PEARL BAILEY,who died in Philadelphia on Friday, was many things. She was a wonderful musician who did not take her prodigious talent for granted, but worked endlessly on improving it. She was a humanitarian, much concerned with helping others -- the list of worthy causes she worked so hard to support is long and impressive. She was also, incidentally, a woman who looked on Washington as home, having been raised here, begun her singing career here, greatly enjoyed playing here in the years of her prominence and success and eventually worked for and achieved a college degree here, this last when she was in her sixties and enrolled in Georgetown to study theology.
Two aspects of Miss Bailey's life strike us as being especially worth noting. The first is that, absolutely without any of that cuteness or condescension with which younger people often discuss their elders, it is possible to say that Pearl Bailey died young at 72. She knew the trick that others, trudging vainly from one pavilion of "makeovers" and "miracle cures" to the next, never figure out: that staying young doesn't mean being repainted like some old battleship, but means staying interested, curious, concerned, intellectually energetic and open and empathetic. Witness her incredible initiative at Georgetown, pursuing her course work even as she continued her singing career.
The other aspect of Miss Bailey's life that was so distinctive was her attitude toward herself and her achievements. She never seemed to think that she was completed, as so many notable stars, achievers of other kinds and assorted bigshots do. That is what the Georgetown study was about, but it is also what her agreeably modest and eminently civil temperament was about. In this time of depressing personages who either don't know how to handle their fame or who don't in fact deserve it in the first place (or both) Miss Bailey stood apart from the pack. She gave celebrity a good name.