The AARP Convention: Whoopi Goldberg, Crosby/Stills/Nash, Newt Gingrich, Rob Reiner. And Trigger.

Posted on October 4, 2010


I’ve just returned from the 2010 AARP Convention in Orlando.  My two co-authors and I were featured speakers, along with a long list of people you have actually heard of.  That didn’t stop us.  It never has.  We just do our own thing, which is to be shining stars in a universe of our own creation.  We had never been to an AARP Convention, and it took me 13 years past age 50 (These conventions are billed as “Name of City@50”) to think it might be fun.  It was.   


Our main goal was to speak.  Or rather, it was to convince 25,000 people in a convention center approximately the size of Jupiter that they should listen to us.  Bear in mind that at any given moment, there were speakers (Olympia Dukakis, Mary Matalin, Jane Pauly, Dean Ornish…), entertainment (singers, musicians, films…), classes (health, yoga, finances, travel, technology, dating after 50…), demonstrations (massage, cooking, fitness equipment…), free health screening, shopping, and countless vendors giving away truckloads of free stuff.  Our job was to tear people away from all this, to listen to us.  We did so by being charming, engaging, charismatic, and lying about how famous we were.  Some people believed us and showed up.

Jean took a break to hear Cesar Milan, “The Dog Whisperer.”  Jean doesn’t have a dog.  She’d listen to Cesar talking about anything.  She would probably join one of his packs if he would allow it.  Joyce and I listened to Dave Barry, my personal comedic hero.  Barry spoke about his home town, Miami (Motto: We aren’t shooting at YOU).  He covered driving in Miami, where everyone obeys the traffic rules of his or her own home country and does things like passing in car wash lanes.  He spoke about aging and the inevitable forgetting of nouns (“You know that guy with the thing who did the whatever?” “Oh, you mean Hitler.”).  He spoke about parenthood and dog ownership.  I spent the time screaming with laughter and clapping and wondering why anyone would want to read my pitiful stuff, compared to his.  I love to listen to people who get me depressed about myself.


The time we spent out on the floor was priceless.  There are few places where one can see Larry King and Roy Roger’s horse Trigger in close proximity.  There’s a bad joke here, involving the word “stuffed,” but I won’t stoop that low.  Just talking to people was an experience.  I heard hilarious stories, tragic stories, inspiring stories.  My guess is that most people were from 50 to 70 something.  There were some much younger and some much older.  I watched one elderly woman plow her little motorized scooter into two vendor booths, neatly obliterating both of them.  I was standing in front of one of the booths at the time.  I narrowly escaped being mowed down, and I thought it was lucky thing my Aunt Gert wasn’t there.  She would have easily taken down four or five booths.


We gave a couple interviews, made a few great contacts, and spoke with a PBS producer.  We ate a lot of bad expensive food and a lot of good free samples of chocolate.  We were so exhausted by the end of each day that we went back to the hotel, went to dinner, and never made it back for the big concerts in the evening, including Friday night’s “World’s Greatest Dance Party.”  For that reason, I can’t tell you if things got wild at night.  The only thing I’d classify as “wild” was that woman in the scooter.  Oh, I do have a message for the good-looking man who struck up a conversation with me and told me there was a K-Y booth at the convention: I spent about 30 minutes looking for it.  I never found it.  Note to my husband: It was all in the name of journalistic research.