August 25, 2014
Every August 25, I fly to London for a meeting with my fellow birthday citizens. It was started some years back by Sean Connery, and since he’s the oldest among us, he’s the one that organizes the event. Basically it’s a dinner with only men who are born on August 25 and who are well-known in their fields of interest. Right now it is very much a small club, which consists of Wayne Shorter, me, Elvis Costello (we’re actually born the same time), Regis Philbin, Frederick Forsyth, Martin Amis, Tim Burton, and the head member of the group Belle & Sebastian, Stuart Murdoch. Sean does a good job in organizing us to have dinner on our birthday, considering that all of us are busy people, but somehow when Sean says “come to dinner,” well, we never turn his invitation down. I’ve been going since I was 23. Now I’m turning 60. As well as Elvis.
It’s a weird group of men in the room when we get together. Otherwise, there is no absolute reason why we would or even want to get together. Sometimes I feel that Sean is secretly laughing at us, for going to our birthday dinner, without our family, for decades now. Time-to-time I believe that it is nothing but a power play on his part and we never discussed this within the group, but I have secretly kept this opinion to myself for years. My wife and other family members have been upset at me for years by leaving them due to the date of my birth. None of us in the August 25 group can say no to Sean Connery. For me, I think it's due to the fact that my father used to take me to see Sean in the Bond films at the Chinese Theater in Hollywood. As one gets older, memory becomes more of a shadow, but I deeply remember my dad and I seeing films like "From Russia With Love,"' Goldfinger" and so forth. He always made the point to take me on the very first screening of the film, which at that time was around 11:30 in the morning. It was a ritual between me and my dad.
Oddly enough, one would think I would feel closer to Elvis, if nothing else, due that we were born at the same time and moment. But that fact has done nothing except the emotion of jealousy has crept up on us over the years. This is something that Sean has noticed, and he likes to make fun of us. I can see that it really upsets Elvis, and I just say nothing. The one I feel most closest to is actually Martin, because we are both writers, and both of us have well-known fathers. It is difficult for the son to make his mark on the world, when you have a famous and well-liked father. For him, it is probably tougher, because his father, Amis, was a very successful writer. My dad, Wallace, was a visual artist, so at the very least I never had to compete in the same category as him.
The other writer in the group is Frederick Forsyth, and he’s quite different from Martin and me. He wrote major bestsellers such as “The Day of the Jackal” and “The Fourth Protocol” that is good adventure or suspense novels, and it seems he is very close to Sean. Both Martin and I feel that Sean has probably never read our books, which over time, we both think that’s odd. Perhaps even an insult. Almost every dinner, on our birthday, Sean went out of his way in complementing Frederick’s work, without ever mentioning my writings or Martin’s.
And I feel kind of sorry for Regis, who I think is quite brilliant in being himself in front of a TV camera. Funny enough, I can at times feel more comfortable in front of a camera as well. I did a series of shows called “Tosh Talks, ” where I just ramble on about books. A lot of people hate the show, but for me, it is just a technique for me to say something about what I love in front of an (imaginative) audience. When I do the show, I often think of Regis Philbin, and that puts me in a groove when my assistant starts taping me. Nothing is planned, and I really like that. As the Joker in the last Batman film said:
“Do I really look like a man with a plan? I don't have a plan. The mob has plans, the cops have plans. you know what I am? I'm a dog chasing cars. I wouldn't know what to do with one if I caught one. I just DO things. I'm a wrench in the gears. I HATE plans. Yours, theirs, everyone's. I AM AN AGENT OF CHAOS. And you know the thing about chaos. It's fair.”
So with that in mind I do the shows, and I have read Regis’ two books (both have brilliant titles) “I’m Only One Man!” and “Who Wants To Be Me? When I read them, just for the titles alone, I thought for sure I must have written them. I don’t feel that way with Martin and Frederick’s works, but still, even keeping Regis in mind, why do I go to Sean’s birthday dinner?
Tim Burton, Wayne Shorter and Stuart both stand out, because I have the impression that they don’t care what Sean thinks of them. For them, it is just an amusement in itself, where Martin and the others take it very seriously. I think back what the Joker has said, and at times I really hate myself to be in a world of Sean’s making, and I even start to resent that I share my birthday with him, and on top of that, when I do think of my birthday, I firstly think of him. When Sean started to compliment Stuart by saying he’s the sound of young Scotland, me and Elvis briefly looked across the table at each other, but once our eyes made contact, we both looked away.
I just want to make acknowledgment to the participants:
Sean Connery: 83
Wayne Shorter: 81
Frederick Forsyth: 76
Martin Amis: 65
Tosh Berman: 60
Elvis Costello: 60
Tim Burton: 56
Stuart Murdock: 46