"Can you imagine us years from today?
Sharing a park bench quietly
How terribly strange to be seventy"
~Paul Simon "Old Friends"
I knew Paul Simon when he wrote that song in 1968. I was 24 and my "old man" played on the "record." Seventy seemed as impossibly far away as 24 does to me now.
A few weeks back, I was invited to a screening of "The Intern," and I urge every septuagenarian to take your walkers to see it.
Robert De Niro plays a 70-year-old retired widower and successful businessman who applies for a job as an intern at a startup fashion website helmed by Anne Hathaway. During the intake interview, they ask him...
'Well I'm going to ask you one more telling question we ask all our interns ... where do you see yourself in 10 years?'
"When I'm 80?" he replies, to great guffaws in the Warner Brothers screening room.
First I laughed, and then I had this profound wave of sadness, quickly replaced by a giddy optimism.
I mean, if Robert De Niro can get a job as an intern, why then couldn't I, or why couldn't all my perfectly capable and awesome friends in their 60s and 70s get jobs? These friends are the ones who were at the top of their game for at least 40 years. They ran companies, handled millions of dollars worth of business and sat on boards. They produced Super Bowl commercials and won every award in the book.
They ate Macadamia nuts from the mini bars of the finest hotels in the world, with abandon. They were the ones who thought their careers would never end, that their six-figure salaries would never end, that their marriages would never end.
Until they did.
Not only can't they get jobs, they don't even bother applying. They say, "Who's going to hire a 70-year-old?" And so why couldn't this be the beginning of a new dialogue on the stigma of ageism, a paradigm shift? Why couldn't we have companies with a basic entrance level requirement of being 65 or older?
As it says on the movie poster for "The Intern," "Experience Never Gets Old."
Bad On Paper
In three weeks, I'll be 71. I have 4,630 Facebook friends, 3,321 Twitter followers, three million YouTube views and -- after four years of running my ass off with my camera in the mean streets of New York -- my official NYPD press credentials.
Take that AARP.
Several years ago, when I was in my 60s, a friend joked, "Sandi, if you don't know you, you look pretty bad on paper ... Senior Citizen on Social Security and Medicare, divorced and unemployed."
Diane Sawyer called a 68-year-old man "elderly" on the Nightly News. I screamed at the TV, "I'm not elderly, I'm HOT."
So, what if I'm one belly laugh away from a Depends, and my neck looks like Death Valley after a drought? I was a producer before Google, fax machines, and the Internet, with a black landline, a curly knotted cord, and a Tiffany phone dialer.
My generation went from ice boxes to iPhones in a blink of an 'i'. We were there at the birth of rock and roll, Dick Clark dubbed us the first "teenagers." Keith Richards and I are the same age, damnit.
If I'm elderly, so is Bob De Niro, Bob Dylan, Helen Mirren, Mel Brooks, and The Dude.
I'll tell you right now, my best years are ahead of me and I'm going kicking and screaming into senility, leaving my fingernail marks all over it. Grandma Moses didn't start painting till she was 90 or something like that.
I say bring it on!
Born during the second of the numbered conflicts, we are War Babies, progeny of parents who never thought they'd see each other again, and who survived the Great Depression, and never let us forget it.
We have been instilled from birth with a fierce work ethic. My mother made $17 a week at Walt Disney Studios as an airbrush artist on Bambi, Pinocchio and Fantasia. My dad, a film editor on the same films, made $200 a week.
When I moved to New York, I made $50 a week as a baby producer at Young & Rubicam, during the last season of "Mad Men" (and I have the rug burns to prove it).
I have followed De Niro's career for four decades and knew he would be a star the minute I met him. As many young actors in those days, he would come in to audition for commercials -- as the money was good. I never forgot him. He recorded a voiceover for a Vitalis Dry Control spot I produced, with Pistol Pete Maravich.
It was 1971. I remember the year because I can still hear his reading of "Pete Maravich, the dry look, nineteen seventy woooooone" drawing out the last syllable, in what was to become his signature cadence.
Please don't let this just be a boffo box office opening and then a release to Netflix. Please let this be the beginning of a new language about age. Let there be entire advertising agencies populated with the original Mad Men and Mad Women, where the entrance level is age 65.
When Michael Moore invited my film to his Traverse City Film Festival, he proudly introduced me as the "oldest first-time filmmaker in the history of the festival." That was a real turning point for me, and thanks Mike.
We are the sum of all we know, and there is no expiration date on your abilities. As a matter of fact, I seem to be pulling a Benjamin Button, reverse aging, and it's kind of creepy. I guarantee you my generation's best work is ahead of us. Grandma Moses painted well into her 90s and I'm going to be shooting past that age -- probably.
When Viola Davis won the Emmy, as the first African American to win best actress, she said, "The only thing that separates women of color from everyone else, is opportunity."
I would apply those words here. The only thing that separates a good, capable, competent, kick-ass workforce from getting much needed jobs ... is opportunity.
And maybe, they might next make a sequel, "The Paid Intern."
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