Sex and the 1970 City

While playing Netflix Stream of Consciousness over the weekend, we landed on the PBS broadcast of the 2006 revival of Stephen Sondheim’s Company. If, like us, you’re totally unfamiliar with it, the premise is simple: all the married friends of a 35-year-old bachelor are badgering him to tie the knot.

The revival staging is very sophisticated — the actors all double as musicians — which befits the intended sophistication of the show itself. But right from the start, there is, for us at least, a curious disconnect:

What’s so unusual about a 35-year-old bachelor?

We suspect this was not a question anybody asked in 1970, when Company debuted. That same year would see the premiere of another culturally groundbreaking sophisticated comedy, featuring a career-minded 30-year-old woman who was neither married, a widow, nor even in a steady relationship, with a spunky habit of tossing her hat in a busy Minneapolis intersection. Times were changing.

But times hadn’t yet changed, which dates Company as much as Midnight Cowboy — it’s a snapshot of a moment, addressing an issue that seems adorably quaint four decades on.

Especially when you consider that Dean Jones — Disney’s Dean Jones — played the bachelor in the original. One day you’re sharing the screen with a VW Beetle, the next day you’re singing Sondheim.

What’s personally jarring for us is that a 35-year-old bachelor in 1970 could have gone to school with our parents. It’s like an inverse thirtysomething, which hit while we were in our twenties. We’re forever in America’s Demographic Doughnut Hole — neither Boomer nor Gen X, neither Vietnam nor Gulf. Even Dazed and Confused, which should have been our movie, missed us by a year.

Not that we mind. We’ve always been slightly out of sync with our country, which means we’ve never been the target of brute-force cultural or political pandering. We’re always watching the party from the corner of the room, amused, bemused, knowing that if chairs get thrown, we’ll still probably get hit.

Kind of like, well, the characters in Company. “We are suddenly at an age where we find ourselves too young for the old people, and too old for the young ones,” says a drunk woman late in the show, cognizant that their moment is also out of sync with the culture. “We are the Generation Gap.”

The term is now also quaint, but the Generation Gap never went away — we’re still living in the world the Boomers created, still fighting the culture war they started. In fact, if you do the math, the old expression is easily updated:

Never trust anyone over seventy.


I waited ’till I was in my early 30’s to get married. I was 35 when my daughter was born. That means that if she follows in my footsteps I’ll be 70 before I see my first grand child.

This morning I was working out at the gym and saw a pair working out that were clearly father and son. The man must have been in his late 50s and the boy was in his mid to late late teens.

Waiting as long as I did to have kids allows you to put a life together, to figure out where you want to be, before bringing children into your life. But I am also envious of the sixty year old grandfather with the forty year old son and twnty year old grandson.

There’s a sense of familial continuity that I fear we over-educated late-to marry, late to procreate miss out on.

For me it’s more the parents of said bachelor yelling at him to tie the knot.

Part of the problem was my own ineptitude with the opposite sex and my wasting five years of my life chasing after a woman who didn’t love me.

@Serolf Divad:
If I ever get married and have kids, I’m going to be the really old man with the 30 year old.

To be fair (sort of) the couples that I know who started off with kids early have a harder time.

@Serolf Divad: Married at 36, first child at 40. They say that parenting is all about living to see your grandkids (because biologically it’s proof that your genes have survived), but for me it is hoping that I live just to see the kids into adulthood.

@Nojo: I think “Dazed..” is as close to our generation as we’ll get – and I’ll take it. “Freaks and Geeks” was off by a handful of years, but similarly close.

When I was an anti-poverty lawyer in the 1970s, I met my first 35 year old grandmother.

Many classmates started having babies their 2L year. I guess that put some in their mid 20s. I think that first summer of seeing women defer childbearing until they made partner influenced them to start sooner rather than 8-10 years later.

Babies? You pick them up on vacation, right?

Maybe Mr. ‘Catt and I will get around to that in our late 40’s.

There’s another GOP debate tonight — Too soon? — and I’m debating whether to run an open thread. Will anybody be watching?

@Nabisco: Former Creative Partner (b. 1958) and I (b. 1959) saw Dazed when it came out. We agreed that Linklater (b. 1960) was a year behind us in high school. Totally different.

On the other hand, Slacker nailed Eugene. Only it was Austin. Everybody thought he had discovered a Lost Tribe.

@nojo: Okay, it’s now official: Debate open thread at 7:45pm ET. Mainly because (1) there might be fireworks, and (2) I found a premise.

@nojo: This is the only blog I know of that comments in a postmodern fashion on it’s own creation.

A blog about writing a blog about politics, sometimes.

@Tommmcatt Be Fat, And That Be That: Imagine Sisyphus Blogging.

Option B: The Hope/Crosby road movies were pomo before their time.

@nojo: Mean Girls was a couple of years behind me, but I see in it a fairly accurate caricature of that era of high school, if not specifically my own experience. Same with Can’t Hardly Wait and 10 Things I Hate About You, which were more on the nose, chronologically speaking. (I can’t, however, think of anything memorable that came out during my senior year, which is the nexus for most of those stories.)

@mellbell: Oh, and American Beauty. Not squarely in the coming-of-age genre, but those aspects of it appealed to me.

@mellbell: What about Heathers? Did that land anywhere near you?

@nojo: I was in pre-school when it came out, but upon viewing it in high school I liked it.

@Tommmcatt Be Fat, And That Be That: Mr. Cub has told me that we’re going to remain childless, which I don’t know exactly how to feel about.

@Tommmcatt Be Fat, And That Be That: Stay tuned for my months-long anguish over whether I want to run an Oscars open thread if Eddie Murphy’s hosting.

@mellbell: Easy Rider, McCabe and Mrs. Miller, Salt of the Earth. I was 18 when Woodstock happened, but didn’t go — I had a goddam job.

@Dodgerblue: Speaking of Easy Rider, I finally got Head on DVD last week.

Yes, it’s the Monkees movie. But it’s the Monkees movie written by Bob Rafelson and Jack Nicholson. With a cameo by Zappa.

Dope not included.

@nojo: the Monkees once opened for Hendrix.


I could be wrong, but I thought Hendrix opened for the Monkees. Anyway, this could be amusing:

Promo – Hendrix and the Monkees

Bumper Sticker of the Week, on a Mini Cooper: “Actual Size”.

@Walking Still: Good find. Looks like I had it backwards.

On the thread theme, Nojo and I are fairly close generationally. I was born 1957. However, I firmly attached myself to the Boomer coattails (hippie subcategory). It worked for me, even though it leaves me wide open to mocking for my prehistoric musical tastes.

I can see how it would not be easy for anyone younger to maintain this identification. While I was in college, punk rolled in with a vengeance, and one of its big selling points was rejection of the boomer/hippie generation.

I was never big on movies as a generational signifier, although I certainly connected with Dazed and Confused. For me, it was records – particularly Who’s Next and Quadrophenia. It is interesting to note in retrospect how thematically significant disillusionment is to both records.

Ms. Still and I did push back on the delayed parenthood concept. I was 28 when we had our first, and it was a good choice for us. I see my 40-something friends and colleagues dealing with baby and small child issues, and am glad that those challenges are behind me.

@Walking Still: Postwar American culture was on speed, and a year can make all the difference. Back in the early 90s, I was involved in a creative project with some folks just a couple years younger than me — Obama’s age — and they were militantly Gen X.

If I tried to pass for Gen X, I’d be the sad old guy at the disco.

@nojo: Screw you guys, I am totally Gen X. I still haven’t gotten over turning thirty, much less forty, and how am I going to wear ironic hipster old guy pants when I am actually an old guy? When did candy ravers become quaintly old-fashioned? At least you guys can pretend to be Baby Boomers and wear tie-die. I bet Dodger does all the time. Also: Birkenstocks. Criminal, I know, but you could get away with it.

@nojo: I think Gen X, in the original book, was supposed to refer to those of us born between 1960 and 1964, but somehow it came to mean those born after 1964, the “official” end of the baby boom. I’m in the gap that doesn’t remember Howdy Doody/Mickey Mouse Club OR Sesame Street.

@Tommmcatt Be Fat, And That Be That: Also: Birkenstocks. Criminal, I know

You take that back, or I’ll file a complaint with the Human Rights Commission.

@Mistress Cynica: But that’s the problem: 1959 doesn’t fit into anything. Except Alaska and Hawaii statehood.

@nojo: There’s a place in Gitmo for people like you, Nojo. The Hague, if you wear them with socks….

My dad falls in the Silent Generation/Baby Boom gap, and I fall in the Gen X/Millennial gap, so, aware as I am of the cultural significance, this all ultimately passed me over.

@nojo: @Tommmcatt Be Fat, And That Be That: Oregonians (and former Oregonians) have a constitutional right to wear Birkenstocks–with socks if need be.

@Tommmcatt Be Fat, And That Be That:

I agree, identifying as a Boomer makes getting old much easier.

I’m still waiting for tie-dyed Depends to hit the market. Otherwise the world seems prepared to accept me in my decrepitude, which makes it pretty easy for me to accept it in myself.

@Tommmcatt Be Fat, And That Be That: The Hague, if you wear them with socks….

Silver Lake is gonna love me.

@nojo: My Dodger cap. You may be able to walk to Chavez Ravine from your new digs. Lots of room to stretch out these days. I’m going to see Nabisco’s Pirates later this week — a totally meaningless game between two teams going nowhere.

Noje, darling, major puter blowout here and not in the good way. Just caught up with your posting re Company.

First. Glad to see you’re living your life as a gay man.

Re Bobby. That’s a question EVERYBODY asked. Clearly it’s about a gay man and his married friends. However, since all the writers are so deep in the closet even the moth balls have melted (why S Sondheim can’t come out and say he grooves on cock now, in his 94th year, is beyond me. George Furth was given to taking ‘girlfriends’ to Venice. Hal Prince… well, he’s married with children and is a very nice man but please!) The version you saw is not the original book and is P.U.T.R.I.D. As in BLECH! There’s even a scene in which one of the husbands comes on to Bobby so we can have a fucking scene about how gay he ‘snot isn’t.I saw Strictch, et al, in the production designed by Boris Aronson, cozies by Theonie Aldredge, Lighting by Tharon Musser. Musical staging by Michael Bennet!!!!!

I also saw it with Jane Russel. Which I think just made my gay rating shoot up past Catt’s.

Many of my people consider this to be Sondheim’s best show. It could be his most airborne, apart from the dreadful final number for Bobby which kind of squashes all that’s gone before under great steaming globs of Rogers/Hammerstein glop. For those of you around here who still present as straight, Sondheim was sort of adopted by Oscar Hammerstein – and if you don’t know who that is you should maybe think about joining the Marines – who taught him the ‘art’ of lyric writing. Just so we’re all up to speed, of the three collaborators in the writing of a musical, book music lyrics, the lyrics are the easiest to do and the lyricists usually cause the most trouble. Where was I? Oh yes. Hammerstein insisted that there always be a Climb Every Fountain song to put the button on their shows. Sondheim imbibed this at his mentor’s teat: it accounts for any number of phony songs in his shows. But none more phony than Being Alive, a paean to holding notes way past their due date.

This show was thought to be the ultimate tribute to the closet till Follies came along two years later. Both shows featured wry, cynical looks at married life by men who had no clue what it was about. Company was great fun, dazzling Broadway swank. Follies is the most astonishing show I ever saw, and also one of the most boring. Others in my team reckon this to be Sondheim’s best score. Other than those who say Sweeny Todd is his masterwork. However you slice it they’re all long ago, when you still went to Joe Allen after the preview and they kept the big table at the back for the production meeting.

Dean Stockwell played about three weeks then left. The part was played by Larry Kert who, alone in the annals of Broadway, was awarded a Tony on a takeover.

@Benedick: There’s even a scene in which one of the husbands comes on to Bobby so we can have a fucking scene about how gay he ‘snot isn’t.

That did seem odd for 1970. Although I liked the sight gag that opened the scene.

@mellbell: I was born in 1981, so depending on who you ask, I’m either a very young Xer or the oldest of the Millenials (and where is the cut off for that?). Which all in all means that I actually remember going to school and having to do research in the pre-Internet days — and using an old fashioned card catalog at a school that was way behind the times.

@Benedick: I like Multitudes of Amys, which was apparently cut for the US version but played in the West End.

@Benedick: Is the Stritch version available on DVD or whatnot?

@rptrcub: Exactly. Up to a certain point in my childhood, card catalogs, rotary phones, dot matrix printers, etc. were all still in wide use. It seems to me that the defining characteristic of Millennials is having no memory of those things.

@Dodgerblue: It’s called the original Broadway cast. iTunes has it.

You, I love,
and you I love,
and you and you and you,
I love and,
you, I love, and
you, I love, and you and you and you,
I love, and..
Here’s some,
Lots of COMPANY..!

Elaine’s performance is legendary. In the premiere she was part of the ensemble. Since when her number has been given the 11 o’clock spot. It was never thus before. I still have no idea what the fuck that number is about but when she went “Aaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhlllllllllllllllllllllll drink to that!” it was pretty grand.

@Tommmcatt Be Fat, And That Be That: There’s a reason it played London (not in the original production, I saw that at Her Majesty’s) because they’re assholes. There are at least three other numbers that do the same thing. Best unknown Sondheim score is Anyone Can Whistle.

Done with Lee Remick and Angela Lansbury.

Anyone Can Whistle,
That’s what they say:
Anyone Can Whistle
Any old day,
It’s all so simple,
Relax, let go,
Let fly!
So someone tell me,
Why can’t I?


@nojo: So what’s the status on the possible move to El Ay County?

Heathers and Say Anything [LOVE! Jon Cusack! my movie star boyfriend!] both came out my senior year of H.S., and are a good snapshot of the late ’80s, but my heart belongs to the John Hughes/Molly Ringwald oeuvre. I wore out my cassette tape of the soundtrack of Pretty in Pink and The Breakfast Club as well as the VHS tapes of the movies.

I’m confused about how this movie thing works. Are they movies that came out when we were in high school or movies that were similar to our high school experience? If the latter, Heathers and The Virgin Suicides (esp the record burning scene minus the comic relief) came pretty close.

@JNOV: My general take is that my tiny intergeneration has rarely been culturally pandered to — which is actually a Good Thing, since I don’t know how I would react if marketers figured out how to punch my buttons.

So, for example: If there’s one movie that nails my high-school experience, it’s Wayne’s World — even though it wasn’t set in the ’70s, rocking out to Queen in an AMC Pacer is my alpha and omega.

@SanFranLefty: November is the tentative month for a relocation to Hipster Lake. But nothing’s settled yet.

@JNOV: I would say it’s movies that are either (a) set in the then-past and meant to resonate with people who came of age at that time (like Nojo’s example, Dazed and Confused) or (b) set in the then-present and meant to resonate with contemporary youth (let’s go with, I don’t know, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off).

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