We didn’t watch the Oscars on Sunday. Instead we were in the middle of watching the Ken Burns documentary on baseball that I had recently taped. Somewhere along the way though, I paused the tape and watched a few minutes of the awards show. I tuned in at the moment that Kirk Douglas walked onstage.
Now, I’ll be the first to give this man the respect he’s due for his long and noteworthy career. Also, the way he’s battled back from a stroke is inspiring and shows great courage and strength. But I was still appalled by his appearance. And no, not for his compromised gait, or his difficulty with speech or anything dealing with his age or his physical limitations. What threw me for a miserable loop was his face lift, Botox and whatever else he’s got pumped in there. He looked like a cross between Mickey Rourke and Joan Rivers. His visage was one so uncommon, that in comparison he made the Joker look like Rock Hudson. I was saddened, disappointed and irritated at this once extraordinary actor now reduced to this caricature of his former self. Then he went on this leering, lascivious drool over Anne Hathaway - practically salivating with lust – whether real or feigned - and I found it shameful and debasing to both of them. The actress, to her discredit – stood there fanning herself dramatically as if she were ready to swoon at the thought of getting it on with the legendary Kirk Douglas – who is 94 years old. The phoniness, ickiness and inappropriateness of the whole affair made me cringe.
While I was watching this, I called to my husband who was in the other room so he could see this spectacle unfolding. Both of us have long since been inoculated against surprise at the superficial society we live in, and its penchant for the plastic/Made-in-China acceptance of all things unnatural or synthetic – so this was just another chapter in a long and vacuous history. After it was over and we were sitting down, I finished up my verbal dissection concerning this latest dismaying indictment on the American culture of plastic surgery, eternal youth and lack of dignity and grace – when it happened.
My husband – with a sweet smile - said to me:
“You know, I gotta give him a pass on this. If you’re in your 40s, 50s or 60s and life suddenly gives you a hit and you run to the plastic surgeon, that’s a real shame. But if you’ve made it to 90 and this is how you want to spend your money and your time – and this is how you want to go out – I say go ahead. And if he’s flirting with Anne Hathaway…so what? Good for him. He’s not going to hurt anyone. You could blow on him and he’d fall over. So, go for it. Be a creepy old man. Why not? I gotta give him a pass. Mandelbaum! Mandelbaum! Mandelbaum!”
(And if you don’t know Seinfeld that probably makes no sense to you)
My mouth hung open a bit in mild shock as I tried to process this about-face from the man I’ve known for 27 years. He’s as pro-aging and anti-plastic surgery as I am. But I had to concede that maybe in this case he had a point. Okay, the guy is 94 – I should be so lucky. So, fine, I won’t hold it against Kirk – or I’ll try not to. But I’d still rather look at the Joker.