American Masters: The Boomer List, sponsored by AARP and airing from 9 to 10:30 p.m. ET on PBS Tuesday, is a light-hearted look at the Baby Boom
generation through the eyes of 19 icons representing each year from 1946 to 1964.
Directed by photographer Timothy Greenfield-Sanders, whose other works include The Black List, The Latino List and The Out List, the film focuses on individuals whose experiences touch all the important movements and moments of the boomer generation, from Vietnam and racism to the sexual revolution and AIDS activism. Yet it is full of humor and unexpected tales. For example:
• Maria Shriver recounts her Kennedy-Shriver family commitment to service: "Kids used to say I don't really want to come over to your house because your mother is going to make me volunteer and we're going to have to go live on an Indian reservation or go to Africa."
• Samuel L. Jackson explains why he was applying to colleges in California and Hawaii: "I found out who Jacque Cousteau was and I wanted to be the black Jacque Cousteau."
• Rosie O'Donnell confesses that when Barbra Streisand stayed at her home in 2006, "The entire time I was calling the woman who works for me, Maria, asking, 'Maria, donde seta Barbra?'"
• Billy Joel recalls that at 18, " I worked on an oyster boat. I used to look up on the hill and see this big house and get really mad and think 'Bastards! They probably never worked a day in their life. They probably inherited money.' Now I own that house. Now I am that guy."
• Deepak Chopra tells the tale of leaving India for the United States with $8, getting a loan of $100 from an uncle in London, and spending it all in Paris at Moulin Rouge. "When I got to the United States I had no money. Zero."
• Author Amy Tan remembers that during her college activist days, "My mother hired a detective to have my boyfriend arrested. I got arrested along with all the other people who were my friends at the time. That's how fierce my mother was."
There are powerful moments in the documentary, too, such as author Tim O'Brien's moving memories of the Vietnam War, particularly his vivid recollection of the day he got his draft notice. "Probably the dominant memory on the day I die will be the yellow piece of paper on that kitchen table and the silence that surrounded it."
But all together The Boomer List conversations give viewers a sense of the joy and possibilities of those times as they were a-changin’ — at least as seen through the looking glass of accomplished activists, rocket scientists, athletes, entertainers, artists, feminists and other leaders. And as the youngest of the generation turn 50 this year, The List boomers make it clear they are not ready to get off the stage.
As actress Kim Cattrall puts it: "I have wrinkles. Let it be part of the story — as I’m well lit."
Photo: © Timothy Greenfield-Sanders
Also of Interest
- 25 Boomer Women Who Rule the World
- Playboy Bunnies: Then and Now
- Get Involved: Learn How You Can Give Back
- Join AARP: Savings, resources and news for your well-being
See the AARP home page for deals, savings tips, trivia and more