Columbia Star

Aging Badly

It’s not a criticism; It’s an observation



Rich Man, Poor Man came along in the mid- 70s, before 100+ TV choices, 24 hour sports networks, and the internet. One of the early examples of fine episodic television, this series offered a quality story featuring two disparate brothers and one of the great villains ever.

Most memorably, Rich Man, Poor Man delivered Nick Nolte to America. He hit the screen with more promise than anyone I remember, made as many poor choices as a score of rock and roll stars, and has become the greatest American example of Aging Badly. Clint Hurdle runs a close second.

Hurdle isn’t as well-known as Nolte but has changed significantly through the years. He is the current manager of the Pittsburg Pirates Major League baseball team, looks a lot like many of his peers, and is known for his success as a manager rather than his looks.

Hurdle didn’t decline as drastically as Nolte but is cursed by a Sports Illustrated cover from his playing days, when he was declared the next big thing in baseball back in 1978. Not only did he fail to live up to expectations, the cover photo showing a dark haired eternally youthful Hurdle offers an unfair comparison to the current model. To the man’s credit, he doesn’t seem to mind competing with his younger self and seems well adjusted to being old. Most of us deal with time’s ravages without the internet to remind us of the good days.

Nick Nolte can’t rely on becoming a manager like Hurdle but like most media dependent folks, must be constantly reminded of what he once was. I got an extended look recently watching A Walk in the Woods, a movie starring Nolte and Robert Redford, another devilishly handsome leading man that didn’t age well; although Redford looks like eternal youth standing next to Nolte.

The movie, like most cookie cutter films in this era, is pretty mundane. Sign a couple of well-known actors, build a shallow plot around sight gags and Old Guy jokes, and rake in dollars. I did laugh a couple of times and thought the two worked well together. I just couldn’t get past Nick Nolte looking so bad.

Current wisdom allows men to age gracefully; an option unavailable to women. At the same time men aren’t considered relevant past a certain age unless they are still holding the reins of power. The rest become invisible.

But within those confines, men are allowed a few wrinkles, gray hair, and certain behaviors that young men aren’t yet susceptible to. Still, people who change as drastically as Nolte, whether by disease, poor health habits, or just an unfair dose of the ravages of time, alarm those interested in the aging process like few other things. Those younger observers who aren’t yet affected by time are also concerned.

All guys my age were once young and virile. We still think we’re much closer to the past than the present and can fake our way through. Deep inside most old guys are afraid of waking one morning and seeing an overnight change as drastic as the one embodied by Nick Nolte.

Not even Grecian Formula and Viagra can disguise that.

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