Should I Stay Or Should I Go?

Evidently the behind-the-scenes battle between his wife and girlfriend on the day he was inducted into the Hall of Fame kept him from several of the ceremonies despite the pleading of fellow Chicago Bears inductee Gale Sayers. Walter “Sweetness” Payton evidently was more “Bitter” than the fans were led to believe.

I think the wise side of maintaining a good reputation and respected history has more to do with knowing when to go than with making the most of extending your stay.

Some get the benefit of an early departure, which creates their reputation for them. Actors who died young, like James Dean and Marilyn Monroe and entertainers like Elvis Presley, have survived on predictions of what “could have been” for decades following their death.

But think about if they had lived. What if Elvis had lived to be 80 or 90 and had ballooned up from the weight gain battles he was always losing? What if Dean and Monroe, whose chemical addictions were well known, had become addicted has-beens hanging around Hollywood trying to pump back up their golden years.

Would they be as revered as they are today? I doubt it.

Look at the most popular TV shows that we recall with the most favor: “M*A*S*H,” “Cheers,” “Friends,” “Everybody Loves Raymond”; all of these shows sensed when they had worn out the characters and tried every story line they could invent.

Every one of them wrapped up while they were still hot and people still wanted the show to stay. Going out on top is more than just a trite saying; it should be considered a way of life.

In 1992, Johnny Carson began a slow fade into the sunset. As one of Hollywood’s most distinguished and respected sons of the “Tuxedo Era,” Johnny showed more style and good taste over the years than any similar talent that comes to mind.

As his final day approached, he lined up as many of the stars (that were still living) that he had interviewed on his show 30 years earlier and let everyone enjoy his trip down memory lane for the last several months of the show.

One of his last guests had been his first guest ever on his very first show–singer Tony Bennett. As they reminisced, an old black and white photo was produced that showed Tony standing on a wooden box singing on that very first “Tonight Show” performance. Johnny was a few feet away sitting at a rickety old desk, and the audience shrieked with laughter at the poverty-like look of the ancient set in the photo.

“Boy, we spared no expense on that set, huh, Tony,” said Johnny, smiling.

“Hey,” said Tony, reflecting on Johnny’s long and distinguished career, “it isn’t where you start, it is where and how you find yourself at the end.”

The audience burst into applause as Johnny blushed, choked up, and shook Tony’s hand.

There endeth the lesson.

Ron Ciancutti is the Purchasing Manager for Cleveland Metroparks. He is not on Facebook, but he can be reached at

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One comment on “Should I Stay Or Should I Go?

  1. Barb Burkholder on said:

    Loved the article!

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