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Wednesday, January 28, 2009


I’ve said it enough times here that I’m sure you know by now that I’m old. Well, old enough anyway. I’ve never lied about my age, but I’m beginning to think I should start. Instead of shaving ten years off my life I’m going to start telling people I’m twenty years older than I am just so folks will think “Geez, she looks terrific for her age!” and then they’ll spread the word to all of our mutual acquaintances. Who doesn’t want people chatting them up and saying how fabulous you’re looking?

Getting old is definitely not for sissies. I’ll admit it; it’s my biggest regret. If I could figure out a way to have stopped time back in 1972 or so I would have, although at the time I didn’t realize how much fun I was having because I was too young and dumb to understand that life was only going to get harder once I became a “real” adult and had “real” responsibilities. Back then I was tasting the first freedom of living on my own, with cash in my pockets (well, not much, but mine to decide how to spend anyway) and I was living in the land of fruits and nuts (aka San Francisco), still celebrating the coming of the Age of Aquarius, the free love movement, our unified protest of the draft and the Vietnam War, and, most of all, our distrust of anyone over the age of 30, but especially “Tricky Dick,” the inexplicably popular (for a few more years) President of the United States.

I was convinced I was totally an adult and knew everything there was to know in the world when I was 20. I barely paid any attention to politics and really couldn’t tell you why we were fighting in Vietnam but I’d go to the anti-war rallies with my friends, mostly because I knew you could get a contact high just by being in the crowd there was so much grass being smoked around. It was also a great place to get picked up for some humpty-dumpty good times, which were plentiful in the years before AIDS. But best of all, somebody would always produce a life-sized effigy of Nixon before the day was over and set the thing on fire, which would drive the cops wild. As soon as I saw that faux Dick, I’d start moving at least a block away from the scene. I knew it was only a matter of time until the tear gas came out, and then the police would start wielding their steel tactical batons. Good times.

It’s amazing how much of an era is colored by the influence of one person, whether for good or bad. You say World War II and most people will immediately think ‘Hitler.’ You say Vietnam and for anyone who grew up in the 70s or before, the first thing that comes to mind is ‘Nixon.’ And yet at the time, for me, he seemed like such a small Dick so far away I didn’t really pay him any mind, but, then again, my mind was generally in a stew of hallucinogens.

Now, I was incredulous when I saw that Ron “Opie” Howard had produced a movie based on what I recalled as a minor blip on the sociological scene way back when.
Frost/Nixon recalls a series of interviews between British talk show host David Frost and the disgraced former President that were taped in 1974. I was never much interested in David Frost except when I heard that he was going to marry singer/actress Diahann Carroll, who was way hotter than he was. The press made a big whoop about the fact that he was white and she was black, but I didn’t give a flying fig about that. I just wanted to know what was wrong with her eyes or her brain. Ms. Carroll was a Lady, and she was far and away heads above a common television host. I’m sorry, Mr. Frost, but it is true.

Once, in the early 80s, when I had abandoned my hippie lifestyle for something that paid better, I was working for a very exclusive designer in Beverly Hills. We were called to Ms. Carroll’s home for a consultation (well, I was there as the designer’s go-fer) and I was gob-smacked by what I saw. Her home was exquisite. Everything was white, including the grand piano that was sitting in the lounge where we met. The star herself arrived in true movie star fashion, in a white fur-trimmed silk robe, that only highlighted her flawless coffee-hued skin. They say “Black don’t crack.” Well, she was around fifty then and looked twenty-five. Today she is approaching her seventy-fifth birthday, and she still looks decades younger. For that, I’d usually say I hate her, but she was by far the nicest and most gracious celebrity I’ve ever met. She even took us into the kitchen and made me a tuna fish sandwich while we were there. Would Lindsay Lohan do that for the assistant of someone she called into her home to do a job? I think not. Ms. Carroll, now that’s what’s called class, Children.

Maybe that’s what she had in common with David Frost. He wasn’t much to look at, and his chosen profession was about as reputable as carny barker, but he did treat Nixon with respect in their meetings as depicted in
Frost/Nixon. Director Ron Howard (The Da Vinci Code) is extremely deferential to Peter Morgan’s (The Other Boleyn Girl) original play and commissioned him to adapt his script into the screenplay used that allowed Howard to broaden the staged two-man play into a bigger three-dimensional world as we see in Frost/Nixon.

Original stage actors Frank Langella (Superman Returns) and Michael Sheen (Underworld: Rise of the Lycans) reprise their roles in the film and, really, it would be criminal if anyone else
took their parts. I’ve heard that the studio wanted Warren Beatty to play Nixon (oh please!). Langella nails Nixon. At first, when you see him you don’t recognize Tricky Dick, but after twenty minutes or so he transforms himself into the ex-President and you no longer see anyone else. He’s got the voice, the jowls, the “I am not a crook” bravado about him. It’s actually spooky. Michael Sheen, on the other hand, is much prettier than the actual David Frost, not that I’m complaining. He brings the nervous Type A personality of an achiever on the edge of failure that provides the dramatic tension of the piece. With no television network willing to back his project, Frost poured all of his personal assets and put his professional reputation on the line by trying to syndicate it himself one sponsor and station at a time. The only way he was going to possibly not go bankrupt and never work in television again was if he could get Nixon to admit during the interviews that he was involved in the planning and cover-up of the Watergate break-in. That was going to be harder than you might think. Even though Nixon had been pardoned by President Gerald Ford of any wrong-doing, he was only doing the interviews to rehabilitate his image and, naturally, he had no intention of admitting anything. Now there’s a chess match in the making!

That’s what makes
Frost/Nixon such a delicious treat. Who would have believed a movie about two men talking about Watergate and Vietnam could be exciting? But it is. Morgan has crafted a script that turns debate into suspense as the conversationalists approach one another as opponents in a ring, using each word the way a boxer would a jab, a swing, or a powerful blow in a battle to the death. Both know the stakes and both know there can only be one winner.

Well, Darlings, I have to say I loved, loved, loved
Frost/Nixon and I never loved, loved, loved Frost or Nixon in real life, so this was a real eye-opener for moi. I came away with a new appreciation for both men (yes, even Nixon), and I felt sad that Nixon ever went down the path he did because once he did it dehumanized him to generations of people, beginning with mine, and we never saw him as a person ~ only as a symbol of everything that was wrong with our government and the world in general. Whether it was what he started out to do or not, Howard has revitalized Nixon and made him fully human for the first time in decades, probably helping his image more than his interviews with David Frost ever could. Finally we have a film for thinking adults. It’s practically a miracle these days. Go see it.

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