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Who among us has a sunnier disposition than the indomitable Betty White? She turned 98 last week, which is no surprise, given that she’s still a force in the entertainment industry. *

So what’s the secret to an existence like Betty’s? Research shows that optimism contributes to 11 to 15 percent longer life span, and to greater odds of living to the age of 85 or beyond. But White has exceeded that by more than a decade. To what does she attribute that extra oomph?

“I know it sounds corny, but I try to see the funny side and the upside, not the downside” she said in a recent interview.  That’s right, Betty knows it’s best to look at every situation, even the crappy ones, and at least get a laugh or two out of it. (Like her first marriage to a rural chicken farmer that lasted six months.) As Betty is proving, it’s not just optimism, it’s SuperOptimism that can propel you to the century mark in style.**

And while you’re at it, it never hurts to light a votive candle just in case.

*Guinness has awarded Betty the world record for longest TV career for an entertainer — 75 years (and counting).

**You’ll also find vodka, hot dogs and red licorice on Betty’s training table. 

Whether you are in the mood for letting loose some pent-up histrionics, or just want to give voice to your delusions (whether they involve grandeur or something more problematic), here’s the mask for you.

The Norma Desmond model honors Gloria Swanson’s greatest achievement: her role as the reclusive silent film star in Billy Wilder’s classic film “Sunset Boulevard.”   It tells the story of the tragic affair between struggling Hollywood screenwriter Joe Gillis (played by William Holden) and an aging, forgotten actress who still believes she’s the greatest star of them all.

While you will be wearing a mask, the parallels between the actual Gloria Swanson and Norma Desmond were only too apparent. After starring in more than 70 Hollywood films and becoming the first actress to command a $1 million annual salary, Swanson’s star had diminished and her age had sidelined her from the bright lights for years.

Nor was she the director’s first choice for the role. Mae West, Mary Pickford, and Pola Negri all rejected the offer. At that point, Wilder thought of Swanson, and asked her to take a screen test.  To which Swanson replied: “What the hell do you have to test me for? You want to see if I’m still alive, do you? Or do you doubt that I can act?”But test she did, and was thrilled to get the part despite its nihilistic tone and unflinching critique of the business that had put her name in lights. (Wilder’s too.)

Upon completion of the picture, the reaction from the show business industry was mixed. As legend has it, studio head Louis B. Mayer confronted Wilder at the premiere of his film and bellowed,”You befouled your own nest! You have disgraced the industry that made and fed you. You should be tarred and feathered and run out of Hollywood, you goddam foreigner son of a bitch.” To which Wilder replied, “Why don’t you go fuck yourself?”

Of course, Mayer’s critique was not shared by the public. Today Sunset Boulevard ranks 16th on the American Film Institute’s list of the Greatest American Movies.

So put on the mask and act out with abandon.  Become a reclusive silent film star, or simply channel your inner thespian and take on whatever scene-stealing role suits your fancy.  After all, Swanson played many more roles than Norma throughout her fabulous career.  So can you!

Thanks to Joan Walter for requesting Ms. Desmond.  If you have a visage you’d like us to feature on Wear-a-Mask Wednesday, write us in the comments section below.  We’d be happy to oblige.

Take a quick glance towards jolly old England and Harry and Meghan’s Royal Wedding might seem like a fairy tale come true. Especially for an actress from L.A. whose previous job was starring in a so-so cable show on USA Network.  But after the big celebration, the Duchess of Markle is going to have to start curtsying to all the family members above her.  Since her husband is sixth in line for the throne, that’s a lot of prostration.  As for Harry, he’s marrying into a world of hurt, judging from the behavior of his brides’s extended family.  On top of that, the British tabloids make life a living hell for all the Royals, and the taxpayers grouse about how much it costs to keep them in castles and jewels.  But in the spirit of the blessed event, let’s congratulate Meghan on how far her can-do attitude has gotten her, and kudos to Harry for looking on the bright side of Meghan’s distinctly non-royal lineage.  Better yet, when you watch the nuptials from the comfort of your cramped studio apartment, thinking it might be nice to have great wealth and a title handed to you, remember how good you really have it.  You only have to curtsy if you really want to!

 

As Heraclitus said:

“It would not be better if things happened to men just as they wish.”

Just think, if we magically got whatever we wanted, we’d all be Brad Pitt or Julia Roberts. Imagine a world of 6 billion Brads and Julias driving their 6 billion Mercedes around from one gorgeous palatial mansion to another. The entire planet looking like Beverly Hills meets Fifth Avenue, and not a spot of grubby filth to mar the perfection. Not only that, but the tastiest food is zero calorie, zero carb; your IQ is over 200; your NASDAQ stocks are way, way up. And best of all, every one of the other Brads and Julias really, really loves you and it’s just the biggest love fest ever!

While this sounds appealing on the surface, such success would become an awful curse in short order. With nothing to aspire to, without any brass ring to reach for, humanity would soon sink into a death-spiral of laziness and decadence. The future of the human race would fall to nothing, an no one would care about anything except a nice clean bikini-wax.