Late Bloomers

rodney dangerfield in 1997

What do Rodney Dangerfield, Grandma Moses, Christopher Columbus, and Laura Ingalls Wilder have in common?

They all found their greatest successes late in life.

While fame and fortune frequently come to the young, not everyone makes their mark on the world with a crayon. Sometimes, people come to it late, but they come to it with their whole hearts.

And yet another dream is coming true, in the sports arena, for 36-year-old Jim Morris, a high school baseball coach who has a chance to play in the big leagues. CBS News Sunday Morning will feature his story on Sunday, April 2.

Rodney Dangerfieldcolor>

Scratch the surface of the "got-no-respect" comedian, and you won't find the lovable nut he plays in movies and in his standup act.

At the moment, Dangerfield is recovering from double-bypass heart surgery, which he underwent March 21. (An angiogram had revealed a couple of blocked arteries.) But perhaps that operation was not the biggest challenge he has faced in his 78 years.

Born Jacob Cohen, Dangerfield got an early start as a comic working "Borscht Belt" resorts in New York's Catskill Mountains. But he was beset by depression, and gave up that career by the time he was 30.

"Comedy is often a camouflage for depression, and it certainly was for me," Dangerfield once told an interviewer.

He also once was quoted by a California newspaper as saying seriously, "I have never been happy. My whole life has been a downer."

His act did not catch on until he was in his 40s, although he had opened his own New York nightclub where he had plenty of opportunity to perform. It was when he developed the "no respect" shtick that his career caught fire.

Over the years, he appeared on The Tonight Show more than 70 times. But it was not until 1997 that Dangerfield began to speak openly of his struggle with depression.

He gained a new generation of fans in the '80s, thanks to his appearances in such goofball movies as Caddyshack and Easy Money. He has completed another film along those lines, Nine Wives, which is due for release next year.

He also dabbled a bit in drama, playing the abusive father in Natural Born Killers.

His first marriage, to the late singer Joyce Indig, ended in divorce in 1961. They had two children together. In 1993, he married Joan Child, a florist.

Among other honors, Dangerfield's trademark white shirt and red necktie are on permanent display at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington.

Dangerfield was among the first entertainers to establish his own Web site, which he launched in February 1995. You can visit it at Rodney Dangerfield's Official Web Site.

Grandma Mosescolor>

For most of her life, she was Anna Mary Robertson MosesShe was married for 40 years to a farmer with whom she had five children.

Grandma Moses
When the marriage ended with her husband's death in 1927, she began making embroidered pictures and paintings. By the end of the 1930s, she was a "discovered" artist who was preparing for her first New York exhibition.

She was in her 70s.

As Grandma Moses herself said, "If I didn't start painting, I would have raised chickens."

The bright warmth of her paintings, which mainly featured landscapes and rural themes, seemed to serve as an artistic antidote to the bleak, steel workings of war.

By the time she passed away in 1961 at the age of 101, Moses had left a legacy of more than 1,500 works of art. Even her tilted worktable is a work of art; she painted it herself before using it as an easel.

To see examples of Grandma Moses' work, visit

To find out more about the largest collection of Grandma Moses' work, visit the Bennington Museum Web site. This is also where you can see the schoolhouse where the artist and her family went to class, as well as her self-decorated worktable.

Christopher Columbuscolor>

Christopher Columbus
He was 41 in 1492, when he came upon the shores of the New World. Although historians have established that Christopher Columbus was not technically the first European to discover America (others were there before him), his arrival in North America did mark the beginning of trade routes across the waters.

Columbus might be described as a businessman with a sense of adventure.

For more on Columbus, see The Columbus Navigation Home Page.

What did they eat aboard the ships? Click here to find out.

The other side of the story: A Native American view of Christopher Columbus.

Laura Ingalls Wildercolor>

As Rose Wilder was growing up, her mother, like many others, told her stories about the "olden days." But, unlike many others, Rose's mother had lived a colorful life and knew how to use words to make her stories exciting and educational at the same time.

Laura Ingalls Wilder
It took Rose a long time to talk her mother into writing those stories down. In fact, Laura Ingalls Wilder did not complete her first book until she was a little past 60.

But once she started publishing the Little House books there was no stopping the demand for the tales of the Ingalls family, traveling west by covered wagon to Indian Territory in Kansas, to Minnesota, and finally to Dakota Territory, where Laura Ingalls met and married Almanzo Wilder.

It was a life beset with tragedy, including the death of a baby brother and of her own infant son. Documented in the Little House books are such catastrophes as the destruction of the family crops (by grasshoppers, bad weather, and crows) and the blindness of her beloved older sister, Mary.

One book is devoted entirely to telling how the family weathered the Hard Winter of 1880-81, when blizzards isolated their Dakota town from the rest of the world from October to May.

But somehow, the indomitable spirit of the pioneers and the strong love in the Ingalls family are the main messages that come through in Mrs. Wilder's books.

In 1957, at age 90, she died on her own land, on the farm she and Almanzo had built with their own hands. By that time, Laura Ingalls Wilder had lived long enough to travel not only by covered wagon but by streetcar, motorcar and airplane.

For more on Wilder:
Laura Ingalls Wilder: Frontier Girl

Laura Ingalls Wilder Memorial Society, Inc.