This story is part of the CelebrEighty Series written by Judy Katz…It was 1958. I was 18, taking the subway from Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn to Port Authority, Times Square. A Trailways bus was leaving in twenty minutes for a three-day ride to Los Angeles, California—and I planned to be on it. I’d left no note for my parents. I took off with one change of clothes in a cardboard suitcase and the $500 I had earned as a summer camp counselor.
I was running away from the life my parents had mapped. Live at home while attending Brooklyn College. Marry a doctor, lawyer, or career-track businessman—someone who could take good care of me. Become a mother and school teacher. Big perk: you can have your summers off.
While there is absolutely nothing wrong with these things, the life stretched out before me seemed like a punishment. There had to be so much more. I didn’t know what other kinds of life I could discover and live, but I knew there was “something.” I had to find it.
Writing this now at age 81, I want to shake that thoughtless, albeit desperate teenager and urge her to find a far better way to carve out a dream life without inflicting such fear, confusion, and pain on her mother and father. I disappeared and did not let them know I was all right for three days—days of desperation on their part when they thought I’d been kidnapped or killed. Read more
I was 28 the day I met Cary Grant. He was 68. It was 1972. I was in charge of Madison Square Garden’s public relations. The Garden, under its President Irving Mitchell Felt, had just bought O’Hare International Hotel, located within the airport. The immediate project was to hold a gala launch party for travel agents from all over the country. Many celebrities and VIPs had accepted our invitation, including Mayor Daley. I arrived the day before the event to go over last-minute arrangements.
That night, when I stopped at the front desk to get my room key, the manager, whose name was Bob, told me that Cary Grant was having dinner in the hotel restaurant. “Why don’t you invite him to your party,” he suggested.
“I don’t want to bother Mr. Grant while he’s having dinner,” I protested.
Bob smiled, “I know he would be happy to meet you.”
I let Bob, the manager, lead me to Cary. There was Cary Grant, looking exactly as he does in his movies: patrician features, beautifully if casually dressed, but with a shock of snow-white hair that you don’t see in his many starring roles. He was seated at a small round table with another man, who turned out also to be named Bob. They shared a real estate project in Ireland and had met at the airport hotel to discuss business. I knew I found Cary attractive—who wouldn’t!—but I was not star-struck. I had worked with many celebrities, even that early in my career. To me, they were just people—even Cary Grant.
Sometimes when I’m walking down the street, I think, “When I end, all this will just keep going on” It’s a hard pill to swallow—and one that some people try to avoid through technology. Many billionaires and other rich and famous people have been eager to pay vast sums of money to a company like Alcott to cryonically “preserve” them. In some cases, they froze their entire body. For others, more affordably, it was just their heads to preserve their brains (“neuro-preservation.”).
For some people, cryonics is their “Hail Mary.” When the legendary Larry King repeatedly said that he wanted to be frozen so he could conceivably come back someday, Dr. Oz went on his talk show to talk him down. His family picked up the argument, and Larry gave up his quest for immortality—at least that kind.
Among the living persons contracted to be cryo-preserved: billionaire Peter Thiel, a co-founder of Pay Pal and first outside investor in Facebook. Peter is now 54. Likewise, Seth Mac Farlane, screenwriter, producer, actor, animator, and creator of the TV series Family Guy and many other popular series, hopes to be reanimated. He is now 48. They are just two of many others from all walks of life—as I said, famous and unknown. Read more
At 24, I was delusional. Many young people are. Returning to New York from Berkeley with my undergrad degree in English Lit and four years of weekly columns at the school newspaper—I was sure I’d land my own column on the New York Times. I just needed access to the right person.
My first stop: a highly-recommended employment agency. The interviewer barely glanced at my pile of weekly columns. Her only question was, “Do you type?” Keep in mind that this was 1964. I typed: on an old Remington typewriter in the college newspaper office, where I also did my homework since I was too poor to afford a typewriter. But something instinctive kicked in, and I told her that I couldn’t type. In retrospect, I might still be in the typing pool if I admitted my ability in that arena.
My next interview was at William Douglas McAdams, Inc., then the sixth-largest medical advertising agency in the U.S., still in business today. I was hired as a lowly Photo Researcher. This meant that I had a desk next to several tall file cabinets filled with headshots. My job was to find the right photo for each story. After barely two weeks of this, I was ready to pull my hair out. Read more
As of September 30, 2021, the oldest living person was Kane Tanaka of Japan at 119. She is only four years shy of breaking the record of the oldest person ever, which currently belongs to Jeanne Louise Calment of France, who lived to be 122. Supercentenarians are still uncommon, although the numbers of people—more women than men as it turns out—who live from ages 100 to 122 are growing.
My boyfriend Jerry Siegel lived till seven weeks shy of his 99th Birthday. We all just mourned the death of Betty White, who was within reach of her 100th Birthday.
These people who break through to extreme older age are still the exception. But we as a species are living longer. In 2020, life expectancy at birth was 77.0 years for the U.S. population. Compare that to 73.7 years in 1980. You’re likely to live longer than your parents, and your children will likely live longer than you. Records are made to be broken. That is the history of human progress. Read more