July 4. Independence Day. A celebration of the birth of our country. There will be fireworks,
hot dogs, parties, and most likely, a lot of alcohol consumed. It's a Federal holiday and one that
most Americans can fully enjoy without having to think about work.
Four years ago, I had to think about work because I had to. I drew the short straw and punched
the clock on the Fourth of July. It's usually one of the worst days in the television business
because the rest of the world is celebrating while you're covering parades, fender-benders, and
the rescue of some fat cat in a tree. In other words, B-O-R-I-N-G. About the only benefit to
working on the Fourth is the free food management usually orders for you. The food usually
sucks, but it tastes better only because you didn't have to pay for it.
On this day in 2013, however, the assignment I got was totally priceless and made working on
a holiday a special experience. There would be no parades, fender-benders, or the rescue of
some fat cat in a tree. I had to do a feature on a 98-year-old woman who tends bar on the
mean streets of Bridgeport, Connecticut.
When I arrived with my photographer, there she was in all her glory. Angie McLean looked like
Old Glory, dressed in red, white, and blue from head-to-toe. She had more than 30 miniature
American flags dotting her perfectly coiffed hair. McLean, is a star, who, after living nearly
a century, has more than earned her stripes. As I got set to interview her, I watched her buzz
around the bar, mixing drinks and serving customers with a smile on her face, and just wondered
to myself all the things she has experienced in her life, one that begin on April 6, 1915
I also said to myself, "This woman is living life. Retirement is a four-letter word to her. She
is 98-years old, working six days a week and has a smile on her face. I love this person."
As McClean settled in behind the bar for her interview, she seemed ready for my first question,
as if she knew it was coming.
"Why are you still bartending at 98-years old?", I asked.
"Because I'm not the type of person to sit around and watch TV. That's not for me," she
Great answer and one that left me saying, "Wow", to myself. I'm just praying I'm still
above ground and playing shuffleboard with my friends at 98, and this woman is loving
life as a bartender, slinging drinks six days a week. Take time to think about that for a second.......
McLean lives by herself and is picked up by her bosses who take her to work and drive her
home after work every night. She dresses up for every holiday. On July 4th, McLean is an
American flag. On Christmas, she morphs into a Christmas tree with all the ornaments.
"Do you ever get tired from working six days a week," I asked her.
"Of course not. You have to keep moving. Life waits for no one. If you stop, it passes
you by," she said matter-of-factly.
Amazing. Perhaps, I was really talking to the sister of Norman Vincent Peale or the
grandmother of Anthony Robbins. She was so positive, so full of life and her energy
was rubbing off on me. I knew I was in the presence of someone truly special. No, she
wasn't a great athlete, movie star, or politician. Angie McLean is just a normal person
who has lived an extraordinary life exactly how she wants to live it.
McLean gave me a special gift without even knowing it. She inspired, motivated, and educated me. Today, I am 52-years old, exactly There is so much of life left to live, so much left to accomplish.
If I become a bartender for the rest of my life that won't be a bad thing, just as long as I
do it with a smile on my face like McLean has on hers every single day. Thank you
for the gift, Angie McLean.