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.
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?