Hardened

Anybody remember Jan-Michael Vincent? He's an actor known mostly for a string of minor movie roles, but he was mainly famous for his part as Stringfellow Hawke in the 1983 television series Airwolf. He had fallen off the radar since the series was cancelled, that is until a couple weeks ago when I was watching some run-of-the-mill TV movie and there he was again. His reappearance took me by surprise, but it wasn’t because of how much older he looked, or how gruff he sounded, but rather how “stiff” his acting was. Granted, he never was Laurence Oliver, but back in the day he was rather expressive and communicated his emotions quite effectively. Looking at him now in this low budget film, I couldn’t get over how he reminded me of a handicapped vocalist who could only sing one note. Surprise, elation, fear, joy, anger…all looked the same on the man’s leathery face. The words coming out of his mouth were the only clue to the emotional state he was attempting to portray. It was as if he was dealing with the side-effects of having caught a glance of the snake-headed Medusa. It was hard to watch.


I had seen this before with other actors, but now it got me wondering about the people in my life, friends and family both, who were getting up there in age.   For some of them the highs and lows seemed to have eroded away much like Jan-Michael Vincent, washing out all of the bright colors with it, leaving behind a bland monochrome version of their former selves.  It seems like arteries aren’t the only thing that harden when we grow old.  Does our emotional range, the peaks and valleys of who we are, wear down over time…or is it just our ability (or energy) to convey them?  Can it be there are feelings being held hostage behind those wrinkles and liver spots?  Sure, I see flashes of their old selves from time to time, but those are the exceptions and not the rule.

Then as I always do, I turned this reflection inward.  Could this be happening to me?  I’m not a spring chicken anymore, so maybe.  How old is Jan-Michael Vincent?  He’s 67 now, so he’s got a few years on me.  But I’m sure the hardening process doesn’t take place overnight; rather it’s probably something that happens so gradually that we’re not even aware what’s taking place.  Maybe there’s some kind of vitamin I could take to slow it down, like the other supplements I take for preventative purposes.  Ginkgo Biloba supposedly helps with memory retention and Acetyl-L-Carnitine improves the firing of brain nerve messengers, why not a pill that prevents emotional fossilization?   I know what my wife would say, take a trip to Disney World every year; it’ll keep you young forever!  But she would also say I have nothing to worry about because I’ve always been the stoic type, emotionally economical when it comes to being expressive.

That may be so, but what about my writing?  Me being a writer is comparable to Jan-Michael Vincent being an actor, the prose is my acting…a way to express myself in a way I feel most comfortable.  Is it destined to stiffen right along with my outer demeanor?  I’m hoping not.  My optimism lets me believe that it will continue to be the portal that allows me to escape my insecurities and let everybody see the true me.

For those of you in pursuit of that “hard body”, maybe as part of a 2012 resolution, remember that there are other muscles that need attention as Father Time descends upon us.  There are 43 of them in the face and maybe some smile-ups instead of push-ups would be time well spent! :=) 

PS.  My latest query letter is getting the treatment by Matt at the QQQE (The Quintessentially Questionable Query Experiment) today.  I would really appreciate it if you stopped by and offered your opinions as well.


34 comments

  1. Hate seeing actors turn up old and not very good in crappy movies.
    We do lose some emotional angst as we age, which is why angry young rockers mellow and sometimes grow bland when they are older. Funny that most authors' career take off around that time. Maybe we are better at controlling the outward appearance but it flows on the written page?

    ReplyDelete
  2. What a good post. Sad, depressing, but ultimately optimistic. I've never thought about it, really, but you're kind of right. Though, when I think about the people in my life, it seems like it's mostly the men who become more...stoic. Not to disparage you guys or anything, but...take my grandparents. My grandfather expresses every emotion the same way, rarely giving us a smile. My grandmother though...she's as cute as a button and almost always smiling and laughing. Interesting thought, but I think maybe I do need to smile more.

    As for writing...I hope I only improve with every year.

    ReplyDelete
  3. The more your write, the better you get. I will not stiffen with age! And neither will you!

    ~JD

    ReplyDelete
  4. You make an interesting point. I tend to think writers get better as they get older, but who knows?

    And I remember Airwolf! I loved that show when I was a kid.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Hey there! I used to LOVE Jan Michael Vincent! And now...OMG! That photo was definitely hard to look at. I think you've got it all wrong, DL. He looks the way he does because (most likely) he boozed and drugged his way through life. (now, I don't know this for sure, but I think I read it somewhere.) Look at Gary Busey. He was so darn good as Buddy Holley...years ago...but he's a mess now. I wouldn't worry ONE BIT about becoming that way. You are who you are...a really neat guy! :)

    ReplyDelete
  6. Hmm, I don't know if this is true - sometimes I think older actors like this just don't care much anymore. I went to this sci-fi/fantasy convention a few years back and saw Edward Furlong there - he was really unfriendly and clearly didn't care about being polite, he was just there as a publicity stunt to try and earn more money or something. One of my friends said he probably needed cash for his drugs. It's really sad when you see people go down paths like that.

    At the same time, I've known (through friends) elderly people who still have that spark for life, are still the most lively and interesting people you can imagine. So I think there's hope for us :)

    ReplyDelete
  7. DL, I love this post. It really has a lot to say and a lot of wisdom in it. I haven't lost emotional angst as I aged. I don't know if it's a female/male thing or what. I'm not sure you can generalize about something like this. I don't think Cary Grant lost emotional angst. Maybe its Jan Michael Vincent's life choices that have caused this.
    Karen

    ReplyDelete
  8. I haven't heard of him, but he looks a little scary ... :) I see a wide range of emotional writing just in your blog posts, so I'm sure your novels are the same!

    ReplyDelete
  9. Awesome thoughts. As I watched Betty White turn 90 this week...I thought, how does she do it and stay so spry? I think it is all about continuing to LIVE...moving, writing, staying engaged...and like you said...SMILING. :-) Have an awesome weekend, DL!

    ReplyDelete
  10. Mickey Rourke is another. Remember him in DINER? Now look at him in THE WRESTLER?

    Of course we all change as we grow older, it's natural. But I think as someone above said, it's the life choices you make along the way that lead you to where you are now.

    I do know that my life has changed so much for the better after having my daughter 7 years ago. If I had known in my 20's what she would bring to my life, I would have had kids sooner. Sometimes we learn late in life just exactly what we want.

    And hey, there's nothing wrong with being stoic. People tell me I am all the time.

    ReplyDelete
  11. I used to have a crush on JMV when I was younger.

    I think we gain as writers rather than lose all of that. We learn to harness that emotion and pour it onto the page.

    ReplyDelete
  12. He'd do well with a haircut. I find it helps to stop trying to look 25 so much, you know?

    Good luck w/ the query ... I despise writing queries - they are so dang hard!

    ReplyDelete
  13. Whew! Great post because I don't want to end up like that dude either in looks or in writing!

    ReplyDelete
  14. Interesting post, as usual. You are so deep. (Of course,I'm still laughing over your last comment on my post about the SUV wreck.)

    Maybe this is a man/woman thing because I seem to get more emotional/expansive/demonstrative as I get older. Someone, who has known me for a long time recently asked;'are you ever going to mellow out? 'Probably not. I have learned to pick my battles and keep my mouth shut at certain times(not often).

    How does this translate into my writing? Who know? Of course,there were those comments on my blog about my being 'really young'. That got me to thinking-in person, that might be a real big compliment. Going off the written word - maybe not.

    Thanks for getting me to engage this morning. Something to think about.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Wow. I wouldn't have recognized Jan Michael Vincent. On the upside, I saw a picture of Cindy Crawford in a bikini on the internet news yesterday and she looked great. She said it was due to eating right and staying out of the sun. Maybe Jan-Michael needed that advice. As for exercising all the muscles (writer ones included), I think you are absolutely correct. AND your wife is right. A trip to Disney would help me feel young right now. :)

    ReplyDelete
  16. I loved watching Airwolf with my dad!

    It's sad when people lose their spark. I hope to be like my 90 year-old grandma who's in a bowling league and has more of a social life than I do.

    ReplyDelete
  17. Jan looks hardened and as some others said, it is probably his lifestyle. Maybe he should have gone to Disneyland more?!

    It's interesting that you know some people whose emotions have flattened. Perhaps that comes from letting negative thoughts take over in ones life. My mom is 84 and she is actually more fun than she was years ago. She is a very positive person.

    ReplyDelete
  18. I remember Airwolf and Jan Michael so clearly... seems like he's "lost the plot" somewhere along the way, which is so sad!
    I think that mindset/attitude as well as lifestyle, play a huge role in maintaining the spark...

    ReplyDelete
  19. Perhaps it's as simple as - what you don't use, you lose.

    ReplyDelete
  20. I can always handle smile-ups! Push ups? Not so much any more :)

    We probably hit the biggest range of emotions as teens. then everything seems to slowly even out a bit over time - so those high highs and those low lows belong to the past eventually :)

    ReplyDelete
  21. For me, writing (and reading) helps me keep in touch with all those feelings that have a tendency to dull over time.

    Since I started, beloved husband has noted that I'm more fiesty, joyful and basically happy. So maybe that explains why some writers take off as they age (like Matthew mentioned). They are tapping into their youth with the clarity to appreciate it.

    I love your wife's idea about Disney. Sounds like my kinda fun. I'll be there in less than a month for this year's trip back to my childhood.

    ReplyDelete
  22. Ahem--can we not talk about age? I've had a rather bad day that has reminded me too well.

    I try to stay young through my writing.

    Tossing It Out

    ReplyDelete
  23. Your body pays you back at the end if you don't take good care of it.

    It may not be a temple, but you have to live in it. Start now, and don't forget the moisturizer.

    ReplyDelete
  24. Aloha DL,

    Found you via the '80s Tumble 4 ya BlogFest, but delighted to "meeet" you because of your involvement with the Origins BlogFest (I'm signed up) and this post.

    I couldn't believe the transformation and *do* remember JM Vincent and Airwolf. Thanks for a thought-provoking post and you have a new follower.

    ReplyDelete
  25. What a thought-provoking post. Makes me want to smile more often. Thanks for this reminder.

    ReplyDelete
  26. I think writing helps keep people young and happy. I think that is also about following your dreams and doing something that you enjoy. Smiling is important to.

    ReplyDelete
  27. I do wonder how my writing will alter as I age, physically.

    I used to have the biggest crush on him during the Airworlf days. My, how time is hard on us.

    ReplyDelete
  28. Wow, I used to have the biggest crush on him. Time moves faster than we realize and changes everything in its path.

    ReplyDelete
  29. Hey DL,

    Jan-Michel is pretty rough looking now. He's never been a great actor but he performed the way people wanted him to. Do you remember The Mechanic? It was a pretty good movie where he starred along side with Charles Bronson.

    ReplyDelete
  30. Hey DL! Fantastic post! I think it's true..we do tend to get bland as we age..I think what it is, is ...you just get tired! Tired of getting all hopped up and excited..that takes a lot of energy..maybe it's not really that we become fossilized emotionally..maybe we just gain a calmness, by a certain age we know what is really important and what isn't..what's worth getting excited about ...when it comes to rock stars, we do prefer them young, dont' we? If you could see the Stones now, or back in 1979, which would you choose?

    ReplyDelete
  31. Great post! I hope I get better with age. My goal is to flex my writing muscles as often as possible so that they stay limber well into my golden years :) (P.S. Query letter looks great! That guy made some excellent points.)

    ReplyDelete
  32. Really good question here. I would hope that my writing will continually grow.

    Nice job on the query, btw.

    ReplyDelete
  33. Holy $hit. I was so in love with him in the 80's. He was a teeneger's dream. I have not thought about him in decades until I read this. I always thought men got better looking, even sexier as they age (unlike us poor women) but he did not age well.

    I am off to read Matt's critique. I am sure it is glowing.

    ReplyDelete
  34. I had such a crush on Jan Michael growing up. So sad.

    ......dhole

    ReplyDelete

 

Followers

Blog Blitz

Design by: The Blog Decorator