Tuesday, February 26, 2008

How to Hepburn: Lessons on Living from Kate the Great
Karen Karbo

It has been far too long since I've posted to this, my digital commonplace book. I just found four posts that have been sitting in draft for months. The quotations were noted months ago, but most of the comments I just wrote today (April 21). Here's the first:

[Hepburn had] sensational bone structure, the most fabulous bone structure in the history of cinema, up to and including the one belonging to Johnny Depp.

That man is too beautiful for his own good.

Once, she wore jeans to work. That was simply too much. In the 1930s, no one wore jeans but farmers, forty-niners, and movie cowboys. A production assistant was instructed to take Hepburn's jeans while she was in her dressing room, hoping to shame her into finding a skirt to slip into. Instead, Hepburn traipsed around in her underwear until the jeans were returned.
Love that chutzpah!

[A]ctresses of Hepburn's stature strove for uniqueness. Garbo was pure mystery with her sloe eyes and deep voice. Bette Davis had that famous mouth, curious diction, and rock-lyric-inspiring eyes. Lauren Bacall was a home-grown exotic, with her honey-colored hair and jungle-cat grace. They all made it their business to be one of a kind, to strive to be in no one else's category but their own. How different from today. We are all alleged nonconformists, with our individual playlists, our sassy bumper stickers, small-of-the-back tattoos, and pierced parts. I'm always reminded of the great scene from Monty Python's Life of Brian. Brian tells his followers, 'You've got to think for yourselves. You're all individuals!' And the crowd recites, 'Yes, we're all individuals!' And one lone voice in the crowd pipes up in a cockney accent, 'I'm not!'
Above was my favorite passage in that book, not only because I'm a lifelong fan of classic movies in general and those actresses in particular, but because it acknowledges the genius that is Monty Python (. . . and the peasants rejoice!).

Everyone is the marrying kind these days, with the exception of George Clooney.* [. . .] *Clooney is a sort of male Hepburn for the modern age. There's his devotion to privacy, the mystery surrounding his love life, his intelligence and wit, unique sense of personal style, iconoclastic movie career, and eccentricities, one of which he displayed recently when he publicly grieved the death of Max, his three hundred-pound Chinese potbellied pig, who is rumored to have shared Clooney's bed, thus making him the envy of millions.
This made me giggle. As a Clooney swooner, I admired his devotion to that pig.

The world is full of tenderhearted, intelligent people who are waiting for their personal misery to let up before attacking anything that might interest them. These people have suffered.

Ouch. That hit a nerve.

For the problem with ignoring grief is that is doesn't go away. It's not a harmless rash. Whoever said that time heals all needed to have his head examined. Primo Levi said that sometimes an injury cannot be healed, that it extends through time. The writer Jonathan Safran Foer wondered recently, 'What if time is the wound?'
My life took a dark turn last December. I struggle each day and wonder if one day it won't hurt quite so much anymore. My neighbor has a framed quotation on her mantle that reads "Surviving is important; thriving is elegant" (by Maya Angelou, I believe), and I've been repeating that in my head every day since I first laid eyes on it. Surviving is important. Surviving is important. Surviving is important. I believe that time heals some but not all, and so I find myself politely smiling when a well-meaning friend tells me my life will be better a year from now. I truly hope they see something I can't, but in the meantime, I'm just trying to survive.

Way #22 for getting your Hepburn on:

Make it count.