Wednesday, February 4, 2009
I Was So Much Older Then
I'm not going to bother to check, because there's no way he doesn't hold the record, but I'm going to assume that the oldest performer ever to appear on Saturday Night Live was Eubie Blake, who appeared with Gregory Hines on March 10, 1979 (the show hosted by Gary Busey), at a time when Eubie claimed to be ninety-six. (The revue Eubie! was a hit on Broadway at the time). He was pretty remarkable, playing three songs - two of them solo - with his incredibly long spidery fingers and being utterly charming as he chatted with Hines.
I say "claimed to be," because at some point, pretty far along in his life, Eubie added four years to his age. This was sometime before he recorded his 1969 album The Eighty-Six Years of Eubie Blake, because Eubie was in reality only 82 at that point. The album was nominated for a Grammy (and featured, as long as we're on the topic, a song called "Chevy Chase") and kick-started his late-in-life revival. He appeared on The Tonight Show in 1973, got an honorary doctorate from Rutgers in 1974, and Eubie! premiered on Broadway in 1978.
The decision to add exactly four years to his age would prove fortuitous, for Eubie Blake died on February 12, 1983, five days after the celebration of his centennial. He was ninety-six.