Sterling Hayden, a Wiltonian whom I came to know in the late ’70s, was a fascinating, hungry, obviously vulnerable fellow, insecure and ridden with guilt about naming names in the ’50s, jolly or surly depending on the time of day, very singular, a great contentious bear of a man, always the thinker, certainly a poet or a man trying all the time to be one, a man of the sea and a boy in some ways.
And his legendary interviews with Tom Snyder around this late Carter period (when Hayden was 63 or 64) conveyed this. Watch this ten-minute clip and try to resist him — you can’t. So charmingly unsettled, so spirited and twitchy, speaking in his own special idiosyncratic shorthand. He really knew how to tell a story his way.
There are the rote facts of life, the plain material truth of things, and then there are the currents within. The singing angels, the demons, the fireflies, the banshees, the echoes, the dreams…the vague sense of a continuing infinite scheme and how we fit into that.
We all define our lives as a constant mixing of these two aspects, but the charm and final value of a person, for me, is about how much he/she seems to be dealing with the interior world, and how much he/she comments and refers to those currents and laughs about them, and basically lives on the flow of that realm.
Some go there more frequently or deeply than others, and some are just matter-of-fact types who let their spiritual side leak out in small little droplets from time to time, but Hayden, by my sights, was almost entirely about those currents.