We Don’t Need Another Hero

The ages of teen idols and celluloid heros have come and gone. Onscreen celebrities no longer impress me. Pop star sensations no longer amuse me. The Hollywood Hills escapades, the Scientology revelations, the doping investigations. We’re over it.

A great generation is sinking like a setting sun. A silver tsunami is rising. The boomers are breaking down and cashing out. But rest assured, they will not leave us in want of another victory lap. Their swan songs will run long into that dark night.

And as they do, it is their heroes we are condemned to adore. It is their CEO superstars who have captured our imaginations. These wizards of financial witchcraft have mesmerized us with legerdemain and ledger deceit. Not only that, but hell, they know how to party.

Take James Cain, for instance, CEO sensation of Bear Sterns, pioneering powerhouse of economic catastrophe. While his company led the world into financial ruin, Cain went right on living the high life, smoking grass and cutting cards at one of his frequent bridge tournaments. Eat your heart out, Double-0-Seven. Live it up, Cain, and let the era of baccarat and shaken martinis die.

Look no further for the next king of comedy, AIG’s newest CEO, Robert Benmosche makes “Take the Money and Run” look like some kind of holocaust docudrama. Benmosche took this position last summer and spent the first two weeks vacationing at his Italian villa on the Adriatic, where the Mediterranean influence presumably nourishes his endless stream of devastating one-liners. (Better than wasting time adopting Eastern European orphans, or some such philanthropic stunt.)

In one of his first public appearances as CEO, Benmosche told reporters that AIG —recipient of over $100 Billion in taxpayer bailouts —was “Getting stronger everyday.” Move over, Will Ferrell! More recently, he put the press in stitches by announcing, “We are on our way to paying back the tax payers.” Silver-haired and silver-tongued, these devils are merciless. They won’t quit until their audiences die laughing.

We once marveled at James Dean, who enshrined himself in eternal youth — the enfant terrible, the precocious rebel, the bane of the establishment. What little we knew of this budding generation and its capacity for treacherous genius. A generation who refuses to surrender the center stage, who will hog the limelight until its last breath, and will never stop dazzling the world with its cavalier knack for originality. From free love to free trade, will they ever stop innovating? Will they ever stop playing by their own rules?

These old hacks have more lives than Sylvester, more comebacks than Travolta, and more sequels than a teenage bloodbath. Every decade a new crop of heroes, and with the aging of America, the current cadre of sixty-somethings promises to be more ruthless than ever. Even before they gambled away everyone else’s life savings and 401Ks like a bingeing bachelor party on the loose in Monte Carlo and never looked back, they’d already put the rest of us whippersnappers to shame.

Song of the Day: “When I’m Sixty-four” from the Beatles.

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