Column: Facts of Life
'Are you living life or something like it?'
On June 9, Art Cooper, GQ's editor in chief for more than 20 years, died of a stroke that he suffered on June 5. He was 65.
Though I had never met Mr. Cooper, I lived vicariously through Gentlemen's
Quarterly , or GQ as it has been affectionately dubbed. It is, what I consider, the men's magazine for stylish clothing and stylish articles.
As soon as it hit newsstands every month, I would spend the entire day reading it from cover to cover, absorbing the latest in men's couture items, current trends and cutting-edge subject matter on every page I turned. The news that Mr. Cooper passed away after just stepping down from his duties at GQ not only left me stunned, it also left me thinking about my life and what constitutes a full one.
As a 20-something-gay man, I'd like to think that I've lived a decent life with only a few regrets and nothing too catastrophic. However, one is never aware of this until the thought of death is brought up. What if I were to die tomorrow? Would I really be happy with what I have accomplished, or just mildly pleased? Would I have left a lasting impression on the people in my life, or would I soon be forgotten? We're always looking toward tomorrow to finish what we couldn't complete today, but what if there is no tomorrow?
How many of us could really say that they were delighted with everything that has and hasn't gone their way? I guess it all really boils down to asking yourself, are you living life, or something like it?
Art Cooper obviously lived the life. By heading the magazine whose mere name signifies men's stylishness and fashion-forward thinking, there's no question that he will not be forgotten.
"Many in the fashion industry hailed Cooper as a man who knew how to combine style and masculinity, and helped teach American men that it was OK to embrace both," said Michael Quintanilla, a writer for The Los Angeles Times.
"Those who knew Cooper credit him with transforming GQ upon his arrival in 1983 into a magazine for all men, giving the pages less of a fashion runway emphasis and adding more political, investigative and lifestyle stories to its content," continued Quintanilla.
There's no denying that Mr. Cooper will be missed and remembered by many whose lives he never came in contact with (i.e. my own), but in a time when death comes knocking too soon, I wonder what I would be remembered for if I died tomorrow. It's safe to assume that the wonderful staffs of Georgetown stores would hold a candlelight vigil for me, and within my immediate family I'm sure I'll never be forgotten. But is that considered a legacy, or a sign of a close-knit family and a shopping disorder?
It's a widely accepted fact that we all want to be known for more than just serving ourselves and holding down a job. We all aspire to lead the lives of legends, but in reality only a few of us really have the guts to go for everything desired. It's no secret that this is the reasoning behind pursuing odd world titles, exploring new territory, trying to cure a disease or wanting to be cast in the next reality TV show.
Everyone wants to make a contribution to the world and leave his or her mark on Earth. But there are only so many world titles, unconquered regions of land and Real World-like shows.
In reality (and not the one portrayed in a house with seven strangers), what you do in this life is your legacy. Whether it is something for all to remember, all to forget or for some to cherish, is up to you. You make the decision every morning to wake up and do exactly what you are going to do that day. Whether it's to stick to the grind of a nine to five, or play hooky and take a day for yourself. It's your decision in what direction your day goes that inevitably rules your path in life.
So take heed everyone. Know that in this life, you may only get one chance at true love, but you get many chances at happiness. And though Jim Nelson, executive editor of GQ, succeeds Mr. Cooper as editor in chief, Cooper will be immortalized for years to come. Though some may not have heard of Mr. Cooper before today, we could all apply a few lessons to our lives that he's taught me over the years: 1) Martini's are a must, 2) Good style and good sense go hand in hand, 3) Live every moment to the fullest and finally 4) when it's your time to go, go out in style.
Thank you Mr. Cooper. You will be missed by friends, family and fashion fanatics everywhere.