A Creative Life

Every life is a creative life because how could it not be?  We are literally creating every moment we live based on what we do or don’t do.   

Each minor or major or in-between choice leads to another, and then another, until before you know it decades have gone by.  The very act of living means we are making something that has never existed before.

Us.

Whoa Chairy

That was not meant to reek of new ageism, even though it does.

And no, we are not in an episode of This Is Us, now in its final season in case you have somehow managed to not be assaulted by NBC/Universal’s currently relentless marketing blitz.

I will miss Milo and his denim jacket

It is merely to state, and own, that we humans are ALL creative beings.   That is to say every one of us, according to the latter’s dictionary definition, has an imagination and an original idea(s).

Which has nothing to do with what is commonly referred to as talent. 

I’m reminded of this with each hour I’ve spent watching Peter Jackson’s irresistible Get Back, an eight-hour documentary of the documentary that chronicled the 1969 Beatles’ creation of their iconic Let It Be album (Note:  Somehow now weirdly being streamed only on Disney Plus).

Does this make them Disney… princes?

It also tugs massively at the heart with the passing of international screen icon and humanitarian, Sidney Poitier this week.

Just as it nostalgically takes us back to any number of seminal artistic triumphs we’ve enjoyed that were created by people like film director Peter Bogdanovich and songwriter Marilyn Bergman.

Thanks 2022. 

And no, it doesn’t matter that the combined ages of the last three is 268.  Or that it we added in Betty White last week we’d be at 367. 

A tough week!

Not to mention where we’d be at if we included the two long-deceased Beatles.

Talent is a natural aptitude or skill in a certain area that, in its extreme form, gets developed far beyond an ability to just merely do something well. 

Cultivated in the right way and at the right time it can transform our way of thinking, entertain us beyond belief and, in rare circumstances, change the world. 

Often for the good and, sometimes, even for the bad.

… and whatever this is

Jeopardy’s current $1,000,000 champ Amy Schneider, a trans woman, has begun to change our perception of who becomes a champion, and not only on a game show.

Our most recent former president, leading a movement that’s huckster-ized fantasy into fact and earned him more than a billion dollars in donations, leads the most anti-Democratic movement in the history of the U.S.

Dark vs. light.  Light vs. Dark.  

And who said the Marvel Universe isn’t relevant?  (Note:  Okay, I have).

… and don’t ask this guy. #ImwithMarty

But let’s stay with the light for now.

Watching The Beatles in their messy creative space amid all that footage, as any aspiring artist should, the level and ease of their talent is their least surprising quality.  In fact, it’s a given.

What’s more fascinating is observing just how young, goofy and utterly, humanly flawed each one of them are.

– Paul’s smart, boundlessly creative and so up it’s annoying. 

– John broods, cuts through the bullshit, does weird voices and likes very much to do drugs. 

– George, the youngest and perhaps wisest, desperately wants to be heard but seldom is.

– Ringo, loyal and unfazed by everyone, is up for anything except for all the unnecessary drama.  When that happens he clandestinely exits the room.   

Ringo (and his shirt) is just here for a good time!

Watching them you think, is that… it???  They remind me of my high school or college friends but with more colorful clothing. (Note:  I’d buy a copy of any one of their shirts off the rack and wear them tomorrow if only someone had the brains or talent to reproduce them.  And so would you).

This, of course, is the point.

My experience with the uber talented is not only are they all quite human, both good and bad, but that in real life, they can be so down to earth, surprisingly normal (or expectedly, abnormally normal) that, frankly, it’s shocking.

Sometimes it works!

I was fortunate to meet Sidney Poitier some years ago at restaurant because a friend knew him and he invited us to sit down at a large table of his family and friends.

I figured to myself, Oh Steve, (Note: This was before my Chair days), don’t say anything stupid and DO NOT, under ANY circumstances, react to how handsome you think this 80 year-old man is.

Well, before I could process all that and several minutes into various smaller conversations around the table, Sidney suddenly puts a hand on my shoulder, looks me in the eye and says, So Steve, what do you do?

Me, trying to keep my cool.

I mean, it’s like he was interested.  Though, wouldn’t any stranger at a table be if he was seated next to you and there was a lull in the conversation?

Actually, not necessarily, which is part of what made him who he was.  He was just a guy with extraordinary talents.  He knew it, I knew.  That was a given.  But he also was a mensch, had a life and was a lot more than that.

As for Bogdanovich, I decades ago I worked on his movie, Mask.  To this day, he knew more about film than any one I’ve ever met and was not shy about proving it in every conversation.

Plus so many neckerchiefs (and only he could pull them off!)

That and his toweringly intellectual way of speaking could come off as high-fallutin’ and rarified.  Yet get him on the topic of his late, murdered girlfriend, Dorothy Stratten, whom he’d just written a book about, and he was no different than any grieving uncle who’d just lost the love of his life.

It wasn’t affectation.  It wasn’t a pose.  It was simply a truly messed up guy who had been through it and would never be the same.

None of which changed the effete public persona he liked to present to the world and came so naturally to him.  When I ran into him some years later in Westwood on my way to a movie he’d just seen, he greeted me with a huge hello and called from across the street:  I’m doing a picture at Metro!  Give me a call!

Um… what?

Metro, I thought?  Metro?  This was the late eighties. MGM hadn’t been Metro in, um….well…forever?  Nevertheless it was as real and as human and inviting as a guy like him could ever be.  That is, happily greeting a young man he had formerly employed by name and publicly inviting him to come see him at… Metro! 

What you learn about talent over the years is that it doesn’t replace anyone’s humanity or raise it to a different level.  It is only one more characteristic for a person to create a life that reflects who they are based on the choices they have made and will make.

Choosing wisely, or more to the point, authentically, is the key.

Lulu – “To Sir, with love”

Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da

Screen Shot 2015-10-18 at 12.00.40 PM

I’m not religious or particularly spiritual. Pretty much I think that when you die (Note: That’s YOU, not ME) it’s the end. I most certainly don’t imagine there’s a heaven or a hell, especially given the sheer numbers that have come before me. And if there is, well, I can’t imagine facing the same kind of overcrowding we’re now experiencing in Los Angeles. The mind, or whatever would be left of it at that point, boggles at the traffic. In either direction.

But still….

And yet…

There are those moments.

Here’s a story:

Many moons ago in the 1970s I went to grad school. I was 20 at the time, a too young overachiever with an attitude about many things I knew nothing about. This served me well since I was in journalism school and the ability to play along and ask intelligent questions about subjects one knows nothing about with a certain air of…confidence…is an essential skill. It is a skill that, in fact, I occasionally call on to this day. As most of our readers and subscribers realize and have probably come to expect, if not sometimes dread.

Anyway, I was unbelievably lucky back then to fall in with a small group of fellow students who grounded me through our intensive one-year, four quarter (nee semesters for those not in academia) program. One of these people, let’s call her “A” to protect her privacy, actually did die this week. Even though she and I hadn’t talked in the last number of years we all managed to sporadically keep in touch through social media, or via others in the group who had spoken to one of us and had information about someone else. Unfortunately – or perhaps realistically – this is how it goes as we get older. It doesn’t mean the love isn’t still there. In actuality, it’s quite the opposite. At any given moment, any of us could call the other and pick up almost exactly where we left off.

My lovely friends.... and hair

My lovely friends…. and hair

These enduring friendships, which are often formed at pivotal, peak moments in our lives or developmental cycles (Note: Which hopefully happen all through our lives) are the closest I get to religious experiences. Which makes the following all the more ironic. See, A was not only smart (a Smith gal) but one of the nicest and pure of heart people you’d ever want to meet. This has nothing to do with her untimely death – which is, I suspect, what you’re thinking about now. Rather, she was…to put it bluntly…just….nice. Like…..sweet. Almost naive. Except, she wasn’t by any means. More specifically she was a gentle soul.

Who LOVED The Beatles.

Particularly PAUL MCCARTNEY.

Yes, Paul McCartney. Of The Beatles. Not Band on the Run Paul McCartney or the Michael Jackson dueting This Girl is Mine Paul McCartney. Certainly not Silly Love Songs or even Live and Let Die Paul McCartney. Though I’m sure she very much liked all of those. (Note: Eh, maybe she could’ve done without the Jackson tune, but, well, I’ll never quite know).

That's our Paul

That’s our Paul

She enjoyed Ringo, George and most certainly John (NOTE: That’s Starr, Harrison and Lennon for my students, who I don’t ever underestimate but whom I always want to make sure I inform in case they’re in the dark). But Paul – talented Paul – adorable floppy-haired Paul, the Paul of YesterdayA was all about him.

So much so that when A was put into hospice care her husband hired a guitarist to play Beatles music for her, with what I’m sure was a serious bent towards the Paul canon. By the second day A was not speaking at all so her cousin asked the musician to play something other than The Beatles, if only for a change of pace. To which A said, after 24 hours of silence: NO, JUST THE BEATLES!

Those were her final words.

I'll miss you dear friend

I’ll miss you dear friend

At her memorial service some time later, all five speakers talked about A’s love of The Beatles, and especially Paul McCartney. There was a deli around the corner from the funeral home that one member of our group, let’s call her J, ducked into with some other mourners afterwards to eat.   So imagine their surprise when, sometime between ordering the corned beef and chowing down on the pastrami on rye, who walks in for lunch but —

Paul McCartney. Yes, THAT Paul McCartney.

Does he even live in NYC? Who knew he liked NY deli? And you mean, he just sort of mosies around town ducking in and out of places that sell items like knishes, dill pickles and sable? Well, I guess so.

giphygiphy-1

This seemed like the right time to post this gem

This seemed like the right time to post this gem

J, who told me this story, which I’m sharing with you, decided she had to go over and thank Paul for the joy that he brought our friend. She shared it all – bits of her life, the moments before her death. She said he seemed very touch by the whole thing.

Maybe he’ll write a song about it. Or one of you will. Or perhaps it will inspire something else.

Now, this may all be a coincidence. I mean, why wouldn’t Paul McCartney be in NYC, right? And I mean, it’s not the 1960s, 70s or 80s – he could probably slip in and out of eateries all day without being too mobbed, right? But why that moment?

Well, a cynic like me could say why not? Except, in this moment I find myself to be – dare I say it – a believer. In exactly what, I’m not sure. But it’s the same leap of faith I make as a writer when I sit down to the blank page.   Or as a potential lover when I decide to expose (literally!) my entire self to an individual who for some reason I want to take a chance on. Or as a friend when I meet a new person, or group of people, I decide in that moment would be a good idea to invite into my life.

It’s all guesswork and chance, right?

No, it’s faith.

Which has NOTHING to do with RELIGION.

And everything to do with The Beatles. Or more precisely, Paul McCartney.

…..Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da