Today, all celebrities are more than 50 years old


Harry Harris brought up AARP, which reminded me of something I noticed on the way out the door this morning.

All of a sudden, all truly famous celebrities, all the big names, are over 50.

That hit me when I noticed the latest AARP magazine on our kitchen table, with Steve Martin on the cover. Of course, we all knew Steve Martin was old — he was white-headed when all the world was young.

But the more I’m exposed to this magazine — I never pick it up, but I do notice the covers — the more I’m convinced that everyone famous is now older than 50.

Look at the recent covers above and below.

  • Dustin Hoffman — We boomers think of him as the ultimate exemplar of youthful angst. If he made a move on someone Mrs. Robinson’s age now, she wouldn’t give him a second glance.
  • Bruce Springsteen — OK, I get it: Everyone called “boss” is a white guy over 50, right? Except in this case, he’s more than 60.
  • Michael J. Fox — Yep. This time Marty McFly has traveled way, WAY into the future.
  • Diane Keaton — OK, we saw this happening over the years. What can be said about it? That’s life. La-dee-dah, la-dee-dah
  • Kevin Spacey — Again, not surprising.
  • Dennis Quaid — I remember when “The Big Easy” came out, and a review called him something like “our best breezy young actor.” I’ll always picture him with that crewcut, playing the brash young Gordon Cooper in “The Right Stuff.”
  • Brad Pitt — OK, I’m not sure this was actually a cover. I think this was something AARP does when they’re calling out a celebrity for crossing the line. Anyway, I read something recently about him and other big-name actors not getting the great roles any more, as Hollywood turns away from big names and relies on interchangeable young actors named “Chris.” I’d link to the story, but I can’t find it now.
  • Kevin Costner — Remember the goofy, gawky gunslinger in “Silverado?” Now he might have to turn to playing the crotchety, grizzled prospector, à la Gabby Hayes.
  • Ron Howard — Opie! I see Opie on those reruns now and I think of my grandson — not someone old enough to be a grandfather himself.
  • Denzel Washington — We’ve watched him get gray, but did you know he’s 62?
  • Cyndi Lauper — Now you know why she keeps dyeing her hair those crazy colors. It’s not just to have fun.
  • Sharon Stone — Which, of course, is why you don’t hear about her any more.

Sure, there are some recognizable celebrities who are under 50. There’s um, Taylor Swift! And that little Bruno Mars guy. And maybe one or two others. Dave Matthews? Nope — he’s 50. All those superhero actors named “Chris” don’t count, by the way. A celebrity needs to stand out distinctively.

When I was young, not even the OLD stars my parents liked were over 50. Take 1965, which I have written about in the past as the most fevered time American popular culture (it was for me because I had just returned from years in South America without TV, and soaking up pop culture was like overdosing on a powerful drug — but I don’t think it was just me).

Dean Martin was 48. Frank Sinatra didn’t turn 50 until the end of that year, and he seemed ancient! Kirk Douglas, father of the now 72-year-old Michael, was only 49. James Garner, who was born looking like somebody’s dad, was 37. Nat King Cole, who died that year and whose daughter now graces the cover of AARP, was only 45.

While all the celebs we kids were interested in were in their 20s, if not teens.

Anyway, that’s the way I remember it. Your mileage may, you know…


48 thoughts on “Today, all celebrities are more than 50 years old

  1. Brad Warthen Post author

    Come on, y’all, I though somebody would comment on this one for sure. Y’all usually like the pop culture ones. This is sort of like a Top Five list or something.

    Maybe I should have framed it that way: Only Five Celebrities I Can Think Of Who Are Under 50.

    OK, let’s see… In no particular order:
    Taylor Swift
    Bruno Mars
    Those guys named Chris who are in all the superhero movies.

    Whew! That was hard! I was trying to think of recent cultural phenomena that I get into, and I though of Puddles the Clown — but it turns out he’s over 50, too!

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Maybe I should think in Dirty Old Man mode and list young actresses I’ve noticed in the movies or on TV.

      That would give me Rachel Weisz, Scarlet Johansson, Romola Garai, Amy Adams, and… um… I’ll think of another in a minute… Carey Mulligan!

      Most if not all of the cast of SNL is probably under 50, but I’m sorry, none of them is what you’d call a major celebrity the way the members of previous casts are. Not even Kate McKinnon.

      It’s hard thinking of young people who are major, major stars the way people used to be — thanks to the fragmentation of media.

      None of the people on any of the TV shows I watch work — Bosch, or Vikings, or Game of Thrones, or any of those things. In fact, it’s sort of a feature of the best shows on Netflix and Amazon that it’s about the writing and the acting, not about big names….

  2. Bryan Caskey

    James McAvoy – 38
    Ryan Reynolds – 41
    Leonardo DiCaprio – 42
    Christian Bale -43
    Ben Affleck – 44
    Ewan McGregor – 46
    Will Smith – 48

    And that’s just guys off the top of my head. You’re just not thinking very hard. Turn it over in your mind a bit.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Well… only one is under 40. I was thinking in terms of young.

      And only maybe three of those are stars on the level of Brad Pitt or Denzel Washington — Will Smith, DiCaprio and if you stretch it, Ben Affleck.

      OK, maybe Ryan Reynolds, who I remember as being the one who is NOT Ryan Gosling, although they look so much alike it’s ridiculous. And maybe Ewan McGregor, but what has HE done lately?

      McAvoy’s good, but is he a household name? And Christian Bale — meh. I liked him as the kid in Henry V

  3. Doug Ross

    The fact that you as an old guy don’t know who is famous under the age of 50 just confirms you are old not that they don’t exist.

    Emma Stone, Jennifer Lawrence, Chris Pratt, Natalie Portman, Bradley Coooper, The Ryans (Gosling and Reynolds), Kevin Hart, The Rock, Dave Chappelle, Katy Perry (100M twitter followers), Lady Gaga, Justin Bieber, Rihanna, Justin Timberlake, Britney Spears are all hugely famous.

    1. Doug Ross

      And we won’t even get into sports celebrities – Tiger Woods is bigger than all of the above. Tim Tebow by himself was worth 2000 fans per game home and away this season. LeBron and Steph Curry and Kevin Durant are huge.

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        I don’t count sports — and are you sure Tiger’s not 50? Seems like he’s been around longer than Denzel.

        How about politics? Name 5 Democrats who would be strong contenders for president in 2020.

        In 1967, that would have been easy.

        Admittedly, this is more of a thing about Democrats than a celebrity thing…

        1. bud

          It’s easy today if you’re paying attention. Just off the top of my head

          Corey Booker
          Julian Castro
          Joaquin Castro
          Tim Ryan
          Keith Ellison
          Joe Kennedy III
          Elizabeth Warren (Yeh she’s older but the question is who is a strong contender for POTUS)

          Not sure where you’re going with this Brad but you really coming across as pretty clueless. I’d just stop before you date yourself anymore. (And that’s from a guy celebrating his 61st birthday today)

          1. Brad Warthen Post author

            Oh, I think this is something I could prove, if I had the time and money for the research. It would involve polling people from all demographic groups, getting a sense of their recognition of a broad group of celebrities. I’m pretty sure the most widely acknowledged celebs would skew older than they would have, say, during the youth explosion of the 60s.

            Now if you went back further than THAT, famous people (except athletes) would start getting older again, I suspect. Youth wasn’t as worshipped then as it was in the 60s and 70s…

    2. Brad Warthen Post author

      OK, I know most of those. Emma Stone’s great. I don’t know who Kevin Hart is. And which of the many Chrises is Pratt?

      This isn’t just me being the old guy, though. I need to find that story I recently read about how Hollywood is abandoning the big stars to go with relative unknowns, like the Chrises.

      And the Chrises are a running joke. One of them did a big thing about it on SNL a few weeks back.

      And the fragmentation of media, leading to the fragmentation of celebrity, is ALSO a thing.

      Not just me…

      1. Doug Ross

        Yeah, I would expect that David Brooks, Ross Douthat, and George Will wouldn’t know Kevin Hart either.

        Are you aware of Carpool Karaoke? That’s a good cultural litmus test.

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          I’ve seen it, if it’s what I’m thinking of. Saw one with Lin Manuel-Miranda, and some more people in the backseat… Jenna from “30 Rock,’ and others…

        2. Brad Warthen Post author

          OK, I looked up Hart, and I’ve never seen anything IMDB says he’s “known for.” And you’re probably right that Ross Douthat hasn’t, either…

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        Dunno. Didn’t give a last name.

        Hey, I know who SHE is. Here’s how. Not long ago, I saw a little bit of Austin Powers’ Goldmember on TV, and remarked to my wife, “That is SUCH a beautiful actress. I wonder why I haven’t seen her in anything else?” My wife looked at me as though I were an idiot and said, “That’s Beyoncé.”…

      1. bud

        Jim Parsons and Kaley Cuoco are EXTREMELY famous. What you’ve done here is show your age. Nothing more. Sad.

          1. Brad Warthen Post author

            That’s California for you. You go to Hollywood, make it big, buy a nice house and fill it with nice stuff — then comes the next wildfire, or mudslide, or something, and it’s gone.

            I’m so glad all my ancestors decided to stick to the East Coast. It’s just not civilized out there…

            1. Brad Warthen Post author

              What puzzles me is why, given that I have their genes, they came to this country to start with. And they came when there was NO real European foothold in the English colonies — so, you know, no mod cons.

              Several of my direct ancestors — unrelated to each other — came over at the start of Jamestown, when there was NOTHING to recommend the place but starvation and frequently hostile Indians.

              I would have been all like, “Y’all want me to do WHAT?…”

              1. Claus2

                There was always death by dysentery to look forward to for those who didn’t starve or freeze to death.

                1. Brad Warthen Post author

                  Yep. I mean, I’m glad those brave people came over and got this country started and all, but I guarantee you I wouldn’t have been the first guy to raise his hand to volunteer to come over.

                  I would have wanted to wait until things were a bit settled, and there were cities.

                  And yet most of the ancestors I’ve been able to trace to the Old Country came over here in the 1600s. They were in a hurry, for whatever reason….

              1. Brad Warthen Post author

                It doesn’t make my house burn down.

                I’ve been watching, and enjoying, “Bosch” on Amazon. Bosch is an L.A. detective who lives in this fabulous (in the estimation of Californians) house jutting out into thin air on the side of a hill. If you fell off his porch you’d probably fall 50 feet or more. He affords this extremely desirable home because he was paid a lot as a consultant on a movie based on one of his cases.

                And every time I see the house I think, “Are you NUTS?”…

                1. Claus2

                  Ever heard of this thing called a hurricane? It’s like a bad rain storm with a never ending tornado thrown in. I don’t know the last time I’ve heard of a hurricane warning in the Republic of Kalifornia.

                  A friend of mine out in Los Angeles accidentally drove through the back wall of her garage. Had she succeeded in going all the way through she would have had a 100-200 foot fall. But she had a hell of a view.

        1. Claus2

          Says the 61 year old. I’m a few years younger and can’t name one other thing either actor has done. The guy who plays Leonard was on Roseanne but can’t think of anything else he’s done.

        2. Brad Warthen Post author

          Oh, and once you mentioned “Jim Parsons and Kaley Cuoco,” I recognized the names. I just couldn’t think of them. And that’s because they are NOT celebrities on the level of George Clooney or Emma Stone.

          I’m hip. I’m with it…


          1. Brad Warthen Post author

            My favorite Emma Stone: As Jules in “Superbad.” I get jealous of Jonah Hill because had there been a girl like her in high school, I definitely would have been in love.


      2. Claus2

        Big Bang Theory was good for about three seasons and then copied the script of every other decent sitcom that over ran it’s course… “let’s all start having relationships”.

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          Well, it was a great idea that worked for a season or so… the nerds getting to know, and try to deal with, and romance, the hot new neighbor.

          But after awhile, she’s not the new neighbor.

          I still think it’s pretty funny. Bernadette was a good addition. I also like the comics-store guy…

          Of course, I don’t know if I’ve seen any of this season. I mainly watch the reruns.

          Sometimes I DVR them to watch during a short (like 20-minute) workout on the elliptical…

  4. Harry Harris

    We live in a celebrity-obsessed culture. Our shallowness has deepened almost to the bone. Hits and followers on social media matter more than accomplishing anything. Being famous for being noticed or obnoxious is rampant. Gee, I hope being read on a blog post doesn’t count against my 15 minutes.

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