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Can we see some ID?
Seeing Jack Nicholson's maniacal grin at Sunday night's Oscar ceremonies reminded me of a conversation I rehash with a friend from time to time.
The hypothetical question is this if you owned the most exclusive bar in the world, who would be on the guest list? For argument's sake we'll say that anybody, living or dead, is eligible for admission. And the criteria is simple only the absolute coolest people in the world can attend.
Now, I'm not talking "cool" as by pop culture's definition; people like Tom Cruise and Mike Myers need not apply they've got their merits, but they don't cut it here. I mean cool in the real sense of the word. Timeless cool. Charismatic cool. Nicholson cool.
So who gets to come to this bar? For starters, how about standbys like Frank Sinatra, Robert DeNiro and Bono. They'd probably be sitting in a corner somewhere, chain-smoking and swapping stories, while Jackie Onassis sips idly on a cocktail waiting for someone interesting to come along.
Then there's the more accessible, albeit impossibly cool people like Kevin Spacey (the new Nicholson, they say), Michael Stipe (a bit eccentric, but in a good way) and Julia Roberts (the whole Lyle Lovett thing notwithstanding). Even better, Tim Robbins and Susan Sarandon get to come together.
Of course, the criteria involves maintaining integrity over your entire life. So, while Marlon Brando may once have been cool, he's left out in the cold, due largely in part to his recent transformation into a blubbering moron. Similarly, Hugh Grant doesn't have a prayer anymore.
Gracefully overcoming adversity later on in life, however, only makes you a stronger candidate. Therefore, Muhammed Ali, possibly the Coolest Man Alive in his prime, makes it in with flying colours.
Johnny Depp gains admittance, a decision based solely on his demeanour. Brad Pitt gets the boot for overexposure and for dating Jennifer Aniston. Miles Davis, Pierre Trudeau and David Letterman come together. Elvis Presley, Tony Blair and Jay Leno stay in and order a pizza. Gwyneth Paltrow, in. Meryl Streep, out. Lady Diana, in. Barbara Streisand not a chance in hell.
Harrison Ford, Samuel Jackson, Billie Holliday and Stanley Kubrick all arrive in the same car. When Tom Arnold tries to bribe the doorman, Sean Connery kicks the crap out of him, steals his wallet and buys a round of drinks for Morgan Freeman, Grace Kelly and Al Pacino.
As for Nicholson, he's got his own room. It's kept well-stocked with liquor, breakables and golf clubs. Once and a while he peeks into the main room, mutters something unintelligible, adjusts his sunglasses and grins that grin. Everyone else remains in awe.