Good-bye Doris Day

Doris Day And Rock Hudson In 'Send Me No Flowers' Doris Day Rock Hudson 2

Depending on your age, the death of Doris Day is either a “meh” moment or an “sds” (so damn sad) moment.  

Here’s why her death matters to all of us.

The impact of Doris Day’s life has its roots in the “rom-com” days of my childhood.

Who is your favorite “rom-com” couple?

Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan   (Sleepless in Seattle; You’ve Got Mail)?

Robin Williams and Nathan Lane (Birdcage)?

Julia Roberts and Richard Gere (Pretty Woman)?

Kate Hudson and Matthew McConaughey (How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days)?

How about Doris Day and Rock Hudson?

Doris Day  and Rock Hudson were the “it” couple in late 50s and early 60s, starring in movies like “Pillow Talk” (for which she received an Oscar nomination), “Lover Come Back” and “Send Me No Flowers.”  

While I was too young to see these films in their first-run theatre releases, they were the “go to” movies we would watch on TV or early VHS tapes.  

Doris Day was a movie blonde.  Not in the Marilyn Monroe sense, but in the “girl next door” sense.  She knew this and embraced it. She said,

“My public image is unshakably that of America’s wholesome virgin, the girl next door, carefree and brimming with happiness…An image, I can assure you, more make-believe than any film part I ever played. But I am Miss Chastity Belt, and that’s all there is to it.”

Oscar Levant, the musician and humorist had this one liner about Doris Day, “I knew Doris before she was a virgin.”  The line reminds us of the distinction between movies and reality.

Here’s what was real in their movies:

The chemistry between them – not a romantic chemistry, but a genuine friendship chemistry.  Hudson said, “Doris and I became terrific friends.  She’s a dynamo – a strong lady. And boy, what a comedienne she is! The trouble we had was trying not to laugh.  Doris and I couldn’t look at each other. You know, that sweet agony of laughing when you’re not supposed to? That’s what we had.”

Here’s what was not real in their movies:

Rock Hudson’s sexuality.  Rock was gay. All of those romantic sparks between their characters?  Not real. Not even close.

Rock played the role of American heterosexuality and he played it well – better than the rest. He hid who he was.  He had to.

Remember the times.  These were the 50s and 60s.  

For Rock Hudson to come out would have shattered  his career. No questions asked.

The public did not know about Rock Hudson’s sexuality until 1985.  That’s where Doris Day steps in. Doris Day had launched a show on the Christian Broadcasting Network and had invited her old movie co-star Hudson to be her first guest.  But Hudson had contracted the AIDS virus. He was in a fight for his life and was keeping the fight secret.

Until, that is, his good friend, Doris Day, extended the invitation.  He couldn’t say “No.” What America saw that day was an unrecognizable, frail, emaciated Rock Hudson. There was a collective gasp. A few days later at a press conference it was announced:

Rock Hudson, the Heterosexual Hunk, was gay and was dying of AIDS.

Yes, Rock Hudson, like many gay men had concealed his sexual orientation from the public.  AIDS was referred to in those days as “Gay Cancer.” The Christian world chimed in with phrases like “God’s judgment.”  In 2001, a Barna Study discovered that only 8% of Americans were willing to donate to organizations that worked toward the education and prevention of AIDS.  Among evangelicals? Only 3%.

In the 80s AIDS victims were treated as if they had a plague.  Charlton Heston called for a “kissing” ban for people in a “high risk group.”  But on that day on that show, Doris Day hugged and kissed her friend.

 Barriers began to break.  Minds began to change. Judgments began turning to understanding. Doris Day helped us grow.  Doris Day helped us be human.

Three months after his appearance with his friend, Rock Hudson died. It was October 2, 1985.  He was 59.

About  that appearance on her show in July, Doris Day said, “He was very sick.  But I just brushed that off and I came out and put my arms around him and said, ‘Am I glad to see you.'”  

I think that yesterday Rock Hudson greeted Doris Day with the same words, “Am I glad to see you.”  The rom-com couple, the co-stars, the friends are together again.   

 

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“Stay in Your Lane”

Kentucky Derby

A friend stopped to talk with me after a Sunday service.   He told me that someone had told him that “Phillip had gone off the rails.”  

“But,” my friend said, “I don’t believe him.” 

Thanks.

 I got home and Googled the phrase and read this: “The phrase has been used since the mid-1800s and is a reference to a train derailment.  When a train goes off the rails it is no longer progressing along its preordained track and is uncontrollable and chaotic.”  

Well, that doesn’t sound good at all.    Derailed trains are tragic. 

Have I gone off the rails? 

I guess going “off the rails” meant that I was, at one time, “on the rails.”

Whose rails? Who laid the rails? Are the rails of theology set?  

I get it.  Sometimes it’s good to stay on the rails – if you’re a train. 

It’s good to…

  • Stay in our lane when we drive.
  • Stay in our lane when we are riding in the Kentucky Derby!  It was a wild ride at the Derby.  Maximum Security crossed the finish line first but got a DQ when it was determined that he got out of his lane and interfered with other horses.  Just like football I guess.  So, Country House, a 65-1 underdog, won the first American Triple Crown race.  The lesson here, I guess, is, “Never throw away your ticket in anger.”  Or, in horse racing, stay in your lane.  

But is it good to stay on the rails of theology?  In no way am I putting myself in the same category as the following folks, but their story certainly makes me question the rigidness of rails.

-Jan Hus, a precursor to the Protestant Reformers, asserted that:

*no pope or bishop had the right to take up the sword in the name of the Church, and

*that a Christian should pray for his enemies and bless those who curse him, and

*that a person is forgiven of sins by true repentance, not by making a donation to the church (Not a bad way to increase the offering!) 

Hus was burned at the stake on July 6, 1415.

-C.S. Lewis, a hero to Evangelicals: 

*accepted evolution, 

*did not hold to the penal substitutionary theory of atonement, 

*thought and taught that it is possible for people in other religions to inherit the kingdom of God without knowing it, and, perhaps the biggest derailment of all, 

*rejected the view of Biblical Inerrancy.   

And, last but not least, 

-Jesus, according to the religious authorities of the day, went off the rails (John 5:18; Mark 2:5-7; Matthew 9:2-3; Luke 5:20-21; John 8:58-59; John 10:30-33; Mark 14:61-64).

Then there is Rachel Held Evans – writer, blogger, reformer.   I read her first book, Evolving in Money Town in 2010.  Reading it brought relief.  With each page, I thought, “I’m not alone with my questions, with my exhaustion with a constricted, restricted view of God and spirituality.”   Her words on paper removed my feeling of weirdness for thinking and feeling what I was thinking and feeling.    Rachel was raised between conservative evangelical rails. I lived on those rails as well.  

Rachel died Saturday from massive brain swelling after receiving treatment for an infection. Words of grief,  appreciation and honor have poured in. But, so have ominous words of judgment and warning.  

When she was facing death, the nicest of the comments went something like, “We don’t agree with her theologically but we are praying for her.”  Upon her death, other writers were just mean.   One website carried two articles, one titled, “Heretical Author, Rachel Held Evans Dead at 37.”  The other is titled, “How Do We Respond to the Death of an Apostate?”  

Some might say she has “Gone off the rails.”  

Rachel showed a different way to understand God, to love the Bible, to follow Jesus.  For many, her way is the reason they remained Christian. Instead of throwing out God and Christianity, she showed a spirituality outside the rails between which she was raised.  

As a Baptist by birth, I was born into a tradition that valued reform.  We were products of the reformation.  People today still value reform – 

In the past.

  It’s strange isn’t it?  We honor, respect, revere the people who colored outside of the lines, the risk-takers, the revolutionaries. We honor them…

  • from a distance. 
  • in the past.

Not up close and in the present.

The person who said I had “gone off the rails” may have said it out of concern. Or warning.  Or judgment.  I don’t know.  

I do know that I’m ok with it.  

I know that I don’t have it all figured out.  

I know that we are reformed and need to keep being reformed to the image of the Christ.

I know that that means we have to, at times, get off the track.