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Commentary: When you wish upon a star

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True story: When I went to a new hairdresser several years ago, maybe even over 10 years ago, by way of explaining how I wanted my hair trimmed, I said, “It’s supposed to look sort of like Lauren Bacall.”

The hairdresser was at least a generation younger than I am, and replied with the same sincerity of purpose, “Who’s Lauren Bacall?”

So now, while I’m waiting for an appointment, I leaf through the photos of various hairdos and select one that has the swoop and length I want. I show the hairdresser the picture and hope for the best, but I have never again brought up Bacall.

But it isn’t just that she embodied the hairdo, and it wasn’t just that she had Bogart. The thoughtful interviews and film clips of the past few days have showcased her remarkable talent and stage presence.

Chances are that if entertainment artists made it to my “Gotta invite them to lunch” shortlist, they would have me listening to memorable, even important, advice. Often in interviews, for instance, performers allude to the necessity of knowing your lines and being on time, the hard work of work. Even from “What’s New,” the radio series I wrote and hosted, I know that being part of the media is not about sitting in the green room munching bagels.

Whether or not you are a fan of short lines of star advice, here are a few that are posted on the internet:

“You’re only human. You live once and life is wonderful, so eat the damned red velvet cupcake.” – Emma Stone

“Sometimes you can have the smallest role in the smallest production and still have a big impact.” – Neil Patrick Harris

And often attributed to Woody Allen, "Showing up is 80 percent of life." It's sometimes quoted in an offhand, even cynical way about whether what you do matters at all. In “On Language” on August 13, 1989, New York Times columnist William Safire quoted a letter that Allen wrote about what he must have meant:

"My observation was that once a person actually completed a play or a novel, he was well on his way to getting it produced or published, as opposed to a vast majority of people who tell me their ambition is to write, but who strike out on the very first level and indeed never write the play or book. In the midst of the conversation, as I’m now trying to recall, I did say that 80 percent of success is showing up."

My hair needs trimming this week. Maybe along with showing the hairdresser a picture that has the swoop and length I want, I’ll tell her that it is supposed to look something like Lauren Bacall.

Linda Chalmer Zemel also writes the Buffalo Alternative Medicine column. She teaches in the Communication Department at SUNY Buffalo State College.

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