Sunday, January 7, 2018

you never live it down

A thought that occurs to me on looking at today's celebrity obituaries.

Here's actor and comedian Jerry Van Dyke. Can they mention his even more famous brother without implying that Jerry spent his career in Dick's shadow? They can. But they can't avoid naming the biggest embarrassment in Jerry's career: My Mother the Car. Almost as embarrassing is this personal admission: I watched that show.

And here's astronaut John Young. Not one of the biggest celebrities among the early astronauts, he was nevertheless an important pioneer in spaceflight. They mention he walked on the Moon, they mention that he was the first-ever commander of a space shuttle flight. But they don't mention that he was the first to fly solo in lunar orbit, or the second pilot ever to dock his spacecraft in flight (the first was Neil Armstrong). That stuff gets left out. So what do they expend more words on than anything else? The corned-beef sandwich. On the first manned Gemini flight (another pioneering checkmark for Young), he hid a take-out corned beef sandwich in his spacesuit pocket, and pulled it out in flight for his commander, Gus Grissom, to take a bite. Though this was not the first sandwich to fly in space, NASA threw a fit over crumbs floating around and getting in sensitive equipment. Young never lived it down. Even death did not release him.

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