By JOHN HARLOW | Editor-in-Chief
The first thing you need to know about “Gelson’s-adjacent” resident, writer and raconteur Richard Angres is that he does not get hungry. Literally. As in he has to remind himself to eat.
His father had the same genetic trait, maybe something to do with the appetite-inducing hormones leptin and ghrelin, a goldmine for the dieting industry if they could work out what was happening here.
It has helped him tough it out around the world on strange days such as when he hitchhiked around North Africa in pursuit of a South American girlfriend who had been smitten by the number one TV star in Morocco.
Unfortunately, as he discovered in the desert, he still gets thirsty.
But, metaphorically and professionally, a lack of appetite—the need to devour—has its drawbacks in the American Dream.
It may be the reason why it’s only today, after a lifetime of writing for Hollywood coin, that you are hearing about Angres’ forthcoming book.
It’s about living well after the age of 70.
Hopefully, if his friends have their way, he may be promoting it online in hip-hop rhythms.
But over the next few weeks, before Angres turns 71 in November, there will be a flurry of activity from the man who jokes he may be septuagenarian but “I still have a bloom of middle age.”
First up is the self-published book: “There is an enormous market for children’s books, so why not for our second childhood?” he mused.
It’s called “Holding Together The Falling Apart,” with the punny subtitle (devised by his wife, Kate, who is in marketing, of course) “Age: The Final Frontier.”
The 26-page opus will be promoted through all the modern interwebbery: There is the YouTube channel, and the social media bursts on Facebook, Instagram and other pretty places.
The mission? To teach Palisadian baby boomers—and there are more Palisadians aged over 80 than between 20 and 35—not only how to survive but thrive in a fragile-boned new world where every step can trip one into disaster.
This is not the third act of a career imagined by his Chicago parents back in the 1940s (not that their courses were orthodox either).
His mother emigrated from Egypt and was working for the OSS (the predecessor of the CIA), creating one of the first Egyptian-American dictionaries when the Second World War ended.
She was out of a job, but was still cajoled into giving a visiting Harry S. Truman a belly dance when he arrived in town.
The Midwesterner’s reaction to such exotica is, sadly, not recorded in the presidential library.
She and Angres’ father, a leading Freudian psychoanalyst, only married to make him legitimate and started the amiable divorce an hour later.
But they both expected for young Angres to follow in middle-class steps by becoming a lawyer.
He went along until at college he visited a law library, saw the massive rows of massive volumes of law (“and with such thin, thin paper, too!”) and fled to follow his passion: to write in Hollywood.
Like the vast majority of would-be movie luminaries, he had moments of opportunity, but, as he said himself, grinning, there were a lot of near misses, “not quite rights” and unfortunate timing.
Angres started out in film distribution and then, in the mid-1970s, worked at Universal Pictures until he got distracted by the prospect of making a film on location about the “aisha” or “aicha.”
She is a North African djinn (or genie) who, perhaps aided by boasting the legs of a goat, seduces men with a terrifying vision of sex.
She ruins them for any other female.
It could have been epic, or epically terrible.
But like 99 percent of film projects, it fell apart. It was an everyday industry curse that afflicted many of Angres’ writing projects—or else the djinn has a long reach. Mixed fortunes followed.
There was the day he persuaded a famous but work-shy scribe to share an idea, which he instantly pounded out as a spec submission.
Exhausted, he left it in the host’s typewriter.
Ten minutes later, a producer called in to see the famed scribe, grabbed the script and made a fortune.
Then there was the Mariah Carey picture, scuttled when her management changed. “It would have been great,” he mourned, but not too deeply.
Not that he would have held onto the money: A New York Times article highlighted him as an exemplar of bad economic decision-making.
He confessed that, in 2008, at the depth of the Great Recession and the scriptwriters strike, he was bulk-buying lilies and orchids at the farmers market.
“On the one hand, I get a very good price,” he said. “On the other hand, I spent perhaps 10 times as much on flowers as is appropriate for a man of my means.”
Maybe the lack of acumen, ambition and appetite means he is not too bruised by fickle Hollywood fortunes?
Yet as an often-uncredited writer and script-doctor, and occasional extra (with full beard in a Yul Bryner picture), he has earned the respect of directors from Oliver Stone to Dutch-Palisadian Paul Verhoeven and made enough money to buy in town a dozen years ago.
And since then, this book, like a silver seed, has been growing inside him.
“Holding Together The Falling Apart” is a light-hearted shower of advice for the aging multitudes: If you are under 70, says the back page, you needn’t bother reading it.
On the other hand, it’s always good to prepare.
The large-format paperback is around 10 suggestions, expressed in a short of poetic rhythms—and in big type, naturally.
Its co-opted narrators are the celluloid gods of the Greatest Generation and early baby boomers, from Robert Mitchum to Gene Kelly to Bette Davis who warned: “Getting old ain’t for sissies.”
But the creature at the heart of this encroaching darkness is a superhero alter ego called Old Man.
“Other superheroes come to him for advice,” Angres explained. “His powers aren’t what they used to be, but he’s got a big new one: the power to know better.”
The first suggestion, or rule, is “no sudden moves.”
Angres, who has lived a fit and outgoing life, recalled learning this painfully, when moving fast caused parts to fracture and snarl up, and old wounds from younger years returned in fierce renewal.
“Taking your time is a good way to avoid being sliced and diced by the rough edges of this world,” he warned. “Don’t fall down.
“As we get older we don’t necessarily get wiser, but we can learn to do things better. From now on, it’s all an extended Japanese tea ceremony, a constant refinement, and polishing of every move and gesture.
“Try to [approach] everything with elegance and dispatch. It takes practice, but you’ve got the time.”
Rick lives his own adage: “Be cheerful while you are alive—you’re still alive, make an effort.” Although he admitted he is not making any promises about his state of mind after that.
The book is a work in evolution: The version that has been on sale on Amazon since last month is almost sold out and about to be revamped with a different cover. Yes, a second edition already.
It will be promoted on a Facebook page, born three years ago as “Rick’s Tips.”
What will be on the promotional lifestyle YouTube channel?
Mostly advice on staying alive or possibly staying balanced on an exercise ball—the one exception to his rules about staying elegant and graceful. There may be puffing ahead.
And the rapping? “That’s what my friends want me to do, to put out a rap version on YouTube or something. But one thing you learn, as you grow golden, is that some risks are worth taking and others? Well, that’s the wisdom of age. Don’t stress about them.”
Meanwhile, at 70, the delightful Angres is happy to have found harbor in Pacific Palisades, or, as he calls it, America’s sweet spot—a place where he does not have to make any sudden moves.
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