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At a Loss From All the Loss: A TV/Film Writer Copes With All the Falling Stars

The Huffington Post The Huffington Post 1/04/2016 David S. Simon
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So far 2016 has not been a very good year for baby boomers.
If you are keeping score we have already lost David Bowie, Sir George Martin, Paul Kantner, Glenn Frey, Maurice White, Alan Rickman, Harper Lee, Bob Elliott, Garry Shandling, Natalie Cole (to name just a few) and now Patty Duke.
Since we were raised concurrently with the birth of network television, anyone who appeared to us on those screens during our toddler and on years feel to this day like incredibly close participatory friends and relatives.
After all, they spent endless intimate hours with us in the holy sanctity of our homes arriving like magic through beams of holy cathode light, creating the illusion that their visits were deeply personal.
It still is unfathomable to me that millions of us are mass hypnotized by TV shows at the same time while we receive our subliminal marching orders to buy Burger King hot dogs or Swiffer our houses in order to eliminate the disease of floating pet dander.
Years ago David Kaufman and Marta Crane of "Friends" fame did a show called "Dream On" which perfectly captured the crater-sized impact that TV has had on us via the thousands of stored away memories of significant/relatable moments from every single movie or show that we have seen, which we all too frequently call up involuntarily, as a therapeutic way to symbolically figure out how to cope or directly deal with all our most outsized fears and obstacles.
Just close your eyes and just like that your head becomes a high end screening room ready to screen on demand any moment that you need to conjure up.
We were trained from early on to not just watch TV or casually listen to music: by instinct we knew it was vital to capture and collect all those electronic impulses and file them away in the personal memory and emotional drawers of our lives for future reference.
We lived with parents and grandparents who had known unimaginable World War Two suffering and were not, as a direct result, masters of communication.
Anxiety, fear and the past were simply not discussed.
Add to that, communism, which was not just a threat, but an airborne contagion of paranoia.
We were actually trained to duck and cover in the event of a nuclear blast.
The only way that we could survive the enormity of our unexpressed torment was to invest our entire being in the adventures of Ozzie and Harriet, Superman, Bat Masterson, Davy Crockett, Howdy Doody, Doctors Kildare and Casey our favorite Martian and bottled genie while even our grandmothers rocked out right along with us, mesmerized by American Bandstand which magically created the illusion that all the Italian kids of Philly were our great personal friends.
Everyone and anyone who was on TV fell into the same category: they were our loving rescuing friends who solved all our life problems with the simple, complicated loving touch of a bible story.
Movies and baseball stars were every bit as God-like as Walter Cronkite, Ed Sullivan and the cool swaggering two gunned, multi fisted men of the Ponderosa ranch.
No less important to us were the identical cousins Cathy and Patty Lane who in hindsight, represented the division of America at the time: the right wing conservatives vs the Elvis Rock and Rollers.
I was definitely younger brother Ross and immediately started calling my dad "Poppo" because it made me feel all Kookie cool inside.
TV theme songs and their snappy irresistible lyrics were as important to us as Christmas songs and we knew them by all by heart on impact---even though I most definitely mangled the lyrics about the Ballet Russes (which I boldly sang as The Ballet Roofs. It didn't matter because frankly the hot dog made me lose control).
Patty Duke was already a household favorite because of her Oscar winning performance in The Miracle Worker.
Helen Keller's battle which in some ways mirrored our times: we lived in darkness and helplessness, scared to death of atomic annihilation and
Anne Bancroft was the perfect tough love mother to help us crawl out of the darkness.
It is ironic that the real life Patty Duke suffered from the silent shadow world that is the helplessness of mental illness.
I did too and it took me five long years of crawling through the endless miles of jagged bloodied glass shards to get through it.
My generation had an endless supply of fantasy in abundance to shield us from the scariest parts of real life.
We had visited World Fairs and a sprouting Disneyland while at night, we stared at stars and dreamed about Astronauts and the frontier of the future with our romantic eyes wide open.
But perhaps that was both a blessing and a curse.
Perhaps we needed more of a balance between our transistor radio existence and our radioactive fears.
Today we are all assaulted by endless drone strikes of reality.
We spend most of our time grazing at the endless buffet of Trump and terrorism
The second that someone dies it's already posted on Wikipedia.
Even Patty Duke, to the very end was tweeting RIP to the death du jour.
Well personally I think we all need Patty and Cathy Lane a lot more than we do any more quick to post RIP tweets.
I for one am sick and tired of living for the latest war news from the front.
Breaking news today is nothing more than a banner headline for empty blather and idle speculation. It is all stoked panic and hysteria.
We need a balance between make believe and real and perhaps that is the lesson to be had as we watch our many heroes sputter and drop like falling Angels from the sky of our hearts.
TV, our one time baby boomer nanny and storyteller is telecastrating us now; making us collectively impotent and fearful.
It is time to once and for all, listen to our moms and dads who are still barking at us from another room to turn off the TV and go to bed.
Maybe if we are lucky all our heroes will be there, waiting us, to remind us how.

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