Well, perhaps I am a medium. Perhaps, broadcastellan is more than a mere series of ever so slight and seemingly inconsequential messages. Or, perhaps, this is simply another one of those alleged coincidences I have been pondering, on occasion, with the author of those Relative and to me altogether relevant Esoterica. Two days ago, I shared a make-up chart from the celebrated House of Westmore. Apart from being a fascinating artefact, remotely related to my topic of the day, I thought it was neither here nor there—that realm in which I often find myself while exploring the out-of-date everyday. This evening, though, I learned that another branch of that fruitbearing family tree, Monty Westmore, has died off at the age of 84. Westmore, who was Joan Crawford’s personal makeup artist during the latter part of her career, was still active in the 1990s, working on blockbusters like Jurassic Park.
Last night, I watched what I believed to be the altogether inconsequential College Swing (1938) starring Bob Hope, Martha Raye, Betty Grable, along with a handsome and ever so handy handbag serving as a radio receiver, and that celebrated comedy team of Burns and Allen (aforementioned), who enjoyed such popularity that they were called upon to sell the Paramount feature in the film’s trailer. Today, I learned that Ronnie Burns, the adopted son of Burns and Allen—who frequently featured on his parents’ 1950s television series—passed away on 14 November 2007 at the age of 72; he was three years old when College Swing was shot.
“In the midst of life we are in death,” I thought, without the slightest ambition of being original. It seems there really is no such a mode as escapism; there is no signing off, as long as we acknowledge that the signs and signposts of old lead us straight into the present day. To the receptive mind, any old vehicle has the power to drive us home; everything connects, if only you let it, and even the remotest piece of formerly popular culture will insist on rendering itself significant . . .