Friday, June 8, 2012

Late Bloomers

There are many benefits to be found in becoming "mature." One of the downsides, however, is the feeling that we might be running out of time to reach our goals or accomplish the things we hoped.

Recently I discovered a book entitled "Late Bloomers" by Brendan Gill. It is a small book, published in 1996, which identifies numerous individuals who became famous and/or found their purpose in life at a much older age than expected. Just remember that not everyone becomes wealthy or celebrated before the age of 30!

The book contains some amusing and surprising stories about these celebrities. A few of the more interesting stories are summarized here.

Artist Paul Cezanne (1839 - 1906): Cezanne wanted to be a painter but failed miserably for many years. Luckily he had inherited wealth which allowed him to survive until he was "discovered" toward the end of his life. Fame came to him two years before his death when he was given an exhibition in Paris. He wrote to a friend, "I have made some progress, but why so belatedly and why so painfully?"

Writer Ian Fleming (1908 - 1964): Ian Fleming wrote the first of his James Bond books when he was 45. His inside knowledge of the spy world was the result of his service as a member of His Majesty's Naval Intelligence Division during World War II. After the war, Fleming managed a group of British newspapers but resigned in 1959 to write full time. The James Bond franchise will remain in print and on the screen for years to come.

Artist Grandma Moses (1860 - 1961): Anna Mary Richardson married a farmer named Moses and settled in Eagle Bridge, New York. She was well-known for her embroidery skill until the age of 76 when arthritis forced her to take up another hobby. She began to paint, was discovered in her 80s and given exhibitions at the Museum of Modern Art as well as other museums and galleries. She completed more than 600 canvases depicting simple life experiences in bright, primitive colors.

Writer O. Henry (1862 - 1910): William Sydney Porter (aka O. Henry) was a well-known author of short stories which usually concluded with a twist. In 1894, Porter was employed as a bank teller in Austin, Texas when he "borrowed" money from the bank to pay for medical bills and fled the area. He subsequently served three years in jail for embezzlement, which allowed him to a chance to begin his writing career. His stories, usually set in New York City, made both the city and the writer famous.

Actor Boris Karloff (1887 - 1969): Karloff was born William Henry Pratt in a suburb of London. After relocating to Canada, he acted with unknown touring companies, eventually drifting to Hollywood. His big break as the monster in the film Frankenstein occurred when Karloff was in his 40s. For most of his film career, he played mad scientists and other characters which were polar opposites from his genteel persona.

Colonel Harlan Sanders (1890 - 1980): The KFC founder was born on a farm in Indiana, dropping out of school in the 7th grade. He worked at a series of jobs -- buggy painter, streetcar conductor, ferryboat operator -- before opening a filling station in Kentucky with a small restaurant attached. The restaurant did very well featuring Sanders' fried chicken. The Colonel traveled the country into his 80s, touting the flavor of his chicken and making himself rich in the process.

The book contains dozens of other stories about tenacious celebrities. It's encouraging to read about others who worked at something they found of interest. Most of the individuals profiled did not stop doing what they wanted to do, even when confronted with towering obstacles.

Time should be the least of our worries.

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