The End of Cool?

Quote of the Day       “Never revisit the past, that’s dangerous. You know, move on.”     Robert Redford

I guess Bogey was the first cool guy from a mass appeal standpoint. And there was John Wayne, the original Duke. Dale Earnhardt was cool. So was Ted Williams. Waylon Jennings. Paul Newman was too.

We should always remain cognizant of the fact we do not know the people we see on television and in the movies. We know their image though, and few have attained the level of cool in our minds that Newman did. Newman played all the roles guys see themselves in at some point and he made them all cool. A young stud in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, a misunderstood loner punk in Cool Hand Luke, a mentor in The Sting and The Color of Money, an asshole runnin buddy in Sundance Kid, and a cynical former idealist in The Verdict.

In his real life, Newman seemed no less cool. He served in the Navy as a rear seat radio-man and gunner in World War II before he was an actor and at the end of his career he became a successful businessman who donated his profits to charity. The main beneficiary of that largesse is “The Hole in the Wall Gang”. That’s a summer camp for seriously ill children he founded. Very cool. He was married to his second wife, Joanne Woodward from 1958 until his death and of her once remarked, upon being asked about his fidelity, “why go out for hamburger when you have steak at home?” He made 19th on Nixon’s enemies list. He was a race car driver for christsakes. The man was cool.

I fear cool is dying with Newman’s generation. Really, who compares to those guys in all around coolness? I’ve racked my brain for someone in sports or entertainment. There are some who come close, like Clooney, Favre, Bono, maybe some others, but they don’t quite measure up, maybe because we know too much about celebrities these days.

Thank God we’ve still got Willie Nelson.

About travellinbaen

I'm a 40 year old lawyer living in Ridgeland, Mississippi. I'm several years and a couple hundred miles removed from most of my old running buddies so I started the blog to provide an outlet for many of the observations and ideas that used to be the subjects of our late night/happy hour/halftime conversations and arguments.
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27 Responses to The End of Cool?

  1. OB says:

    I have never considered myself all that cool or popular for that matter, so my opinion of cool may amount to a hill of beans. My opinion of coolness is someone that has had to overcome some type of obstacle in life and has used that struggle to make themsleves better, never complained about not getting the ball or having a bad role, and let their performance do the talking. Here are a few people that I thought were cool growing up and are still cool to me today.

    Archie Manning:

    Archie was beloved in the south as a player at Ole Miss and became even more loved as a player for the Saints, who throughout his career was a great player on some very, very sorry teams. He also had to overcome a lot as a teenager, when his father committed suicide. Somehow he never complained. Could anyone have created a better family than this guy? I love the entire Manning family and hope I can have a great impact on my family like Archie.

    Dale Murphy:

    Dale was another great player on some very sorry teams. This guy is one the greatest players on and off the field that ever played the game. I’m not sure what he’s doing today, because the media rarely covers people who don’t have a shady past, but I’m sure he’s successful. He was the premier slugger of his era, but is sometimes forgotten, because players in his era didn’t hit a ton of homers. Again, he didn’t complain.

    Tiger Woods:

    Tiger didn’t have all the problems as people of color before him, but being black and trying to play golf had to be a problem, especially around guys like Fuzzy Zoeller. I think all the challenges that he had to go through made him the competitor and champion that he is today. This guy is a bulldawg on the course and is an even better person off.

    Trent Lott:

    Don’t quite know what he’s had to go through, besides some political controversies later in his career, but I’ve always thought this guy was cool. He has done a lot for the Mississippi Gulf coast and is someone I look up to.

  2. smilyj says:

    Yeah Newman was cool. Here are some more;
    You already mentioned The Duke. Some still alive are Clint Eastwood of course. Also Robert Duvall. One of the coolest is Dwight Yokem. Man, he is cool. I know about your man-crush for Clooney. You have had it for years. Big Phoney Clooney. Also, There is probably no one cooler than Alan Jackson. Another cool dude that has departed from this earth is Steve Mcqueen. Maybe the coolest ever. Two present day actors that are cool would be Tom Selleck(whom I have a man crush on) and Sam Elliot(My mother thinks he is sexy….She is 77). Sean Connery definitly exudes cool vibrations too at an old age. Can we include locals? If so, that Sweet guy is pretty cool.

  3. Clint Eastwood, Duvall, McQueen (with a name like that you better be cool), Sam Elliot and Connery are excellent calls, and they also reinforce my point. Yokem and Selleck I put in the category of Clooney, cool, but not like those other guys. But Alan Jackson? No. Sweet? Depends on how his internal organs are functioning on any given day.

    As for OB’s list, I can only say, everybody has their own criteria, equally valid, but I’d put those guys in the “respect” category, except Archie–the only cool Rebel was Charlie Connerly, the original Marlboro Man.

  4. Bobby Pitalo says:

    Steve Mcqueen and Mickey Mantle were the coolest people of all time. Mantle was the man and by far the most gifted baseball player of all time. There is no telling what he would have done if he hadnt have stayed hurt.

  5. JessieLou says:

    From the female point of view I would surely agree with most of your ‘man’ crushes. Certainly Sam Elliott made lifeguarding a must have job in the 1970’s. Like Tom Selleck, they have the chest thing going and they are in a class of their own. I remember when my mom had a poster of Tom Selleck in the pantry – she said she wanted it in the bedroom but didn’t want to give my dad a complex! It was a little while before I understood the complete gravity of that statement. With the Smokey And The Bandit post earlier, I am quite surprised that Burt Reynolds has yet to be mentioned. When I was in jr. high and high school many a girl liked the Bandit and we all knew he only took his hat off for one thing and one thing only. Later on, John Travolta in “Grease” had us all swooning. In “Pulp Fiction”, he showed his bad side….both cool.

    But let us take a look even farther back in the same vein as Clooney. Cary Grant, Gregory Peck and Clark Gable (although I hear his breath was far from good, he was great to look at and had a mean come back for Scarlett) to name but a few, were really cool. Cary Grant in “That Touch of Mink” was close to perfect. What girl wouldn’t want a new wardrobe, a limo ride and a all expense paid vacation in the Carribeano with Cary Grant?

    And for the completely hedonistic – where does Hugh Hefner rank these days? He must be kicking the dirst around what will be his grave but I am certain many guys would find him and his lifestyle intriguing to the point of at least wanting his life for one whole day…..and night. But does that rate as cool? I’ll leave that up to the other commentors here.

  6. BR says:

    There are a bunch of cool Movie’s that had cool character’s in them, so i thought i would name a
    few of my favorite’s.
    Val Kilmer in Tombstone “i’ll be your huckleberry”
    Clint Eastwood in Outlaw Josey Wales- spitted
    tobacco on the dog may be the cooliest thing
    i ever seen.
    Gary Cooper in Sergeant York- the whole movie was cool personally one of top 5 of all time.

  7. sweet says:

    Again, JLou (LJB) comes thru with the first nod to Burt Reynolds (S&B, Longest Yard, Deliverance….Evening Shade) and an intriguing call on Hef. In the real world, I will put Chuck Yeager out there for you to salute. Cool with a huge sack. smi-LY, Sweetness was always your Weakness

  8. Smilyj says:

    I think we are getting off the mark here. The characteristic is “coolness”. Not whether they are pretty boys which often times takes away from the “coolness” quotient. Burt Reynolds is ok. Not necessarily cool anymore. The others I mentioned never lost there cooliality. Being cool once or twice, a cool one does not make……Smily Jones 3:01.

  9. sweet says:

    So being dead helps you on the cooliality meter? McQueen, James Dean, Bob Marley, etc They might all be schmucks if still here. Yes ole Burt has lost some cool with the hairpiece and all, but in his prime, he was the personification of the word…..and the Rat Pack has to be at the front of…..uh, the pack

  10. Any nominations for someone under 50 and alive? I really can’t think of anyone. Maybe if I were 15 I could; does it have to do with how much older than you the person is?

    On Burt, he’s close in my book, but the whole Loni divorce saga changed his image a bit. But he’s gotten cooler again since he put all that behind him. Yeager, Sinatra, for sure, good call–I don’t know about the whole pack though.

    I have to agree with Smily’s comment, except that I lean toward thumbs up for Burt. It’s a high standard with company like Newman.

  11. Jessie Lou says:

    Let me see… about Johnny Depp and Pierce Brosnan, although I think he is over 50. The actors of today are nothing like those in the Newman category. I have the feeling the female point of view is going to differ greatly from the male one. What can I say? I love Willy Wonka, Pirates and James Bond.

  12. sweet says:

    I have heard reports that smi-LY has a Jonas Brothers CD so maybe they could be under 50 and alive cool cats

  13. smilyj says:

    I wonder if Sweet is feeling it in these times of increased grocery prices…..He now must double up on the amount of stridex in order to cover his increasing girth…. However, that just means there is more Sweet for everyone I suppose.

  14. sweet says:

    I dropped the stridex when you used to dip your bald head in oil/alcohol and rub it all over my body. Now I just fill the tub up with bleach and soak in it cause I find it difficult to reach certain far off parts

  15. Smilyj says:


  16. Madd Dawg says:

    Good call on Hef—how could he not be on this list?

    I will go out on a limb here with some younger suggestions (although I am really thinking of characters that they play in movies as I must admit that do not know much and/or care much about their personal lives): Mark Wahlberg (rapper then Dirk Diggler plus Shooter and a bunch of other flicks), Samuel Jackson (except maybe in Snakes on a Plane which I refused to see as it looked unwatchable) and Matt Damon (the Bourne trilogy plus Good Will Hunting and others). That new Bond guy was awesome too, some Brit fella.

  17. supercynic says:

    Johnny Depp can flat act. (I think if you say “flat” before a verb it adds extra emphasis.) Also, it’s cool that he turned down lots of blockbuster roles because he simply didn’t like the roles. He made the Pirates series for his kids. That’s damn cool. I wrote a post dedicated to his role in The Libertine because it was such a great performance.

  18. Madd Dawg says:

    Sc, I don’t like Depp’s politics much, but you are flat right on about his acting. (“flat” just doesn’t have the same ring in this context).

  19. Jessie Lou says:

    Let us try to have one place where we don’t interject politics – please! The new Bond dude is Daniel Craig and he is also pretty impressive…nice eyes among other things.

  20. BR says:

    I can’t believe nobody has mention the Nature
    Boy Ric Flair. WHOOOOOOO!
    “Women’s pet and men’s regret’s i’m the best
    thing going today”
    “me and diamonds are forever”
    “I’m a better ride than Space Mountain”

  21. ZEEK says:

    I vote for Denis Leary and Scott Glenn ( from Right Stuff and Silverado and Urban Cowboy he always had that laid back cool but I’ll kick your ass vibe goin’ They are not Old Old

  22. Adam says:

    Cool changes for every generation. Thus, the people that were cool when you where cool are cool now.

    I do think Sinatra, Newman, Connery types seem to last forever. However, I wonder if that ran the other way. Did people that were 50 when Sinatra was 20 think he was cool? Good luck figuring that out now.

  23. OB says:

    Since everyone, but me, seems to think Cool is someone that is a womanizer, druggie, abuser, or bad guy in general I will throw out a couple more that might be up to your prototypical cool guy standards.

    How about Elvis Presley? This guy rose the bar of coolness. People still try to be like this guy.

    Jack Nicholson, a lady’s man if you’ve ever seen one. Another one of those non-attractive people you often wonder how in the heck did he get that good lookin lady?

    J-F-Freakin-K! Imagine this guy today! Bill Clinton couldn’t carry carry this guys jock strap!

    Joe Dimmagio wasn’t bad himself. He had the ultimate lady. Too bad he had to spend the next 37 years of his life without her.

    There are a couple of young guys out there with a lot of upside that could move into the Paul Newman category someday, but they have to play their cards right. Derek Jeter has the personality, looks and cockiness that could move up if he someday moves into acting. Tom Brady is another. I don’t really care for the guy, because I’m a huge Peyton Manning fan, but women love him and many, many football fans love him and he shows great promise in acting. I had doubts, but he was a huge hit on Saturday Night Live.

    I guess you’ve made your point! We are running out of coolness!

  24. Jessie Lou says:

    OB you are right we are running out of coolness if Tom Brady is the future of cool – I’d prefer the biggest nerd in the room to him any day. Peyton Manning is funny and that is one of the top attributes in my book. Cool, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder.

  25. sweet says:

    Elvis is a given…..and Nicholson is a great add

  26. face says:

    Isn’t Ted Williams still cryogenically frozen? If so, there may still be hope TB.

  27. sweet says:

    I don’t like the references to the greatest hitter of all time. Leave Mr Williams alone or we can meet in the street

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