Lee Wochner: Writer. Director. Writing instructor. Thinker about things.


Old stars

Friday night at the gym while exercising my triceps on a machine, I found myself looking at a colorized episode of The Dick Van Dyke Show. “Looking at it” because I wasn’t precisely watching it — instead, I was admiring how much better colorization had gotten over the years (it looked quite natural) and wondering how I felt about this and whether or not it would be somehow better if it were still in black and white. Had this colorization damaged the original, or had it opened up its possibilities for younger generations?

Just then, a voice next to me said, “Excuse me, sir, are you watching this?” It was the fit young black woman from the front desk. 

“Oh, no,” I said truthfully, determined not to show my awkward delight at her nearness.

“What is this?” she asked.

“It’s the Dick Van Dyke Show,” I said. “Colorized.” 

She looked at me blankly.

“It used to be in black and white. From the 1960s. That’s Dick Van Dyke,” I pointed. “And that’s Mary Tyler Moore.”

No recognition.

“And that’s Carl Reiner. I met him a couple of times. He died recently.”


“He was a major comic actor. And movie director.”

No recognition.

“Rob Reiner is his son.”

Nothing. Now I understood how my father felt when he would point out old timey actors from the 1800s or something in old movies.

“Rob Reiner. He was a major sitcom star, does a lot of character acting on TV still. Pretty significant film director….” I was fishing, then landed on it! “He directed The Princess Bride.”

“Oh! Cool!”

Finally, even though separated by 35 years, we had a shared cultural understanding. She asked if she could change the channel.


While I resumed my workout, she flicked around every single one of five thousand and six channels, not finding anything. 

“See, this is why I canceled cable,” I volunteered. “Five thousand and six channels, and still nothing you want to watch.”

Finally she landed on something. It was a cooking show with a celebrity chef — probably the celebrity chef.

“My company is doing a project that involves him,” I said.

“REALLY?!?!?” she asked in a hushed but exclamatory tone. “Are you going to get to meet him?” 

“Maybe,” I offered honestly. I mean, there were no such plans, and he wasn’t flying in for his bit, but one never knows, right?

“I love him!” she said. 

Catching a glimpse of myself in a mirror, I increased my weights. Now I had somehow assumed my father’s role in pointlessly naming faded stars from distant ages. Meanwhile, I regularly use the Shazam app on my phone to identify every song that gets played at this gym.

This encounter also cleared up for me a mystery:  why every single TV in the damned place is always tuned to the Cooking Channel. Until now, I’d thought it was intended as perverse motivation:  that we should look at all these fattening foodstuffs and work out harder! 

Now I realized it was the reflection of a young woman’s ardor.

8 Responses to “Old stars”

  1. Adrian Burns Says:

    I realise, Lee, that the following comment does not address the main thrust of yet another entertaining and thoughtful piece. I just wanted to add that, over here, for several years now our terrestrial channels, particularly BBC1 and BBC2 have been dominated, during the week and at primetime, by cooking and baking programmes. Over a period of days/weeks people compete to be top chef/baker.

    And, as soon as the endpoint is reached another variation follows! Ordinary folk with a cooking knack up against one another. Professional and/or star chefs vie for the number one spot. People who are already celebrated as personalities, up and coming or faded celebrities in need of a boosting wash of limelight, all racing against the clock to ensure a meal is cooked to time, perfection and, preferably, with a huge seasoning of palette-stunning originality.

    I do not even watch them but when I switch the TV on, around 8.30-9.00pm weekdays, as sure as (lightly-whipped) eggs are eggs there will be one of these cooking frenzies. Thank goodness I record ‘Fargo’ on a Sunday evening.

    Nevertheless, good luck with your celebrity chef.

  2. Adrian Burns Says:

    Ps. I’m making a spinach and chickpea curry tonight.

  3. Lee Wochner Says:

    Boy, that sounds swell!
    Boy, that sounds swell!

  4. Adrian Burns Says:

    Hah, hah, hah. The rice will certainly swell. The spinach, however, will wilt!

  5. Kelly Carruolo Says:

    I love Cooking Shows even the British ones. I wish I knew exactly who The One was. I really despise one of the Ones. Lol

  6. Joe Stafford Says:

    Ever since Graham Kerr left the TeeVee, I get queasy at the sight of photographed or televised cooking. Graham who ???

  7. Dan Says:

    Are you quite sure the young lady wasn’t just trying to come on to you?

  8. Lee Wochner Says:

    Oh, that’s a given. Especially after she personally greeted me last night when I checked in.

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