I usually don’t get worked up about aging celebrities, mainly because I’ve managed to convince myself that their age is somehow unrelated to mine — this way, no matter how old they get in real life, in my brain they stay the same age they were when I discovered them. This helpful strategy keeps me from thinking about how when I first bought, say, a Bruce Springsteen album, he was a good 15 years younger than I am right now, which would throw off the entire space-time continuum.
Of course as a Springsteen fan I’ve been particularly spoiled, since he somehow continues to power through his AARP years with the energy level (and waistline) of a 30-year-old, allowing us middle-aged huffer-puffers to fist-pump through his concerts as if we, too, have managed to curb the aging process. So what if we have to spend the next day with our feet up and a wet towel draped across our foreheads? For that moment we’re 19 again and all is well with the world, and also with our cholesterol levels and hairlines and OH MY GOD WHAT IS THAT ON MY NECK?
But I have to admit there was a celebrity birthday this past week that snuck up on me. It seems Deborah Harry, of the groundbreaking New Wave band Blondie, has gone and turned 70. I’ll let that sink in for a minute as you try to reconcile memories of Deborah Harry, with her platinum tresses and sheer white party dress, with the image that resides in your head of a 70-year-old woman, the one that looks like Spider-Man’s Aunt May. (And not the hot Marisa Tomei version either!)
If you’re my age — 46 for those of you keeping track at home — it’s hard to overstate the towering impact Deborah Harry had on one’s pubescent development circa 1980. In addition to smoldering good looks, to the extent that a 12-year-old could discern smolder, she had this air of danger about her, like in that song where she promised to “Get ya get get ya get ya, one way or another.” Part of you wanted her to get ya, and another part wanted to hide under the couch until a Captain & Tennille song came on.
(Side note: You’ll recall that when Deborah Harry guest starred on “The Muppet Show,” Statler and Waldorf said the person she wanted to “get” was her agent for booking her there, but I suspected otherwise. And yes, if we’d had a VCR in 1980, I would have watched that episode A LOT.)
Granted, 70 isn’t what it used to be when it was the average age of the performers on the Jerry Lewis telethon — hell, now Chuck Norris is 75, and that man can do anything. And for whatever it’s worth, Deborah Harry herself actually looks terrific and sounds great. But the fact remains that if the lithe chanteuse who brought New Wave screaming into the mainstream is 70, then how old does that make ME? (Answer: 46, apparently, and that is completely unacceptable.)
As if that weren’t bad enough, the hits just keep on coming. After the Blondie bombshell, I found out that Maria from “Sesame Street” — known as actress Sonia Manzano to people who didn’t think Maria was an actual person, meaning nobody — was retiring at 65 after 44 years on the show. The only thing that keeps that from being totally depressing is that at least Caroll Spinney continues to do Big Bird, even though he’s … Wait, let me check my notes … 112. Keep holding that big yellow head up Caroll, we’re all counting on you!
It’s just the way of the world I guess — as much as we’re loathe to admit it, our heroes will continue to age, and we’ll age right along with them, and there’s nothing wrong with making way for a new generation of artists and fans. (And maybe even enjoy some of the newbies ourselves; is someone my age allowed to like Kacey Musgraves?) But even when all the heroes of my youth are long gone, I know I’ll still be streaming (or beaming, or steaming — whatever we’ll be doing then) their music and movies and thanking them for the memories.
Likely from my couch, with a wet towel on my face.
Read more Pete at Pete’s Pop Culture, Parenting and Pets Blog.