Retirement and The Fabulous Follies

(Originally written June, 1999)

At what age do you plan to retire?  What do you intend to do when you get there?  Tell me what the perfect retirement looks like.  I just read yesterday that the average sixty-five year old male retires to a life of inactivity and dies two years later.  That does not sound very alluring.

Well, Riff Markowitz had a forty-year career in show business.  In 1991 he retired in Palm Springs.  Soon he was asked by the city leaders to help them do something with the empty historic Plaza Theatre.  It did not take long for him to make history.  Eight years later over one million people have enjoyed the Palm Springs Follies.  The theatre is unique in that all cast members are fifty years of age or older.  At age fifty, sixty, seventy, eighty, and even older these seniors are delighting audiences in the Follies.

We were in Palm Springs for a meeting and went with a group to see the show.  We could not believe how well these “old people” performed.  Each person in the troupe had entertainment careers that had ended at a much earlier age.  Seven members of the cast are in their fifty’s, ten are in their sixty’s and seventy’s, and four are over eighty!  Their average age is seventy-one years old.  When I was a youngster, I thought fifty was old.  As I got older, sixty, then seventy seemed old.  Now that I’m fifty-two, those years seem pretty young.  But these performers set a new standard for excellence in their later years.  They are the top choices of some four hundred who audition in London, New York City, and Los Angeles every June.  They meet in Palm Springs in September and rehearse until November.  Then they begin a tough schedule that includes eight to eleven performances a week through the spring.

Beverly Allen began her dancing career at ten and finally retired at forty-five.  (You should have seen her at age twenty-five!)  She came out of retirement at age eighty, last year.  Judy Bell is the featured soloist at age sixty-one.  Maryetta Evens thrills the audiences with her dance and the splits.  She performed as a child, toured with her family for twenty years, and then opened a dance school in her hometown.  After performing in local productions for twenty years, Maryetta went back to school at age sixty to earn her degree in theater. This active senior then taught drama and dance until another retirement at seventy-eight.  At age eighty-four she joined the follies and is now in her third year.

These twenty-one performers entertained us with a ventriloquist, juggling, comedy, and a lot of singing and dancing.  They took us back to the music of thirty’s and forty’s.   “Oh, you Beautiful Doll,” “Puttin’ on the Ritz,” “You’ll Never Walk Alone,”  “You Stepped Out of a Dream,”  “The Most Beautiful Girl in the World,” and “Don’t Sit Under the Apple Tree” were just a few of the over forty numbers.  The final scene contained a rousing performance of the “Battle Hymn,” “Stars and Stripes,” and “God Bless America”.  What hard work and real fun this must be for the cast, and what a great evening for the audience.  In a world full of tasteless entertainment, this was a special treat.

So, what will you do in your next career?  Will any of us have as much fun as the follies cast?  Make that contribution now to your IRA or 401-K, so that you won’t have to continue to earn a lot more money, but will be able to afford to do your passion while in your retirement.  Maybe we should take that word out of our vocabulary.  Dream big dreams for your next career.  I’ll see you there!

Thinking younger,

“Young men, in the same way be submissive to those who are older. All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another.”        I Peter 5:5 (NIV)


About kenthumphreys
Kent Humphreys has been a business leader for over forty years. He also served as CEO of FCCI/Christ@Work for six years and now serves as their worldwide ambassador, speaking, writing, and mentoring young leaders. He continues to be active in distribution, private equities, and real estate. Kent and his wife Davidene have written six books together. They have three children and eight grand-children.

One Response to Retirement and The Fabulous Follies

  1. Cathy Westm says:

    So re-tire our cars… but not our careers! Thank you.

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