Hominy & Hash
ILLU.S.ION vs. DISILLU.S.ION
BY Constance Daley
American Reporter Correspondent
St. Simons Island, Ga.
ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. - My tunnel vision is growing dim. As a child, I became aware of the magic of books, theater, movies, television ... and through tunnel vision I entered the captivating scenes. I could zoom in and enjoy what was before me for what it was. I looked neither left nor right. Peripheral vision was blocked while I focused a few hours upon what became real.20
Tarzan wasn't real, but he could have been. Didn't I go home and tie clothesline to trees, swinging for hours as Naomi, the Jungle Girl? I was lost in the illusion that I was heroine of the Saturday morning "Chapter." I didn't know anything about the private lives of those on the screen or the authors of books or the actors on stage.
We were watching rented videos of the old movies and my grandchildren were almost as entranced as I had once been - although they didn't leave their air-conditioned comfort to tie ropes to trees and swing back and forth to catch a breeze as I once did.
Now, though, I can no longer become lost in the adventure. I know Johnny Weismuller didn't learn to swim until he was 17; Cheetah, the lovable chimp, was a horrible "actor" to work with; Maureen O'Sullivan ... the beautiful Jane, became the mother of eight children, one of whom was Mia Farrow, who married Frank Sinatra when she was 19 and he was older than her own mother, and she herself had 14 children, some of whom she gave birth to, some of which she adopted with husbands at the time, that she lived with over-rated twerp Woody Allen until he seduced her adopted daughter Soog-Yi. Can I even look at Jane playing with "Boy" without having my focus shift?
This week Newsweek is publishing pictures of young, unbleached, untarnished, Marilyn Monroe. Can we look at her first modeling pictures with appreciation for who she would become without seeing in our mind's eye her trials and tragedies, the questions around her death - and the sad and lonely picture of her laid out at the morgue? In character for "Some Like it Hot," she said: "I always get the fuzzy end of the lolly pop." Must we know that was really true?
Irish actor Gabriel Byrne was mesmerizing in "A Moon for the Misbegotten," Eugene O'Neill's most dramatic play, which was reprised on Broadway in Spring 2000. We had matinee tickets for weeks before the show. That morning, the Sunday edition of the New York Daily News splashed a picture of Gabriel Byrne exiting a nightclub the evening before - when he was supposed to be receiving an award from some organization. He had called in sick. Photographed with a beautiful model on his arm, who's to say he made the wrong choice? He didn't campaign for the award; they selected him because of his performance - the best on Broadway that season. Yet, I wasn't quite able to focus on his characterization. Was he acting drunk as the role demanded, or was he hungover? I was disillusioned.
Something came to mind this morning that sharpened my feelings about my not wanting to know so much that I become disillusioned: I heard Bing Crosby's music - a voice that filled every corner of our home when I was small. "Little Sir Echo" was one song that pleased me as a toddler, and "Accentuate the Positive," later on. There were love songs, patriotic songs, nonsense songs, and happy-go-lucky songs - not to mention "White Christmas." He was part of the family. If Mama dreamt about Bing, we knew we were in for good luck that day.
Today I heard "True Love," and thought about the man now considered a child-beating father married to an alcoholic. I'm too disillusioned to list all his son's accusations recounted in a tell-all book. I don't like shifting my focus to the wrongs about the man when the rights about him were instrumental in a poor family's surviving the Depression and World War II. In short, we loved him.
Do I have to know that Dorothy Gail singing "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" was not a little 13-year-old Kansas farm girl but a 17-year-old actress whose fully developed breasts were strapped flat so she would look the part? Or that this same Judy Garland, singing that song from the edge of the stage at the Palace in New York after an electrifying one-woman show, needed pills to wake up, pills to go to sleep, and booze all day long? Do I have to know how the unscrupulous, greedy, producers of her early movies exploited her? In Judy's case, I am not disillusioned; I'm heartbroken.
Something else came in the news this week: On the front page of the Sunday New York Times there was a report of a tape recording found in the rubble indicating firefighters reached the 78th floor of the World Trade Center - higher than anyone realized. Yet earlier there was a report of miscommunication and faulty equipment, and although thousands of lives were saved, more could have been. There they go, focusing on the could've and should've instead of the ones saved and the valor spent. It looked to me like another instance of the very short walk from the hallelujah to the hoot - and how the media seems to love it.
My husband told me there had been a retraction, but as we know, nobody reads a retraction.
"Why did they have to report such findings instead of letting Internal Affairs at the Fire Department take care of things that could have worked better during an event no one could have predicted? Let the powers that be cast blame and fix it! The public does not need to know."
John answered, "Freedom of the press is the foundation of democracy. If they get a story, they are duty bound to run with it."
Sunday's report includes a quote from Fire Commissioner Nicholas Scoppetta after hearing the tape he did not know existed. He spoke of the tape's powerful effect: "Every time I've seen videotapes, listened to audio recordings or read the accounts of firefighters and their actions on September 11, I've felt the same thing: an extraordinary sense of awe at their professionalism and bravery."
This awe-inspiring event was neither book nor play nor movie. Yet it instantly created the illusion in us all that, should we be called upon, we are capable of extraordinary heroics. As long as I focus on that reality, I won't be disillusioned.