By the time the 2016 documentary about Norman Lear (Just Another Version of You) had ended, I knew I wanted to marry the 95-year-old television writer and producer.
How could you not love a clever, adorable, wealthy and unassuming man who still has passion for his work? Oh, there’s something else. Norman Lear is a feminist, even if he did create the perpetually irascible Archie Bunker. Alas, marriage wasn’t in the cards for us. When I Googled him, I learned he’s been married to Lyn Lear since 1987. She was 40 and he was 65 when they married. Smart, and lucky, lady!
Lyn and Norman
I had the opportunity to tell Norman, face to face, that I’m a big fan, when he made an appearance at The New Old Age seminar this week, produced by AtlanticLIVE, the events division of The Atlantic magazine. Here are some of the wonderful insights and witticisms he shared during his interview with Alison Stewart, contributing editor of the magazine.
ON HIS 95TH BIRTHDAY, JULY 22, 2017
“We decided to make it a birthday year for my 95th birthday. I’ve had about seven parties so far.”
“Am I older? Certainly. Am I old? Not yet.
“Old is more a cultural word for me than a personal word. The way the culture works, if you’re old, you wake up to be old. I wake up with things I need to do and I’m excited about it. I don’t wake up to be old. I understand culturally I’m an older guy. I’m very conscious of my age. But I can’t say ‘old guy.’ I don’t feel that.
“We want to stay around, but we live in a culture where we treat death as ‘Oh My God, it’s coming.’ We’re all susceptible to having a good time at any age.”
ON THE NEW MEDIA
“I like that people can watch three episodes of the same show before they go to bed. Netflix says that’s the average. But, it’s difficult to be really topical because something you finish taping now won’t air for a few months.”
ON HIS NEW SITCOM, GUESS WHO DIED
“NBC picked it up and we’re starting to cast it now. When I pitched the idea years ago, the right people thought it was funny, but they told me, ‘it’s not our demographic.’ But something is going on now [in Hollywood]. A sudden realization that we’ll all reach an older age.
“In the pilot, 77-year-old Murray is in love with his wife, who has Alzheimer’s and doesn’t have long to live. Her sister is taking care of her, and she and Murray form a relationship.”
NOTE: The project, which Lear has been championing for over seven years, is described as a humorous and inspiring look at the shared joys and challenges we all experience at any stage of life. NBC said it’s inspired by Lear and his desire to continue learning and growing, especially when society expects you to slow down. It’s based on his personal experiences.
ON HIS TWITTER ACCOUNT, AND OPENNESS ABOUT HIS POLITICS
“I’m a first amendment addict. I believe we have a right to express ourselves. I don’t think we’re led well, in corporate America or political America.”
ON THE SOURCE OF HIS FEMINISM
“I have 5 daughters and one son, so how could I not be? Maude and All in The Family were on during the feminist movement, so the characters grew up with it. We represented the cresting when Edith took Archie apart in one show. She lambasted him.”
ON WHOM HE ADMIRES
“There are so many people I admire. The question brings to mind a quote I once heard, ‘Each man is my superior in that there is something to learn from everyone, if one pays sufficient attention.'”
ON HIS SECRET TO A HAPPY LIFE
“We don’t pay enough attention to two little words: OVER and NEXT. When something is over, it’s over and we’re all on to next. If there was a hammock in the middle of those two words, that would be the best definition of living in the moment. I have lived 95 years, months, weeks, days, hours, minutes, just to get here and see you looking at me the way you’re looking at me.”