Save 75% - Only $49.99 for 1 full year! digitalPLUS subscription offer ends 12/1
NewsOpinionReaders Respond

Missing Shirley Temple [Commentary]

Shirley TempleU.S. Department of StateU.S. Embassy

The death of Shirley Temple has me thinking of the years nipping at my heels. She and I were — almost — precise contemporaries. Shirley was born on April 23, 1928, in Santa Monica, Calif. and I came along just two days later in faraway Philadelphia. At the time of what we may call my "awareness," say at age four, she was beginning a film career that made her the most famous and adored little girl the world has ever known. In my mind's eye, she must have been born with all 56 blonde curls already sprouted. As for me, I emerged sickly with jaundice, yellowish and an ugly mop of black hair. Family legend, never denied, has my mother saying, "Take him away."

Actually, I turned out to be a fairly pretty little boy dominated by a blonde, blue-eyed older sister (by two years) who was fashioned to look like a classic Dutch maiden. Unlike Shirley, I was just an obscure member of the multitude. But like Shirley, I was in an all-female household with an absentee father. It was a similarity I knew nothing about. While Shirley's mom pushed and shoved her daughter into stardom, mine made cookies and the best beach plum jelly ever concocted.

As an outnumbered male, I was never permitted such activities. I was content to lifelong contemplation of our two-day distinction. While the sophisticated and sexy Barbie Dolls of later generations grew up, Shirley Temple dolls never did. But the real life Shirley Temple did. After giving up her film career, she became a real-life diplomat admired by presidents and colleagues.

Decades later, when I was a reporter at a State Department reception for the rightly distinguished Ambassador Shirley Temple Black (no longer a film star but a diplomat), I tried to tell her how long she had been part of my life story. She returned a withering glance that dismissed me as a loathsome gaucherie. Which I was. I slunk away, feeling sorry I had not first met her on assignment at the U.S. Embassy in Ghana.

Shirley Temple, for me, is not gone. "The Good Ship Lollipop" sails on.

Joseph R. L. Sterne

The writer, The Sun's editorial page editor from 1972 to 1997, was born April 25, 1928, two days too late.

-
To respond to this letter, send an email to talkback@baltimoresun.com. Please include your name and contact information.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
Related Content
Shirley TempleU.S. Department of StateU.S. Embassy
  • How can Ehrlich relish suffering of others?
    How can Ehrlich relish suffering of others?

    It saddens me to see the former congressman and governor of Maryland salivating with anticipation at the thought of depriving millions of Americans of decent health insurance by rolling back the Affordable Care Act ("Obamacare is a varsity stinker," Nov. 23).

  • On 'rain tax,' Hogan has the right idea
    On 'rain tax,' Hogan has the right idea

    The Sun really doesn't get it! Larry Hogan is "repealing" the "rain tax" because it is emblematic of the over-taxing of our state's residents ("The bogus 'rain tax' repeal," Nov. 24). You can engage in all the legalistic finger-wagging you care to, but the people of this state are not impressed...

  • Farrakhan should pipe down
    Farrakhan should pipe down

    Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan needs to shut his pie hole ("Speaking at Morgan, Farrakhan predicts violence in Ferguson," Nov. 22). Mr. Farrakhan's modus operandi is to instill hatred aimed at Caucasians and Jews into his rants. What he has done, in effect, is to set the race...

  • What's so bad about plastic bags?
    What's so bad about plastic bags?

    Plastic grocery/retail bags have many post first-time uses ("Bag it, City Council," Nov 11). We use many of them along with an inner paper bag as liners for our house garbage cans. They are efficient and easy to handle. Once thrown into the garbage, they are hauled away to the Baltimore...

  • Farrakhan the false prophet
    Farrakhan the false prophet

    We are fortunate to have had three great leaders in the 20th century — each a man of color, each a man having no conventional power, each a man of peace. First, Mohandas Gandhi, then Martin Luther King Jr. and finally Nelson Mandela. Each taught us that change, change which is significant...

  • Ferguson: Is there justice for all?
    Ferguson: Is there justice for all?

    While I can, I go on hoping a majority of the grand jury in Ferguson votes to indict Officer Darren Wilson ("Far from Missouri, Baltimore readies for Ferguson ruling," Nov. 24). If they fail in that, the obvious choice is for everyone to go out and protest. The police in most of the country...

Comments
Loading