Television shows age; Music remains timeless


You know you’re getting older when the icons from your youth become – as Shakespeare so eloquently phrased it — food for worms.

I recollect my passing into middle adult hood quite clearly. It happened one spring afternoon in Columbia, South Carolina. I was visiting with my grandmother and we were watching television. The channels she watched always seemed to be filled with commercials for diabetes monitoring devices, denture creams, acid reflux medications and over the counter treatments for constipation.

That particular day, a commercial came on the television that almost made me faint. It was Evel Knievel hocking motorized scooters for Pride Mobility Products.

It seemed like a cruel joke from the universe. I must have been dreaming.
Pinch. “Ouch!” Nope. I was wide awake.

My mind churned as I recounted Knievel’s legendary career as a stuntman in my head.

Julie, my little sister, and I were Knievel maniacs. In the mid-1970s we’d don our footie pajamas and camp out in sleeping bags on the red shag carpet that once covered the basement of our family home. Those nights, watching the Wide World of Sports was a big deal. It was reality television in a pre-reality tv era.

Sometimes Knievel’s motorcycle feats would go smoothly; other times his body would be carried off on a stretcher.

Jump after jump, neither broken bones nor a coma would keep him down for too long. He was more than a motorcycle daredevil. He was an American dreamer — willing to risk it all to have it all.

Years later, to see his feeble body, teetering over a bumpy sidewalk, wearing an ear-to-ear grin of satisfaction on his face was a bit surreal.

Ideal Toys is said to have credited Knievel with saving the toy industry in the 1970s. He was America’s most merchandised icon.
We did our part with commerce in the making of our Christmas Wish Lists. Santa did not disappoint. Julie got a Knieval doll with stunt motorcycle. And I got action figures of The Six Million Dollar Man and The Bionic Woman.

They were my favorite television shows. Week after week, The Six Million Dollar Man and Bionic Woman played out archetypal roles originally conceptualized through the story of Frankenstein – man at death and rebuilt, a synthesis of machine and humanity.

Unlike the fate of the Frankenstein monster, however, Steve Austin (played by actor Lee Majors) and Jaime Sommers (played by actress Lindsay Wagner) became surgically enhanced superheroes. Biomedically altered, their tale was much more shamanic. Their death and rebirth turned them into saviors of humanity. As secret agents for a U.S. government agency called the O.S.I., they defended American soil from a wide array of evildoers – ranging from Russian spies to Bigfoot.

Problem is everyone knows that television superheroes don’t go to the bathroom and they don’t sleep.

My childhood bubbles were burst once again when Lindsay Wagner became a mattress spokesperson for Select Comfort’s Sleep Number Bed.

The latest shock to my system however, comes straight from the Six Million Dollar Man.

Less than 24 hours after the cancer death of his ex-wife, actress and model Farrah Fawcett Majors, Lee Majors had the gall to appear on my television screen, proudly advertising his brand of rechargeable bionic hearing aids!

I am in my early 40s. One of my hands reaches calmly for my roller blades, knowing that I can skate circles with the best of em. But my other hand seems to be reaching towards a walker with tennis balls stuck to the bottom.

However, as I think about the inevitable — old age –I smirk with one recurring thought.

I find great satisfaction in knowing that no one can take away the music of my generation. One day, I will be part of an elite segment of humanity in a nursing home that is gumming gruel and drinking prune juice while listening to Aerosmith, Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, The Rolling Stones, Black Sabbath, and The Sex Pistols.

Yes, one day in the senior home community center, a group of us in our 80s and 90s will be singing the lyrics to Aerosmith’s “Dream On”

“Sing with me, sing for the years Sing for the laughter, sing for the tears Sing with me, if it’s just for today Maybe tomorrow, the good Lord will take you away”

Our Spandex and Levi’s exchanged for Depends — the words of our youth will take on new meaning as they are transformed in time — and leave us ageless in our hearts.