A restaurant I frequent has a framed poster-sized purported cover of a Life magazine from 1952. It's J.R. Eyerman 's black-and-white photo of the audience at the Hollywood world premiere of a 3-D movie, one at which the audience wears those silly glasses. The photo is shot from the side the stage, and it's a panorama. It fascinates me, first because it's so odd to see people dressed to the T's in a movie theater (possibly because it was a premiere, but I think my parents dressed up anytime they went out in the '50s.)
But the more compelling reason it attracts me is the people in it. They range in age from probably late teens to 70s or 80s. My eye is drawn especially to a girl, probably around 20, with a fancy dress and a gold or silver choker. Smooth skin, perfect hair, beside a slightly geeky guy who makes her look even better. I can't help but wonder what she's like now, if she is still alive after 55 years. What sort of life she lived, kids and career and all that (in those days probably one or the other -- though if she was at the world premiere she must have come from money and could choose both).
All the older folks must be long gone, but she would be in her mid-70s. How odd that must seem to her if she's still alive; she was so young and vibrant then, and the 70s must have seemed like a foreign and distant country. As Paul Simon wrote in "Old Friends," "how terribly strange to be 70." The photo is just such a capsule of the transitory nature of life. I'm already well on that journey; to my younger colleagues here, I can only reiterate what you've heard all your life, savor what you have because it won't last.
But it actually gets better in its own way.
FN. I say "purported" cover because in researching it I discovered that it was in the magazine but never really a cover photo. Turns out that for the 2013 remake of the movie The Secret Life of Walter Mitty they made up, with Life's blessing, a number of covers that never were so that they would better represent the popular image of the 1950s. So an even more compelling reason to be fascinated by it. Even that is not real.
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