Three Daring Women Over 40, Three Different and Inspiring Legacies

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Margaret Thatcher – 1925-2013

You loved her or hated her. She saved Britain, or changed it irrevocably into a greedy, heartless, vastly divided nation. Either way, she was charismatic, powerful, and single-minded. She was proud of her nickname, “The Iron Lady” and she was definitely DARE-ing before her time.

Whatever the world thinks of Thatcher, the effects of her powerful years at the helm still ripple outward. To say Margaret Thatcher was not warm and fuzzy would be an understatement. She wanted to be seen as the prime minister, not as a female prime minister. At her death, she leaves a powerful legacy. She was quite simply one of the most important and powerful political human beings (male or female) of the last 50 years.

 

Annette Funicello – 1942-2013

To anyone growing up at the advent of TV when the reference to Mickey Mouse’s ears was literal and not a description of an overzealous pigtail hairstyle, Annette (her first name was how most of us referred to her) was the epitome of warm and fuzzy. And, she was apparently as untouchable as our mothers wanted us to believe we all should be, that is, until properly and officially married. Her deterioration after contracting M.S. in her forties showed a different and more DARE-ing side of this onetime childhood sweetheart, and served as a powerful reminder to all of us over 40. Now more than ever, we need to embrace our health, especially the factors we actually can control, like diet, exercise, annual physicals, and the concomitant tests they entail so we’re vigilant and diligent. Her life and death inspired so many, and prompted glowing farewells from more than one of her leading men. Apparently, Annette was just as wholesome and sweet in real life as she was in all those Disney shows and movies.

 

Debbie Reynolds.jpgDebbie Reynolds – 1932-STILL ALIVE AND CLICKING!

When I was invited to hear veteran stage, film and theatre actor-singer-dancer-author-philanthropist Debbie Reynolds speak at a 92nd Street Y event a few weeks ago, my first rather unkind and profoundly incredulous exclamation was, “…She’s still living?!” Yes, she definitely is, and then some! Over the course of a 60-minute talk to promote her new book, Unsinkable, the 81-year-old Reynolds expounded not a little on love, loss and what she wore, but so much more on love, loss and the, um…word that rhymes with “wars” – all the women who stole the various men Reynolds had the distinct misfortune of hooking up with, giving money to and losing more than she ever thought possible in no bargain. No matter – she is defiantly resilient and resolute about all of it, especially in admonishing her interviewer (an NPR interviewer at least 15 years younger than Reynolds and not nearly as sharp) to stop asking questions about how and why Eddie Fisher left her for Elizabeth Taylor.

Throughout the performance, Reynolds was most hilarious (a lot) when she was being sarcastic, sharp-tongued and self-deprecating, especially when she reached into her bra where she (ostensibly) had interview notes stashed away so she wouldn’t forget her lines. However, she was never more touching, more inspiring and more charming than when she spoke without self-reference of the problems and triumphs of her daughter, Carrie Fisher, who has battled numerous demons of her own. Fisher bought a plot of land just down the hill from where her mother has a cottage, so that she could be near her. THAT takes DARE-ing for sure!

I did not expect to be moved by Debbie Reynolds at this late stage in my life (and hers) but I was sorry to see the show come to an end. Here’s hoping someone soon puts the Unsinkable Ms. Reynolds on Saturday Night Live and that both she and Betty White have a duet somewhere before it’s too late.

 

 

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