Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Good Taste Means Knowing When to Stop

“Don’t speak ill of the dead”—as a rule has a short half-life. It’s force lasts not much longer than the deceased stays warm. I have nothing to say against Dana Reeve who died today. Dana Reeve? Wife of Superman-actor Christopher Reeve, who, on the other hand, is plenty cold by now.

For seemed-like-forever we were subjected to painful, awkward “interviews” with the crippled actor. The guy couldn’t move. His backrest had little tuxedo-wings to keep his head from flopping sideways. To breathe, he had to stop talking and take this long, labored suck through his tracheotomy. Breathing time at least equaled talking time.

So why were we subjected to this pathos? Supposedly because Mr Reeve had become an advocate for spinal-chord injury sufferers. Interviewers would ask him how he was doing physically, and he’d say he was determined to recover, and to promote medical advances that would help other paralyzed people recover also. It was hard to watch. They patronized him, “We’re pulling for you, Chris.” Everyone knew it was a fantasy.

Who can blame him for continuing to crave some spotlight. But way beyond me is what motivated the ongoing interest in him. The whole ritual seemed smarmy, like selling personal pictures to the tabloids. Or like a freak show.

And how did Christopher Reeve sustain his paralyzing injury? Was he rescuing a baby from a burning building? Interceding in a street attack on an old lady? Did he get injured on a construction site doing manual labor to support his family?

Hell no! He got injured riding a goddamn horse, in the middle of the day, when most people were at work. He was jumping. He fell off the horse. He landed on his head.

There’s no moral content here. Some rich guy, enjoying a highly risky rich-guy sport, fucked up and broke his neck. And we’re supposed to care?

The news is full of it this evening. Dana died, but it’s mostly about Christopher’s paralysis. Oh, and by the way,

Two bombs killed sixteen people in Varanasi a holy city on the Ganges, sparking fears of sectarian violence. Coming up, celebrities and common folk alike respond to the death of Dana Reeve, wife of Christopher Reeve…”

Richard Farina did it right. In the mid-sixties he wrote a generation-defining novel, Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up to Me, and co-wrote a folk-standard, the dulcimer-sweet Pack Up Your Sorrows. He married Mimi Baez, a true beauty with a smallish voice so sweet it made sister Joan’s sound like braying.

Then, at twenty-nine, successful but still hip as hell, totally on the scene, Richard Farina had a motorcycle accident. He did the right thing and died instantly. Forget that he was a passenger—it was a Harley, he was ripped to the tits (most likely), and he died. RICHARD FARINA ascended directly to the firmament, and shines there today.

Think what a god BOB DYLAN would be now if he’d had the same good sense. Dylan also had a motorcycle crash in 1966, but he survived. “Where there’s life there’s opportunity for disaster,” as the Greeks used to say, and Dylan’s reputation couldn’t survive his later conversion to Christianity. It made him kind of a joke. Too bad! He wrote so many good songs!

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