Nostalgic revivals come in cycles, and it looks like the mid-1970s to mid-1980s are returning, at least for some. Noted Baby Boomers who are currently in their sixties are talking about memoirs, sequels and anniversaries.
- After 25 years out of the spotlight, the reclusive blonde singer of ABBA, Agnetha Fältskog, 63, reappeared this week in the UK; despite earlier denials, her appearance fueled rumours of an ABBA reunion for the 40th anniversary of their song, Waterloo, next year. ABBA were offered $1 billion to reunite in 2000 and turned it down. Since the other three members have appeared together, it appears that Agnetha - who went on a full hiatus from recording music between 1989 to 2004 - has always been the sticking point preventing a full reunion. And because she held out, she acquired even more cachet than her bandmates. Perhaps she cast herself as the band's centre, or served as the group's soul (or sacrificial lamb?). Regardless, they cannot reunite without her. ABBA's last album was The Visitors (1981) and the band's last performance together occurred in 1982.
- A very weird story reports that comedian Andy Kaufman faked his own death in 1984 to escape Hollywood pressures and become a house husband. Supposedly he meditated in his coffin to bring his breathing and heart rate down to nearly nothing when seen by family at the morgue. The story comes from his brother Michael, who believes that a 24-year-old woman claiming to be his niece is truly his brother's daughter, and that she was born after his brother 'died.' Family friend Al Parinello describes a strange request that Michael Kaufman received to meet his brother: Michael "followed instructions ... to meet his brother at a specific restaurant on Christmas Eve, 1999. Michael did so, he said, whereupon a man he did not know walked up to him and handed him a typed letter. The letter, which Michael read for the crowd on Monday night [11 November 2013], was allegedly from Andy, who wrote that 'everything was great in his life and he just wanted to get away from being Andy Kaufman,' Parinello says. ... [Ed] Cavanagh [manager of Gotham Comedy Club] adds, 'I don't know whether somebody is perpetrating something on [Michael] or not. I'm truly 50-50 on this one.'" If he were alive today, Andy Kaufman would be 64 years old. I wonder what Laurie Anderson thinks about this.
- Anderson, now 66, once dated Kaufman and has mentioned him in her spoken word poetry songs and in interviews. In 2010, she did a concert with her late husband, recently-departed Lou Reed, which was tuned to a high frequency, so that only dogs could hear it. She comments: "It was one of the sweetest concerts I’ve ever done, and it was on my 63rd birthday too, so it was a little bit dreamlike. I realized that if I’m an average person and sleeping an average amount of time, then I realized that on that birthday I had been asleep for 21 years. I thought, 'Today is the day my dream self has become an adult. It can drink. It can drive.' So it was kind of a celebration of that, too."
- Deep nostalgia for the gritty, scary and beautiful artistic hothouse that was New York City of the 1970s saw Patti Smith's 2010 book, Just Kids, about her times with artist Robert Mapplethorpe become a critically-acclaimed bestseller. Smith, 66, did a cover of the Gen X anthem, Smells Like Teen Spirit, which made me think she is one of the very few Boomers who truly understands her generational successors; her 2007 cover of the 1991 Nirvana song is a perfect blend of early Boomer and early Xer generational attitudes. Possibly Smith succeeded in crossing that divide because she has stayed true to the Boomers' fundamental, original ideas.
Patti Smith's cover of Nirvana's Smells Like Teen Spirit (2007). Video Source: Youtube.
Patti Smith with Robert Mapplethorpe in NYC, in the 1970s. Images Sources: Master Mouse Patrol, She Gave Me an Apple, and Jocelyn's Stories.
- Robert De Niro, 70, is talking about making a sequel to Taxi Driver (1976), the classic film about a scummy vigilante's alienation in NYC in the mid-1970s: "I'd like to see where Travis Bickle is today." De Niro's original performance epitomized an aesthetic of the time, murderously lean, an unhealthiness stripped clean of artifice. - (Now, if someone can just convince Faye Dunaway to do a sequel to the Eyes of Laura Mars.) - In yesterday's Guardian, De Niro rarely opened up about his background; he grew up in the New York arts scene:
De Niro, as it happens, is the son of writers and painters. His mother wrote erotica for Anais Nin and pulp fiction for True Crimes magazine. His father – Robert De Niro Sr – was a figurative expressionist and sometime poet, a member of a New York scene that included Mark Rothko, Willem and Elaine de Kooning and Larry Rivers, the reputed "godfather" of the pop-art movement. De Niro allows that he had a bohemian upbringing. I'm guessing that Jackson Pollock was constantly calling round, drunk out of his skull and merrily urinating into the De Niro family hearth.
"No, no, nothing like that," he says. "My father didn't hang out with Pollock. The only one that he was really friends with was Larry Rivers, although I did discover that he painted Elaine de Kooning, or maybe sketched her in charcoal. So yeah, he knew her too. But he was never a regular at the Cedar tavern. That was the big watering hole at the time."
Recently he has been working on a documentary about his dad, who died in 1993 without ever quite achieving mainstream success for his work. The actor says that he made the film primarily for himself and for his own children, as a kind of family history. In the meantime he has kept his father's studio exactly as he left it.
In making the documentary, did he spot similarities between his style of acting and his father's way of painting? "Yeah, there might be," he says. "There might be certain things. I mean, I didn't see my father paint very much. But I'd watch him sometimes and he was very intense when he did it. So there might be a connection with my father there. A way of zero-ing in on a problem and examining every piece of the situation before I make a choice of how I'm going to tackle it. But I'm not sure, because I never really had a discussion about how he painted, I wasn't really interested at the time." He shrugs. "That's what happens, kids aren't interested. It's a shame."
Lean, sick, frightening: Robert De Niro as Travis Bickle in Taxi Driver: "There was something about that guy." Image Source: Ronald Grant Archive via The Guardian.
Since the Boomers never do anything by halves, they don't now offer simple rehashes of the past as they return to their salad days. They spent forty years building up new orthodoxies and ideologies. But they were always iconoclasts at heart. Now, many of them now balk at the very new dogmas and canons they and their contemporaries - not their predecessors or successors - constructed in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s. There are signs that they are turning on each other in professional hierarchies, revolting against the heavily quantified and industrialized overhauls that they themselves authoritatively invited, rationalized and defended (for a recent such episode, see here).
Rupert Sheldrake's banned TED x talk fundamentally attacks the basic principle of the past 40 years of the technological revolution, namely, that the universe is a computer-like machine; it was his opposing idea that collective natural consciousness exists which TED rejected (March 2013: see TED's comments and Sheldrake's rebuttal here). Video Source: Youtube.
After decades of the rat race, Boomers seem to yearn for a rebirth of their original generational mentality. Earlier this year, when Boomers Rupert Sheldrake and Graham Hancock were kicked off the TED brand for exploring controversial topics (you can see their TEDx talks - Sheldrake's The Science Delusion, here, and Hancock's The War on Consciousness, here), a Webcast interviewer told Hancock, "all the bears are waking up," for one last fight for what is inherently 'right.' It was typically New Agey, but the idea of a generation's natural spirit self, abandoned, forgotten, rejected, somehow rang true. The Baby Boomers, the generation that betrayed itself, or perhaps simply lost its way, wants to rediscover and resuscitate that soulful core its members left behind, and have one last stab at vindication.
See all my posts on Boomer Legacies.