There’s a crass expression in TV news, “If it bleeds, it leads,” which means bad news gets ratings. I suppose it’s a puzzling truism of human nature that we have a compelling curiosity in tragedy, as long as it’s not happening to us.
The latest bad news, to me at least, occurred Tuesday when the U.S. Senate failed to ratify a U.N. treaty to improve conditions for disabled people around the world. Sen. John McCain was in favor of passage, as was former Sen. (and GOP presidential candidate) Bob Dole, who came to the Senate floor in his wheel chair.
But the right wing of the GOP (the wing that calls the shots) doomed the measure to failure. It’s ironic because first they paid their respects to Dole and then basically spit on him with their vote.
While I harangue about “bad” things, in the past few decades there have been considerable advancements in American social justice. (Prompting me to say, “Why did it take so long?”) For example, since the passage of the Americans with Disability Act in 1990, there’s been a huge improvement in accommodations for disabled people.
That we have an African-American president signals progress, despite all the indignities hurled his way. (And a record number of death threats investigated by the Secret Service.) And with 20 female U.S. senators taking office in 2013, women’s rights will improve in spite of the misogynistic Rush Limbaughs of the world. Personally, I can’t wait until Hillary Clinton is president in 2016 to watch Rush blow a gasket.
So, if the disabled, minorities and women are breaking barriers, so are senior citizens, especially here in Santa Monica. Many are well into their 90s and have an energy and vitality that put me to shame. (Then again, my being chronically lazy, I suppose that isn’t that hard to do.)
Take Jerry Rosenblum, who will be 91 in January. In fact take the picture, which is what Jerry had to do for me to use it in this column. First, he brought the photo to the Daily Press office or rather, tried. He didn’t know the office had moved, but good-natured Jerry didn’t complain.
Jerry finally got the right address, but guess what, it turns out we don’t have a scanner. Thoroughly nonplused, Jerry merely went to Printland on Wilshire Boulevard, got the photo scanned and put on a disc, and zipped back to the Daily Press. (While all this was going on I think I was taking a nap.)
This Tuesday evening, Dec. 11, Jerry and five other talented seniors, ranging in ages from 70-something to 95, will participate in Defining Moments: Stories from our Elders at the Edgemar Center for the Arts on Main Street.
Defining Moments is a community outreach vision come to pass because of Michelle Danner, Edgemar’s director. Thus, with the hard work of producer Jacinta Marasco, the center will stage an evening of music, humor and story telling from seniors whose poignant life experiences will no doubt touch and inspire.
Jerry, who spent his working life in the men’s clothing business (as did my late father as it happens) had the uncanny ability of crossing paths with prominent celebrities, a walking TMZ if you will. Throughout his life Jerry has interacted with the rich and famous including Jesse Owens, Cesar Romero, John Glenn, Bing Crosby and Hubert Humphrey, among others he featured in his endearing memoir, “Guess Who I Met Today.”
Long retired, Jerry now spends his time traveling the world on cruise ships and winning singing talent contests onboard. (Not a bad job if you can get it.)
Joining Jerry in crooning on Tuesday will be Nat Kramer, also 90, a retired space engineer from the Bronx, N.Y. who will perform an original composition of his. Sheila Kantor will also perform as she and Nat have taken advanced singing lessons for years.
As for the story tellers, the most senior will be Saul Salka, 95, who ran a prosperous real estate business on the Westside. Others include Marika Roth, an artist and author of a powerful story of survival, “All the Pretty Horses”; and Alan Ross, who will share a heartfelt story about his father from his biographical novel, “The Lasso Man.” David Lockwood, an accomplished young pianist, will provide the program’s musical support.
Unfortunately, “bad news” will probably always get ratings. That said, I can guarantee the music, humor and heart-warming stories of Defining Moments will make you feel infinitely better. Besides, you don’t want to miss Jerry’s show closing and, given the nature of the evening, the rather aptly-titled “I’m Glad I’m Not Young Anymore.”
Defining Moments: Stories from our Elders runs on Tuesday, Dec. 11, at 7 p.m. at the Edgemar Center for the Arts at 2437 Main St. Admission is free and tickets can be reserved at (310) 399-3666 or www.edgemarcenter.org. If he isn’t too busy napping, Jack can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.