I'M STIFF ON MY LEGEND
After the Nicole Kidman and Lauren Bacall spat, some of the press, in a nice way, agreed with Lauren that Nicole is not a "legend" - though for different reasons, and they suggested that Lauren could have been kinder.
I am no film buff, but even if I were, I think I could remain objective...I truly think that when it comes to legends, the baton has been handed to 'rock 'n' roll'.
Since the 1950's, the number of film "legends" has dwindled seriously, while the number of legends in music has increased dramatically.
In both fields, there is a distinction, sometimes a narrow one, to be made between a great artist and a legend.
I don't feel fully qualified to define what makes a film "legend", but I think it's something along the lines of being an icon, their image transcending reality (sometimes doing a little sci-fi or fantasy might go a long way, but I'm not for one minute going to suggest that every Lexx, Buffy or Superman is a legend!). Acting skill is not necessarily a be all and end all, as some might cruelly suggest Marilyn Monroe proves. In their own way, the actress Pia Zadora and the director Ed Wood could be considered minor legends!
When it comes to music a combination of several qualities help build a legend... these include charisma, sex appeal, being "out there", pushing boundaries and unfortunately, sometimes early death helps too.
On reflection... cinema was relatively young in the 40's and 50's when many of the people we take for granted as being legends came to the fore. The sheer number of films made these days means that it is harder for an actor to break through to legendary status as opposed to "good actor" and/or "risk-taker".
Similarly with music, while some of the legends were consolidated by the 80's - be it recognition of their power, influence and achievements by that time, or by their death. As time passes, because there is less new ground to be broken, the only newcomers who are even close to legendary status could be Jeff Buckley and Kurt Cobain - and both sadly this is largely due to their untimely deaths.
So here's my round-up -
The Film World
More recent stars... to be or not to be a legend?
Jane Fonda - possibly (for Barbarella!)
Clint Eastwood - definitely
Harrison Ford - good actor / action hero, but legend, no
Sidney Poitier - possibly
Woody Allen - possibly, but maybe for the wrong reasons!
River Phoenix - possibly, but only due to early death
Dustin Hoffman - good actor, but legend no
Steve McQueen - possibly
Lee Marvin - possibly
Yul Bryner - possibly
Christopher Lee - possibly
N.B. Like I imply I try to remain objective... I'm a bit middle of the road when it comes to films, and my favourite actors are Clint Eastwood then Harrison Ford.
If I was more into films, I would have listed many more recent actors, but very few would scrape past possibly to being an actual "legend".
Music - where the modern legends are to be found!
The Beatles (as a group as opposed to individuals)
The listing of many by only name is not affectation, simply an illustration of the power and allure of that name, how it has become part of the vocabulary. Again being objective... I don't like Jagger much personally, but I believe he has just about attained legendary status.
The almost legends - and what qualifies them (above the filmstars of our generation!)
I am not actually anti-reform when it comes to classic groups. But I do realise it eats into their legendary status.
Worse, I feel guilty about that morbid criteria... would somebody be a legend had they died young or younger?
Legends runners up.
For: Murder charge / heroin OD.
Against: Murder charge / heroin OD.
For: Keeping Sex Pistols career short (originally).
Against: Reforming them. Dodgy image since the 80's.
Against: Reforming Blondie. Some creditable music and shows, but keeps them in great artist league more than legendary league.
For: Love. "All the snot is caked against my pants". Other weird lyrics and wilder actions.
Against: Reforming Love, with no original members. - Superb music, but see above.
Led Zeppelin (as a group as opposed to individuals).
No comment - I don't like them much!
For: Iconic image / image changes.
Against: Dodgy films.
For: "Mars bar", suicide attempts, living on the street etc.
Against: Nothing, but the "For" category keeps her as "semi-legendary".
For: The Velvets. The Grouchiness.
Against: The Grouchiness. The career longevity... he didn't die young as some thought he might!
For: Classic 60's and 70's material. Shot by dad.
Against: The weaker 80's material. More Great Artist than Legend?
For:Bullying dad. Wacko Jacko.
Against: The child abuse accusations?
For: Outlaw image, being "out there", musical breakthroughs.
Against: Not dying young?
For: Prolific - hitmaker for Sinead and The Bangles amongst others.
Against: Too prolific!
Mark E. Smith
For: Loudmouth. Prolific output. 5 books related to The Fall, good for a band that has never made the Top 20 (apart from the album chart).
Against: Still, and always will be, a cult.
For: Awesome solo albums. CSNY. Buffalo Springfield. Getting sued for being "unrepresentative" of himself!
Against: Cranking out the same tune (he cheerfully admits to it!). Greendale (not bad, but not great).
For: those album covers (The Stooges, Funhouse, Raw Power in particular, The Idiot, Lust For Life). The music on those albums. The walking on the audience, the self mutilation and other stage antics, the Cheetah coat.
Against: Reforming The Stooges? Nothing musically wrong with that... they sound great, and nobody has cried sell out (yet). However, it edges him more towards great artist than legend.
September 24 2004.