I have had very few actual heroes in life, other than the obvious ones in most everyone’s family and a few tarnished icons during my recovery from the bad chemicals and ideas of the 60’s. But one character stands out to me as what I wanted to be.
I honestly do not know much about his personal life other than he did return to England to serve during World War II. And frankly, I don’t want to know. If you have some disparaging information about his personal life, save the juicy tidbits for more appreciative people. I like the characters he played with sophistication and reserve. A perfect gentleman. I didn’t care that it was all an actors skill.
I wanted to be like him, but it is rather hard to look sophisticated when you have acne and a ragged old ‘52 Chevy salesman’s coup. Niven would have driven a Rolls or some other exquisitely crafted car. He smoked cigarettes taken from a silver case which were carefully fitted in an ebony and silver cigarette holder. I smoked Lucky Strikes rolled up in a t-shirt sleeve when I could afford them, and cool required that they hang off of the bottom lip James Dean style. My school ‘buddies’ would have laughed me out of the county if I had used a cigarette holder and used a Ronson™ lighter. Any thing other than a Zippo™ was considered … well … a little sissyfied. And trust me. It was better to be killed that be called a sissy back in those days.
Niven didn’t wear t-shirts. It was either a military uniform, or a tux. He wouldn’t wear Levi’s, and if he had a leather jacket, it would be a brown pilot’s jacket, not a greasers black leather one. Not that I could afford a motorcycle jacket back then.
I don’t recall the movie, but one scene stands out perfectly in my mind. He was falsely accused of flirting with another mans wife, and the husband confronted him about it while he was coolly sipping brandy from a snifter and casually standing in front of a fireplace as the irate husband berated him. The man then punched him, and he carefully set the snifter on the fireplace before falling on the floor.
I just never quite reached that level of sophistication as hard as I tried. I studied verital wines. Continental cuisine, new the best hotels in every city (if the ads were to be believed, anyway). I did try to dress up one level in my early 50’s, but then I was long married, and sophistication is wasted on Snookums. They don’t come more pragmatic than her. So the suits went back in the closet, the Grecian Formula and Rogain bottles dried out from misuse, and I settled in to be an old fart. So much for my mid-life crisis!
I don’t know what triggered those thoughts today as I sit in front of the one-eyed blinking cyclops. Perhaps it was looking at some searches for studio furniture that triggered that old lust for breeding and sophistication. Today, sophistication is taking the time to slice a sweet onion and put it on my bologna sandwich to take with my morning pills.
But failed dreams aren’t such a big tragedy when you get older. Disillusionment is a theme with us. We discover that politicians become corrupt very soon after being sworn in. We discover that hucksters write the consumer guides. There really isn’t a dimes difference between a Ford and a Chevy. And winners write the history books.
So I sit back and finish my coffee, and finish this missive … no matter what happens, God is not surprised. Sometimes we just got to trust that things will be OK.