Friday, October 11, 2013

Look Who's a Granddaddy Now (No, Not Me!)






You don't have to be as long in the tooth as we Boomers are to realize that most everybody relates in a big way to the stars of their own generation.  I've no doubt that 18-year-olds are constantly sizing themselves up in terms of the way they look and act with Miley Cyrus and the Biebs just as our parents saw themselves in light of the likes of Cary Grant, Bette Davis, or Clark Gable.

The same is true with us Boomers.  That's why it comes as a bit of a shock to realize that we have reached a point in the evolution of the Baby Boomer generation where Dustin Hoffman, Richard Dreyfuss, and Henry Winkler are playing Jewish grandfathers.

"Look at Joe Blow," we say to our spouse upon seeing a long familiar actor on a TV talk show, that long familiar actor having celebrated his Bar Mitzvah within three years of the same year we did, if he were indeed Jewish.  "Look how lousy he looks anymore!"

And it's true.  The formerly transplendent Joe Blow now sports sunken eyes, sparse hair, and skin so wrinkled you feel like taking a damp iron to it.

"Hah, look at Joe Blow!" you say. "I look way better, don't you think."

Either you have a spouse who loves you muchly or one who is very nearsighted if you do not then hear the golden words "How do you think you look, jerk?!!"

There are countless Joe Blows against whom we may measure ourselves, and hopefully your favorite is someone who really does look worse than you, but there are very few more prominent that the aforementioned three. Think of it: the young shark hunter from Jaws, The Graduate, and Fonzie himself schlepping around in plaid pants complaining about constipation, why grandkids never call, and how much they love the specials at IHOP  if you just can get there before 5:30.  

Richard Dreyfuss always radiated a youthful exuberance on screen from the days he actually was young in American Graffiti and The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz and on into his many more mature roles.  He began to look old for his age even then, but there was always that brash self-confidence that seemed young and vital no matter how much hair he lost or how gray the rest of it became.  Few of his roles better captured the spirit of Richard Dreyfuss on screen than Close Encounters of the Third Kind and Jaws, in which he battled a man-eating beast with teeth a foot long and sharp as razors. 

Teeth?  Nowadays Richard Dreyfuss is more likely to be seen in a role with teeth in a glass at bedside rather than in the mouth of a marauding monster.

Nobody was bigger on television in the 1970's than Arthur Fonzarelli, except maybe your Aunt Tessie when she fell on top of the Zenith and crushed the rabbit ears.  Henry Winkler played the Fonz as the bad boy with the not-so-hidden heart of gold, in so doing winning over the hearts of both young and old just as he won over Happy Days to become its unlikely star. Quintessential Fonzie: at the mirror all set to comb his greasy mane and suddenly flinging his arms aside realizing that one cannot top perfection.

Nowadays if  Henry Winkler, who has starred in his own reverse mortgage commercial as well as played granddads, were to fling his arms aside at a mirror, the only perfection he'd likely achieve would be a perfect dislocation of his shoulder.  

You'd have to have been an older Boomer in the late 1960's to understand how The Graduate was the youth movie of 1967.  Here was a pre-long hair depiction of youthful alienation from American culture and values that struck late teens and twentysomethings as being just where they were head-wise back in the day. Dustin Hoffman played the role as an befuddled but appealing everykid buffeted between uncertain messages from a well-meaning neighbor's "Plastics" to a not-so-well-meaning Mrs. Robinson's "Gymnastics?," and the film even provided a fairy tale fix ending to allay our smoldering post adolescent angst, at least for the moment.

Dustin Hoffman, of course,went on to one of the most distinguished careers in the modern history of motion pictures, but how do young people see him today? As Ben Stiller's Dad and granddaddy of Ben Stiller's brood in Meet the Fochers and Little Fochers.

I suppose we of the Baby Boomer era should be happy when we see Dreyfuss, Winkler, Hoffman and others like Albert Brooks and Billy Crystal --- though now cinematic grandpappies all --- still active, sometimes starring, and for the most part going strong. And we are.

Of course, hah, look at them!

I look way better, don't you think?

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10 comments:

K.B. Owen said...

Ayyyy, of course you look way better, Perry! And you can leap tall buildings in a single bound...but I digress. I think we can count ourselves lucky that we are aging "gracefully" - meaning we're not famous enough to have dewy-eyed pics of ourselves from our youth blasted all over the internet to act as a mocking tribute of our current decay.

Happy Saturday! ;)

Perry Block said...

hanks, Kathy. But, you know, I think maybe I could handle the deterioration a bit better if I were rich and famous. And could probably afford to hire a damn good plastic surgeon!

Anonymous said...

Ah....a good plastic surgeon! Thoughts of it make me long to be a millionaire! And yes, you do look WAY better than any of those guys, Perry! Joy Ross Davis

Perry Block said...

Thank you, you're a wonderful liar, Joy. I may have an edge on Richard Dreyfuss but that's it. And Dustin Hoffman looks MAHVELOUS!, which actually does make me feel good. If only he would share some of that hair ....

Anonymous said...

Soooooo Perry, when did Matthew Brady do that glamour shot you are using on the blog?

Perry Block said...

It's a Frans Hals.

Russell said...

I can only hope you look better than the stars of our day, Perry. The only thing I have for comparison is this gravatar shot on the web which is obviously circa 1972. I did hear Scarlett Johannson say that you were the Abe Vigoda of Havertown--but she did it in a very sweet and respectful tone.

Perry Block said...

I definitely look better than all the stars of our day who are dead, including Shari Lewis. Beyond that, all bets are off!

pattisjarrett said...

Surround yourself with professional make-up artists and Photoshop masters, you'll look good as new!

Perry Block said...

Good idea, but I think it would take the entire Westmore family of make-up artists to keep me looking halfway decent any more, and Cher has them all under contract. I already use a ten year old avatar on my blog and Twitter account, and my attorney is concerned about being sued for false advertising. But thanks for writing!