BOOMERBROADcast

Enjoy, laugh, disagree or simply empathize with those who lived life in THE sixties and are now rockin' life in THEIR sixties, and beyond.


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Brushing away wrinkles and imperfections doesn’t fool anyone


Kudos to American pharmacy chain CVS who recently announced they will stop using digitally altered images in promoting their beauty products. Helena Foulkes, President of CVS (it’s no coincidence the initiative is launched by a woman) credits this decision as a response to “the bigger conversation women are having over their own level of empowerment”. Foulkes rightly objects to being complicit in sending women a false message of perfection by digitally altering photographic images. The practice has the effect of diminishing women’s level of self-esteem and generating feelings of inadequacy.

Boomers are still beautiful without all the digital altering of pictures.

We all know that advertising images are carefully and extensively altered to correct imperfections and it is depressing to compare our own faces to those used in beauty ads. We also understand the motives and intent. It’s about chasing dreams. Dreams sell product. Showing wrinkles does not sell so-called miracle cures. One way advertisers have of overcoming the restrictions on ‘Photoshopping’ is by using ever younger models to promote their products. But we’re not fooled. In fact, we’re angered and offended that manufacturers and advertisers actually think we believe we’ll achieve the skin of a 20-year-old if we use their products. Truth in advertising rarely exists and probably never will.

That being said, I commend the CVS decision. We’re not stupid and women do want to feel better about ourselves not worse. It’ll be interesting to see how this plays out. I really wouldn’t object to looking as good as Diane Keaton or Helen Mirren look in real life, without digital enhancements but whether others feel the same remains to be seen. We all want to look our best and most of us have finally figured out how to do just that with a little help from our cosmetics friends. We’re not going to be snapping selfies when we first wake up. By the time we’ve slapped on some blusher, mascara and a bit of lipstick or gloss we’re ready to face the day and our public. Good lighting helps too.

Youth and beauty are not mutually exclusive.

Boomer gals may no longer have the long, slender necks, poreless complexions, perfect bone structure and soft, full lips artfully concocted in the ads, but each of us knows we possess an individual kind of beauty. Some of us may no longer have a waistline but are blessed with beautiful skin. Others have fascinating eyes that come alive with a bit of mascara and liner. I know many boomers whose smiles alone can light up a room. We love fashion. We love looking our best and feeling good about ourselves. Digitally altered promotional photos only make us feel worse as we sigh and flip to the next page of a magazine. The movement toward respecting women of all ages is gaining momentum as evidenced by mature models on magazine covers and fashion features about gray hair. Give us credit for the beauty we each possess and let’s hope more companies have the courage to follow the lead of CVS.

You’re beautiful mes très chères.

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All The Money In The World . . . doesn’t buy happiness


John Paul Getty III with his mother Gail after his release.

If you’re a boomer like me, you probably remember the sensational newspaper coverage of a brutal kidnapping in the early seventies. Paul Getty, the sixteen-year-old grandson of the world’s richest man J. Paul Getty, was snatched off the street in Rome and held for ransom of $17 million. The drama played out for several months. Getty Sr. refused to pay the ransom while the Calabrian organized crime ring who kidnapped him grew increasingly desperate. I clearly remember the universal shock and horror when we read that the kidnappers amputated Getty Jr.’s ear and sent it to a newspaper to a) prove that they still had him and, b) to confirm their commitment to following through with further amputations unless their demands were met.

Watching the movie All The Money In The World filled in all the background information that was missing and forgotten about the notorious kidnapping. The substitution of fallen-from-grace Kevin Spacey with Canadian Christopher Plummer was a deft move. Plumber was perfect in his portrayal of Getty Sr. as a calculating, dispassionate, eccentric old billionaire. He protected his fortune greedily while indulging his passion for collecting art with the love and dedication he should have afforded his own family. Casting of Charlie Plummer as Paul Getty Jr. was also excellent and he even somewhat resembled Michelle Williams who played Getty Jr.’s mother. Williams played Gail Getty with just the right amount of angst, indignation and anger. Gail married a Getty son and divorced him without any form of compensation from the Getty family in order to retain custody of her three children. That decision left her broke and incapable of raising the ransom money herself leaving her at the mercy of her former father-in-law.

Michelle Williams played Getty Jr.’s mother Gail, accompanied by Mark Wahlberg as Getty Sr.’s negotiator.

All The Money In The World is a good movie. Not only do we learn the story behind the story, but we’re treated to beautiful shots of Rome and the Italian countryside. We watch the negotiations for a $17 million ransom drop over time as the kidnapping ‘contract’ is sold to a second crime ring. And, there are the obvious conclusions to be drawn about ‘money doesn’t buy happiness’ and the disastrous effects it often has on second and third generations in wealthy families. My gal pals and I really enjoyed our couple of hours watching this movie and I’m confident you will too. We gave it four beautifully manicured thumbs-up.

You are special mes très chères.

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Living my dreams through Vanity Fair’s Tina Brown


What could be more enthralling than reading someone’s diary, especially someone who regularly rubs shoulders with the rich and famous? It feels forbidden, furtive, even a bit titillating. We’re discovering that person’s innermost thoughts, opinions and impressions in the context of their daily life. And when that life is one lived in the rarefied circles of Tina Brown, editor of Vanity Fair magazine from 1984 to 1992, it’s delicious beyond words. Which explains why I binge-read her book Vanity Fair Diaries in three or four-hour bursts until my eyes wouldn’t focus any longer. Brown is responsible for those avant-garde covers of a naked, pregnant Demi Moore and a moonwalking Michael Jackson.

Tina Brown is an upper middle-class British-born baby boomer, educated at Oxford University. At the age of twenty-five, she was hired to revitalize that famous British magazine, Tatler, which she did with skill and originality. Five years later she was bored and started looking for new opportunities. Across the Atlantic, Condé Nast in New York City was looking for someone to breathe new life into their ailing Vanity Fair magazine. After a six-month mating dance, Tina Brown was hired. Along with her husband Harry Evans, former editor of The Times of London they moved to New York, found an apartment, bought a weekend retreat on Long Island and began the dizzying life of news makers and reporters. She systematically dismantled the old VF staff and rebuilt on new foundations with creative people she knew could produce and deliver her vision.

Tina Brown’s husband, Harry Evans, a media star in his own right, was a strong supporter of his wife’s ambitions.

Naturally, any shakeup in business involves casualties. The politics and behind-the-scenes psychological games required to get a successful magazine to print involve a mind-boggling complex skill set of business smarts, networking connections, branding, marketing, creativity and ego management. Any senior business manager will confirm that one of the most difficult aspects of the job is handling the personnel issues and this is particularly true when dealing with sensitive creative types. Toss ego, personal wealth and power into the mix and it’s a volatile brew.

The name-dropping in this book is unavoidable and reading her accounts of interactions with famous people over the years is fascinating.  Her descriptions of daily events range from educational and informative to bitchy and salacious with wonderful and rather prophetic observations sprinkled throughout the book:

On observing the working women in the office of her real estate agent: “Looking at all these tense New York women, a little frayed, a little underpaid,  enough to keep them hooked on their career  path but not enough to finance escape. I felt they are the new prisoners of the American dream, always working harder than the guys and dealing and redealing the paperwork.”

On trophy wives: The perennial irony here is that men still have all the cards. “They can be driven bastards for years and ignore their kids. Then when they mellow out they can have a younger wife, a new family, and all the perks of a fresh start.”

On the pursuit of acquisition: “Without any market research he has crystallized the current longing for tradition and what he describes as the ‘lack of loveliness in the rootless, unbeautiful lives of the modern American woman who knows that deep down all the running is leading every day to a lesser life.”

With daring photos by Annie Leibovitz, Vanity Fair covers broke new ground.

On dealing with male entitlement: “On the Washington shuttle on the way to Kay Graham’s seventieth birthday party . . . I am sitting across from the Wall Street investor and CEO of CBS, Larry Tisch. He asked me to reach up to the overhead compartment to get down his jacket and I tipped it upside down so all his money and pens and credit cards rained down on his bald head, and he had to grovel around under the seat and retrieve them.”

On working mothers’ quality time with children: “Quality time is a myth. Babies want slow, wasted time together, not intense nose-to-nose ‘involvement’. There is no comparison.”

On (prophetically) reading Donald Trump’s The Art of the Deal in September 1987: “It feels, when you have finished it, as if you’ve been nose to nose for four hours with an entertaining con man and I suspect the American public will like nothing better. . . Marie has been able to establish such a pattern of lying and loudmouthing in Trump that it’s incredible he still prospers and gets banks to loan him money. . . He’s like some monstrous id creation of his father, a cartoon assemblage of all his worst characteristics mixed with the particular excesses of the new media age. The revelation that he has a collection of Hitler’s speeches at the office is going to make a lot of news.”

On technology: January, 1990: “By the mid-nineties computer owners will be able to buy everything from their home offices and retail marketing will become a dinosaur.”

On the importance of political skills in business: “Having political instincts is always underestimated as a requisite for hiring. In fact, calling someone ‘political’ is usually pejorative, implying manipulation and distrust, but many jobs are impossible to succeed at without political skills.”

On being patronized by male superiors for “throwing money around” :” As if I am some ditzy girl run amok with the budget . . . instead of acknowledging our 63 percent rise in circulation and tripling of ad pages from 431 in 1985 to 1,193 today (April 1989). So fuck all the naysayers. I am so over being patronized by know-all guys.”

Brown is candid about money issues. She started working at Vanity Fair for a salary of $130,000.00. She’s forthcoming about her real estate costs, raises and salary negotiations. Like most women, she toiled for years earning less than men in her profession who oversaw magazines with smaller circulation, less ad revenue and generating less profit than VF. We’ve all been there, but Brown eventually made the smart decision to have a professional third-party negotiate her compensation package.

Is my future life destined to be editor of national magazines? Maybe I should stick with my own one-person band, Boomerbroadcast.

I’ve always envisioned being reborn in my next life as editor of national women’s magazine. Not the kind that gives you tips on how to cope with the crush of holiday entertaining or how to ensure your kids get into the best Montessori schools, but the other kind, like VF or MORE magazine, that beacon for ‘women of a certain age’ that was sadly discontinued a couple of years ago, first its Canadian edition and finally by its American publisher. MORE was an intelligent mix of business advice, fashion, current events and general interest pieces for mature women with interests beyond hearth and home—sort of a VF lite.

A few months ago I read The Price of Illusion by Joan Juliet Buck former editor of Paris Vogue and having just finished Vanity Fair Diaries by Tina Brown, I’m reconsidering my career ambitions for my next life. I must say, Vanity Fair Diaries is a guaranteed page-turner. It’s not a memoir reflecting on times past, but an actual diary written in real-time. It reads like a time capsule allowing us to compare how things and people turned out over time. While being editor of such a glamorous and relevant magazine may seem like a dream job, there’s a lot of hard work involved. The constant churn of political manoeuvring, business strategizing and networking is physically, mentally and emotionally stressful and the demands on personal time make home and family life challenging.

Like most women, Brown constantly struggled with the demands of combining motherhood and career.

In the midst of all this, Brown had two babies, one with developmental challenges resulting from premature birth, and she still managed to maintain her love affair with her husband. She constantly struggled with the bilateral demands of trying to be the best mother she could be and the best magazine editor she could be. That’s a tall order for anyone. I must admit I might not be up to the task, much as I think I would like the job. Perhaps I’ll have to settle instead for living the life of editor of a national magazine vicariously through reading books by wonderful, talented women like Tina Brown and Joan Buck. In the meantime, I’ll just stick to blogging with my staff of one (me), my limited and precious readership (you) and no politics, ego or money involved. Well, maybe a bit of ego (mine) but that’s the joy and benefit of being your own boss.

Stay special mes très chères.

Click here to read my earlier review of The Price of Illusion by Joan Buck

To order Vanity Fair Diaries by Tina Brown from Amazon.com, click here.

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What do you do when the lights go out?


Have you experienced a power blackout recently? It’s been awhile since we totally lost power but a recent day-long loss of television and internet service (thanks to Ma Bell) resulted in some serious introspection about our marriage. I was reasonably occupied with reading on my iPad and sleeping, two activities at which I excel, but my honey was completely lost. It’s scary to think what life would be like if we lost the services we take for granted and are so much a part of our everyday lives. How would we cook our meals, heat our homes, communicate with our fellow human beings?

Our resourceful ancestors managed to keep busy when the sun went down.

Early pioneers were constantly occupied with the mundane everyday chores required to keep everyone alive in the days before Edison—chopping wood for the fire, feeding, killing and plucking the chickens to eat, bringing in the hay for winter feed and growing crops to feed the family over the winter. They also went to bed earlier (who wouldn’t when there’s no TV) depending on when the sun set as the oil to keep lamps going was expensive and wasteful. That also explains how our ancestors ended up with fourteen kids, although they came in handy when it was time to harvest the crops and milk the cows.

Attacking our power grid would be the ultimate bloodless war. We wouldn’t be able to survive without electricity and would capitulate to our enemy within a couple of hours. Perhaps Putin has already thought of this. In the meantime, I’m grateful for the conveniences we enjoy, despite the usurious charges we pay for electricity each month. But that’s a political issue to be addressed at the ballot box.

Obviously, we should always be prepared for a power failure—candles, matches and the usual precautions. But what steps should we take to preserve our relationships when we’re deprived of television, internet or phone service? That’s another facet of the survival dilemma. We could and should use the time to engage in real conversation with our partners, or wash the floors, get to know our neighbours better over a glass of (warm) white wine, clean out closets or weed the gardens. More ambitious and creative people might use the time to write, paint or meditate. Others might take the dog for a walk, exercise or play cards. When we’re stuck within four walls alone with those we love without electricity, our love can be severely tested. Our dependence on communicating with our fellow human beings via cell phone or on-line leaves many people conversationally crippled.

I don’t know what you would do but I’m afraid my own preference for taking a nap during a power outage, while not very productive or honourable, is my default activity. Our household would have been in our glory during pioneer days when everyone went to bed at sunset. While sleeping is something I enjoy and for which I seem to have a particularly strong aptitude, it doesn’t get the floors washed, the cows milked or the dog walked. I’m going to have to be more proactive about being productive the next time we lose our television, internet, telephone or power service. In the meantime, let’s hope Putin doesn’t march his armies across the North Pole into Canadaland and blow up our power stations.  I don’t think most relationships could survive such an apocalyptic power failure.

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My Christmas bonus this year? No decorations


Every year I love to watch the Griswold’s celebrate Christmas. Cousin Eddie is my favourite character.

There’s no rational explanation for why I hate putting up Christmas decorations. Growing up in the fifties and sixties, Christmas was everything we boomers have come to identify with the perfect Christmas. Red and green crepe paper streamers were twisted diagonally across our diningroom ceiling, anchored by a red tissue paper bell hanging from the light fixture. We always had a ‘real’ tree that filled the livingroom with wonderful spruce or pine fragrance. Single-candle wreaths glowed in our windows  at night and huge, noisy family Christmas dinners were, well, you get the picture. As kids we attended Christmas parties at the Legion, the church, parties for mill workers’ children at the Masonic Temple and at school. The wonderful parties with little gift bags and cheap chocolates were never-ending.

I truly enjoy and appreciate what others do to decorate for the season; just don’t expect much from me. I have friends who absolutely love every aspect of the season. My friend Gail dresses her table legs in colourful red and green velvet elf socks. Even her powder room is awash in Christmas spirit. Walking into her home is like entering a Christmas fairyland and being embraced by the spirit of the season. Her tree is decorated in red bows and strings of pearl garlands with an illuminated top hat on the top and twinkling gifts under the tree. Another friend loves Christmas so much her extensive collection of decorations goes up at the beginning of November and remains in place until well into the new year. I really do enjoy the decorations that have been lovingly arranged in friends homes. In fact, I’ve already done the house tour to see the Christmas lights in my community and marvelled at the imagination displayed by so many homeowners. One house had a spot light on Mrs. Claus hanging Santa’s red suit and long-johns out on the clothes line while Santa sat by in a lawn chair smoking his pipe. Such creativity.

Boomers all love and can relate to Ralphie in A Christmas Story narrated by author Jean Shepard.

I’m not hosting Christmas dinner this year, so I’m off the hook for putting up much in the way of Christmas decor. My husband has more Christmas spirit than I do and dutifully put our outside lights up, hung a wreath on the door and dragged the Rubbermaid bins down from the shelves in the garage for me to pick out what I wanted to put up. I hung a wreath on the front door, some candy canes around the lamp shades and propped up a sad little fake tree on the table inside the front door, but otherwise, nada. I’m not even putting lights and decorations on our ficus tree this year which traditionally has been the closest I get to decorating a tree. I know I’m not alone. Yesterday I had lunch with a friend who shares my lack of enthusiasm and we enjoyed a laugh about our hap hazard attempts at getting into the spirit. The beauty of our plan is there’s hardly anything to take down after the festivities. In fact, I usually yank everything down on boxing day. No fuss; no muss; no tangled strings of lights attached. Is there anyone out there who shares our wicked ways? Am I a bad person?

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Are baby boomer women becoming less invisible?


Is it a mirage or are we gaining ground? The October issue of Italian Vogue, The Timeless Issue was dedicated to ‘mature’ women and featured Lauren Hutton on the cover. I was hoping to share some of their wisdom and bounty with Boomerbroadcast readers but I tried everywhere and couldn’t score a copy so we’ll just have to take their word for it. The good news is that when I was in Chapters/Indigo in October I did spot the British magazine woman&home (which sounds rather mumsie but is actually refreshingly ‘broad’) and it was all about us. Yes. It’s true. A magazine targeted at and about our generation—the smart, educated and hardworking demographic with a bit of experience under our elastic waist belts and some disposable change in our purses to spend on fashion and lifestyle. Imagine my delight. If you can find a copy of the October edition of British woman&home I assure you it’s worth the hefty $9.99 price tag as it was cover-to-cover full of relevant material for baby boomer women.

Lauren Hutton’s back on the runway and from time to time I see great fashion coverage on the internet of Ali McGraw in all her boho splendiforousness. I don’t normally look to celebs for fashion and style inspiration but Diane Keaton is a major exception along with the amazing Helen Mirren. Maye Musk is high-profile these days and although these ladies are all stick thin (which most boomers are not), the recognition is definitely encouraging.

Kudos to CITY-TV’s CityLine and CTV’s The Marilyn Denis Show for including mature and normal-sized women along with the requisite skinnies in their fashion presentations. Seeing an amply proportioned mature woman confidently walking out in stylish fashion is inspiring and gratifying. Blogs and websites for women our age are proliferating. I enjoy perusing these sites and try to share the good ones with Boomerbroadcast readers. It’s where I get most of my personal fashion inspiration since magazines are totally bereft of anything we can relate to. If you come across something you like and would like to share, please do so. We’re all in this together. Stay beautiful mes très chères.


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Is there really a Santa Claus?


Boomer gals looked to Helen Gurley Brown for divine guidance in the sixties.

Every boomer gal worth her salt in the sixties read the best-seller Sex and The Single Girl by Helen Gurley Brown. Our lives were modeled around the latest COSMO decrees as our entire generation was creating a new world order. We also read Coffee, Tea or Me? about two high-flying stewardesses (as they were called in ancient times) living the swinging single life. There was even a movie and television series made of the book. We aspired to live exciting lives as modern gals enjoying beginning careers and the freedom of the sexual revolution—just like Helen Gurley Brown, Trudy Baker and Rachel Jones. Reading about Trudy and Rachel’s escapades as they flew the friendly skies in search of adventure was enough to make this boomer high-tail it to an Air Canada recruiting (cattle) call in their old Toronto head office on Bloor Street in 1971. Although I was turned down, a friend of mine was deemed to have the requisite ‘sex appeal’ and was hired. Fortunately, my life eventually turned out OK despite the rejection by Air Canada.

Last week, to my everlasting horror, I learned that Trudy and Rachel were totally fictional characters created by ghost writer Donald Bain. I thought the original Coffee, Tea or Me book was non-fiction. It was Bain’s obituary in the newspaper that alerted me to the fact my role models were neither real nor particularly authorly. Bain, who was an airline publicist and pilot himself, based the book on stories from conversations with a couple of Eastern Airline flight attendants, but they were inspiration only. Donald Bain, who was eighty-two years old when he passed away also authored all forty-six of the Murder She Wrote mystery novels, which were turned into the popular television series starring Jessica Fletcher, his alter-ego played by Angela Lansbury. He’s what is known in the biz as a ghost writer. We all know they exist and routinely pen autobiographies for semi-literate celebs and famous people who lack the wherewithal to compose their own story. Mr. Bain was so prolific writing for others, that it was fifty years before he finally had a book published under his own name. At least HGB wrote her own material so I’m somewhat mollified.

Imagine my shock when a major totem of my swinging sixties days suddenly came crashing down. The problem this bit of information has created is profound. It has undermined my entire belief system. For fifty years I actually thought Trudy Baker and Rachel Jones were real people, role models I could aspire to. I’m now considering the possibility that there might be further deception in what I read on a daily basis. What if those long-ago stunning magazine shots of Jean Shrimpton and Twiggy had been air-brushed and they really weren’t that drop-dead gorgeous? Was I bowing down to false idols? Perhaps Resdan really didn’t cure dandruff and Bonne Belle’s 1006 Lotion wasn’t the solution to my acne problems? Here are some other sixties’ assumptions that have been called into question as a result of that bit of revealing news about Coffee, Tea or Me:

  • “I’ll still respect you in the morning.”
  • Men prefer to marry virgins.
  • Your engagement ring should cost the equivalent of three months’ wages of your beloved (I rather liked this one although it meant he’d be so far in hock you’d never be able to scrape together the down payment on a house.)
  • A woman’s place is in the home.
  • Marriage is forever.
  • Smoking makes you look sexy.

The end of innocence

The possibilities and implications of those decisions based on standard assumptions in the sixties have influenced my entire life. Where would I be today if Air Canada had deemed me sexy enough to hire? Are my wrinkles now the result of applying tank trucks full of harsh astringent to my face to combat acne fifty years ago? Boomer gals were raised to do as we were told, not question authority and to be patient; the rewards will come to those who are deserving. We have all since learned those premises are total bull crap. I know for sure that being a good girl who doesn’t rock the boat in business did not serve me well. In retrospect, I wish I’d been a whole lot more assertive in insisting on equal pay and recognition for work performed. I did well enough, but I could have done better if I’d cast aside so many of those standards of behaviour baby boomer gals were raised with. Self-promotion, equal rights, speaking up were issues we were just starting to dip our toes into. By the time we realized these traits were assets in business not liabilities, we were often past our career prime and nearing retirement. We got the ball rolling but there’s still a lot of work to do. You’re welcome, Xers, Y’s and millennials who think feminism is passé.

Some things never change. Buyer beware.

The upshot of this experience is that I’m going to be a lot more discriminating about everything I read and am told from now on. From now on I’m going to be a lot more skeptical about the claims made by the cosmetics companies about the efficacy of their ‘anti-aging’ potions. It’s entirely possible they could be selling me a bill of goods. A shocking prospect to consider. Do you suppose food conglomerates are not being totally honest with us as well? Can I really lose weight and stay regular on fat-free yogurt? We learned too late that chewing Dentyne gum does not replace brushing. The ramifications of questioning all those early assumptions are mind-boggling.

My brain’s straining from the implications of the simple discovery that a book I read in sixties and considered to be non-fiction was in fact a total fabrication. I’ve always put all my faith in media being unbiased, just like in the days of Walter Cronkite. Now I’m forced to consider that my entire value system is flawed and now I’m too old to ‘be anything I want to be’. I should have clued in when Air Canada didn’t think so and chose to reject me. Next thing you know someone will be trying to tell me there’s no Santa Claus. If that proves to be another deception, then that definitely proves there’s no advantage in being a good girl. It’s taken me awhile to catch on but from now on, I’m my own boss living by my own rules. It’s about time.

To order Coffee, Tea or Me from Amazon click here.

To order Sex and the Single Girl from Amazon click here.

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