Full disclosure: Alex Bennett is my former husband. We met when I was 17, married when I was 25 and divorced when I was 31. He has known me longer than anyone else alive which I find comforting in some manner. Although we didn't speak for a decade or so following our divorce, these days we're friendly.
Alex has been a radio host since his teen years, having done shows in San Rafael, Reno, Houston, Minneapolis, Chicago, San Francisco, Miami and New York. He is opinionated, outspoken and funny - on air and in life. I produced his show when we were married and we were better as professional colleagues than life partners.
These days, he can be heard live on The Alex Bennett Program on Sirius Left satellite radio, channel 146 from 9AM to noon ET. He describes his show as "political discussion punctuated by tap dancing." For awhile, some years ago, he hosted a television show and has won two local Emmy Awards. Alex is a regular contributor to Hustler magazine.
Ronni Bennett: How is getting older different from what you expected it to be when you were young?
Alex Bennett: I thought I was immune to it and that I could compensate for its effects.
RB: What do you like best about getting old?
AB: These days, absolutely nothing. Years ago it at least got you a seat on the subway. Today forget even that.
RB: What do you like least?
AB: The endless procession of doctors who see you as a new yacht.
RB: A lot of older workers run into age discrimination in the workplace. Does being on radio rather than television insulate you from that?
AB: No doubt about it. Besides that, Sirius has a lot of gray running around the place and any younger person working there can learn from the best.
RB: Does your audience know how old you are? Does it matter?
AB: They have an idea. To some, it is used as a weapon, especially those who support Obama and would like to push us to the margins of society.
RB: John McCain is being attacked more frequently lately as being too old - 72 at inauguration if he is elected - to be president. What do you think?
AB: Well, death or incapacity could be more of a reality at his age as it is for the rest of us, so who he chooses as his VP is crucial. Obama will no doubt use his age as a negative.
RB: How are you different as a radio host at age 68 than you were at - oh, say 30 or 35?
AB: Sure, I'm better. I have more of a skill set.
RB: How well do you think old people are represented on television and in movies?
AB: Not as badly as in some other areas of show business. There have been, however, a preponderance of ageist jokes on TV lately where McCain is concerned, but no racist ones about Obama or overtly sexist jokes about Hillary.
RB: What are some of the differences between being old today and when we were young, do you think?
AB: I think there was more respect. Prior to the rock 'n' roll revolution in the '50s, there wasn't even a youth culture to be venerated.
RB: What do you think of the younger generations today?
AB: Basically they are selfish. It's the generation of "Me". But they were made that way by their parents who kept telling them how wonderful they were.
RB: What, if anything, bothers you about being old in the United States today?
AB: There are no perks.
RB: How do you think getting old in the United States is different for men and women?
AB: I think that it has to be worse for a woman. My woman friend was very lucky that she landed a good job at 55 and she is delighted. But I saw her looking for one and it was a frightening experience for her. For men, old age starts at say 55, but for women it may be as young now as 45.
RB: What's the biggest surprise - positive or negative - about getting old?
AB: That I actually got old.
RB: Who are your role models for getting old?
AB: Sean Connery. He played old before he truly was.
RB: We were still married when your father died at a young age - 60, I believe. He was very special to me. What do you remember most about your father?
AB: He was my idol. I still live by the rules he taught me. He also gave me my sense of humor.
RB: What old people, in your life, have been an inspiration?
AB: Our old cat Shabbas. He lived to be 18 and lived by the mantra, "If there's food in the bowl, then how bad can things be?"
RB: What, if anything, do you miss about your youth?
AB: Jumping up and down a lot without getting winded.
RB: How are you different from when you were young?
AB: It now takes me all night, what I used to be able to do all night.
RB: Do you have any age-related diseases or ailments? How do they affect your daily life?
AB: The usual, enlarged prostate and IBS. The prostate is back to normal due to the medicines they have today. The biggest problem with them is their effect on the libido. As for the IBS, it has become manageable. So neither, once managed, have affected my daily life.
RB: You are 68 years old. How much longer do you want to continue working? What are you plans for the future?
AB: I want to die while on the air.
RB: What do you believe is the purpose of life?
AB: If I had that answer, I'd be doing it.
RB: Is the world better or worse off now than when you were young?
AB: Better technologically. Worse politically and economically.
RB: Do you think about dying?
RB: Do you believe in an afterlife? If so, what is it like?
AB: Not really. Maybe a continuation of this one. But then I'd have to get into string theory and that would be long and involved.
RB: What one thing have you learned about life you'd like people to know?
AB: Never, ever argue with an ex-wife.
RB: Are you ever sorry we didn't stay married?
AB: Like I said, never, ever argue with an ex-wife!
[At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Lia explains how she dealt with an age-old childhood fear in Bogeyman.]