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The All-Outrageous men’s team of 2004

Abroad in the land are sterling older men doing remarkable - even outrageous - things, oftentimes for the good of society. Isn’t it time to honor them, to nominate them to our All-Outrageous team?

First, a pair of caveats: The adjective “outrageous” here is merely a code word, describing the independent, strong-willed adult male who gives no quarter to his age. Moreover, this column is not home to sexist dogma; shortly, we shall name our All-Outrageous women’s team.

1) Leading off is the granddaddy of fitness, jumping Jack LaLanne, who turns 90 years old in September. Indefatigable is the proper word to describe a man who works out two hours daily, beginning at 5 a.m.

“Everything I’ve preached has come to pass,” he says. “Isn’t nutrition everything? Isn’t exercise king today?”

2) Louis “Studs” Terkel is a Pulitzer Prize-winning author because, in the words of The New York Times, he’s “a wise and watchful chronicler of life and hard times in the United States.” From his beloved Chicago, Terkel reaches out, always searching for one more hard-luck narrative. Studs never met an underdog he couldn’t admire. His books: “Division Street: America,” “Hard Times,” “Working,” “My American Century,” and more recently, “Hope Dies Last.”

3) Ted Turner may be the most outrageous man of money this nation has ever known, and we’re all better for that fact. He once said, “You never see a man of service commit suicide.” And so the Mouth of the South - and the West - gives and gives to the United Nations, to foster peace, to youth causes and, generally, to those without. Warts and all, Ted belongs.

4) So, too, does Jimmy Carter, the white-haired world traveler who carries a boy’s name. This former chief of state took up “the only title in our democracy superior to that of president, the title of citizen.”

Citizen Jimmy, founder of the Atlanta-based Carter Center, is known for his work with the homeless and for a program that seeks to eradicate Guinea worm disease, a painful parasite that has crippled millions of Africans.

Lastly, essayist and friend Hendrik Hertzberg writes how Carter was elected because of “a fervent shared vision of Christian love, forgiveness and reconciliation.”

5) and 6) From the world of sports, we nominate golfer Arnold Palmer and baseball manager Joe Torre of the New York Yankees. Torre has survived prostate cancer and owner George Steinbrenner, and just keeps winning pennants.

Joe is about quiet dignity, perseverance and patience in a game where daily the ball takes funny bounces.

Meanwhile, the general of Arnie’s Army - devoted fans all- may be the most recognized American sports celebrity, a millionaire with unaffected ways. Palmer, also a survivor of prostate cancer, is an inspiration to all who lament the too swift passage of time.

7) 8) and 9) Actor Sidney Poitier and singer/songwriter Willie Nelson represent the arts, along with director Robert Altman, an octogenarian who continues to produce movies of quality in a time when violence, sexuality and guttersnipes predominate. His latest, “The Company,” about a ballet troupe, says all this and more.

As for Poitier, he was the first African-American to win the Academy Award for best actor, opening the way for so many others. Willie “On The Road Again” Nelson is an original who wears his outrageousness well - indeed, with panache.

10) John McCain, United States senator from Arizona. A Vietnam War hero who speaks his mind and is “a standup guy” in a fraternity where, sadly, these qualities are not membership prerequisites.

11) Medical science offers Dr. Jerome Groopman, author, teacher, researcher and man of empathy and honor. He is on the Harvard Medical School faculty. His latest book is “The Anatomy of Hope.”

Who are your candidates? Send them to Bard at the address below.

Prime Notes

  • A quote for the week: “Age is the last place and time most of us will inhabit, and the fact that age seems so foreign to most of us, as though cleft from the known world, is one of life’s sly tricks.” Author Sallie Tisdale wrote this in “Harvest Moon, Portrait of a Nursing Home.”
  • Fact: The long-distance caregiver spends, on average, more than $4,700 a year, a sum close to the $4,694 a year average cost of an education at a public college. Source: Wall Street Journal.
  • Metlife Mature Market Institute offers a free brochure: “Since You Care: Adult Day Care.” Call (203) 221-6580 or e-mail: MatureMarketInstitute@metlife.com.
  • “Not only have the predictions that it will soon be possible to slow or stop the aging process been incorrect over the last 40 years, identical predictions made over the last 3,600 years also have been incorrect.” Dr. Leonard Hayflick, University of California at San Francisco, said it.