You look terrible — ashen-dark around the eyes. You look sad. Of course you do, you’re dead.

You didn’t always look like that. Do you remember when you met her? Or him? Or them?

You were young and vibrant. You graduated at the top of your class and were picked as the MVP on your team, or selected as the Rose Queen, or Cherry Blossom Queen or … Dairy Queen? Or maybe just the most fabulous queen in the fraternity? It’s OK. You were wonderful, breathtaking.

So why in hell did your family or friends or worse, the stranger in charge of obits, put that picture of you in the obituary section?

Do you want people remembering you like that?

That was the you they avoided at the end, when they crossed the street when they saw you coming, because you coughed all over them. You were the grouch who complained about your vision or knees or prostate, and asked them over and over if your hair was thinning or if the bags under your eyes needed fewer clothes.

They loved you. But you frightened them and reminded them that they too were finite beings.

So here’s what you have to do, and do it right away before the gaunt creature in the black robe with the scythe texts you.

J.P. Devine in his younger years. Photo courtesy of J.P. Devine

In my earlier days, I co-managed a book store in Beverly Hills that was frequented by the almost-famous, currently-famous and way-past-famous, whose faces still stirred memories in the hearts of fans everywhere.

These were the faces that still burned from the lamps of Technicolor, who graced the pages of fan magazines and tell-all gossip tableaus.

They would come in and browse and gossip. But now and then I would notice certain groups that would stand back in the memorabilia section, where we kept the big picture books of Hollywood greats, not just the actors, but directors, producers, cinematographers and designers. Anyone, in other words, who would surely pop up on the screen in the “In Memoriam” part of the Oscars.

I remember stars like Jack Lemmon, Gregory Peck and Fred Astaire drifting by me on Rodeo Drive as they grew older. Their faces on the screen at their deaths magically showed none of their physical decline. There was Peck’s “Atticus” dark-haired attorney, Astaire’s youthful dancer and Lemmon’s smiling C.C. Baxter from “The Apartment.”

It’s no secret in Hollywood or New York that the gilded rely on their publicists, who work with the Academy to provide “soft focus” pictures for the media.

That’s the secret. None of the famous faces want to think about that. Most leave it up to their families, who almost always pick one of the youngest and happiest, free of the blemishes of skin and soul and heart.

So what do I do? Here I am long gone and forgotten by everyone, except a few old girlfriends in New York and Hollywood.

I’m told that the old shot of me on the “Upcoming Young Talent” wall at the Screen Actors Guild office in Hollywood has long faded and been removed. In fact, the wall itself is history.

I was never famous enough to make the big screen memoriam finale that plays out in purple light, as some star sings or plays the violin and friends and fans weep. So be it.

J.P. Devine in his younger years. Photo courtesy of J.P. Devine

One of my sons-in-law, a Hollywood publicist, has been pressured into promising to sneak a photo into the LA papers with some fabricated items that will enlarge my resume.

But what of the local papers that land on the porches of my neighbors and onto the cold news racks in the market? Other than a couple of gasps and usual comments:

“I thought he died long ago.”

“Boy, he really let himself go.”

“J.P. J.P. who?”

This week, I set about selecting a few pictures to add to my obit, and I’m down to two of my favorites, which I’ve sent to my editors for their convenience. I wish them, and myself, luck.

Quickly, go pick your pic, before it’s too late.

 

J.P. Devine is a Waterville writer. 

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