I was struck by a quote I ran across from David Hockney a few weeks ago, and I haven’t been able to get it out of my mind because, for the first time in my life, someone was finally able to put words to the powerful and unquenchable thirst that motivates and drives my soul, a drive that, as time goes on, is becoming even more pronounced.
“I think I’m greedy, but I’m not greedy for money – I think that can be a burden – I’m greedy for an exciting life. I want it to be exciting all the time, and I get it, actually. On the other hand, I can find excitement, I admit, in raindrops falling on a puddle and a lot of people wouldn’t. I intend to have it exciting until the day I fall over.”
At 76 years old, Hockney has a show at the de Young Museum in San Francisco entitled “David Hockney: A Bigger Exhibition” that features 398 master works, most of which was produced in the last decade alone. “This is a man who is very active, very energetic, but we are in a period where every day counts, and I sense that with this desire to work all the time. However, the idea of old age and old age style is something that when you look at Hockney’s recent work, you’re sort of dumbfounded, because these look like the work of a very young man: energetic, exuberant, vital, optimistic” says Fine Arts Museum director Colin Bailey, in remarks based on art historian Kenneth Clark’s essay on aging and the arts.
It’s true that David Hockney is filled with the kind of relentless quest to stuff as much life and living into his remaining years as possible, and I know this, because I had the opportunity to spend and afternoon with David Hockney many years ago at a Boxing Day celebration at the home of film director John Schlesinger and his long time partner, Michael Childers.
Mr. Hockney had just completed a documentary after years of study to discern how the great masters produced such incredible detail in their portraiture, and he was eager to talk about his discoveries with anyone who would listen. I knew David Hockney’s name, of course, and I knew he was famous, but I’d worked in Hollywood for many years and met lots and lots of famous people, not many of whom were kind to a “complete unknown” such as myself.
I think the only other major figure who ever treated me with that sort of respect was the great film producer, Ray Stark, who I met at a Prince concert when I first started working at the William Morris Agency. I was sitting alone at a huge table waiting for the rest of the agent trainees and assistants I’d come with to return from the bar, when this man came sailing up to me to say hello. Once he realized he didn’t know who I was, he left for his table, just as my friends all arrived. One trainee asked how I knew Ray Stark and I said, “would you like to meet him?” Everyone looked at me like I was nuts, because at this point, a line of influential Hollywood A listers had lined up to pay homage to Mr. Stark. I got up and walked over to him, and said, “Mr. Stark, would you mind coming over to say hello to my friends?” He left the A listers standing there while he came over to my table to meet my friends, and while they were impressed that I “knew” Ray Stark, I was even more impressed that he treated me so kindly once I figured out who he really was.
It was the same with David Hockney. Shortly after we were introduced, he grabbed a mirror and my elbow and guided me to a wall near a huge floral display and proceeded to explain, at length, how the mirror enabled him to create a precise reverse drawing of the display, and how the great masters used mirrors to capture their subjects in such incredible detail. Later, when my uncle told me he had a rare copy of a book by David Hockney, I sent the book to Mr. Hockney to have him sign it for my uncle, and he did.
When I read his quote about money and an exciting life, I couldn’t get it out of my mind, because that’s exactly how I have felt since I was ten years old. I have wanted more money than I have ever had, because I have wanted the kinds of huge adventures I thought being wealthy would afford, but I am old enough now to realize two things; I am on the “other side” of the years I have left to cram as much living as I possibly can into a single day (and I do), and that not having the kind of money I have always wanted to go on a safari (for example) or stay in a five star hotel just because I could, or to make the dreams of people I run across every day of my life who have far less than I do come true, because I have the money to do it (which is as much a part of the adventure as sky diving or weeks spent on the Orient Express) is one of the reasons I have had the adventures I have had in the first place.
I have had to get very creative about how I live my life because I don’t have a lot of money, and paying attention to things like the bright flash of red I saw in my yard yesterday as a male cardinal darted past, or waiting at the corner of 81st and Central Park West in the freezing cold for the Macy’s Parade to start, is all part of the wonderful adventure of my own remarkable life.
I will never stop striving, never stop reaching for the stars, never stop challenging myself to drink in every moment I possibly can, even when I complain that I don’t have enough or the things that I want aren’t happening fast enough to suit me, but I have come to embrace the fact that my incredible impatience to stuff as much as I can into a day is all part of my charm. I don’t have forever and there is still so much to be done. The time to live, is now…..
For more information on the David Hockney exhibit, which is in San Francisco through January 20 at the de Young Museum click this link.
Now get out there and play…..