No, this is not about fine wines.
It is about what a splendid time this is right now, in terms of role models both in entertainment and athletics. Let's start with the U.S. Open tournament, which just ended in New York. All the talk was about the upset of Serena Williams, who is soon to be 34. Sure it's too bad she didn't get her Grand Slam, but let's celebrate what she did and does do. She has had an amazing year, as has her sister who is 35. And it's not like Serena was taken down by a spring chicken. The woman who beat her is 33 and she went on to play (and lose to) a 34-year old in the finals.
The fact the finalists were both Italian -- a country, unlike ours, which has always considered women sexy past the age of 21 -- does not escape me. I interviewed Claudia Cardinale, still looking pretty splendid at 77, in Sicily last year. She told me her favorite compliment remains one from David Niven who said, "Claudia, aside from pasta, you are the best thing Italy ever invented."
I digress. Over on the men's side of the U.S. Open was Roger Federer, who is 34. When he faltered a bit about a year and a half ago, he had to fend off questions about whether it was time for the big R. Not only did Roger claim he still had the fire in his belly, he GOT BETTER. Giving us hope that victory need not be defined by remembering where you left your glasses.
It was once believed, in the tennis world, that one hit his or her prime as a late teenager and from there, it was pretty much downhill. Andre Agassi is really the only pro of the last decade or so who went well into his 30s. (Even his wife, Steffi Graff, stopped at 30) But for a variety of reasons -- physical as well as mental -- today's crop of tennis professionals are proving the opposite may be true.
While you're at it, you could even glance over at the football stats. Would you rather go with a young college-dropout bruiser, or a Tom Brady or Peyton Manning? The latter two are heading toward the 40 mark and yes, they are in positions which are mostly about thinking and throwing. But hey, they are out there getting stomped on every Sunday.
Look at the art world. New York's fabulous new version of the Whitney Museum is about to open an extensive exhibit of works by Frank Stella. No, I didn't say retrospective, but current works done by the artist, who is a still-creating, growing 79. In Los Angeles, the Turner Gallery had a hugely successful summer exhibiting Ed Ruscha, and his new works. Ruscha is 77.
On Broadway, a world I cover on the radio, there is much to look forward to as the new season unfolds. Including, I should say, James Earl Jones and Cicely Tyson starring in a revival of The Gin Game. Both are way way up there and have a hell of a lot of lines to memorize in this challenging play. Two of the most anticipated shows feature movie actors 60 and beyond: Bruce Willis in Misery and Al Pacino in China Doll.
Even at the multiplex, representing a business consumed with appealing to the "desired demographics," (not ours) things look more open-minded. Yes, of course Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper and others are in the really big movies, but there are Maggie Smith, Meryl Streep, Susan Sarandon and Robert Redford starring in films hardly relegated to the dregs of January.
So let's take solace where we can, whether on the courts, the fields, the canvas, the stage, the screens large and small. Not merely in the fact that all these folks are getting work, but that they are actually getting better at it.