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If you turned eighty last year, you were born in 1926, the year Valentino died, Gertrude Ederle swam the English Channel, Billy Mitchell was court martialed, Tunney beat Dempsey, and Hirohito became emperor of Japan.
You were ten in 1936, when the country was no longer keeping cool with Coolidge and was deep in the Great Depression. Liz Carpenter recalls that those who lived through that time didn't call in the Great Depression, as "There was nothing great about it." Franklin Roosevelt was re-elected in a landslide, the Midwest was engulfed in dust storms, the Spanish Civil War broke out, and Lindbergh was impressed as he toured Germany.
You turned twenty in 1946, if you managed to survive World War II. The previous year, Norman Corwin wrote "On a Note of Triumph" at Franklin Roosevelt's request. In addition, the United Nations met for the first time in 1946. The world seemed a promising place. Betty Garrett was in Call Me Mister, the Broadway review about the soldiers coming home. Harry Truman seized the coal mines, twelve Nazis were sentenced to death at Nuremberg, and Jane Russell outraged the censors with The Outlaw.
When you turned thirty in 1956, you had been through Herbert Hoover, Pearl Harbor, the Battle of the Bulge, and Roy Cohn. In 1956 you liked Ike. McCall's magazine touted "togetherness" and Business Week promoted the organization man. Adlai Stevenson lost the presidency to Eisenhower again, Grace Kelly married Prince Rainier, the Andres Doria sank; Jonas Salk had announced to the world the invention of his polio vaccine, and I Love Lucy led the Nielsen ratings with Bob Schiller doing the writing.
By the time you reached forty in 1966, you still had half a lifetime ahead of you. What a decade that was. Kennedy beat Nixon, Jack Ruby shot Lee Harvey Oswald, Johnson wanted "no wider war," and students were killed on the Kent State campus by U.S. soldiers. Over 400,000 American soldiers were in Vietnam, with 6,000 already dead. Harold Robbins led the bestsellers lists; Hollywood Squares debuted with host Peter Marshall, and Bob Hope toured our bases with his chief comedy writer Mort Lachman supplying his ad libs.
You hit fifty in 1976. Richard Nixon had beaten George McGovern for president in 1972. Three things beat McGovern: tapped phones, dirty tricks, and the forty-nine states that voted for Nixon. Herb Klein did a great job as Nixon's communications chief. But a year later Ben Bradlee would ride Nixon out of town. In 1976 Jimmy Carter ran against Gerald Ford and won the presidency. But soon enough, when Carter was greeted warmly by a cheering crowd, he would say, "It's nice to see people wavin' with all five fingers." You were sixty in 1986, the year new Coke failed and Classic Coke prospered, the Challenger shuttle exploded, Chernobyl endangered Europe, and the DOW hit 1800.
You were seventy in 1996, the year Bill Clinton won a second term by defeating Bob Dole, Tiger Woods turned professional, and TV viewers embraced ER.
And in 2006 you turned eighty.
What a life!
Studs Terkel, 94, has broken his neck, had heart surgery at 93 and claims, "I should be dead, but I'm not for some reason or another." What reason might that be? "First of all, I like being a "troublemaker."
At 96, singer Kittie Carlisle Heart is still performing: "It's interesting to me-my career has taken off now that I'm ninety-five. It's totally taken off. I had to wait 'til I was ninety-five to be this popular."
86-year-old Ray Bradbury's answer to growing old, "whether you're growing to be twenty, or forty, or sixty, or eighty, is to fall in love and stay in love. Love covers everything and impels you into the future and you arrive at the age of eighty-five a damned happy person."
Lena Horne, 89, remains as politically engaged as ever: "Am I looking for something new? Yes, I'm always looking to see new things in people-especially politicians. Nancy Wilson said, "Everyone sees Lena Horne as a beautiful, sophisticated lady, but there is a fierce lioness in this woman." Well, I'm old and I'm still angry."
Dominick Dunne is 80 and has never worked harder: "I have a monthly diary in Vanity Fair magazine that is widely read. I am shortly to finish my next novel, called The Solo Act, and I have a weekly television series called Dominick Dunne's Power, Privilege and Justice. I'm doing them all. There are two documentaries being made about my life for French Television and Australian Television.
Maria Tallchief, 81, former prima ballerina maintains the same routine: "I wake up in the morning and I do my pilates exercises. I still do my splits at my bedside before I say my prayers."
Actress Gloria Stuart, 86, has recently picked up a hobby in artist's bookmaking: "That means that I design the book, I illustrate it, I write it, I set the type, I print it. The only thing I don't do is bind or make the paper, and that's because I started so late in life. I don't have the time, and it's too late for me to learn them. They are such elaborate and demanding arts. The Library of Congress has all the books I've designed-and the Metropolitan Museum, the Getty, the Huntington Library, the Morgan, the Clark Library. I'm very busy now printing a book on the Butterfly Kite."
Marv Levy, 81, former manager of the Buffalo Bills, has had to slow down a bit: "My habits have changed through the years. I don't run five miles a day anymore. Three miles is enough."