This week we are listing, in reverse order of age, the 50 over-50s we feel have made their mark on the world. Next week, we’ll open the vote to you, to decide who, out of these fabulous 50-somethings, should top the list. Meet today's ten
Ivor Braka, 19 December 1954
When not selling Freuds and Bacons from the walls of his enormous London house in Chelsea’s Cadogan Square – the scene of four legendary parties a year – this Manchester-born scion of a Middle Eastern rag trader can be found restoring the Repton-designed landscape of Gunton Park in Norfolk, where he owns a folly and observatory. Before he married in 2009, Jerry Hall was an admirer of this long-haired ex-ladies’ man, and the witty, Oxford-educated, Tory-leaning polymath makes a refreshing change from the snooty Bond Street set and the bullshit-burbling followers of the White Cube’s Jay Jopling.
Iman, 25 July 1955
“My dream woman is Iman,” said Yves Saint Laurent when his Somali-born muse quit full time modelling in the early Eighties. Having risen to supermodel status while Ms Moss was still in nappies, today Iman is a hugely successful entrepreneur. After spotting a glaring gap in the market, her eponymous cosmetics range for dark-skinned women now turns over $25 million a year. A life-long interest in world politics (and a political science degree) makes her the perfect spokeswoman for the Keep a Child Alive Aids foundation. And just in case you weren’t quite envious enough, she also speaks five languages and is married to David Bowie.
Monty Don, 8 July 1955“Out of each failure comes a new success,” as some self-help book has probably pontificated, and it’s certainly true in the case of green-fingered broadcaster Monty Don. In the Eighties he ran a popular jewellery company. In the Nineties, it collapsed and Don lost everything, selling his remaining furniture at Leominster market. Being a keen writer, the experience inspired him to write a book, and before long he’d landed a TV slot on This Morning presenting a segment on his other passion, gardening. Despite receiving no formal training, Don has gone on to become one of this country’s leading authorities on all things horticultural, even replacing Alan Titchmarsh on Gardener’s World. He returned to that show earlier this year, to the delight of viewers, and continues to front interesting and innovative programmes, with altruism often at their heart. The boy Don good (groan).
Tim Berners Lee, 8 June 1955Let’s face it, if it wasn’t for this man you wouldn’t be reading this sentence, for in 1989, deep in the Geneva countryside (current home of the Large Hadron Collider), the pioneering TimBL began a World Wide Web project that two years later became ‘the internet’. As well as the career highlight of being listed here, he can also list a President’s medal from the Institute of Physics, an honorary Harvard doctorate and a knighthood among his accolades. He has remained heavily involved in the advancement of the web, not least in his role as director of the World Wide Web Foundation, funding and co-ordinating efforts to advance the potential of the Web to benefit humanity (though whether amusingly captioned pictures of cats benefits humanity is open to question).
Kim Cattrall, 21 August 1956Liverpool’s sexiest export (sorry, Cilla) remains synonymous with her Sex and the City character, man-eating clothes-horse Samantha Jones. The initially smart, pithy TV series jumped the shark some time before it hit the big screen but we can forgive Cattrall’s association with the jaw-droppingly crass cinema franchise and the resulting Razzie. She has recently won over the critics with her beguiling performance on the London stage alongside Matthew Macfadyen in Noel Coward’s Private Lives, saying, “One of the reasons I’ve come to Europe is because they tend to think a little bit differently about getting older than people in North America do.” Expect to see much more of her, as it were.
Sebastian Coe, 29 September 1956It is easy to forget that besuited politico Lord Coe spent his previous career in little shorts and spiky shoes, rising from the Hallamshire Harriers to become one of Britain’s most successful middle-distance runners. Much of the Eighties for Coe was spent famously battling with Steves Ovett and Cram on the worlds’ athletics tracks, picking up four Olympic medals and countless records along the way. On retirement he entered a different kind of race and became Tory MP for Falmouth & Cambourne, climbing the political ladder to eventually spearhead London’s successful Olympic bid, and receiving a life peerage in 2000 that made him Baron Coe of Ranmore, Surrey. (Ran More – geddit? Deliberate? We hope so.) Suave and likable, we all hope when the games arrive we see much more of him than we do of London’s bumbling Mayor.
Danny Boyle, 20 October 1956
We debated whether to penalise Boyle for inflicting upon us the sight of Keith Allen’s knackers in full-frontal screen-sized horror in his debut movie Shallow Grave. But Boyle’s winning ticket is his constant ability to surprise. From the dark humour of that debut and the boundary-pushing adaptation of Irvine Welsh’s Trainspotting, from the Hollywood gloss of The Beach to the Oscar-winning Slumdog Millionaire, Boyle likes to tread new ground. Which is why it is unsurprising that 2012’s big project has nothing to do with film: he is artistic director of the Olympic Games ceremony. We can safely say Keith Allen’s privates will be nowhere in sight.
David Sedaris, 26 December 1956In his 1997 collection of essays, Holidays on Ice, American humourist David Sedaris wrote, “All of us take pride and pleasure in the fact that we are unique, but I’m afraid that when all is said and done the police are right: it all comes down to fingerprints.” The quote neatly surmises his autobiographical writing style, which focuses on the minutiae of life in all its amusing, embarrassing and surprising detail. In the 17 years since his first book was published, Sedaris has gained a feverish following in the US (his book tours selling out the likes of Carnegie Hall) and worldwide acclaim. Recent appearances on Radio 4 and a five-night run at this month’s Edinburgh Fringe should cement his position as a literary heavyweight over here too, albeit one who can expertly get away with lines like, “Everyone looks retarded once you set your mind to it.”
Nick Cave, 22 September 1957“Nick Cave has shown that ageing and raging are not mutually exclusive properties,” or so claimed internet music bible Pitchfork.com, and it’s hard to disagree. Apart from the one (literal) car crash, Cave’s recent years have been some of his most productive yet. He has flitted from writing hugely successful screenplays to his tongue-in-cheek, hard-rocking side project Grinderman, undertaken with the kind of enthusiasm normally displayed by men half his age.
Inès de La Fressange, 11 August 1957
Even if Ines de la Fressange no longer graces the covers of Vogue et al, her features may be familiar to you. Not only because she was the face of Chanel for the best part of a decade but because, since 1990, Marianne, the female symbol of the French republic, has been penned and sculpted in her likeness. Her quintessentially French looks make her the perfect poster lady for ageless sex appeal. In 2009, aged 51, she was the toast of Paris fashion week after taking to the catwalk for Gaultier, proving in Gaultier’s own words, that models “are not just 14-year-olds.”
Read day one’s list.
Read day three’s list.
Read day four’s list.
Photo credits: Danny Boyle photo by Romina Espinosa. Sebastian Coe photo by Automatas. Kim Cattrall photo by Canadian Film Centre. Iman photo by Jennifer Su. Monty Don photo by jo-h. Tim Berners Lee photo by Knight Foundation. Ivor Braka photo by Discreet-uk.com. Nick Cave photo by David Shankbone. Inès de la Fressange photo by Nicolas Genin. David Sedaris photo from Entertainment Weekly.
Although in one sense high50 is all of us who engage with the site, in another it’s some individuals sitting at desks in London, plus a few hundred writers in our age bracket spread across Britain, Europe, America, Australia and beyond. Articles attributed to high50 are written after discussion between some, many or most of the contributors, and aim to distill our opinions, sifting all the available information to arrive at an informed and authoritative overview.