How Can Someone Who Lives in Insane Luxury Be a Star
in Today's World?
I begin to write this, I "slug" it, as we writers
say, which means I put a heading on top of the document
to identify it. This heading is one line: FINAL, and it
gives me a shiver to write it. I have been doing this
column for so long that I cannot even recall when I started.
I loved writing this column so much for so long I came
to believe it would never end. It worked well for a long
time, but gradually, my changing as a person and the world's
change have overtaken it.
On a small scale, Morton's, while better
than ever, no longer attracts as many stars as it used
to. It still brings in the rich people in droves and definitely
some stars. I saw Samuel L. Jackson there a few days ago,
and we had a nice visit, and right before that, I saw
and had a splendid talk with Warren Beatty in an elevator,
in which we agreed that Splendor in the Grass was a super
movie. But Morton's is not the star galaxy it once was,
though it probably will be again.
Beyond that, a bigger change has happened.
I no longer think Hollywood stars are terribly important.
They are uniformly pleasant, friendly people, and they
treat me better than I deserve to be treated. But a man
or woman who makes a huge wage for memorizing lines and
reciting them in front of a camera is no longer my idea
of a shining star we should all look up to.
How can a man or woman who makes an eight-figure
wage and lives in insane luxury really be a star in today's
world, if by a "star" we mean someone bright
and powerful and attractive as a role model? Real stars
are not riding around in the backs of limousines or in
Porsches or getting trained in yoga or Pilates and eating
only raw fruit while they have Vietnamese girls do their
They can be interesting, nice people,
but they are not heroes to me any longer.
A real star is the soldier of the 4th
Infantry Division who poked his head into a hole on a
farm near Tikrit, Iraq. He could have been met by a bomb
or a hail of AK-47 bullets. Instead, he faced an abject
Saddam Hussein and the gratitude of all of the decent
people of the world. A real star is the U.S. soldier who
was sent to disarm a bomb next to a road north of Baghdad.
He approached it, and the bomb went off and killed him.
A real star, the kind who haunts my memory night and day,
is the U.S. soldier in Baghdad who saw a little girl playing
with a piece of unexploded ordnance on a street near where
he was guarding a station. He pushed her aside and threw
himself on it just as it exploded. He left a family desolate
in California and a little girl alive in Baghdad.
The stars who deserve media attention
are not the ones who have lavish weddings on TV but the
ones who patrol the streets of Mosul even after two of
their buddies were murdered and their bodies battered
and stripped for the sin of trying to protect Iraqis from
terrorists. We put couples with incomes of $100 million
a year on the covers of our magazines. The noncoms and
officers who barely scrape by on military pay but stand
on guard in Afghanistan and Iraq and on ships and in submarines
and near the Arctic Circle are anonymous as they live
I am no longer comfortable being a part
of the system that has such poor values, and I do not
want to perpetuate those values by pretending that who
is eating at Morton's is a big subject. There are plenty
of other stars in the American firmament .... the policemen
and women who go off on patrol in South Central and have
no idea if they will return alive, The orderlies and paramedics
who bring in people who have been in terrible accidents
and prepare them for surgery, the teachers and nurses
who throw their whole spirits into caring for autistic
children, the kind men and women who work in hospices
and in cancer wards. Think of each and every fireman who
was running up the stairs at the World Trade Center as
the towers began to collapse.
Now you have my idea of a real hero. We
are not responsible for the operation of the universe,
and what happens to us is not terribly important. God
is real, not a fiction, and when we turn over our lives
to Him, he takes far better care of us than we could ever
do for ourselves. In a word, we make ourselves sane when
we fire ourselves as the directors of the movie of our
lives and turn the power over to Him. I came to realize
that life lived to help others is the only one that matters.
This is my highest and best use as a human.
I can put it another way. Years ago, I
realized I could never be as great an actor as Olivier
or as good a comic as Steve Martin .... or Martin Mull
or Fred Willard -- or as good an economist as Samuelson
or Friedman or as good a writer as Fitzgerald. Or even
remotely close to any of them. But I could be a devoted
father to my son, husband to my wife and, above all, a
good son to the parents who had done so much for me. This
came to be my main task in life. I did it moderately well
with my son, pretty well with my wife and well indeed
with my parents (with my sister's help). I cared for and
paid attention to them in their declining years. I stayed
with my father as he got sick, went into extremis and
then into a coma and then entered immortality with my
sister and me reading him the Psalms.
This was the only point at which my life
touched the lives of the soldiers in Iraq or the firefighters
in New York. I came to realize that life lived to help
others is the only one that matters and that it is my
duty, in return for the lavish life God has devolved upon
me, to help others He has placed in my path. This is my
highest and best use as a human.
By Ben Stein
from Illinois said thank you for publishing this...