I miss movie star glam.
Joan Crawford, Betty Grable and Jane Russell were just a few among the glamour girls of the big screen in the '30s, '40s and '50s. Who can forget Deborah Kerr in "An Affair to Remember," when women donned evening gowns for dinner on board ship? That seductive white halter dress Marilyn Monroe wore in "The Seven Year Itch" was a showstopper. And Fred Astaire took both dance and debonair to new heights.
Even on the small screen, glam ruled. I can still remember watching elegantly dressed Loretta Young swirl into the room to announce her show. June Cleaver of "Leave It to Beaver" fame looked bandbox fresh as she prepared breakfast in a starched shirtwaist with the requisite pearls, her hair sprayed to within an inch of its life.
The public was not always privy to details of the stars' private lives. The job of the publicist was to create an image rather than report on reality. Some stars wanted to avoid the limelight of public scrutiny altogether. This mindset was best epitomized by Greta Garbo, who proclaimed, "I want to be alone."
Today, things are different. Modern day stars want to be one of us, and how best to show it than by dressing like us. With the exception of the Academy Awards extravaganza and similar galas, the stars dress down not only on screen but off.
Take jeans, for instance, that unisex staple of just about everybody. Writer Daniel Akst was quoted in a local op-ed piece as saying that wearing blue jeans "is a manifestation of the modern trend towards undifferentiated dressing in which we all strive to look equally shabby." Movie stars are frequently spotted hanging out in jeans, designer of course.
But it's not just the jeans. The Elaine character on Seinfeld was seen in several episodes in her workout clothes. The Friends cast dressed like our friends. Paparazzi lucky enough to catch a glimpse of starlets often snap them in sweats and sneakers, with a baseball cap to top off the ensemble.
That same mentality applies to their male counterparts, who join the rest of Americana dressed for success in a pair of frayed jeans, with holes in all the right places. And does Charlie Sheen of "Two and a Half Men" even own a pair of long pants? In the episodes I've seen, the answer would have to be a sad "no."
Dressing down is not only cool, it's de rigueur for the rich and famous, who want to stand out, yet at the same blend in.
Although I miss glam, I have to admit that many of the stars of yesteryear were not only beautifully packaged on the outside; mentally, they were all wrapped up in the most important person on the planet, themselves.
But the stars of today, who could set off the sirens of the fashion police, have a greater concern than that of coordinating colors: caring about the less fortunate. I am reminded of the French saying "Noblesse Oblige." Nobility (today, position and money) carried with it an obligation to help those in need. So many giving, caring celebs come to mind: Angelina and Madonna, who have put adoption of Third World babies in the spotlight; Sarah Michelle Geller, involved in Habitat for Humanity among other non-profits; Matt Damon, who founded the H20 Africa Foundation to raise awareness about the need for clean water in Africa; and the granddaddy of them all, Jerry Lewis, whose work for Multiple Dystrophy has helped untold numbers of his Jerry's Kids get the help they need.
Maybe these stars want to dress like the rest of us, but in their desire to give back to the world, they are head and shoulders above the crowd.
Barbara Russek is a French teacher and freelance writer. She welcomes comments at Babette2@comcast.net