight line for the door
You're not hasty, you're tasty, you enjoy things so much more
For instance, a novice gulps his brandy down, he doesn't understand
Observe a connoisseur, the way he holds it in his hand
How he strokes the glass, fondles it, warms it as he should
Smacks his lips, aahhh, slowly sips, hoo boy, it tastes good
Life begins at forty
Then it isn't hit and run and you find much more fun
You romance a girl of twenty and it costs you all your dough
But when a forty thanks you, she hates to see you go
And girls of twenty, all they want are big men
Big men with strong physiques
I don't say that it's bad
But you do get tired of those damn Greeks
Life begins at forty
And I'm just living all over again
- - - - - -
(Jack Yellen/Ted Shapiro)