January 29, 1999

Twentieth Century Man

One thing that makes our country different from most others is this idea that you can re-create yourself as someone you'd prefer to be...sell everything off, head out west, start a new life.  But what happens if you're too good at it?  At throwing everything out and starting over?

Keith Aldrich with his daughter, Gillian Aldrich.


The tendency toward self-reinvention is so deep in American culture that we have an entire industry, a self-help industry, telling us how to transform ourselves into someone new. And usually, we see this as a positive thing. But what happens if you're too good at it, at throwing everything off, starting over from scratch?

Act One

Over the course of his life, Keith Aldrich was a child of the Depression in Oklahoma; a preacher-in-training in booming California; an aspiring Hollywood actor; in the 1950s, a self-styled Beat writer, and then a man in a gray flannel suit; in the 1960s, a member of the New York literati, and then a hippie; in the 1970s, a denizen of the suburbs with a partying, Ice Storm kind of life. Then in the 80's, when the moral majority helped put Ronald Reagan in office, he became a born-again Christian. Today we're devoting our entire show to story of Keith's life, as told by one of his nine children, Gillian Aldrich. (33 minutes)