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Tribute to a trio of icons

Passings make us long for bygone days

Published: Saturday, April 13, 2013 8:02 a.m. CDT

Pop culture closed three chapters last week with the deaths of Margaret Thatcher, Roger Ebert and Annette Funicello.

All three were icons of my youth. Their passing is a reminder that our own mortality looms overhead.

That’s kind of a depressing thought, but when you reach a certain age, you begin to feel your relevance slipping away. It’s made more depressing knowing that the new ways are not as good as the old ways.

Then again, time has a way of coating the old days with a patina that was never there before.

I wasn’t alive during the ’50s, but I have found myself longing for the simplicity and innocence of that era. I may not have grown up then, but the music and the old black-and-white TV shows survived well into the ’60s and ’70s, and even the ’80s.

Poodle skirts, “Leave It To Beaver” and “The Mickey Mouse Club” starring Annette Funicello projected a sense of security with a focus on family. There was a wholesomeness that eludes us now.

The radical ’60s splashed down like the Apollo 8. The world was moving faster now in turmoil. The ’70s were calmer, I think. Still, households were changing rapidly. Most people I knew had color television then. Along came microwave ovens and other modern appliances like refrigerators that dispensed ice.The music was happy and carefree.

The ’80s were dominated by the Reagan years and the Cold War. Margaret Thatcher and Siskel & Ebert became household names. Times were contentious and that was reflected in the punk rock era. Computers were making their way into schools.

Each of these eras — the ’50s, ’60s, ’70s and Ć80s, are easily defined. Nothing can be said of the ’90s, 2000s and today that compares to the color and style of those earlier decades. If anything, today’s era has been defined by terrorism and other threats.

In the ’70s, nobody locked their doors at night. An 8-year-old could walk to school on his own without fear of abduction. Today, that 8-year-old can’t turn on a computer without parental controls in place to keep the jungle of the outside world at bay.

Instead of “The Brady Bunch” and “Gilligan’s Island,” he turns the TV on to Honey Boo Boo and “Duck Dynasty.” Instead of Walter Cronkite reassuring the nation, we have pundits shouting each other down on news programs. Long gone are the days when we would sit down in front of the TV as a family to watch “Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom.”

Fifty years from now, how are people going to reminisce about today? Will they be talking about how that rascal Donald Trump used to fire people? Or how Simon Cowell liked to criticize singers? Or how people used to find their soul mates on The Bachelor?

I’m sure the old days had their share of silliness and stupidity. I just don’t remember what they were. I guess that’s one of the nice things about growing old: You can remember things the way you want to remember them.

There will continue to be great advancements, but will there be giant leaps like yesteryear? You knew when the Beatles and Elvis came onto the scene that you were watching something new and different and exciting. You knew that there would never be others like them.

Nor will there be another Roger Ebert or Margaret Thatcher or Annette Funicello.

I think I need to turn on my old record player to listen to Harry Chapin sing about cats and cradles. Maybe listen to Don McLean sing about his Chevy at the levee.

Maybe follow up with a little Be-Bop-a-Lula and “Jailhouse Rock.” Maybe rewatch “Rainman” and “Airplane” and give them two thumbs up.

Put on my bell bottom jeans and my letter jacket and I’ll be ready to do a little time traveling.

Rest in peace, Margaret, Annette and Roger.

(C) Copyright 2013 by David Porter, who can be reached at david@ramblinman.com. Speaking of time travel, shouldn’t we have that by now? At least a jet pack. It’s 2013 already; c’mon. I want my jet pack.

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