Anyhoo, back to the old dudes. It seems to be slowly coming to my attention that a slew of those whom I have long considered to be incredibly influential in my professional life, are suddenly old. It began last week with some smug NPR announcer informing me that composer/genius Phillip Glass was celebrating his 75th birthday. 75? How could that be? We’d only seen each other a scant 15 or so years ago and he seemed so frisky and young. Let me offer a bit of background on our relationship. Prior to moving to Philadelphia for graduate school, I’d never heard of Phillip Glass, but shortly after arriving in my new hometown I was hired to work on my first professional theatre production, a portion of which was a one-act called Phillip Glass Buys a Loaf of Bread. The play was a hilarious mockery of the genius’ repetitive style by playwright David Ives. The mockery coupled with a few lessons from my dear friend and sound designer E.T., got me interested in the man, the myth, the legend and I started to dive into all things Phillip Glass, beginning with Einstein on the Beach before eventually getting hooked on my all time fav, Koyaanisqatsi .
Fast forward one year: I’d moved up in my fledgling costume design career from assistant #7 sewing snaps, to contract work on a large production of a play called Vilna’s Got a Golem. My job was to make the golem (a giant mud man from Jewish folklore). As I poured over my mud man in a backstage costume shop, a crazy haired may in tragically hip glasses happened in, pulled up a stool and sipped a gin and tonic as we chatted about golems, fake mud, Philadelphia sports, my childhood in Iowa and our mutual distain toward clowns. Somewhere between fake mud and Iowa – he knew far more about fake mud- my new friend Phil, who mentioned he was soon to perform on an adjacent stage, briefly excused himself only to return with a tasty bit of gin goodness for me as well. Phil and I gabbed and giggled until a hostile little woman in a headset dragged him away. It wasn’t until an hour later as my gin-filled bladder was in desperate need of the ladies room, that I noticed a nameplate hanging on the door of the room my new friend temporarily called home –
Dressing room 5: Phillip Glass.
My oblivion was painful. Instead of probing my new obsession with questions about working with David Bowie or sussing out the meaning behind phrasing in Koyaanisqatsi, I was wowing him with stories of showing cattle, giant butter cows and the ease at which a cow-pie flies – and that was before he rolled in with the gin. For you young whipper-snappers out there shocked by the fact that I had no idea of Phil’s true identity – let me remind you, I am old and this was P.G. – Pre-Google- and it would be another 3 years before I would even get an email address.
I never saw Phil again after that. My golem and I spent the rest of the night backstage alone but I’ve thought of Phil often and have introduced many, many students to the beauty of his music. He's provided the backdrop for countless hours of my life and provided the inspiration behind multiple creative endeavors. I’m quite certain that when Phil receives my birthday card, he’ll remember me -the adorably folksy gal full of cow-pie tales with the giant mud-man from the mid ‘90’s. I’m not known for getting preachy – getting jiggy with it yes, but preachy, not so much – but I must say, if you are not familiar with the work of Phillip Glass, you need to be – here, go to his website and listen for free. Yes, free – hey, a man who shares his gin is a man who understands the importance of giving to the people.
After the harsh blow of learning that Phillip Glass was now officially an old dude, a few days later that same smug NPR announcer informed me that another idol, ground-breaking writer Gay Talese was turning 80. As if that wasn’t enough, Duff Brenna another writer I idolize was turning 70. And so it went, suddenly my life was filling up with old dudes. In retrospect, I guess there were clues. In the past two months I’d inexplicably picked up two books about old dudes trying to make sense of becoming an old dude - including one by my mentor and expat guru Thomas Kennedy -Last Night My Bed a Boat of Whiskey Going Down. Both books were utter page turners and as I finished them, I was hungry for more. I was developing an obsession for the tales of old dudes as well as a love of old dudes themselves, so the recent birthday announcements calling to mind other roles of old dudes in my life was only to be expected. I assume this is how it happens as one pushes the big 4-0, not only do you realize that you’re old, but those around you are old as well.
One thing is for certain, if these guys are still all going strong at 70 and 80 years old, I’m just a spring chicken with years to go! Long live the old dudes!!!