Friday, August 28, 2009

Is Houston Ready for an "Old" Mayor?

Yeah, we know: the question de jour is supposed to be, “Is Houston ready for a gay mayor?” and at some point soon we’re going to take another of our interminable strolls down “Memory Lane” (hopefully accompanied by an able-bodied youngster to keep Gramps upright) to contrast the current climate with those not-so-long-past days of the “Straight Slate” and Louie Welch’s inadvertently broadcast suggestion that we “shoot the queers” to stop AIDS. But first let’s examine a really sensitive issue, one that we assume will not find its way into the public discourse--that of age, specifically the age of mayoral contender Peter Brown, who, if his Wikipedia entry is to be believed (yeah, a Houston city councilman’s got a Wikipedia entry--all hierarchies are being overturned, mon frere!), was born on Oct. 16, 1936. That would make Brown 73 when voters go to the polls in November and, should he win and then successfully pursue his term-limited allotment of years at City Hall, pushing 80 (!) when he’s finally wheeled out of City Hall in January 2016.

We got to thinking about the age issue (or, if you will, non-issue) after viewing Brown’s debut television advertisement, the first of the mayoral race, which according to no less an unbiased authority than the Petter Brown campaign has gotten rave reviews from the media and the kids in the blogosphere (which will translate into about, um, zero votes). With its quick cuts and frenetic pacing, the commercial is obviously keyed to making the 72-year-old grandfather of 15--here’s a dude who’s damn sure fulfilled his biological destiny!--appear to be vital, a veritable whirlwind of obsessive-compulsive perpetual motion* who just can’t stop serving the public, 24/7, a forceful PHYSICAL presence ready and able to impose his “blueprint” for Houston smack dab on the city (as if the city were a Lovett Home or sumpin’), then drop down and give us 20 push-ups, military-style, to burn off any excess energy.

Ageism--is that what you call it?--is of course the last acceptable prejudice that one can voice aloud in polite circles without fear of opprobrium: consider the tiresome razzing that John McCain still gets from late-night comedians over his long earthly tenure (we saw Steven Colbert do it just recently, aided and abetted by McCain himself, who tries to defuse the issue with frequent displays of good humor, when he’s not being a crotchety old man). Now consider this: Peter Brown is but six weeks younger than John McCain! When Brown entered this world, FDR was seeking his second term as president and Oscar “The Old Gray Fox” Holcombe was only midway into his eventual 22 years as mayor of Houston, neither as “old” nor quite as “gray” as he would be when serving out his string in the late ‘50s (by our possibly faulty calculations, Holcombe was in his late 60s when he stopped being mayor, and Bob Lanier--who already screamed “elderly” when he was first inaugurated--was just a little older than Brown is now when he was term-limited to the political scrap heap). Perhaps more astonishing, one of our favorite early Hollywood film stars, “Petey”, the crazy-eyed pooch from the Little Rascals, was still extant when Brown was born, and in fact was to pose for a picture with our then-10-year-old mother-in-law at Atlantic City’s famed Steel Pier the very next year, when Brown presumably was in his swaddlin’ clothes. Damn, that was long ago.

UPCOMING: We already know Houston’s ready for a black mayor, Lee P. Brown having crossed that bridge more than 10 years ago, but is Houston ready for a gay black mayor? An old gay black mayor? We’ll ask the experts!

*We can empathize: Although we’re not a member of Brown’s age cohort (we’re of the generation that didn’t go to Vietnam, didn’t go to Woodstock), we have recent first-hand experience of that sobering phenomenon of which Springsteen has sung--that is, of the girls in their summer clothes passing us by, sometimes passing us by even in their winter clothes, unaware that only the previous month we had had one of those whatyamacallits, an erection.



Youse not old, Slampo, youse just fluffy

Anonymous said...

I think one could draw similar comparisons with other candidates - is Houston ready for a lesbian Mayor (Annise) - Is Houston ready for another black Mayor (Gene) - is Houston ready for a crazy republican Mayor (Roy)???

Grampa's wingman said...

The problem I have with an extremely aged mayor is that he will not have to live with the consequences of his changes. He can ruin the city but it won't matter to him because he won't be here!

A secondary but important problem is the tendency of people's ideas and attitudes to harden with age. This is not an absolute, but something I watch for in any candidate over 65. I want to vote for flexible, open minded candidates. I know, I know, that's not very realistic, but that's what I want.