Welcome to DU! The truly grassroots left-of-center political community where regular people, not algorithms, drive the discussions and set the standards. Join the community: Create a free account Support DU (and get rid of ads!): Become a Star Member All Forums Issue Forums Culture Forums Alliance Forums Region Forums Support Forums Help & Search


(53,795 posts)
Mon Nov 12, 2018, 04:01 PM Nov 2018

My 4 amazing 80-something friends became my 4 amazing 90-something friends. Now there is one left

Nothing lasts forever. Nothing like losing Stan Lee to bring that one home (again).

I was privileged to have four incredible friends in their 80s ten years ago. All were well-known in some circles, unknown in others. Most people in Hollywood had no idea who Helen Thomas was. Most people in Washington didn't know who Theo Bikel was. Some people in both knew who Ruth Westheimer and Stan Lee were. Plenty of Americans had no clue who any of them were.

In the last five years, I have lost three friends in Helen Thomas, Theodore Bikel and now Stanley Lieber (Stan Lee). Ruth ("Dr. Ruth" ) Westheimer, the youngest of the bunch is still going strong at 90 (she just turned 90 this year).

But basically, I hear the voice loud and clear: you're next. It's your turn now to do start making a difference (if you aren't already) or not. Time WILL pass you by, but with the car door open, and slow enough for you to hop in for the ride. I know I will never come anywhere near leaving as lasting an impact on history as Helen, Stan, Theo or Ruth. I'm not even going to try.

But I don't want to feel I stayed completely on the sidelines, either. Harry Truman used to quote an epitaph he saw on a gravestone in Tombstone, Arizona: "Here lies Jack Williams. He done his damndest." Helen, Theo and Stan certainly "did their damndest." If I can convince myself I did, too, then it will do. It will have to.

I usually don't get this sentimental. Sorry about that. Losing Stan hit home, even if I knew it was coming.

22 replies = new reply since forum marked as read
Highlight: NoneDon't highlight anything 5 newestHighlight 5 most recent replies
My 4 amazing 80-something friends became my 4 amazing 90-something friends. Now there is one left (Original Post) DFW Nov 2018 OP
You've had some marvelous friends... I bet they passed on their strength and longevity to you... hlthe2b Nov 2018 #1
You're right, I do treasure the memories DFW Nov 2018 #2
Ah, my dear DFW, I feel your loss keenly. CaliforniaPeggy Nov 2018 #3
Well you certainly DID get carried away! LOL!! DFW Nov 2018 #5
Thank you for sharing your perspective and story of your friendships... Moostache Nov 2018 #4
When I saw the news about Stan Lee I thought of you. panader0 Nov 2018 #6
The problem is that they're all just as mortal as the rest of us. DFW Nov 2018 #7
How Mr. Lieber became Stan Lee Lionel Mandrake Nov 2018 #8
What qualified as "slumming" changed even more. DFW Nov 2018 #9
I wouldn't dare to speculate on that. nt Lionel Mandrake Nov 2018 #10
No sane person would, these days. DFW Nov 2018 #11
So very interesting, your friends IRL have enriched us all bigbrother05 Nov 2018 #12
Except for Helen Thomas, whom I had known since my age was in single digits DFW Nov 2018 #13
The Great Equalizer...remembers all of us equally pbmus Nov 2018 #14
Truer words were never spoken DFW Nov 2018 #15
You already made a small difference in my life! steve2470 Nov 2018 #16
Thanks, Steve! DFW Nov 2018 #17
No apologies needed, DFW... we know how tough it is to lose friends ailsagirl Nov 2018 #18
My dad loved to listen to his Theo Bikel album, an early memory for me. JudyM Nov 2018 #19
I miss Theo, too DFW Nov 2018 #20
My dad had a fabulous voice, and loved to sing and listen to Russian folk songs JudyM Nov 2018 #21
Many old cultures have a wealth of wonderful old folk songs DFW Nov 2018 #22


(101,341 posts)
1. You've had some marvelous friends... I bet they passed on their strength and longevity to you...
Mon Nov 12, 2018, 04:09 PM
Nov 2018

SO, you will be the survivor, along with your friend Ruth, for many many years to come.

I'm sorry for your loss, but appreciative of your memories.

BTW, I think of Helen often... I soo wish she might have had time to move past the unfortunate misunderstandings of her last period as a journalist and again be heralded as the marvel that she was. RIP, Helen.


(53,795 posts)
2. You're right, I do treasure the memories
Mon Nov 12, 2018, 04:14 PM
Nov 2018

There are still others that I know that will (I HOPE!!) be around for a long time. One of them turns 70 on Saturday. He never made it to high office, and yet had a huge (positive) effect on the history of the USA in the last 15 years. I hope there will be others. I hope to get to meet them. Beto is high on my list. I never get to El Paso, but he is no stranger to Dallas.


(148,936 posts)
3. Ah, my dear DFW, I feel your loss keenly.
Mon Nov 12, 2018, 04:20 PM
Nov 2018

For those of us who know and cherish you, you have indeed made a difference in our lives! I think you know what your gifts are, but indulge me a little, OK?

Great story-teller, both spoken AND written.
Considerate, thoughtful.
Generous, kind.
SO MUCH FUN TO BE AROUND! (excuse me, I got carried away!)

You have definitely done your damndest! And then some. And it's quite all right to get (and be) sentimental. The best people do it.


(53,795 posts)
5. Well you certainly DID get carried away! LOL!!
Mon Nov 12, 2018, 04:48 PM
Nov 2018

My wife is the one it's fun to be around. I just tag along..........


(9,895 posts)
4. Thank you for sharing your perspective and story of your friendships...
Mon Nov 12, 2018, 04:33 PM
Nov 2018

A powerful image was given to me a few years back...take a row of circles numbered 1 through 36 and add columns of circles 1 through 30, so that you have a grid of 36 x 30. Next realize that each circle in that grid represents 1 month in a 90 year human lifespan.

It really is something to behold when you print it and look at YOUR life in your hands like that...

Living your damnedest is different for everyone; but we can all define that for ourselves, and strive to meet the definition every month that we have...or every week....or every day....or every hour...until the "dash" is granted its end point. Born 02/05/19xx -

RIP Stan Lee, a fantastic journey and life well-lived.


(53,795 posts)
7. The problem is that they're all just as mortal as the rest of us.
Mon Nov 12, 2018, 07:28 PM
Nov 2018

That is an easy thing to forget. Guys like Stan are like parents--you think they will always be there--until they aren't.

Lionel Mandrake

(4,072 posts)
8. How Mr. Lieber became Stan Lee
Tue Nov 13, 2018, 11:56 AM
Nov 2018

Stanley Lieber chose the pen name Stan Lee to use temporarily, while he was writing for comic books. He intended to use his real name later, when he got around to writing serious fiction. That way readers of his serious work wouldn't know that he had ever been slumming.

Of course, plans change.


(53,795 posts)
9. What qualified as "slumming" changed even more.
Tue Nov 13, 2018, 12:07 PM
Nov 2018

If they were to return from the dearly departed together, who do you think would get the biggest crowd, Stan or William Faulkner?


(53,795 posts)
11. No sane person would, these days.
Tue Nov 13, 2018, 12:30 PM
Nov 2018

Republicans are safe, of course, except for the few of them who work at memorial sites in Oxford, Mississippi, none of them have the slightest idea who William Faulkner was.


(5,995 posts)
12. So very interesting, your friends IRL have enriched us all
Tue Nov 13, 2018, 03:58 PM
Nov 2018

Always remember saving my pennies/nickels to buy comics. Was reading Stan's work that preceded the Marvel days (Tales of the Fantastic) and bought each issue starting with F4 #4. Even remember the change to 12 cents.

Knowing we are ~ the same age, can only imagine the pleasure and honor of having such friends.


(53,795 posts)
13. Except for Helen Thomas, whom I had known since my age was in single digits
Tue Nov 13, 2018, 04:11 PM
Nov 2018

I met these people knowing I was about to meet a legend. And whaddya know, they are just people like the rest of us. That made it really easy to get along with them and become friends with them. Obviously, they are not people you run into at your local Chinese restaurant and hang with, but fate has chosen my path to cross with them, and I am richer for having enjoyed their friendship. I just think of them as Helen, Theo and Stan. Theo's wife, Tamara (now also gone), once told me that being married to Theodore Bikel was two different things. At home or in private, or with friends, he was just her husband, Theo. As soon as he had a performance, he was "the legendary Theodore Bikel."

Stan was a prince of a guy, loved being out with normal mortals (wrote me an email once to say hi to my "fabulous females," meaning my wife and daughter, who garnered almost as many "who are those two?" stares at lunch in BH as he did). He even tolerated, the first time I met him, my asking him how he came up with the idea for Spider-Man. I had to have been the 1 millionth person who had asked him that. But at heart, he remained the wise-cracking jovial Jewish boy from Brooklyn that he always must have been.


(37,454 posts)
16. You already made a small difference in my life!
Wed Nov 14, 2018, 10:23 AM
Nov 2018

I know I keep talking about it, but I will forever have the very best memories of Dusseldorf, that ancient castle, our lovely dinner and my wonderful visit with you and MrsDFW. Of course, we are both on the same page politically, but you were very gracious in answering my questions.

I know Peggy visited you too, and I am sure she feels the same way. Most of life is in the smaller things: the wonderful friends, the loving spouse, the grateful (hopefully) children, good health, a great meal shared amongst friends and family, and enjoying the smaller joys and comforts of life.

In my book, you're a great guy. You've obviously lived a very successful and accomplished life, taken many risks which have paid off very well, and met very interesting people. Let's say, to be theoretical, you were to try to enter politics seriously. You and I both know what a blood sport it has become (or always has been) in the USA and maybe Germany. It would probably take a toll on your marriage and maybe even your health.

At any rate, I think before you pass from this earthly plane, you can feel good about what you've done and who you are. Yes, I have gotten pretty sentimental myself, but a man such as you deserves every word I've said and more. MrsDFW and your children are quite lucky, indeed. All the best, DFW.


(53,795 posts)
17. Thanks, Steve!
Wed Nov 14, 2018, 04:17 PM
Nov 2018

We were privileged to have both you and Peggy (and spouse) visit us this year. My wife is, of course, my secret weapon. You saw that first hand. After they made her, they threw away the mold. She keeps me on an even keel, and reminds me on a daily basis that no matter WHAT is out there to bother me, none of it matters a whole hell of a lot as long as she's there for me. That may sound exaggerated and overblown, but both you and Peggy know I am understating things if anything. If I lose her, I'm a useless wreck.

If I were to enter politics at age 66, I'd be both an idiot AND a train wreck. My cardiac issues and my wife's (currently dormant) cancer would probably do both of us in within a very short time. I could handle the crazy schedule, I've had that since I joined the work force 43 years ago. I'd probably enjoy the diplomatic challenges, too, and would love representing my country addressing so many other countries in their own languages, so as to let them know that America knows and cares where its own people came from (mimi nejué Kiswahili kidogo!). There was even some minor buzz about ambassador to Germany under president Hillary. I probably would have passed even if it HAD been offered, but would have been flattered by the offer, and I know the Germans would have loved an American ambassador fluent in German and with a German wife. They sure as hell hate the dork Trump sent them.

We are also feeling a little pleased with ourselves as far as our daughters go. The elder one (in NYC) is now engaged, and the younger one is juggling (successfully) being the hotshot youngest partner in her international law firm and mother of our first grandchild (May 25th) at the same time.

So, we may not have invented Spider-Man, interviewed JFK, given sex therapy advice to the Vietnamese or played in films with Humphrey Bogart, like my four friends listed above. But I think we qualify as having "done our damndest," given the cards we were dealt. I see so many anger-fueled posts on DU these days by posters who obviously lack things fate has yet to grant them. But there are also posts by people who are content with where they are, and what fate has given them. There is a quote in Shibumi on the subject that I'll have to dig up for you. We hope to have a LOT of those "smaller things" you mention left to enjoy, and hope to have friends like you and Peggy for a long time to come.


(29,050 posts)
19. My dad loved to listen to his Theo Bikel album, an early memory for me.
Fri Nov 16, 2018, 01:44 PM
Nov 2018

Just checked out his wiki page, what an interesting guy... including:

In 1959, Bikel co-founded the Newport Folk Festival (together with Pete Seeger, Harold Leventhal, Oscar Brand and George Wein). He performed a number of recorded duets with Judy Collins at various festivals and on television.[27][28] During an interview, when asked what inspired him to become involved in organizing a folk festival, he said that music was "one of the few answers to the chaos that we have," one of the only recourses to avoid social strife, and a means of giving youth hope for a better world.[11][29]

Bikel viewed then 21-year-old Bob Dylan as one of those young performers expressing emotional and social messages through song.[29] In 1963, Bikel joined Dylan, Seeger, Peter, Paul and Mary and Joan Baez for the festival grand finale as they sang "Blowin' in the Wind" and "We Shall Overcome."[30] Following the festival, Bikel, Seeger and Dylan traveled to a planned rally in Greenwood, Mississippi to perform Dylan's newly-written song, "Only a Pawn in Their Game," about the man who murdered Medgar Evers, head of the NAACP.[30] Originally, only Bikel and Seeger were scheduled to perform, but Bikel wanted Dylan to go with them. He told Dylan's manager, Albert Grossman, "I'll tell you what. Buy him a ticket. Don't tell him where it came from. Tell him it's time to go down and experience the South."[31]

Friends are blessings, and you’ve had some stellar ones. Live happy.


(53,795 posts)
20. I miss Theo, too
Fri Nov 16, 2018, 03:56 PM
Nov 2018

One time, we were at a New Year's party, and he told me "get your guitar, we are going to sing Russian songs!" So I got my guitar, he got his, and we found an empty conference room at the hotel, and we did duets of Russian songs. The audience consisted of my wife and two janitors who had no idea who Theo was or what we were singing, but recognized the caliber of singer Theo was. It was a concert that might have filled a mid-sized concert hall (because of Theo, not me!!). He just decided to honor me on the spot and do some duets with me. A guy who did films with Humphrey Bogart and Alan Arkin, and who sang with Dylan!!
Theo was a true "mensch," as indeed was Stan.

In times gone by:


(29,050 posts)
21. My dad had a fabulous voice, and loved to sing and listen to Russian folk songs
Fri Nov 16, 2018, 04:03 PM
Nov 2018

I put Natanya Davrath on heavy rotation during his last months earlier this year. He was close to 97. He and Mom and I lay on his hospital bed singing together on his last night with us.


(53,795 posts)
22. Many old cultures have a wealth of wonderful old folk songs
Fri Nov 16, 2018, 04:10 PM
Nov 2018

Be it Irish, Spanish, Navajo or Russian or whatever, they somehow have an ageless ability to connect with future generations centuries later.

Latest Discussions»The DU Lounge»My 4 amazing 80-something...