What’s Cool? I have been wondering about this topic for a while. The current culture of immediate gratification and acceptable mediocrity in SO many areas makes it hard for me to find something/someone who is actually Cool.
A few decades ago, before the Internet, Smart Phones, and Tweeting, there was, obviously, such a different delivery system of information and imagery. Books, live performances, films shown in Movie Theaters, and Television brought us our celebrities. The difference back then was that in order to really be famous, you actually had to have some recognizable talent, skill, or training, and then you had to excel at it to rise above others in your chosen field. Not so much today.
But this is not about bashing the Trumps and Kardashians and Lady Gagas of the world; that would take more paragraphs than I have time for now. This is about COOL. What defines it? Who has that elusive quality?
Above is a photo of the Actor, Steve McQueen. In my opinion, and that of many others, he embodied COOL. He walked it, talked it, laughed it, and performed it. Whether he was riding a motorcycle to escape Nazis in “The Great Escape”, or romancing Insurance Investigator Faye Dunaway in “The Thomas Crown Affair”, Steve McQueen was undeniably COOL. I have seen almost all of his movies several times, and there is hardly anyone who can compare to his level of nuanced “I’m-so-relaxed-in-this-situation-I-could-almost- nap”COOL.
So, who else had it? Frank, Sammy, and Dean had it. Gene Kelly had it. Lauren Bacall and Bogie both had it, as did Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn. Johnny Carson exuded it.Paul Newman was VERY COOL, and his good friend, Robert Redford still is.
In the world of political figures, I think JFK was an example of COOL. Nixon, not so much. I think Joe Biden and his pal, Barack, are pretty cool dudes. They don’t seem to come unglued easily, and they keep their sense of humor. Tough stuff these days.
One of my friends suggested that George Clooney is COOL. Yeah, I like George and his commitment to use his celebrity to bring awareness to important causes. And being arm candy for Amal makes him even cooler.
When I was in high school and college, it was the 1960’s. We got to listen to and dissect the words of Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, Joni Mitchell, The Beatles, The Stones, and so many other musical poets. What were they saying? What did those lyrics mean? What were the references? We felt COOL if we understood the artist’s intention; it was like being allowed to sit at the COOL table.
Clothing had a significance then, too. It was COOL to wear bell bottoms, wire-rimmed glasses, army jackets, Frye or Flagg Brothers boots, Peace T shirts, beads, and head bands.Remember going to the local Army-Navy store to shop for COOL?
I have tried hard to come up with people who are COOL today. Here is my list: Malala Yousefzai, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Morgan Freeman, Michelle Obama, Meryl Streep, Jane Fonda, and my favorite Weatherman-Al Roker. Different styles, and different reasons, but they all qualify.
It’s not important. It’s not life altering. It’s probably very subjective. What we value, and how hip we wish we were, determine our choices, I guess.
Put on some tie-dye and let your freak flag fly today. Cool.