Friday, May 14, 2010

Death and Taxes

Perhaps the only person to compete with Mae West ("I used to be Snow White, but I drifted...")for timeless one-liners would be founding grandfather Benjamin Franklin.  His assertion, "In this world, nothing can be said to be certain except death and taxes" really never ages, does it?

On the taxes front, I'm doing pretty good.  I got a refund, which I was NOT expecting.  My accountant says I should thank Obama's stimulus package.  I knew I voted for him for a reason!!

And now on to the second imperative:

I was thrilled to be able to attend this years Broadway Easter Bonnet competition.  It's the culmination of the fundraisers for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS...they raised over 3 million, I believe, this year alone.  The show is always spectacular and intimate, and what makes it extra super special for me is that the last living Ziegfeld Girl, Doris Eaton Travis, who always makes an appearance.  When I saw her 3 weeks ago, she was 106 years young!!  Back in 2004 (or 2005?) she even did a little time step tap routine! 

This year, in 2010, she didn't tap, but she still stood, still walked, and told the cheering crowd how happy and proud she was to be "Back on a New York stage; back in front of a New York audience".
Doris Eaton Travis, Easter Bonnet 2010
My friend Jeff snapped the photo above.  Doris thanked the producers of the pageant for having her, and said she hoped to be back next year.  That won't happen because Doris died this week, at her home in Michigan.  It was a brain aneurysm, they say it was peaceful.

With her goes the Ziegfeld era.  The New York Times has an excellent piece on her extraordinary (and extraordinarily long) life
If with Doris the living door on Vaudeville shuts permanently, so it did for me with the MGM musical era when gorgeous virtuoso dancer Cyd Charisse died two years ago at 87.  Ok, hang on Nanette Fabray, it's not completely over!

Neither is the golden era of cinema.  My hopes rest on the 100 year old two-time Oscar winner Luise Rainer.  She remains a hero, mostly because she stood up to Louise B. Mayer, asking him for more choice in her roles (and perhaps to not be made into a Chinese woman as in her Oscar-winning "The Good Earth"!)  He said, "Luise, I made you and I can break you." And she pretty much disappeared off the scene, but you know what?  Louis B. Mayer disappeared off this earth in 1957 and Luise Rainer is still here and active and garnering much love and much laud in 2010!

Suck it, Louis B!

The fact we all have to die is padded by religions which say, "you don't have to die!" How appealing is that??  Having chosen not to be this kind of wishful dreamer, I've pinned my hopes on humans.  I though maybe Doris Eaton Travis would cheat death forever, keep on appearing at each and every Easter Bonnet competition from here to eternity.  In doing so, maybe I could too.  Her sudden death came as a shock, and a personal blow.

When I was struggling with my sexuality, I used to think that each new girlfriend would be the one who would have the power to change me.  The one to make me go straight.  That never did happen, but I kept on in my quest thinking: If she'll only have me, I could be normal and get married; have kids.  My slimmest of hopes turned to impossibilities: If only Julia Roberts will have me, I could be normal.  

If the last living Ziegfeld Girl Doris Eaton Travis is still alive, maybe one day I won't have to go away.

1 comment:

Tony said...

Hey Jesse -

In case anyone reviews these older posts, as promised, here's a response to your thoughts inspired by the passing of the last Zeigfield Girl.

I agree that religions, some more than others, do exploit our natural anxiety about mortality to advance their theologies and gain adherents. Fundamentalist Christianity especially, it seems to me.

So here are ideas from several "pre-Christian" philosophers on the matter.

First, Epicurus (341-271BC):

"Get used to believing that death is nothing to us. For all good and bad consists of sense experience,
and death is the privation of sense experience. Hence a correct knowledge of the fact of death makes the mortality of life a matter for contentment, not by adding limitless time to life, but by removing the longing for immortality."

Seneca (4 BC-AD 65):

" each day as though one's last, never flustered, never apathetic, never attitudinizing - here is perfection of character."

Marcus Aurelius (121-180 CE):
(Played by the late Richard Harris in "Gladiator.")

"Pass on your way then, with a smiling face, under the smile of him who bids you go."

As you point out, we humans have each other, so we should work to make the best of that.