I Loved "The Dick Van Dyke Show". Endearing “Rob” and pixie-perfect “Laura” oft-times fumbled their way through the trials and tribulations of married life, career and parenthood. And, who didn’t love to hate Carl Reiner as the egocentric comedic star of the fictional television show for which Van Dyke was the head writer.
Continuing this walk down old TV comedy lane, one must include the tsar of comedy sitcoms, Norman Lear. I had the great opportunity to have lunch with the incomparable Lear a couple of years ago with about 40 other people. He began his talk by extolling the virtue of reaching 90-plus years: “You can get applause just standing up; and walking across a room merits a standing ovation!”
The three comedic icons — Lear, Reiner and Van Dyke — have been dubbed “the Golden Boys.” Lear and Reiner at 95 years old and Van Dyke at age 91 have produced a documentary for HBO; “If You’re Not in the Obits, Eat Breakfast!” Through interviews and commentaries, the positive aspects attainable and sustainable as we age are explored through — what would you expect: humor!
In interviews promoting the show, the three legends of comedy were not only funny, but humble and quite thoughtful about the trials and, yes, the joys of aging. They are staunchly advocating that contribution and productivity are not only for the young but, to the contrary, great achievements have been, can be and will be made by people well into their 80s and 90s.
With that backdrop, my attention was immediately drawn to an “op-ed” appearing in the New York Times last Sunday. It was penned by none other than Carl Reiner. In letter form, it was a direct plea to Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy not to retire from the court.
It begins: “I would like to start with congratulatory wishes on your forthcoming 81st birthday. As someone who has almost a decade and a half on you, I can tell you this: It may well be that the best part of your career has just begun. As a nonagenarian who has just completed the most prolific, productive five years of my life, I feel it incumbent upon me to urge a hearty octogenarian such as yourself not to put your feet up on the ottoman just yet. You have important and fulfilling work ahead of you.”
Being an outspoken progressive, Reiner obvious wrote the piece for political reasons. But, whether you agree or disagree with the politics of the matter, the subtext, to me is the overriding take away from his missive.
With 281 years between them, the golden boys are still sharply astute, totally mobile, and deeply thoughtful. They speak of how, in our culture and particularly in our country, the elderly are minimized; growing old is viewed as a disease instead of a potentially hugely productive part of life; a serious lesson from perhaps unlikely sources.
Time will tell if Justice Kennedy will heed Carl Reiner’s advice, thus creating the “golden boys plus one.”