A retired director for The Ed Sullivan Show takes readers on a roller-coaster ride through the joys and perils of aging.
Part memoir, part smorgasbord of fun (but maybe not always accurate) facts, Schwarz’s quirky but sweet debut brims with fast-paced anecdotes about his life amid Wikipedia-type information—the causes of cataracts, the functions of the human heart, and the history of pants. Schwarz, 84, also paints vivid pictures of his childhood and his long-term career in television. The heartbeat of Schwarz’s memoir, however, is his 56-year marriage to his wife, Mimi. Schwarz favors age-related yuks, but the discussion usually spins off into various topics. For example, a story about his “Old Fart” blood pressure also includes mention of the sphygmomanometer and its origin. That tidbit turns into an analysis of how blood pressure works. He adds striking and often poignant life memories to the mix, such as the time when, during a romantic vacation in Venice, Mimi saw trash in the water and exclaimed, “In my memory it will be perfectly blue and crystal clear.” At his best, Schwarz’s voice is reminiscent of Groucho Marx. Take, for instance, his description of the Japanese paperless toilet: “It washes, rinses, blow dries and even has a heating element for those shivery cold days; just be thankful it doesn’t iron out the wrinkles.” Other times, he sounds like a relentlessly chatty guy at a cocktail party who corners his victims with a dizzying array of trivia—from horses and Scythians to codpieces and corsets. Nevertheless, Schwarz’s friendly, cogent prose creates a buoyant page-turner. His homespun humor is affecting and may resonate with readers who don’t mind laughing at their own gray hair or leaky body parts (“It All Depends on Depends”). Some may wish he had spent a little less time on the parts of the eyeball and a little more time writing about his fascinating television career—he once worked with Janis Joplin. A shift in tone occurs abruptly at the book’s conclusion when Mimi becomes seriously ill. Here, Schwarz’s knee-slapping humor quickly melts into memorable sadness and reflection.
A colorful, bittersweet romp through Old Fartdom.