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Never Get Too Close To Your Heroes. . .

April 28, 2020

Did you know that John Wayne wore a toupe? He is the epitome of the Hollywood hero from the 1950’s and 1960’s. He was very vain about his appearance and only a couple of pictures exist of him without a full head of hair. Maybe that’s why he acted in so many westerns. Benefits of cowboy hats.

Interestingly, although he went by the nickname, “The Duke,” not only wasn’t that his real name, John Wayne wasn’t even his real name. His real name was Marion Morrison. Not exactly a hero’s name. Not that there’s anything wrong with the name Marion. But, it doesn’t scream “alpha male,” the persona that Marion, er John, er The Duke presented to the public.

I have a confession to make, I enjoy red carpet events. You know, when the movie stars get all dolled up and get their pictures taken? It’s not real, of course. Most of the dresses are on loan from designer houses. The jewelry the woman wear is borrowed.

But, it’s a show. I find award shows themselves boring and a waste of time. (Except for Ricky Gervais’ opening monologue. That’s gold.) The show before the show is much more interesting. It reminds me of the image that Hollywood projected back in the 1950s and 1960s. Stars managed their public images. Or, actually, studios managed stars’ public images. We didn’t see the ugly side of Hollywood.

The press was difference back then. Today it’s common knowlege that President Roosevelt was confined to a wheelchair due to polio. But, in his election campaigns in the 1930s and 1940s the press kept it a secret.

Mickey Mantle was one of the greatest baseball players in history. He played outfield for the New York Yankees. He had a career .298 batting average. He played his rookie season with the legendary “Iron Horse” of baseball, Joe DiMaggio. He was part of one of the greatest rivalries in baseball in 1961 when he and team mate Roger Maris chased Babe Ruth’s seemingly impossible 60 homeruns in a single season. Mantle fell short at 54 while Maris went on to hit 61 and break the Great Bambino’s record.

Mantle was a fan favorite. And while he was one of the greatest, he probably fell far below his potential. Jim Bouton, in his seminal book on baseball, “Ball Four” tells a story about Mantle, with whom he was teammates.

“We have been out the night before, having a few drinks, and Mickey came to the clubhouse the next day, and he was a little hung over. So, you know, Ralph Houk said, ‘Don’t worry about it. Sleep it off in the trainer’s room. We’ll put somebody else in center field.’ Anyway, the game goes extra innings. We need a pinch-hitter in the 10th. Somebody went to wake up the Mick. He comes out, put a bat in his hands. He walks up to home plate, takes one practice swing and hits the first pitch into the left field bleachers, a tremendous blast.

“Guys are going nuts. He comes over, crosses home plate. Actually, he missed home plate. We have to send him back for that. He comes over to the dugout, and he looks up in the stands, and he says, those people don’t know how tough that really was. Then after the game, the sportswriter said, ‘Mick, how did you that?’ … And he said, ‘Well, it was very simple. I hit the middle ball.’ ”

What do these stories the movie star, the president and the baseball player have in common? They are all about heroes who weren’t what they seemed.

Bruce Willis, for much of his career worried about his receding hairline. Until finally, he accepted the inevitable and simply shaved his head. Patrick Stewart, the once and future Star Fleet captain, Jean Luc Picard made a bald head one of his most attractive solutions.

The late Senator John McCain ran for president. His war wounds prevented him from raising his arms above his shoulders. Senator Bob Dole ran for president against Bill Clinton in 1996. He right hand was injured in WWII. Today, Representative Ben Crenshaw represents Texas’ 2nd Congressional district. He’s most distinguishing feature is a patch he wears over his right eye. He lost his eye in combat in Afghanistan.

Having a physical impairment is no longer considered something that needs to be hidden away from the press.

And athletes with a drinking problem? That’s not even news.

No more secrets in the press today. Not for politicians, not for celebrities and not for athletes.

We have gained visibility, but we have lost the hero worship that we had in previous years. Or maybe hindsight only makes it look like it was hero worship. I’m not one to dwell in the past. There were plenty of things to be disappointed in that happened in the 1950s and 1960s. Racism and segregation were two of the worst.

And that leads me to the second half of the title I used at the beginning of the post.

Never get too close to your heroes. . .

…for heroes are by their nature, more or less than human.

Stay safe.

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren.

Follow him on
Twitter (@rodneymbliss)
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LinkedIn (www.LinkedIn.com/in/rbliss)
or email him at rbliss at msn dot com

(c) 2020 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved

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