Tuesday, August 11th, 2009...6:11 pm

I’m Not Old, I’m A Celebrity!

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Over at More.com, I opine today about How Not To Act Old in our celebrity-crazed culture. (Step 1: Don’t think there’s anything weird about a celebrity-crazed culture.)

But what about the aged celebrities themselves? Which ones are the most successful at Not Acting Old?

By Not Acting Old, I don’t mean that you go around showing off your abs, clubbing till dawn, and dating 22-year-olds. Yes, I’m talking to you, Bruce Willis.

Not Acting Old is not the same as Acting Young. In fact, trying too hard to Act Young is one of the surest ways to Act Old.

Rather, Not Acting Old means embracing all that’s best about getting older, while transcending age’s less, shall we say, productive aspects. Yes, it’s subtle, not to mention confusing, which is how I’ve managed to spin the subject out into a year-long blog and an entire book.

In case you’re still confused, here are some celebrities that Don’t Act Old, according to my definition:

2009_julie_and_julia_0031Meryl Streep — The thing I really admire about Meryl’s post-40 career is that she’s not afraid to take roles that make her look silly, unattractive, bitchy, or declasse — and to always look like she’s having fun doing it. That takes supreme maturity and self-confidence.

Quincy Jones — Okay, I’ve got a little crush on Quincy, who only seems to get cooler as he gets older. Is it the eternal good looks? The kids who are attractive, successful, and seem mentally healthy? The career that doesn’t quit? Whatever: Q has got it.

Martha Stewart — Martha was born 47, or 52: She’s one of those people who seems as if she’s not any particular age but inextricably herself. While I think the Martha-esque way of life often imprisons women, I love the way Martha herself purveys upper-class Wasp-y ways but never hides her own ethnic working class roots, promotes housewifery while living as a confirmed divorcee, and is unapologetically rich and successful again after her stint in the pokey.

Cindy Sherman and David Byrne — I link these two iconoclastic artists because, in fact, they have hooked up in the young sense of the word. Not since Stieglitz married O’Keeffe or Jacko married Lisa Marie has a more perfect pop culture couple been formed. Plus, now it will be much easier to spot the mysterious Cindy on the street.

Jane Campion — Sure, Clint Eastwood is a natural for the HNTAO award, but I’m taking points off because Clint’s a guy and, in Hollywood, that’s easy. Jane Campion, on the other hand, is one of only three women ever nominated for the directing Oscar and the first woman to win the Palme D’Or, for “The Piano.” But more important, she follows her creative gut, with the luminous “Bright Star,” based on the romance between the poet Keats and Fanny Brawne debuting in September. Next up: “Runaway,” based on a story by Alice Munro.

Alice Munro and Philip Roth — No, Alice and Philip have not hooked up, but I nominate them because they both came into their own as fiction writers when they were over 40, and because both continue to produce adventurous work that breaks the mold of what they’ve done before. Bruce Springsteen named Roth as one of his creative heroes for this quality.Chuck Close 1997

Chuck Close — Artist Chuck Close became more inventive, daring, and celebrated not only as he got older, but after he was paralyzed. For more on Close’s evolution as an artist and a man, see Christopher Finch’s brilliant biography, Chuck Close: Work.

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