Lillian Solomon tools around Los Angeles in a sexy silver-blue convertible, has a live-in boyfriend, plays blackjack at the Hollywood Park Casino, goes to the gym on Mondays and anchors her bowling team on Wednesdays.
None of which would be all that remarkable except that Wednesday is Lillian’s birthday.
She turned 100.
“We’ve been living in sin for 25 years,” Lillian told me on a recent visit to the West Los Angeles Veterans Affairs campus, where she works out with boyfriend Eddie Huyffer, a World War II veteran and chipper young chap of 99.
Lillian and Eddie were in a bit of a funk. The VA had moved the gym to a new location and the workout equipment was still en route.
“We do sit-ups, weights, the leg press, the pulleys,” Lillian lamented.
A few stretches and knee bends weren’t going to cut it for her. She’s got to stay toned for bowling.
“My average is about 100,” she said. “I’m lucky to be bowling my age.”
When I told Lillian I had noticed her Crossfire in the parking lot, she flashed a big smile.
“I love that car,” she beamed.
Oh, really, I said. Why that particular set of wheels?
“It’s fast,” said Lillian, who did not appear ready to put away the keys anytime soon. “My driver’s license doesn’t expire until I’m 102, so I better make use of it.”
“She drives 70 miles an hour,” said Eddie.
“No, more like 50,”Lillian corrected, but I don’t know if I believe her.
As I get older, and more forgetful, I’m intrigued by people who seem like they’re going to live forever. I always wonder if I can steal a secret or two from them.
Morrie Markoff, an old friend and amateur sculptor I just visited the other day, is 105 and working on his second book after publishing his first two years ago. Markoff’s secret to a long life was the title of that book: “Keep Breathing.”
I told Lillian and Eddie about a neighbor and late friend of mine, Mae LaBorde, who took up acting in her 90s. LaBorde once asked her nephew to look at her finances because she was afraid she might be coming up short. The nephew told her she had enough money to last until she was 110.
LaBorde was shaken by the news.
“What’ll I do then?” she asked.
Lillian and Eddie got a kick out of that story. Lillian climbs aboard a stationary bike every morning, and she cooks for herself and Eddie, but she said she wonders how much longer she’ll be able to live independently. Looking at her, though, and hearing how sharp she is, I had to check my notes to make sure she was turning 100 and not 70.
“There is no secret,” Lillian said, other than the luck of good genes. “I was always able to get up and get moving.”
Genetics is no doubt part of it, and Lillian’s daughter is Exhibit B. Rayanne Weiss, who is almost 70 but doesn’t look it, had her own thoughts on what keeps her mother young.
“She keeps her mind active. She plays Sudoku, Scrabble — you can’t beat her at any of these games,” said Weiss, adding that her mother has a bridge club and a mah-jongg club, has been a volunteer with Jewish service organizations, and has been on three cruises in the last year.
And then there’s the young boyfriend.
Lillian and Eddie first put eyes on each other 25 years ago at the Mar Vista Bowl, where, no doubt, the combustion from exploding pins has sparked many a romance. She had been a bookkeeper and her second husband had died. Eddie had been in pharmaceutical sales and had lost his wife.
The chemistry was right, but there were two strikes against them.
“I had a boyfriend and he had a girlfriend,” Lillian said.
“But she wasn’t happy,” Eddie noted, almost gleefully.
“I was ready to dump that guy,” Lillian admitted. “He wasn’t active enough for me. He was shy, and he didn’t know how to dance.”
Lillian and Eddie went out to dinner and knew right away that there’d be some unpleasant business to tend to. They had to tell their significant others it was over.
“They were devastated,” said Eddie. “But what are you gonna do?”
Eddie opened his wallet and pulled out a photo of Lillian that was taken back when they met.
“A movie star,” he said, showing her off.
“He’s romantic,” Lillian said of the man who kisses her every morning, calls her his queen and tells her he loves her each night before they go to sleep.
Eddie was quite the bowler in his day, but he’s moved into a coaching role while nursing an injury. Actually, it’s more of a cheerleading than a coaching role.
“Let’s go,” Eddie said as Lillian and her team, Spare Me, went up against Nice Pick-Up.
The El Segundo Seniors league takes to the lanes every Wednesday at Gable House Bowl in Torrance.
“Here comes the kid,” Eddie said when it was his girlfriend’s turn.
Lillian cradles her weapon, takes dead aim at 10 helpless, unarmed soldiers, and makes for the line with damage in mind. Step, step, step, release. Her hand flies up on delivery, like it’s ordering the ball where to go, and then it’s just a waiting game.
It takes a while for Lillian’s package to arrive at its destination. But with remarkable consistency, she kisses the headpin, and then it’s just a matter of counting the casualties.
Lillian is not the best bowler in the league, but she is the oldest and appears to be the most admired.
“She’s an inspiration and a role model to me,” said Michele Aplin.
Diane Crowell watched as Lillian creased the pocket and punched out seven pins.
“This 100-year-old woman is beating the [bleep] out of me, and I’m in my 60s,” said Crowell.
“And she’s with a younger man,” said another bowler.
Spare Me, with Lillian holding steady and her daughter Rayanne chopping wood like a pro, made short work of Nice Pick-Up. In the second game, Lillian had two spares on the way to a score that couldn’t have been more perfect.
She bowled 100.
At her birthday bash Saturday in Marina del Rey, with 200 friends and family members assembled, Lillian handled the microphone like a late-night TV host and cracked that she still remembered everyone’s name. She thanked everyone for coming and said:
“Perhaps, who knows, maybe in another five years….”