My best friend's uncle was a writer of some of the best and most classic shows on television when many of us were growing up. He died last year. Recently members of his family, including ones who are also members of the current entertainment community themselves, tried for months to get this writer's name included in the memorial tribute to those honored each year on the Emmy's annual telecast. This writer in his hey day had won an Emmy for one of the most popular shows of the 1970's. However, he was denied his televised moment on the awards show those many years ago, when sadly, his father happened to die the same day. So in this last Emmy presentation, when he might have taken his place among the honored deceased ancestors, the writer was denied his moment once again. The reason given to his family was that apparently, the Television Academy only allows two minutes for these tributes and there wasn't enough time or room to include this formerly prominent television writer. This was an unfortunate over site, as others were included, who had contributed less to the industry. Yet, apparently the criteria may have included that those others had also been more currently active in the academy.
The latter policy annoys me. But, let's be honest, award shows (which I used to enjoy), have annoyed me for some time. These annual events in Hollywood have too often become a forerunner to a particular political parties' national convention. I rarely even watch them anymore, as I have found the gratuitous mutterings of ...how brave someone's agent or producer was to push some piece of politically correct drivel...is just too hard to stomach. Perhaps I also note with irony, that I have the pervasive feeling that it has too much an unconscious attitude of ..."Maybe, if I can show that I'm a good enough person in the eyes of my peers, the fact that I did them dirt, won't matter so much? However, the one portion I could always count on enjoying in watching these televised back slapping affairs, was when they did the memoriam section. (Although, I must admit I was stunned the year that Leni Riefenstahl, whose film Triumph Of The Will paid tribute to Hitler, was included in the annual "in memoriam" montage at the Oscars.)
With that exception - a recent passing provides a period of magnanimity for the deceased. Plus people are always moved when remembering those who have gone before them (and recently all the more so, because those previous contributions are all too often more meaningful than the offerings of current artists.)
So why only two minutes for an "in memoriam" tribute to those many great talents who have gone before? It is ironic, as people in Hollywood - spend so much time trying to be young and relevant. The living honorees - with narcissistic abandon often ignore any time limits given them, so they can use extra time to bombard the television audiences with topics about which they know absolutely nothing about, and that furthermore have absolutely nothing to do with why they won! Then again maybe that is why they won...or why will get their next job. These provocateurs in the spotlight are well aware that they will also be bathed in the shining and enthusiastic approval from most of their equally elitist audience. Yet, their fellow awards attendees, are themselves also trying desperately to matter beyond their cloistered world of fantasy. And that's the point, in that I have always felt that perhaps these moments of award show histrionics surpasses any illusion that the award recipient has participated in their careers of creativity. Furthermore, such opportunism is too often only a naked attempt to hog more adulation. I think that perhaps not so deep down, these passionate speech makers are secretly terrified that even a trophy that allegedly signifies that they are enough...won't be enough to justify their lives. Regardless of whatever current controversy is being stirred up; be it Sally Field claiming to speak for all mothers (although certainly not the Blue and Gold Star ones) or Vanessa Redgrave who once took the stage to praise the pathology of Palestinian terrorists - entertainment industry citizens like these thrive on attention. Though these award recipients may feel sincere, still maybe there is an even greater small voice screaming inside that compels them to claim - what is in their minds - more glory.
Yet, at some point they will be the ones who will be a part of that annual "in memoriam" toll (or not..if they are lucky enough to live as long as my friend's writer uncle did.) Perhaps today's power players secretly fear that someone not born yet...will decide there won't be time for them in some future tribute. (And in the case of some, one can only hope.) Still - like it or not - we all get a two minute warning, if not a two minute tribute. Eventually we will all be told to wrap it up. Is our impact in life to be measured by the gold on one's mantle or the golden moments we have provided others?
Although some could focus unduly the fact that when my friend's uncle had his opportunity to receive an award in front of the academy, he missed it. This man had a rewarding career that some can only dream of. Yet what greater testament to his own dignity and humanity that he chose to go home to grieve with others over the death of his father than claim his award in person. And believe me there are those in Hollywood, who would have instead sobbed their grief to the glittering audience, while justifying to themselves that they were truly only going on publicly for the sake of honoring a lost loved one. ( I recall that once, an actress friend of mine related that her mother told her if she died when the actress was opening a show, the woman expected her daughter to go on. But, the mother did hope the young actress might skip the cast party. That comment was made in jest, yet in a show biz arena that thrives on frenetic partying and networking, that would be no small request for some!)
There is a saying that the dog barks, but the caravan moves on. However, there are those who will still be remembered long after the caravan has moved on, simply because they were loved. There is no time limit in that. Anything that is truly important doesn't need to be said in a torrent of emotion as the band plays one off the stage. The truly important messages are rather felt in the moments between award shows in the silent communications of the heart to those who have gone on. For the latter tributes there are no two minute time limits or warnings. Those are the achievements of the heart, for which the music plays on, rather than off and soothes forever in the montage of one's memories.
Finally, some in Hollywood believe that if people like them, really like them...that they will finally be enough... as their whole life seems to have been searching for self-esteem. Unfortunately, their life achievements may only be best defined by what can be put in a two minute montage or on a mantle. Still, I recall that a truly moving television script about honoring God through humor helped to shape a little girl's life path long ago. It was icing on the cake that one day she would grow up to be in the entertainment industry and become best friends with the niece of that script's author.
My friend, the writer's niece (a wonderful working writer herself)...may or may not get her own moment to thank the academy one day. But, perhaps the best thank you speeches are still those made on behalf of others. Yet, those speeches are not the ones made by celebrities promoting their pet causes. No, there are those other quieter speeches made in private, though no less passionately, that media commentators don't analyze and debate about the following day. These speeches are made via letters or in telephone calls to plead the cause of those not able to make the case for themselves - to simply to be remembered. However, I maintain that those who have inspired such great feelings and loyalty in the hearts of those who knew them, will wear that love as a mantle of honor far beyond any time limit though eternity.