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Put out to pasture

If you're dreaming about the day that you can retire and think that it's going to be nirvana, forget about it, for two reasons; there won't be any dough left in the Social Security coffers and it's overrated anyway. A better idea would be to find a job that you really like and keep doing it forever like rock stars, actors, New York peanut vendors and shoe shiners.

For example, it's obvious that singers must love their careers because it's harder for them to give it up than Mom's chocolate chip cookies, French fries and midnight bowling. Not to mention that greatness is harder to obtain than sunshine in Seattle and seafood in the Sahara, so who can blame them if they white knuckle their careers. Because even if Eddie Van Halen can no longer sell as many albums as Britney Spears, he can still tell a better story with his guitar than she can with her mouth and that'll never change.

You see, unlike Elvis, the average singer/musician seldom makes it big until they reach their 30s and by that time they've already put in 20 years of waiting on tables, burning the midnight oil, bouncing on buses, stepping on toes and deflecting rejection like a duck feather does a downpour.

They work their whole life to get to the point where the public begins to worship them and then suddenly, we expect them to quit because they're not quite what they used to be. It happened to Frank Sinatra, Johnny Cash, Michael Jackson and even Slim Whitman. And why should they quit? Because we see them as getting old and that reminds us that we are too, so we chase them off the stage by not buying tickets.

Quite frankly, I might pay to see Paul McCartney when he's 80 if he can still hit the high notes. And the Rolling Stones will play forever because they're really just a southern blues band hiding behind a rock and roll facade. And we all know how long those southern blues guys go on; forever, or until they peel the guitar from their dead, wrinkled hands, and why not? You don't throw out a fine wine once it's been aged to perfection do you? Nor do you swig it like it's a cold beer on a hot day.

Times change, music changes, stars age and so do you and I and thus they need to readjust their performances and we need to readjust our listening and viewing habits because we can't expect older entertainers to act like 60-year-old teenagers and they shouldn't have to contend with gray-haired fans acting like out of control adolescents. In fact, there's nothing worse than having to watch somebody try to act half their age, like the 70-year-old female Woodstock veteran I know who now lives in a Beverly Hills convalescent home wearing college garb with wrinkled arms and facial skin stretched tighter than a trampoline tarp.

Musicians are musicians, performers are performers, and celebrities are celebrities but the bottom line is that they're doing what they love to do and what else would you have them do? Become bus boys, oil company executives or newspaper publishers?

So support them because they depend on you and always have. Some of those millions that they have tucked away in bank accounts was the lunch money, beer money or gas money that you sacrificed as a young person for when they would finally come to your city. And that's OK because they've given you hours of listening pleasure for free at parties, bars and at home while you were cleaning the kitchen, showering, sweeping out the garage or playing Twister.

And yes, while they stockpiled millions over the years they also generated untold millions for others with their concerts, albums and profits that helped to build that new arena in your city and gave you a job and other people jobs and other benefits that you don't even realize. So when they go away so does your indirect benefits and the profits of promoters, stage hands, T-shirt vendors, security personnel, parking lot attendants, city and state tax collectors, music companies and the policemen who jail those drunken concert goers.

So why do we care? Because if they can put Tom Jones out to pasture they can then kick cabbies out of cabs, truckers out of trucks, grocers out of grocery stores, and worst of all, cowboys out of saddles and that just ain't right.

-- Holten is the Dickinson State University Foundation's communications director.