For our June 1999 column I simply began waxing nostalgic over the coming end of the 1900's - that column essentially wrote itself.

Now it was the true end of the 20th Century, and I could not resist returning to that column and expanding it further.

In truth, many of these icons I bid farewell to below may return as columns of their own in years to come!

Farewell, you strange, terrible and wonderful Century . . .


Should Old Acquaintance . . .


With New Year's Day, 2001, we leave behind the Twentieth Century and enter the Twenty First. We enter an era full of at least as much promise as the one we enjoyed back in the early 1900's, when Teddy Roosevelt was President and such new-fangled concoctions as the automobile and the record player seemed to promise a whole new way of living.

And more than a couple of fellas had this crazy idea they could get a heavier than air vehicle to fly under its own power.

As I write, the Internet, believe it or not, is still very much in its infancy. This recent revolution will continue to evolve, and within ten years it is quite possible that TV and the Web will no longer exist as separate entities. The recent cracking of the genetic code is far more significant, however. We are entering an age that will see, eventually, the eradication of almost every disease known to us. I could say a word or two about Virtual Reality, but you'll find out soon enough . . .

At any rate, an extraordinary era to be alive in, albeit a bit frightening. We may be entering a bit of a recession as I write, but we will recover soon enough. The promise of the Future is more exciting than I can ever remember the Future as being - in short, it's a sort of fun time to be alive!

It's a time to look forward, and I trust we all are, yet I confess I shall miss the 20th Century. I shall miss that wonderful piece of time that gave us Beatles, Roosevelts, Sinatras, Kennedys, Barbies, Mustangs, Frankensteins (celluloid, anyway), etc. etc. etc.

They all belong to the past now - and so as we look to a future unthinkable to our forbears, let us take a moment to remember all that we leave behind . . .

Farewell, then, to strolling through the park in your Sunday Best to the Bandstand, to hear a rousing Marching Band as you dine on a sumptuous picnic. Farewell to live performances and even actual recordings by John Philip Sousa himself! Farewell to travelling road show versions of "Babes in Toyland", and many, many others. Farewell to Queen Victoria and Mark Twain, passing as the new century is born. Farewell to a strange plethora of conflicting emotions - we read in horror of the sinking of the Titanic, then at the outbreak of Total War in Europe, we vote again for Wilson since he kept us out of the War, and yet in a year or so are signing up in record numbers to go and fight to "keep the world safe for Democracy".

And of course, that World War was the war that would end all Wars.

Then, farewell to dancing the Charleston till you drop, wondering if your parents will ever get used to your girlfriend's bobbed hairdo. Farewell to the magic of the Silent Flicks, Fairbanks as Zorro, as Robin Hood, as a hundred other heroic archetypes, doing his own stunts, and building the most fabulous sets right there on Santa Monica Boulevard. Farewell to Charlie Chaplin as Everyman, getting the last laugh on every bully that ever swaggered into our lives. Farewell to another Everyman, Harold Lloyd, a normal guy getting pulled into the most extraordinary dilemmas. (And, yes, a personal farewell to evenings in the early seventies sneaking onto the late great Mr. Lloyd's estate, to wander in the dark and marvel at this abandoned Xanadu - long gone, alas.) Farewell to yet a third everyman, perhaps the greatest of them all - the old Stone Face himself, Buster Keaton. Farewell as well to Lucky Lindy, Henry Ford, and Albert Einstein.

Naturally, an especially fond farewell to the golden age of Radio. I was too young by half to experience it, but spent long hours as a wee thing listening at least to the immortal Lionel Barrymore's "Christmas Carol", and thus to some small extent understand how cool it must have been. Ah, to lay upon the floor, the voices and sound effects creating an entire world, to close one's eyes and picture it all - well, I had the experience years later than should have been possible, and yet you can, as well. Anyone can - there are thousands of available recordings of the old shows, and the magic still resides within them, waiting only for you to play them, close your eyes, and create the rest.

I think perhaps that the transition from radio to TV is alarmingly similar to the revolution that occurred when Music Video hit in the early 80's.

Sorry, got sidetracked there. Where was I? Oh yes, Radio!

Farewell, Charlie, Mortimer and Edgar. Farewell, "Lights Out" and all the rest of you wonderful Horror Shows. Farewell to the Lone Ranger and Burns & Allen and so many other comfortable voices that made us feel a wee bit less impoverished in those dark mid-thirties.

On that note, farewell to the first issue of Action Comics, with that strangely attired Superman fellow on the cover, as well as that issue of Detective Comics a year later that sported an even more strangely attired "Bat Man" on its cover. Then, as the War hit, farewell to the many Super Heroes come lately that emerged to fight the Axis: Captain America & Bucky, Aquaman, the Human Torch (this is way before Stan Lee & Jack Kirby even thought about the Fantastic Four), the Sub-Mariner, etc. Farewell as well to "the SHADOW knows", and Flash Gordon, and Buck Rogers, and Tarzan and the Phantom.

Blam! The War Years hit! Farewell to Zoot Suits with their reet pleats, to BG and GM and Woody and Cab, Der Bingle and of course The Voice. Farewell to Carmen Miranda, and "Coming in on a Wing and a Prayer". Farewell to the Marx Brothers, Stan & Ollie, & Bud & Lou.

Farewell to Bop and bongos, coffee houses and goatees, Calypso and Kingston, banana boats and Tom Dooley, and some crazy new thing called Rock & Roll. Farewell, Elvis, Buddy, Ritchie, an especially fond farewell to Alan Freed, blacklisted and ruined before his time. Farewell Clancy Brothers, Newport Folk Festival, Burl Ives, and that whole crazy Kennedy era vibe, when the world was young and everybody sang folk songs.

Yes, and a fond farewell to the Singing Nun.

Moving on, farewell to Hanging Ten, Dragging and Cruising, farewell to Beatle Cuts and Ghost A Go Go Midnight Rock & Roll jamborees at the local theater. Farewell to the Boss Thirty, the Polaroid Swinger, Solo Suzuki, Kyu Sakamoto, most of the Wilson Brothers, Bobby Fuller, and Marvin Gaye.

Farewell to Rodgers and Hammerstein, Lerner and Lowe, Mancini, Percy Faith, Nelson Riddle, farewell to D W Griffith, Chaplin, Buster, Clara Bow, John Wayne, Marilyn, Selznick, Thalberg and Mayer, farewell to Technicolor as well.

Farewell to Normalcy, the New Deal, the New Frontier, the Great Society, the Silent Majority. Farewell to Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris, and Joltin' Joe.

Farewell to the Pulps, the Big Little Books, ten cent comics, the Saturday Evening Post, the Lone Ranger, Zorro, the Green Hornet, and the Shadow.

For the younger set, farewell to Light Shows, Glitter, Disco, Punk, New Wave, and Raves (well, actually, perhaps Raves are with us still).

For the Eternally Young, farewell to Captain Kangaroo, Howdy Doody, Engineer Bill, Hobo Kelly, Bob the Beachcomber, Chiller Theatre, Seymour, Winchell Mahoney, Soupy Sales, and Shari Lewis. (I realize a couple of these folks are still with us - it's the era I mourn.)

Goodbye, Vincent Price, Boris, Bela, Lon (both of you), etc. etc.

Goodbye to the kindly uncle, Walt Disney, and the wicked one - Alfred Hitchcock.

We entered this century Proud and Fearless, a Progressive in the White House and the knowledge that there was nothing that could not be fixed with an American invention.

We flexed our muscles, were a bit sobered by the Titanic thing, then rather floored by the Great War and the subsequent Influenza breakout, which tragically seemed to afflict the strongest, youngest and healthiest the most.

We rode the crazy Wall Street line to the top, danced in speakeasies and flocked to the Movies in droves. Radio stepped in to keep us at home nights, and then a little thing called Sound hit the Cinema.

The Depression hit, but so did Serials, Comic Books, Radio Stars, and MGM's most glorious era. Not to mention Bing Crosby and the wonderful Sweet Bands.

And you know it don't mean a thing if it ain't got that Swing. Without the Big Band era one wonders how the nightmarish days of World War II could have been endured.

We discovered Suburbs, Drive Ins, we emerged from the nightmare of the forties to realize it truly was the American Century.

Big cars, prosperity, Cinerama, and Elvis - then Sputnik scares the wits out of us.

Then there's JFK - the promise, the exuberance, and the Tragedy.

We've touched on the rest in this and previous columns, I think - it's recent enough history at any rate.

Besides, I've now got a whole new century to regale you all with tales of the Distant Past! This should be fun, so let's tip our hats a final time - oh wait, hats went out around 1961, didn't they? Pity. At any rate, we salute the past, that special past we lived in, and look forward to an even more interesting future. Don't worry, I'll be there with you.

And so, until next month . . .