Editorial: Another goodbye for the voice of the little guy
While the focus of mourners and nostalgia this week has been on two major shows of grief and loss in the pink Cadillac processional of Aretha Franklin in Detroit and the sober patriotism of a war hero and longtime public servant for John McCain in both Arizona and Washington, D.C., it is easy to miss other losses.
We often wait for celebrities to die in threes. The third famous name to leave us in the last week was Neil Simon. He was 91, and died of complications of pneumonia.
It seems fitting to say goodbye to the prolific screenwriter and playwright over Labor Day. Simon was nothing if not a hard worker.
He was also the kind of artist who appeared to be more comfortable with working class people than artsy types or their highbrow patrons.
His plays, after all, celebrated guys like Oscar Madison in “The Odd Couple.” They followed his own life as a teenager in a Polish-American home in “Brighton Beach Memoirs,” then on to boot camp in “Biloxi Blues.”
He built his career writing for Sid Caesar and Phil Silvers. He knew what it was to not have much, and to work for what you had. He knew how to not give up.
And then he succeeded. His plays became movies. His movies starred Robert Redford and Jane Fonda, Blythe Danner and Matthew Broderick, Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon and Richard Dreyfuss. He won Emmys, Tonys, Golden Globes, the Pulitzer Prize and a Kennedy Center honor.
But his work? That didn’t change. His work remained in touch with the guy who lost his job and doesn’t know how to tell his wife, or the two brothers from a poor home just trying to make a living doing what they love. One might imagine that there was a time clock next to Simon’s typewriter, and he punched in and out every day.
So music watched a diva bow out this week, and soldiers and leaders said goodbye to a longtime yardstick of right and wrong.
But let’s not forget to give a curtain call to the guy who never took the stage, but always gave the spotlight to the little guy.