Once again I witness people “taking the Fifth” on television. The Fifth gives us all a right that we may rarely, or never, use in our lives — and may be a right that we do not always trust and respect in others, perhaps with reason. The schoolboy who is asked brusquely by his teacher “Did you do this?” will not find taking the Fifth as a way to get out of answering. Of course, there are things that should not be asked: A lady certainly may rightfully take the Fifth if you crudely ask her birth year. But we best know the Fifth publically and primarily as a means used by law-breakers to dodge having to reveal their heretofore-unadmitted misdeeds. The law doesn’t require you to “tattle on yourself,” therefore God knows the number of sins that the human race carries to its grave. One of the stranger human qualities is the irrepressible urge to confess publically to imaginary sins. For reasons that are weird and psychologically driven, all manner of factual personal information is frequently disclosed. Often people tell true things about themselves that no third party could be motivated to invent. Using the Fifth to prevent self-incrimination can often, by implication, be as damning as blabbing out the naked truth. The characters of many fascinating figures in the artistic and political world are all the more attractive for their eternal secrecy. Remember Greta Garbo and her constant, “I want to be alone”? What Greta was hiding — no one knew except maybe John Gilbert — and he died!
We need oil, but we don’t drill our own copious underground oil. We send money to Brazil so that they can drill oil. Then we borrow 44 percent of the money at high interest to pay them for their oil! Our oil stays underground! Quite logical, nicht wahr?
A Saturday morning occurrence I wonder if you have shared: Two guys are on the radio chatting away. One is telling the other about a magical medicine to order from some place out West. The other guy asks him all about what this wondrous product does. The stuff is remarkable all right — it cures anything from sore muscles to all kind of diseases and afflictions I’ve never heard of. And if I order one bottle right away, they’ll send me a second one free. I guess that long ago I should have ordered some of this stuff, but I’ve never gotten around to it. It’s amazing that I’ve stayed alive!
Last night I dreamed again a version of the same dream that terrifies me many nights. I am in my dressing room in a great opera house, costumed, made-up and all ready to go. The director is saying to me,
“Roney, don’t worry about it. You’ve done this role dozens of times.”
“Yes,” I say, “but the last time was 50 years ago, and now I can’t even remember the name of the piece.”
“Oh! It’ll all come back to you,” he says, walking out jauntily and leaving the stage door wide open for me to go out and do my thing…
Harvard’42—Distinguished Prof, Em.—UCF
2004 Fla. Alliance for the Arts award
(Assisted by beautiful wife Joy Roney)