By Hugh Ash
DON’T you just love movie award ceremonies! I do, especially when the camera pans to nominees who didn’t get the gong and shows them beaming like demented hyenas, applauding recipients who’ve just stolen their glory, yet still displaying a veneer of sincerity.
That’s real acting. And I reckon an Oscar for Best Faked Appreciation should be struck in their honour, doled out before the also-rans skulk home, rip off their designer threads in teary rage and pulverise every stick of furniture in the house.
As legendary producer, Sam Goldwyn, who put the ‘G’ into MGM and was famed for his malapropisms, observed, ‘Strip away the phoney tinsel from Hollywood and you’ll find the real tinsel underneath.’
However, this isn’t simply about Oscars, Emmys or BAFTAs at all; it’s just that the motion picture industry nicely illustrates a phenomenon that’s taken root in all sorts of unimaginable places: the charge of the crinkly brigade.
Once upon a time in Tinseltown the first sag of a boob or crows’ feet blossoming into eagle talons meant an emergency nip-‘n’-tuck.
But, as last week’s Golden Globes ceremony amply demonstrated, a clutch of those voted Most Promising Newcomer (MPN) were none other than veterans, whom many in the audience long ago suspected had gone to the great studio in the sky.
Septuagenarian John Voigt (75) scooped a performance orb; so did Michael Douglas and Jacqueline Bisset, at 69, both well beyond free bus-pass qualifications.
Technically MPNs are now defunct. But Bisset, still remarkably nubile for her vintage, recalled in a rambling acceptance speech smacking of one bottle of Dom Perignon too many, she’d first been nominated 47 years earlier and finally struck lucky.
As someone who now takes all night to do what he did all night, it’s heartening to know that in the fabled Land of Make Believe, of all places, age isn’t an impediment to progress, even if it means creaky, big-screen vets have had to scale down to the telly to pick up a pay cheque.
This got me thinking that there’s a silver lining to the UK government’s decision to raise the retirement age to 67 – a financial imperative, given the ageing population, insists Chancellor, young Georgie Osborne (by the by, have you noticed how he’s changed his hairstyle to appear a tad more boyish) – a strategy other EU nations are mulling over. Then I read of how senior citizens in Sweden, renowned for its cradle-to-the-grave welfare and no compulsory retirement age, are signing up in droves to an employment agency called Veteran Pool.
Specialising in finding work for those ordinarily thought well over their use-by date, it’s fronted by 71-year-old, ex-James Bond golden girl, Britt Ekland.
‘There are so many older people who have much more to give and they don’t want to stop working,’ explains Anna Brue, deputy chief of Veteran Pool, which now has 6,000 wrinklies on its books and 35 offices.
‘The life experience they have to offer is invaluable.’
It reminded me of how an acquaintance of mine, one of the most curmudgeonly men you could possible not wish to meet – his long-suffering missus admits he’s a grumpy so-and-so (or words to that effect) even on a good day – has been rejuvenated, at 75, by a job as a greeter at a supermarket.
‘The customers love him and call him Uncle Max,’ she tells me.
‘They’d much rather deal with him than the snotty kids at the check-outs.’
Of course, often it’s a matter of needs must that some retirees have to carry on working, scraping to find any job they can.
However, there are those who disagree that ‘work’ is a dirty word and dislike the idea of being forcibly tossed on the scrapheap of the great unwanted and cherish a burning desire to soldier on, in the firm belief they have skills to offer.
More often than not they have, especially after a lifetime in the line of duty to the office or factory floor.
And they’ve a thing or two to teach the young, because – likely or not – they are steeped in work ethic; they turn up on time, put in a shift, don’t take ‘sickies’ and deliver the quality of experience no amount of frame diplomas can match.
The oldsters might not be able to navigate their way round an iPhone, like a bemused friend still cursing the day his grandkids gave him such a gizmo for his 65th birthday.
But, when it comes to fronting people, a silver server can outperform dozy dolly birds or surly teens, because they are less inhibited by how they look and their lack of educational ‘ologies’ doesn’t matter.
B&Q was the first British company to recognise this and, in the late 1980s, began to recruit people nobody else would hire: women returning after a career break, plus those over 50, and today more than a fifth of its 38,000 staff are over middling years.
‘There are clear business benefits to employing a workforce that is age diverse and reflects our customer profile,’ explained the DIY chain’s spokesman.
‘We’ve also found older workers have a great rapport with the customers, as well as a conscientious attitude and real enthusiasm for the job.’
Naturally, there are those who claim crinklies enjoying second careers in their third age are cheapo staff stealing opportunities from the young.
However, judging by the political contretemps over importing labour for jobs many of our feckless, unemployed youth feel are below their dignity, where’s the crime in gran or grandad advising supermarket punters or potting bulbs at a garden centre?
Once, there was a time when the old were revered for their wisdom gained in the University of Hard Knocks and the young used their counsel to help overcome the challenges of life.
Somehow, that attitude vanished and the elderly became invisible, underscored by Oscar Wilde’s withering dismissal of juvenile superiority, when he remarked, ‘The old believe everything; the middle-aged suspect everything; the young know everything.’
So, hurray for Hollywood, where ageing stars don’t fade away – they just learn new tricks.
To read more of Hugh Ash’s comments, follow his online blog – Views From The Mallorca Pier – at hughash.wordpress.com