When I was 13, he played the lead in Nicholas Nickleby, the 8 1/2 hour extravaganza that brought intelligent spectacle back to Broadway, saved the RSC, and convinced a generation of playwrights they didn't need to press delete. He made a teenager wonder what all the noise was about, this acting thing. This theater stuff.
He was remarkable. He shone, and his voice was a thing you sat back and closed your eyes to.
He won Tonys, he won Oliviers, he was a star of the stage.
But this morning when I read about his death, a day losing Omar Sharif, the first thing I saw in the paper were all the tweets. You could check up on who sent a note memorializing his life. There, before the obits, before the summation of a 40 year career, were little links to the three sentences some other celebrity thought to tick off as they were walking to set.
And I thought, What the fuck have we become?
A guy dies. A giant in his particular art form. A campaigner for human rights and what's first thing on offer from one of the world's foremost publications? What do people go to?
Three grammer free burps from the producer of Cats. Words to make the words "sound bite" seem like a meal.
What do we want these days in America?
What do we get?
What we deserve.
140 characters and a mule.
Please let me show my deep concern, my love and praise, let the first thing that the family members of an old friend hear from me be found in.....a tweet. Let me advertise my appreciation. Let me show my followers (Glory be to God for that Guyanan slip up, for that Mormon, Scientologist phraseology finding its way to Twitterdom) let me show them that I care. Let me advertise empathy.
Publicizing your business, your latest painting, what play you went to, what joint makes the best pulled pork, where you like to shit when you go to the airport, great, feel free, it's all sort of absurd and in its American accumulative madness sort of something Whitman might have enjoyed playing with but when it comes to people fucking dying, keeling over from disease as we're all going to do one day or drowning in Korean ferry disasters, burning in a hotel in Vietnam, wiped out in a train wreck etc etc etc what pieces of your soul are you crunching up in your hands like a dried leaf every time you tweet things like "Sure sorry to see him go. True gent. Luv to his family."
The Sioux weren't far wrong every time they refused to be photographed. We should keep their "primitive prejudice" in mind. Part of you goes with every choice you make giving yourself away. Handing over what matters when there's apparently no pain to the process, when it seems so simple, just the press of a button. Send. Fire. Boom.
Oh it's not such a big deal. It's so minor. It's just fun. So silly to rail on about such silly stuff.
Yeah. Fill your days, your waking minutes, hour after hour, date after date, next to your kids playing on their i pads, next to your lover who's reached to check a text, tap on with all the media errands you can find and tell me the next time you can write a decent sentence, carry a tune, find the time to write a letter telling someone who actually mattered to you that they mattered.
Death by a Thousand Cuts is now Death By a Thousand Apps.
Cause we can have
"Alone with his longing
he lays down on his bed and sings a lament;
everything seems too large, the steadings and the fields."
and we can have
"Now you will not swell the rout
Of lads that wore their honours out
Runners whom renown outran
And the name died before the man."
and we can have
"He was my North, my South, my East, my West
My working week and my Sunday best
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song
I thought that love would last forever: I was wrong"
or we can have
RIP #RogerRees - a lovely, generous & kind man & an heroic & passionate actor. We all fell in love with him in #NicholasNickleby so sad
so fucking # sad indeed.