not in our stars, but in ourselves
Fred Astaire, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul. Fred Ah-stare: the tip of the teeth kissing the lower lip as the mouth opens to sigh, then to hiss as the tongue taps the teeth and to sigh again. Fred. Ah. Stare.
He was Fred, plain Fred, in the morning, standing five feet nine in one sock.
He was Guy Holden in The Gay Divorcee.
He was Lucky Garnett at the Silver Sandal.
He was Frederick Austerlitz on the dotted line.
But in my heart he was always the most charming, delightful, romantic, wonderful, beautiful gentleman I’ved ever had the privilege to behold.
What else can I say? I just love him. He’s the male ideal that I understand no one can fulfill, perhaps not even Austerlitz himself. He was the twentieth century’s greatest dancer, as crowned by everyone from Barishnikov to Nureyev to Michael Jackson. He was also one of its greatest gentlemen, as confirmed in countless stories from countless Hollywood types.
If you want to nitpick and ask why this scrawny man with a receding hairline is my #1 hot slice of all time, all I can tell you is that my mistress’s eyes are nothing like the sun. Who needs objective beauty? Besides, Astaire makes everything – courting, dancing, getting dressed, making a drink – look absolutely effortless. You can always see the mechanics at work with Gene Kelly, but with Fred – even though there are infinitely many stories about how hard he worked, and what a fierce perfectionist he was, it looks like dancing is no more difficult than walking for him. It’s like he’s throwing it away, like he has billions in store and can easily toss off a few million here and there – an aristocrat of physicality, as it were.
Furthermore, something I absolutely love about him is that he was a superior dancer to many of his partners. Not all, mind you, but many. When you watch his dances – with Ginger Rogers, especially, who was rather rough when they started together – it’s very easy to look mainly at his partner. I don’t think it’s just because the women are pretty and wearing fancy dresses. I think it’s because he specifically choreographed in order to highlight his partners’ various strengths:
Ginger’s wonderfully supple back…
Cyd Charisse’s phenomenal legs…
Audrey Hepburn’s delicacy and ballet training…
And he let them shine. When he’s dancing with someone, he never showboats – as Gene Kelly does in his partner dances, I feel – even if he could easily have danced circles around her. That kind of generosity and lack of vanity is rare in anyone, and especially in a true Hollywood legend. What a guy.