The thing about being 82 is you have grandchildren. The thing about being 82 and semi-affluent is that most likely those grandchildren are fairly well educated. They can be very bright, and even more disconcerting, they can be assertive.
For them, now in their teens, mid-twenties and early thirties, the world is at a crossroads. They are not alone. I want to be with them. Really. Even at 82, I get it. Black lives DO matter, the constitution of the United States is under siege and the inequality that exits in America socially, economically, and in education, is not only unfair…it is dangerous. But I am 82…and feeling every hour of it.
I wrote about some of this in my last Blog…I know, I know, I promised to go back to being “entertaining”… and I meant it, but then I got this missive from my middle granddaughter about my last posting. She wrote (in part):
…it might be interesting to reflect on the fact that your stories, the ones you have “so many of,” could also be critiqued for their own respective lack of Black voices. All the names you listed were white. An investigation into this and further self-reflection about this, might be worthwhile, or at least might be worth a follow up blog post. How much of this pre-amble is really needed? Does it centralize yourself more than the information that needs to be spread?
Ouch. Not to be too defensive, but…well, there are certainly Black people in my life. One of my very closest of friends can attest to that, but then I harken back to the old saw of my youth, and the disclaimer one heard all too often, “…oh, but some of my best friends are Jewish.” Still, I could have mentioned, but failed to, that I have had productive and friendly relationships with actors Rosie Greer, Yaphet Kotto, Merry Clayton, Georg Stanford Brown, Carl Lumbly, Kathryne Brown, Jonelle Allen and Don Pedro Colley…but I failed to do that. I also worked with Black directors…the aforementioned Georg Brown, as well as Helaine Head and Bill Duke. There was also writer Samm-Art Williams. Sadly, none of them made the cut either… or, even worse, only a few got close to my “social circle.”
I have often imagined what Georg Stanford Brown felt, when at a post-EMMY party at my home he would be the only person of color in my crowded living room. I am then reminded of the days when my one-time spouse, Barbara Corday, an executive at first ABC and then at Columbia Pictures Corporation, was often the only woman in the room.I remember her trying to explain her feelings about that to her would-be feminist husband. To label her sense of those meetings as often uncomfortable and awkward would have to come under the heading of understatement.
My number two granddaughter called me out on all of it. Why was it left to her and not another of the three grandkids? Well, number one is too busy occupying Oakland as we speak, and number three? I think I was afraid to consult with her. She is not only super bright…she is 15. If that explanation is not sufficient, clearly there are no teenagers in your immediate sphere.
Number two had the temerity (with ease, I might add) to point out…well, here it what she wrote:
Speaking of Blackness—this might also be an interesting time to address the working class of Fisher Island being predominantly Black, and what this means and represents on a larger scale for your readers, as something too on which to reflect.
Oh my. I know I don’t even have to ask if once having Ophra Winfrey as a Fisher Island neighbor counts. It’s sorta cool to say it, but I know it doesn’t really belong in this discussion. Far be it from me to even bring it up.
In the original draft of the Blog I previewed with Greer (there… she has a name), my granddaughter called me out on a joke I had written. It wasn’t much of a joke, so I cut it. It had to do with climate being important to me so I would be postponing any protest move to Canada until the Canadians conquered an Island in the Caribbean. Back came this from granddaughter number two.
Also, the bit about Canada colonizing a Caribbean Island—I see the joke you’re trying to make here, but at its core it represents colonialism/colonization of indigenous (Black) people by a white nation. I’d think about rewording this, or maybe just taking it out.
I took it out.
What’s a grandpa to do?
It is a privilege to know talented, intelligent, quick-witted, eccentric individuals. Barney Rosenzweig certainly fits the bill. We met Barney several years ago at an Equality Florida event at which his wife actress Sharon Gless was the guest of honor and speaker.
For anyone who was a fan of the hit television show Cagney & Lacey (aired on CBS from October 1981 – May 1988), you know that Sharon played police officer Christine Cagney. (Tyne Daly played her partner Mary Beth Lacey). Barney Rosenzweig was the producer of this hit show – one of the first to feature women cops who were smart, tough, genuine, and intriguing.
Although Hollywood was where it all happened, Barney and Sharon also have a home on Fisher Island (Miami), one of the wealthiest Zip Codes in the Country, where Barney spends most of his time now that he is retired. (He is also known for his frequent trips to New York City where he binges on Broadway Shows).
Being the observant character that he is, Barney writes reviews, commentary, blog posts, opinion pieces, and musings about the things he sees, the places he goes, and the people he meets.
So, rather than copying and pasting all of his writings to this post – this link will take you directly to Barney’s Blog Posts on his Cagney & Lacey Website.
For another sampling of Barney’s wit, why not …
Make ‘em Laugh
“Let me entertain you, let me make you smile…” Sondheim wrote that lyric for a Broadway musical about a strip-tease artist and I think it should generally be the goal of this fully clothed blogger as well. Still… nearly a hundred years earlier, W.S. Gilbert’s poetic advice to a court jester: “there are one or two rules, that all family fools, must observe if they love their profession,” seems to hold true now more than ever. How to keep it light…how to make them smile, in times like these, indeed.
It’s not as if there is a scarcity of stories… like Jimmy Durante before me, “I gotta million of ‘em.” And I am not limited to Cagney & Lacey, The Trials of Rosie O’Neill or Daniel Boone. I have yarns about my tenure on Charlie’s Angels, other adventures from other shows, the world’s best Network meeting, and a few of the world’s worst. I literally have a book load of material to dribble out, in the unlikely event there’s a week where I can think of nothing to say.
For those of you who have forgotten, the book is called Cagney & Lacey… and me and I commend it to you via CagneyandLacey.com if you want it personally autographed, or get it through the iTunes guys, or Amazon, if you want your purchase to be less sociable. Or, you could just be patient and read excerpts one blog at a time on this site. You may miss some of the flow of the original, but (hey) cheap is cheap… you want to read the book without paying, you gotta take it the way it’s doled out.
I’ve got stories about pitching an opera… an OPERA… honest to God… to a Network exec no less. I know, I know. There’s a reason they call it A-B-C. Or I could write about my grandmother, Fanny, who could be a laugh riot (when she wasn’t undergoing shock therapy). My days at USC were better than most, and the early days of my career, starting at MGM as an office boy and meeting Clark Gable, Cary Grant, Marlon Brando, Shirley MacLaine, Elizabeth Taylor, and John Wayne (when I wasn’t following Cyd Charisse, who looked absolutely fabulous in heels, a glen plaid double breasted jacket and a straight shirt that clung to her incredible body….)
But I digress.
There were some drinking bouts with Paul Newman, stories about Olympic champions I have known, and being on the set with such giants as John Ford, Martin Ritt, Tony Richardson (yuck), William Wyler, Patty Chayefsky, Vincente Minelli, seeing Barbra Streisand for the first time on Broadway. There is an entire other memoir in my head titled Cagney & Lacey…before and after, not to mention Notes from a Warm Island chronicling my 25 years on the Florida Island named for Carl Fisher.
The point is, there is no dearth of material. I’ve got plenty of stories to tell. The problem is how to be entertaining considering all that is going on in America today. Do I take the tack that things are so tough everyone deserves a break and a laugh? Tell that to my granddaughters. They are on the barricades, and they want old gramps at their side.
I can’t blame them. They have been hearing me rail about the system for all their lives. I think they believe, it is time for me to put up or shut up. Yet here I sit, at my desk on Fisher Island… the ultimate gated community, attempting to shame multi-millionaires to not have the Island’s Club apply for financial assistance from the government. That is the sum total of my contribution.
I know I should be out there on the balustrades. I know that black lives matter. I know how cruel white America can be to anyone of color, be they native Americans, black, Latino or Asian. I know that the stock market is not really a valid indicator for what kind of economy we really have, let alone what kind of a country this truly is.
Hey, kids… I am 82. Give me a break. I was ready to move, in protest, to Canada, but people my age need a warm climate and, frankly, I just cannot deal with the stress of trying to order an avocado salad in Greek…. or Italian.
I am also enjoying building up this column… happy to be communicating with so many friendly people long distance. (God forbid any of them were to show up at my door… which comes under the general heading of “scratch a liberal and you’ll find a monarchist.”) I don’t want to offend by lecturing people in this forum as to what they ought to be doing.
Okay… here is what they ought to be doing: first thing they should recognize is that what Americans have really gotten good at in the last fifty years or so is how to evade and avoid taxation. C’mon folks. This country was put together for one main reason: to provide for the common defense. It’s in Article 1 of the Constitution. Everyone agrees on that. Some want to build a wall to make that happen, or build bigger bombs; some want to pull up the bridge over the moat and not let anyone come in, and some realize that the common defense we should be focusing on is not only foreign invasion or domestic crazies. We also need to defend against disease and ignorance and so we need a country with a health care system that actually works… for everyone, an educational system that uplifts instead of perpetuates the status quo, and a judicial system that functions for everyone, not just the rich and the white.
There should be zero deductions on the income tax form. After the first $50K (which would be tax free) all other income would be taxed at a flat rate of 50%. One half is for you and the other half is for the society in which you live… a society that would then be able to end discrimination, create opportunity for it citizens, have great health care for everyone, a brilliant educational system for children and adults, a new electrical grid, a place that would be safe to live in, with decent roads and bridges and modern airports and the latest in non-polluting train and automated travel.
The world has past the time of the rugged individualist. No one wants to hear any more about how you built… “all by yourself” …your mail order fortune from nothing. You live in a country with a post office and a transportation system that made your business possible, and there is enough security throughout the land so that you can be reasonably assured it is unnecessary to hire a private platoon of armed guards to protect your ever growing stash.
And what about the relentless capitalist who is first in line for government bailouts when things get tough? Not sure what you call someone who is a capitalist on the upswing and a socialist on the down, but “self-made” does not resonate.
The same goes for those who pay sub-standard wages and rely on the generosity of customers to provide tips that are so low their employees need food stamps. There is no fairness in a world where McDonalds gets richer while we as taxpayers subsidize their work force.
The minimum wage should be $25 per hour. If you cannot afford to pay that, do the work yourself or fold your company. If your business is so bad that it cannot pay a living wage to its employees, it should not exist.
Remember, Americans are supposed to get as their birth right “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” Try to do that in the 21st century without a flushing toilet, clean water or a smart phone.
The disparity between rich and the working poor has reached the point of eruption. Revolution is in the air and it could get nasty. Better to give up half of your lucre in taxes then have it all taken away at the guillotine.
And all you folks in Palm Beach, who represent two or three generations of no work while living in your inherited mansions, get ready for the inheritance taxes that after the first $10 mil should be taxed at a rate of 100%. America was not designed for an aristocracy of mortals living off the accomplishments of their ancestors. Especially when the ancestors got rich by paying sub-standard wages (or none at all) to the people who actually did the work. That’s the old world. This is supposed to be the new.
And that’s my spiel. I hope my grandkids are happy now… just a little bit. I hope I haven’t lost too many readers in the process, and now Hailey, Greer and Zoey, may I please go back to my shtick of song and dance…
Let me entertain you, let me make you smile….
Next time. I promise.