Did you ever know you were my hero?
Probably not, since I don't get around to telling everyone who may have been assigned that lofty perch. So many men, women, dogs have been the focus of my adoration over the years that I would have to go back and read all these blogs over again and ask my mother who she remembers me holding in high esteem since I was young enough to make a scrapbook.
These days, I find myself hollering at my Echo whenever it plays a Bill Cosby track while shuffling through my music collection. "Skip!" Following Mel Gibson's career since Galipoli doesn't seem as worthwhile an avocation any longer. Memorizing every line from Annie Hall now feels like a waste of time, since bringing up Woody Allen in most any context gets me a sideways look. It took just a little over a week for Kevin Spacey to fall from greatest living American actor to sexual predator.
And Bill Clinton? Never mind.
What is the pathology of fame? Is it the borderline personalities that seek out the adulation or do we as a culture find them fascinating and worthy of our fawning? Certainly there was a time when hard-drinking womanizers were revered for just that. Hugh Hefner went to his grave as an unrepentant Playboy. Charles Schulz, creator of good ol' Charlie Brown was anxious and depressed, even more than his comic-strip avatar. Separating the art from the artifice has always been difficult. I still tend to bristle when I hear others talking trash about my demigod Bruce Springsteen. John Elway divorced his college sweetheart and ended up getting remarried to an Oakland Raiders cheerleader. How to reconcile all this pop culture wreckage?
Maybe at fifty-five I am ready to let go of hero worship. My father left his wife, my mother, leaving a gaping hole in the myth of Ward Cleaver. As it turns out, he was human, and subject to frailties and confusions suffered by everyone throughout history. Turns out he was really good at some things, but was confounded by others.
A little like me. Somehow, I managed to be nominated for sainthood by my son. Proud and embarrassed in equal measures, I read his college essay and wondered if he had captured the real me. The guy who wakes up in a pool of his own self-doubt on any given morning and carries a list in his head of ways he might have done better. And I think back to that scrapbook. The one with pictures of Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi. Black and white photos of my first heroes. Bela was a tragic mess of a star, whose lasting contributions are equal parts Dracula and Plan 9 From Outer Space. Boris had his share of low-budget scrapes, but somehow managed to maintain a dignity that shines through today. And that may be worth remembering.