Longtime CNN interviewer Larry King announced in June he's "hanging up his suspenders". The almighty Oprah announced in November of last year that she's retiring from her 25 year reign as queen of everything which includes her talk show. And what is one to do? Oprah won't be around to tell us what books to read, how to stay fit, how to interact with our fellow mortals and on and on and on. Simply stated it will be hard to live without Oprah. And what will our beloved celebrities, politicians and the like do when there's nobody around to lob softball questions. Say it ain't so Larry. But before you head off to grief counseling, consider this: Larry won't be retiring until "sometime" in the fall; Oprah won't be leaving her show until September of next year. Call it what you will but I call it the long goodbye. I would prefer they just give us a two week notice and exit stage left. Of course I realize that contractual obligations and assorted other reasons would prevent them from doing that. But still, do we need months and years of goodbyes. It appears King wanted to finally settle down with wife six or seven (who's counting) and their two kids. But does anyone think for one nanosecond that King and Winfrey will actually be leaving. Along with the announcement that King would be exiting Larry King Live, was also word that King would be hosting the occasional CNN special. Whatever that means. So he won't be leaving after all. And what about Oprah? She will still have her hand in guiding and directing remaining enterprises such as books, magazines, schools, film and television projects….she will hardly be leaving.
Musical acts of one kind or another aren't immune to the long goodbye either. Michael Jackson planned his return and retirement all at the same time in 2009. A tour which would include a 50 date residency at London's O2 arena was to be dubbed the appropriately titled This Is It. Well we all know what happened to those plans. Had Jackson lived one could surmise that at some point another "final" tour would have to be undertaken due to Jackson's much publicized financial woes perhaps called This Is Really It.
The Eagles are another act who get together every few years and announce their final round of concerts. Let's see, the group disbanded in 1980. In 1994 they reunited for The Hell Freezes Over tour. Band member Glen Frey commented that "for the record, we never broke up, we just took a 14-year vacation". The album and resulting tour originated from the Don Henley statement that the band would reunite only "when hell freezes over". In 2005, the band reunited yet again in Australia for the Farewell I tour. In 2008, the Eagles still not able to bid adieu titled their latest tour and cd not Farewell II but Long Road Out Of Eden. A long road indeed. They haven't gotten out of Eden yet, and they haven't stopped touring. The long goodbye.
In 1976, legendary group The Band, tiring of the grueling demands of touring, announced their retirement with a Thanksgiving show at the Winterland Ballroom in San Francisco. Such luminaries as Bob Dylan, Van Morrison, Neil Young, and Neil Diamond joined the group onstage and gave them a rousing send off. Martin Scorsese was on hand to film it all. The Last Waltz is perhaps one of the best concert/documentaries ever produced. It shows one of the most influential music acts in the history of rock and roots music at the height of their musical talents. But as it turns out, The Last Waltz wasn't really the last waltz. The group would get back together in 1983 sans Robbie Robertson. The group would soldier on under the leadership of Levon Helm but without the songwriting and guitar genius of Robertson, it just wasn't the same. The Band called it quits again in 1999 with the death of original member Rick Danko.
Those inclined to follow the roller coaster life and career of Cher, along with the constant plastic surgeries and costume changes, might be familiar with her long goodbye. In 2002, Cher vowed that she would retire from live performing at the conclusion of what else: Living Proof: The Farewell Tour . It concluded in 2005! Of course Cher wasn't really finished with performing. In 2008, she announced a three year run at CaesarsPalace. Again, call it what you will. I call it the long goodbye.
Professional boxing has seen its share of "final" fights. What professional fighter hasn't said publicly or privately just one more fight. I'll collect my ten million dollars win, lose, or draw and then quit. But seldom does that happen. Then there's one more and one more and before you know it the fighter faces the long goodbye of dementia pugilistica.
Has anyone exited with grace and dignity and more to the point – actually exited? The late talk show king Johnny Carson comes to mind. During his 30 year reign as host of the Tonight Show, Carson certainly had moments when he contemplated retirement. But the formal announcement didn't come until 1991. For the most part Carson ended his career on his terms. His last show aired on May 22, 1992 and what a show it was. Who can forget the Divine Miss M Bette Midler singing an emotion laden One For My Baby (And One More For The Road) in homage to Carson. And for the most part, Carson stayed largely out of the public eye until his death from emphysema in 2005. Contrast Carson's tenure with that of his successor Jay Leno. It was announced in 2004 that Leno would abdicate as host of the Tonight Show in 2009 to make room for new host Conan O'Brien. Well that didn't work out very well did it? No need to rehash all of the furor and controversy of that aftermath. The salient point is this: He's baack! Since his death, there have been those who have suggested that Carson wasn't as nice and gracious as we were led to believe. Granted, but the man exuded something that the current crop of "retirees" don't have – class.
And with that, I announce my retirement – date to be determined later.