One summer back when I was in high school, my older brother, probably tired of seeing me loaf around the house, loaned me his copy of The Bonfire of the Vanities. The book was massive, and while I have always enjoyed reading, I was a bit intimidated by it. Unnecessarily so, as it turned out. I started the book and couldn’t put it down. I spent every waking moment—and many when I should have been sleeping—reading the novel. I’d never seen a writing style like Tom Wolfe’s, so uniquely quirky and beautiful, and I’d never read a book that so captured the realities of the world. It tackled class, race, the media, and a host of other issues that made the book, though fiction, as realistic a portrayal of New York in the 1980s as you’d find in a textbook.
I’ve often struggled to explain to people why I admire Cary Grant. It’s easy to explain how debonair he was, how fashionable he was, how gentlemanly he was. But that just doesn’t seem enough. There’s something about him that makes Cary Grant more than a man, something that makes him an ideal. It’s something that, to this point, I’ve been unable to put into words.
Part of it is his sense of style. Even as we mark the 30th anniversary of his passing this November, his films, to say nothing of the article he penned for GQ, still provide stylistic inspiration. “I’ve purchased dozens of suits over the years and they all have one attribute in common,” Grant wrote many years ago. “They are in the middle of fashion.
Growing up, there were two things I really hated doing: sitting in the cramped backseat of the car and yardwork. Growing up as the middle of five children, there were two things I frequently had to do: sit in the cramped backseat of the car and yardwork. I would occasionally… okay, more than occasionally, try to argue my way out of both with my father. “Can’t someone else mow the lawn this time?” I’d ask, “It’s so hot outside.” Or, “couldn’t someone else take a turn in the back? It’s just so uncomfortable back there.” His response was invariably the same: “you could use a little less comfort in your life.” I hated that phrase. It took me a while, but eventually I came to understand what he meant by it. If I’d never mowed the lawn or done yardwork I would have missed out on valuable lessons concerning hard work and getting your hands dirty. Comfort, while enjoyable, is dangerous in excess.
Growing up I idolized Cary Grant, going so far as to pinch my chin in an attempt to mimic the cleft in his. Every family movie night I would offer a film starring Grant or one of his contemporaries. Who could turn down classics like Roman Holiday, The Philadelphia Story, His Girl Friday, or obscure but still great films like Thirty-Day Princess and Wedding Present? Reflecting back, I can’t help but think my decision to become a journalist must have been influenced on some subconscious level by those films, many of which were about journalism.