Still a Force at Age 96 0

She is almost 100 years old, but that doesn’t mean her vanity has vanished. Ivy Bethune is staring intensely at the mirror in her small compact, brushing foundation onto her face that is etched with a century of wrinkles.

She is a 96-year-old actress who was born in Sevastopol, Russia in 1918. She has appeared on The Outer Limits, Perry Mason, Star Trek, Back to the Future, and was still working as an actress as recently as last year.

[pullquote]”I haven’t gotten my face ready. It takes an hour. It used to take fifteen minutes.”[/pullquote]

She is reticent about having me take her photo. “I don’t look good today,” she says. “I haven’t gotten my face ready. It takes an hour. It used to take fifteen minutes.”

I tell her that she is attractive, which doesn’t woo her. I make a joke that I couldn’t get my face ready in two hours if I tried, but she waves that off.

“The difference is I used to have a face,” she says. “But it’s changed three times in my life.”

“You face has changed?”

She nods. I really do think she looks good for 96. But she’s 96, and she used to make a living because of her beauty, so she looks at herself through a different mirror.

She is having lunch with her caretaker before attending a meeting of the screen actor’s guild about contracts. But first she must see the doctor, and she’s glad it’s a doctor she doesn’t know, because she wouldn’t want to go to her regular doctor without wearing makeup.

She doesn’t stay on this topic long because she wants to tell me a joke. For the punch line, she affects the accent of a Bronx factory worker, and it booms throughout the store.

“I used to live in the Bronx,” she says. “At 10 years old, everyone had a switchblade.”

I tell her I’ve never had a switchblade.

She looks at me puzzled. “You’ve never been to the Bronx,” she says finally.

She tells me her daughter is an even more successful actress. The caretaker tells me the daughter’s name is Zina, and I look her up on IMDB, the Internet Movie Data Base.

Zina is an attractive blonde. Ivy is telling me about her life, as an actress and as dancer, working with disabled children.

Her IMDB bio says Zina at age 6 was a student at George Balanchine’s School of American Ballet, and she performed with the New York City Ballet as a teen despite the fact she was diagnosed at various times with scoliosis, lymphedema and hip dysplasia. In 1982, Zina also organized Dance Outreach (now known as Infinite Dreams), which continues to enroll disabled young children in dance-related activities throughout Southern California.

That is quite a remarkable life, and Ivy is very proud of her daughter. I notice on her bio that Zina died two Februarys ago at age 66.

Ivy sees this too.

“I don’t know what I’m still doing here,” she says. “But I’ve got to get going to the meeting. It’s about money so it’s important. I just hope I have time to put my face on first.”