beautyI remember seeing Jacqueline Bisset one morning at Heathrow Airport. She was in front of me in the security line, far enough ahead so that as we snaked along, winding back and forth, we came face to face a row a part.

Our eyes met and she knew that I knew who she was. I smiled and she smiled back at me. That subtle Bisset smile erased, for the briefest moment, the creeping age that hung around her.

Her smile was both alluring and innocent at the same time. A quality she has always held for me of lusty sexuality mixed with a kitten playfulness.

This quality was still with her, but now the lustiness was muted by the draping of years. Her facial skin was loose and hung a bit from her chin and neck. Her eyes were deeply wrinkled and puffy. Her hair, too, was less than robust, brittle and thinning, dyed a mousy brown. To be fair, we both had just come off of a transatlantic flight and it was early morning.

She was smartly dressed in a checked blazer with a vee-neck cashmere sweater underneath. She wore knee-length boots of brown suede over still very nicely shaped legs, with socks even higher than the boots. Near the end of the line, she got hot and removed her blazer. Her figure was still shapely and it was obvious that she had taken care of herself as best one can in the battle with time.Old Young 2

I was moved by seeing her for some reason, to see how the years wear us all down. Here she was, a rather big star, a sex symbol really, making her way through the security line alone. No fanfare, no entourage. No status, other than that of a matronly lady having her carry-on searched.

I woke up thinking of her today with the voice of Ellen DeGeneres in my head at the Oscars praising youth as the only currency that Hollywood values. True enough perhaps, but Ellen seemed to relish her insults too casually for my comfort. Not to mention the fact that she lives in a glass house herself and should take care with her rock-throwing.

And so should I as I reflect on that distant morning and my own judgmental eyes. What a fool I was. Before me stood a beautiful woman brave enough in spirit and strong enough in confidence to be who she was in full view of the world. The manufactured faces on Oscar night were rather scary, weren’t they? Liza Minnelli and Kim Novak paramount among them.

Jac very youngJacqueline was nothing like that. She was real. She is real. Real beauty.

She was held up by security for a secondary check of her bag. I thought the guard may have recognized her and wanted to get closer look; but as I got right next to her, he seemed oblivious to who she was. I nearly said, “This is Jacqueline Bisset, man. This is Jacqueline Bisset!”

We seemed to walked together then, I a step behind her, all the way to the luggage carousel. I moved very near her as I retrieved my own bag from the conveyor belt and could see a small diamond on her wedding finger. Who was lucky enough to be her husband I wondered, or was it just a prop to keep men from bothering her?

A lady stepped between us to retrieve her bag and had a moment of recognition when she saw Jacqueline.

“You have a very familiar face,” the lady said.

Old YoungJacqueline smiled that smile again and then caught my eye. I smiled back at her with the slightest nod of my head.

I looked at the lady and then back at Jacqueline while the moment seemed to suspend itself somehow in time. The three of us there at the carousel, a hesitation held in our breath.

“Do I?” Jacqueline spoke for the first time.

The lady nodded and looked at me as if Jacqueline and I were a couple and that I might answer for her.

But I said nothing as a man came quickly up to the lady and she greeted her husband with a kiss. I watched them walk away, chatting and laughing and holding hands.

When I turned back to Jacqueline, she had collected her bag and was already heading for the exit.

I wanted to hurry after her, to say something. But what? And why?

Instead, I put the moment in my thoughts to recall on a day like today.



3 Responses to Oh Youth, Oh Beauty, Oh Jacqueline Bisset

  1. Frank Z says:

    Thanks for the great comments and emails. This post appears to have touched a number of you. I’m delighted about that. As always, thanks for reading.

  2. Bernie says:

    I was staying at a friend’s apartment in London for a week last October while she was abroad traveling. Just another nondescript building in a city of anonymous blocks of flats – this one happened to be in Chelsea. Until I got a perk behind the facade when I was told that the next door neighbor was one J Bisset. I had first met her in LA in the late 70s – a friend at the time somehow was her house sitter. A typical Hollywood job. I was struck dumb by her playful sexuality as you say. She was completely self aware, but as affected by her as I was, that’s how normal and pleasant she was ignoring it. Thirty five years later the draping of age is indeed upon us all. I wondered as I passed her door each time during my stay if she would suddenly appear crossing our paths again. Would I be tongue tied stuttering as then? Would I simply smile in acknowledgement, to receive that same smile you described in return? Would I be star struck enough to mention that three decades past half hour? Alas I’ll never know. Her flat remained dark and silent, guarding all secrets within.

  3. Gail says:

    A brief moment, an encounter that reminds us, despite our perceived status or life experiences… we are all mortals heading down the same road together. 😉

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