Before I write another word, I must say that I consider it hugely rude to comment on older performers by saying, “That person’s still alive!?!?!?!?” I consider the general phenomenon of celebrity death watches to be of questionable taste — symptoms of a society that discards those who were once of value the second our attention wanders.
Performers who have delighted and inspired us are expected to vanish the second they get old and ugly — or, to put it another way, the second we don’t give a shit about them. I find that offensive; I bear no ill will toward, say, Steven Tyler or Courtney Love, so why should I wish to speculate on their potential to shuffle off this mortal coil any more than I would speculate on whether they’ll marry, breed with or break up with this or that fashion model, backup singer or Swedish bohunk?
Would doing so somehow make me feel more alive? Or does regarding all denizens of the show business world as pieces of meat who get born, grow up and die for the sole purpose of amusing us thoroughly devalue all human endeavor? Does it make the very fact of performance, whether it be a Beethoven sonata or a Johnny Carson skit, a stripper’s lap dance or a speed-fueled comedy monologue, utterly futile as a mode of expression and communication?
I vote the latter.
It is this utter credulousness that makes me do stuff like get excited when I hear that comedian Jonathan Winters is among the living, which is the only reason I would ever slap such a rude title on this post.