Wednesday January 16, 2013
More grandma than goddess
So Aunty, So What?
By JUNE H.L. WONG
Seeing your idol in the flesh can be the worst thing to happen, especially when it takes place too late.
I met Tom Jones last week. As it turned out, it was a different Jones.
This Mr Jones is also a showman of sorts because his job as a Johnnie Walker spokesman is to sing praises of a very fine brand of whisky.
He did this with great charm and conviction.
Still, sober or inebriated, one would not mistake this Jones for that Jones, the Welshman who crooned his way into the hearts of millions of women and whose fans started the “ritual” of panty throwing at his concerts. It was probably best we didn’t meet.
That way I continue to remember Tom at his sexy best with his bedroom eyes and black curly hair – before too much tanning turned him orangey and age and weight turned him grizzly and jowly.
Of all the professions, sports and showbiz are possibly the cruellest. The shelf life of a sportsman is extremely short – unless you are in lawn bowling – the spotlight and critics are the harshest on those in showbiz.
Equally merciless is the age factor.
In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Dustin Hoffman explained why he was making his directorial debut with Quartet, a movie about an ageing diva who has to move into a retirement home for musicians.
It stars Maggie Smith.
Hoffman, who is 75, said he felt a kinship with the actors and that “We belong to that club, you know, ‘Do not go gentle into that good night’.”
He added that there were few good roles for actors in their 60s and 70s, which was why people like him had to develop their own stuff to do.
You have to admire Hoffman for refusing to gently go out to pasture.
The same goes for rock stars who refuse to lay down their guitars.
But unfortunately, while film stars can craft new roles to play befitting their age, rock stars can’t seem to reinvent themselves much.
Perhaps it’s the fault of the fans who still want the same songs that they heard their idols sing as young men and women.
It’s all very well to keep listening to their songs over the years but to watch band members way past their prime trying to recreate their magic on stage is another matter.
For me, the moment of truth came when I watched The Rolling Stones perform in Sydney’s Super Dome some years back.
It was a huge stadium and I thought it clever to bring along binoculars.
I could see every wrinkle and grey hair on Mick and company.
Not only that, while all the band members could still fit into their skinny drainpipe jeans and Mick could prance around the stage, they needed to sit down every now and then to catch their breath, the way you would expect old men to do.
I don’t know how they managed to stage their recent 50th anniversary concerts.
They must be on very good supplements since they have been nominated for Best Live Act at the Brit Awards this year.
No doubt they still sound good but Keith Richards, Ronnie Wood and Charlie Watts look like they belong more in rocking chairs than at rock concerts.
Similarly, watching Debbie Harry of Blondie fame live in Kuala Lumpur several years ago was a bit sad. Loads of guys, including my husband, drooled over her in the 70s and 80s.
So he was really excited about watching the sexy goddess with the silver blond hair he had worshipped from afar perform at last.
But seeing her in the flesh shattered his 30-year-old, lovingly-kept memory of the woman who had titillated him with hits like Heart of Glass and One Way or Another.
There was no escaping the fact that, while still attractive, Debbie Harry looked like someone’s grandma.
The same goes for The Beach Boys who haven’t been boys for a very long time.
These days, singers and bands go on multi-city tours because that’s where the money is.
Fans may not buy albums like they used to since they can download for free but they will pay big bucks to see their favourite singers perform live.
Perhaps that’s why last century’s stars are also busy tuning up their guitars and booking concert halls.
And fuelled by nostalgia, lots of faithful fans will snap up the tickets to relive the music.
Good for them.
Indeed, there are some magnificent talents like Bruce Springsteen and Elton John who manage to continue to sound fresh and relevant.
But the message here is public figures, whether rock stars or politicians, should know when to leave the stage.
You’ve sung your song and if you have nothing new to offer, let us remember you at your best and not as some outdated, tired, old record repeating itself.
> This aunty thinks David Bowie got it right. He has just released a surprise single on his 66th birthday which has received rave reviews. But he is said to be quite adamant about not performing live again. Send feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org