Not cool. I’m guessing that most regular readers of this column did not watch last night’s Video Music Awards, commonly known as the VMAs. But the event has become a cultural touchstone, especially for America’s youth. The only good news is that between the outrageous clothes and the outrageous behavior, it’s possible that the VMAs have “jumped the shark” and become a parody of itself that more and more people will find not worth watching. Ratings for last night’s show won’t be out till later in the day, but last year’s show drew 6 million viewers, about half the number of the year before.
Theatre as God. Julie Harris, one of the great actors of the 20th century, died of congestive heart failure at her West Chatham, Mass., home on Saturday. She was 87. Harris won five Tony Awards for best actress in a play. She was honored again with a sixth Tony, a special lifetime achievement award, in 2002. She also had juicy movie roles as co-star in East of Eden, in 1955, and Requiem for a Heavyweight, in 1962. Christian moviegoers may remember her as Corrie ten Boom’s sister Betsie in the movie The Hiding Place. Betsie’s faith in God was the centerpiece of that movie. Alas, Harris turned her art into her god. “The theater has been my church,” the actress once said. “I don’t hesitate to say that I found God in the theater.”
Box office doldrums. The summer blahs continue at the box office. A weak weekend allowed Lee Daniels’ The Butler to retain its first place position even though it brought in only $17 million. The raunchy, R-rated comedy We’re The Millers came in second with $13.5 million. The good news for that movie, though it’s bad news for the rest of us, is that it has so far grossed more than $90 million, against a $37 million budget. Those numbers virtually guarantee that such degrading fare will continue to mar our movie screens. The Conjuring, which got a boost from evangelical viewers, fell to 16th place and took in only $2 million this weekend, but that brought its total to almost $132 million, against a budget of just $20 million. That’s box office success by any standard.
Well lived. I was struck this week by a story from Dayton, Ohio. A husband and wife, married for more than 65 years, died in a nursing home on the same day earlier this month. Harold Knapke had been in failing health, but according to the couple’s daughter, he did not want to die and leave his wife Ruth alone. He finally succumbed on Aug. 11, and Ruth died 11 hours later. They had a joint funeral Mass, with granddaughters carrying Ruth’s casket and grandsons carrying Harold’s casket. The cemetery procession stopped at the farm house where the couple raised six children. The current owners surprised the family by flying a flag at half-staff.