Thursday, February 21, 2013

The Quintessential Flapper

This week, when I heard that the talented Mindy McCready had killed herself after a troubled career and personal life, I was reminded of other troubled celebrities who met a tragic end. Zelda Fitzgerald immediately came to mind.

Born in 1900, she was the baby of the family and used to spoiling and attention. She never outgrew her need for attention, it seems.

In the 1920s, when Zelda Sayre married the newly published novelist F. Scott Fitzgerald, she was the epitome of post-war hedonism. Dressed in the latest style with her hair bobbed and her skirts shortened, she was the quintessential flapper. Her chaotic and fast-lane living was the stuff of tabloids, and the journalists of the day never ran out of fodder. The Fitzgeralds left damage wherever they went. They drank to excess, partied and flirted, publicly quarreled, and danced on tabletops. The antics of Lindsey Lohan or Britney Spears don't hold a candle to the outrageous Zelda Fitzgerald.

By the mid-twenties, she was living abroad with her husband, part of the Lost Generation. By the great depression, she'd experienced her own and descended into mental illness. She died when the hospital in which she was institutionalized burned.

But the fictional Zelda, the one we read in the persona of Daisy Buchanan (and other Fitzgerald heroines), endures, leaving a trail of collateral damage. 

What makes a woman who craves the spotlight self-distruct? It's tragic and senseless. Sadly, as with Mindy McCready, it happens still.

Saturday, February 02, 2013


It's Groundhog Day, and what better way to celebrate than by watching the movie, Groundhog Day?

This story (written by Danny Rubin and Harold Ramis), about a conceited weatherman who relives the same day over and over until he gets it right, works for the same reason A Christmas Carol works. Both are stories of redemption. That's right. I'm putting Rubin and Ramis in the same class as Charles Dickens, and I suspect Dickens had a strong influence on their writing.

Groundhog Day is Phil Connor's story. Much like Scrooge, Phil scorns tradition and has little compassion. He's an insufferable jerk.
(spoiler alert!) At first he struggles with his curse of reliving the same day, even resorting to several suicide attempts. He uses what he learns about people to manipulate them and to score points with Rita.

When Rita suggests he consider the curse a gift, he starts to take advantage of reliving the same day as an opportunity to improve himself. He helps others avoid calamities he witnesses, and he learns ice sculpting and piano playing. Most of all, he learns to put others' needs first. We see the homeless man on the sidewalk Phil ignores later sitting at a lunch counter with Phil, eating hot soup. We all cheer at the reformed Phil, the man Rita can love. And his love for her finally breaks the spell.

If you've missed this movie, watch it. It's twenty years old but timeless.

Happy Groundhog Day!