Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Where Are We Headed?

Sad news was learned today as reports announced that author Elmore Leonard has passed away.

Some readers may be asking "Who was Elmore Leonard?" Obviously, those asking such questions were never big readers of popular fiction or viewers of film.

Elmore Leonard was a great writer of crime and western genre fiction. Among his extensive accomplishments were such books/films as Get Shorty, 3:10 to Yuma, Hombre and scores of stories/novels/films. He also penned the popular F/X show Justified. To say he was a prolific writer is more than an understatement.

I read today that he first published a story in Argosy magazine in 1951 and continued writing because it "was fun." This was a man of talent and conviction who could create characters who had something to say. His stories had style and substance and were structured to reveal a lot about the world in general.

Unfortunately, we have been losing a lot of great artists in recent years. These are people who told us a story and made us think. We sympathized with the characters depicted and were able to see the world through their eyes. It takes someone with real talent to capture an idea, reveal it to the viewer/reader and elicit a reaction. This is not a skill that can be acquired through a creative writing course or absorbed from a webinar. Writing is hard work and requires a certain amount of unabashed dedication to the craft.

The highly talented folks of the show business world are leaving us at an astonishing rate. Many of these folks captured our eyes and ears for years when they were at the peak of their careers. Their departure has depleted the talent pool forever. They had talent which enriched us and their songs, performances and endurance are remarkable.

One day soon, the talent pool will be completely dry. All that will remain is the 20-something flashes-in-the-pan who we will be hard pressed to even identify. I flinch now when I am in a conversation with someone and I happen to mention the name of a well-known celebrity from the not-so-distant past. I can see the look of panic in their eyes. "They don't know what I'm talking about," I warn myself as I change the subject.

So far in 2013, the following list indicates a mere sampling of the celebrities who have passed away:

Michael Ansara
Karen Black
Eileen Brennan
Van Cliburn
Dennis Farina
Bonnie Franklin
Annette Funicello
Ray Harryhausen
James Gandolfini
Eydie Gorme
George Jones
Stan Musial
Patti Page
Jean Stapleton
Esther Williams
Jonathan Winters

The list is actually much longer but I narrowed it to include the names of people that boomers like myself will remember. Afternoons wearing my mouse ears with Annette, Steve and Eydie on The Tonight Show, Jonathan Winters making me laugh for decades, Stan Musial in the days when baseball was on the radio. Most of these names triggers fond memories and it's too bad that those days will eventually fade along with the impact of these individuals.

Now people swoon over pimply-faced kids who attempt to sing but whose careers will end when their voices change. We watch movies starring a large crowd of "stars" about whom we have never heard. Watch the search engine news and see how many people have become "famous" overnight. Next year they will be flipping burgers at a Hollywood bistro or delivering pizzas in Brentwood.

Easy come. Easy go.

There are still some people out there with talent. They have endured and will continue to do so as long as they can find a movie in which to appear or some other gig that will showcase their skill. But eventually they will no longer appear and the world will be a lot less interesting.

If you hear of a movie starring one of your favorite actors or see that he/she has written a book or given an interview, take a look. You will no doubt feel enriched by the experience. And it just might be one of the last times you get to see real talent.













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