Yesterday a couple of things happened that set the tone of my blog this month. I always toss ideas around for ages before I get to setting pen to paper ( yes I do still use them) and I sort of felt that I knew what I wanted to write about, but it has still taken a couple of serious shoves for me to actually get going.
Yesterday I went into Banana Republic in Bond street, London. A shop I frequent a lot in Los Angeles. Whilst browsing and mulling over items of clothing for myself, a pert young slip of a girl approached me. On enquiring if I had found what I wanted I told her I was having trouble deciding between two items. Bless her little frigging cotton socks, she sweetly and conspiratorially leant into my space and asked if it was for my grand daughter or maybe just a friend. To say I had the proverbial wind taken out of my sails is an understatement. I quickly gathered myself and determined to go straight home and order on line where privacy can be guaranteed.
But NO!! There is no escape from ageism. Having filled in the endless questions and details the web site then asked for my birth date and all I can say is that by the time I had scrolled down and down and endlessly down I finally reached the year of my birth, I felt like a bloody O.A.P, drained and weary from watching the years melting away.
So there we have it. For my own sanity I am going to address this painful issue and maybe by looking at some different examples of growing old gracefully, I too, can embrace and rejoice my decades of life before and the not so many to hopefully come!
It is April now and we all know about Spring cleaning and starting afresh so I wasn’t too surprised to hear from my agent (that’s a lie…I SO rarely hear from him I was hyperventilating as I returned his missed call ) My enthusiasm was somewhat quashed as I discovered that he was not calling with an appointment but with a request.
The time had come, he informed me, for me to have an ‘AGE APPROPRIATE’ show reel. Something up to date that showed me “as I am today.”
For those of you that don’t know, a showreel is an essential requirement for any actor at pretty much any stage in their career. It is about 6 to 8 minutes long and the idea is to show your versatility and hopefully your talent by using odd bits and bobs from past work. So my task was to bring my reel a little more up to date and show myself TODAY as much as I can bear it. One concession is a compilation of old work that will hopefully remind all of my bygone years. Its tagged on at the end as a sort of reward but to get to these moments one has to plough through the first painfully long 6 minutes of my middle age before hitting a couple of minutes of youth.
I have dutifully compiled my showreel and its not too painful but what is difficult is accepting that I do find getting older a challenge. I never imagined I would! If I was in LA right now there is no doubt that my representatives would be encouraging me to have a little work done. Perhaps a little bit of plumping. I know if a BIG job beckoned and they said it was mine if I could look a little fresher, I might well consider something…maybe an Elastoplast or something similar or even a big brown paper bag . I know I wouldn’t be alone in this decision and indeed actresses I have loved and admired for their natural beauty have gone and shattered my illusions by having work done but I am still not sure I could. I am reminded of a well know British producer who indulged herself with a little Botox whilst visiting California. No one warned her about not flying for a while and when the call came to rush home to London for a BAFTA award she jumped on a plane. Poor love came out the other end with a face frozen like a scalded cat. The altitude and jet lag had worked wonders with the poison recently injected in her face and she couldn’t move a muscle! Took her face weeks to melt….couldnt bear that. Oh No! Not for me!
So age and how we deal with it is something of a theme for me this time around. I recently enjoyed a dinner party in LA hosted by the divine Valerie Perrine. I was delighted to find myself sitting next to Jacqueline Bisset who just three weeks earlier had collected a Golden Globe award. I told her how delighted I had been for her but especially because she was an example to all of us that talent will out and we still can be recognised for good work, even when the some of the nominees are 40 years junior. I had watched the awards on TV and seen how surprised Jacqueline had appeared and she agreed that it was the last thing on her mind. She just hadn’t thought she stood a chance but then having won the award she had not really enjoyed the experience. Instead of us all celebrating her achievement I found myself caught up in speculation as to why she rambled on. I certainly wasn’t going to ask her about that but she obviously sensed my curiosity and explained that firstly she hadn’t eaten and it was a long night and she just wasn’t prepared. She explained that she felt like she was a in a daze, trying to hold her spectacles in one hand and also her small purse whilst clutching her Golden globe statue, and afterwards she found herself being pulled every which way as people wanted selfies. She had even put a pen in her bag in case she was asked for autographs but instead found herself being shoved and squeezed into positions as people tried to get that intimate shot of themselves with her. All too ghastly and way too familiar if you ask me. Where has putting Stars on a pedestal gone?
Speaking of awards ceremonies, that brings me nicely to the Oscars and THAT selfie. There was a wonderful moment in this year’s Oscars where the host Ellen DeGeneres rushed into the front row and grabbed a photo op with her and a bunch of A list stars. All very spontaneous but as my spy in the same row told me it was actually set up…. Anyway it worked for me and was a lovely shot.
The following night I had a fabulous Mexican meal with my old friend Lorna Luft. I got all the dish from her about the previous night and I must say I had the best laugh ever. I am not Piers Morgan so I am not going to spill the beans but suffice to say she had me in stiches over the exploits of many including her sister Liza Minelli. During the selfie, Liza being quite short, was left jumping up and down in the back in a most unladylike fashion. Never made the final cut though pictures of the back of the selfie do exist and her jumping up and they are even funnier. As I sat in this little Mexican diner with dear Lorna, who was sporting a scrubbed face and comfy sweats, she told me all about her night and the fabulous gown she wore and the agonising shoes, the endless day that started with hair at 11 am and ended the following morn at 1.30 am. The hunger, the waiting , the bathroom breaks and all the fabulous nips and tucks both male and female…but most of all she shared her delight that she and her siblings had at being at the Oscars to celebrate their mother Judy Garland. Lorna said that she found it very, very moving when the big screen filled with her mother’s face. Pink sang Over the Rainbow in a rousing tribute to the 75th anniversary of ‘Wizard of Oz’ and all the academy applauded her Mum’s memory. She held onto brother Joey and sister Liza’s hand and bowed her head briefly only to feel the comforting squeeze of a different hand. Julia Robert’s had leant over from the row in front and gently rested her hand on top of theirs in a beautiful gesture of solidarity. Although they had never met they were united in a sense of loss and Lorna was very, very appreciative and moved by the gesture and all too aware of the emotional time Julia had recently been going through herself.
Whilst in LA I was delighted to dine with an old friend and fabulous photographer, Greg Gorman. His photos are legendary and his books are collectors items. I have been fortunate enough to have had him shoot me over three decades and when he said he could squeeze me in for another quick session, I grabbed it. In the past these sessions have been quite long and full of assistants and hair and makeup but this time it was to be just a couple of hours. I got my hair done that morning, make up on and wore his sweater (his idea). We then shot for only about 40 minutes. Having confessed to finding I am not so comfortable with my ageing process I can honestly say Greg has almost cured me. With his professional eye and somewhat detached professionalism he magnified my face a million, million times on his computer. With some magic computer tool he then smoothed and plucked and tweaked and squeezed every blemish and line and hair….well you get the picture. Not too much, he said, got to be AGE APPROPRIATE . Later, having chosen just a couple of shots I did remark that my hair was a bit messy. Dear Greg just looked at me and said ‘but that’s who you are, beautiful but a little dishevelled’ I shall take that as a compliment!
I thought I would hate being 60 but it really isn’t so bad. I recall phoning Grace Jones to tell her that the newspapers in England were talking about her 60th birthday when I knew she was only 59. I was mortified for her but she just roared with laughter. “Brilliant” she told me “ I shall use that” and instead of having a meltdown, as I think I might have done, she revelled in the headlines that shout “ Grace Jones. Fabulous at 60 “ Age is JUST a number she keeps banging on to me!
I am being interviewed for her biography. I wonder which stories we shall decide to share about our lasting and solid friendship! I cannot finish without an update on my Mum. Bery is OK though struggling with short term memory which she finds distressing. Yesterday I was telling Grace about this and she immediately telephoned my Mum. They have a wonderful and unlikely friendship. I heard her sympathising with Mum and agreeing it was awful forgetting stuff. Grace then went on to tell my mum that she (Grace ) was just like Beryl. Only yesterday Grace had been asked by her biographer whom she had lost her virginity too and as Grace told mother “I know just what you’re going through as I have NO idea who it was and I really should be able to remember THAT!” Don’t know what my Mum said and sadly today she has forgotten the conversation. Probably best eh? I continue to be with her as much as possible and enjoy all the extra time we have together. I have lived away from Stratford upon Avon for all my adult life so I am rather enjoying this time, but its rather like being a kid again though this time I am in charge!