Stand-up storyteller, London-based American comedian and late-blossoming burlesque performer Lynn Ruth Miller has recently blogged here about her globe-trotting gigs.
Later this week, she is performing in Manila and Jakarta then, next week, Beijing and Shanghai, followed by gigs in Singapore. As I post this, she is on her way to Cannes…
And last week she celebrated her 85th birthday with six parties in England. Here she tells what happened.
I made it! I am 85 years old with all my own teeth, both hips, both knees and most of my marbles. I am told that, from this day forward, I can expect my heart to falter, my sense of taste to diminish, my brain to slow and my bladder to empty without notice. My bones will get thinner, I will get smaller and I will dry out.
But no matter! I can still have sex if I find someone who can still get it up and remember where to put it.
My skin is so loose I look like a brunette Shar Pei. I forgot my name two years ago and have more hair on my chin than on my foo-foo. To celebrate this, I have had a total of six cakes with candles and two pastries suitably decorated – at six birthday parties.
I received hundreds of Facebook messages from people I swear I have never met who all have fond memories of the time I petted their little poodle or taught them how to survive reality. I received two dozen gorgeous cards and several witty notes telling me to live it up now before it’s too late. And I am grateful.
Time was when I celebrated birthday after birthday all alone.
My gala celebration began on Sunday 7th October when a fellow Stanford graduate, Karen, brought over her thirteen-year-old Vietnamese daughter Mae and we painted pretty pictures together. Then, to my surprise, the two of them disappeared into my kitchen and returned with a beautiful cake alit with several candles. I blew them all out (I still can, you know) and made a wish, which I won’t tell because I want it to come true.
We finished the evening by knocking off a bottle of wine (Karen and I, not her daughter) bemoaning the state of the world.
The next night, after a rehearsal of Schminderella, (a pantomime I am in as the Fair Godbubba, to remind me that I am, after all, Jew-ish even though I have been a hopeless infidel for over 70 years), my very special friend Michael Ward talked his neighbor Barry into picking me up and driving me to Michael’s house for a late dinner.
Michael’s partner is Dimitry Devdariani a director, actor and exquisite human being from Georgia. We three have been friends since 2007 when Dimitry discovered me telling stories in C Venue at the Edinburgh Fringe.
Michael had convinced Barry and his partner Roy to help him create a surprise party for me and, after much wine and even better conversation, I was ushered into the sitting room where there were balloons, sparkling lights and the loveliest orchid waiting for me.
We enjoyed a gourmet dinner and finished with cheesecake (my favorite dessert) and a few candles which I blew out and I made the same wish that I made the night before.
Both Michael and Dimitry assured me I looked exactly the same solid little number they first encountered when I was a young chick of 76, eleven years ago.
We see what we want to see don’t we?
I got home at three in the morning and fought off indigestion and a hangover.
The next night was The Big One at The Phoenix Artists’ Club. Stuart Saint and Peter Dunbar gave me the 7.00 pm slot to perform my Crazy Cabaret – a potpourri of my favorite songs from my shows.
I wore a glittery dress. I felt very sparkly. And sang my songs to a room filled with very dear friends, some I have known since 2005 when I started to perform at the Edinburgh Fringe.
At the end of the show, Stuart brought out a glorious cake with lots of candles that I managed to blow out after I made that same secret wish. My lungs stepped up to the plate and I did it all in one giant breath. It was beautiful night.
On Wednesday, my friend Stephen came over for dinner. I saved him some of my cake and some ice cream from Sunday and we celebrated us. No candles this time.
But Thursday made up for that, because it was my REAL birthday and I celebrated it in Brighton. I gave a small speech at a health fair that hired me to do comedy the next night and then met my friends Liz, Zhanna, William and Jo for a festive dinner at Polpo’s, a late night Italian tapa kind of place.
Liz presented me with two cream filled pastries in lieu of a cake and I was showered with flowers, mugs, good books and chocolate. I returned to a private room booked for me at the Brighton Hilton. I was totally out of my element. I am used to hanging out on people’s couches. This was luxury I have always assumed was only for the affluent in this world. And it was mine to enjoy.
The next day I visited my wonderful friend Gail and we discussed the gender hysteria that is sweeping the UK and had lovely pastry and coffee. We bemoaned the status of women literally going down the toilet in the USA.
Still stimulated and filled with self-righteousness I went over to my friend Annie’s for yet another cake and more conversation about the joys and pitfalls of crossing the 80 mark. Annie is 83 and has had a cochlear implant.
I am kept together with two steel plates, three screws, two hearing aids and a lot of determination. We both gave up logical thinking five years ago and are dealing with unexpected leakage, disappearing waistlines and, in Annie’s case, bright new teeth. I still have my originals.
That night I did a half hour of comedy at Fiddlers Elbow in Brighton to an international audience from the Health Fair who were into new age concepts of the body–mind connections and didn’t understand one word I said.
Tea bagging, fisting and back doors are not part of that experience.
Saturday night was a special night for me because I went to Wimbledon to do a benefit for the Spear charity: a wonderful group who are trying to combat homelessness. No cake, but lots of wine and laughter, which is really just as effective.
On Sunday, the magic Zoe Dobson came over with a beautiful jam-and-cream-filled cake and lots of special birthday wishes.
That night, I also met Mark Allen to celebrate our birthdays together. We chose Ritorno, a new restaurant opened in Holborn that had run out of half their menu but had plenty of wine.
I met Mark 35 years ago when he was the head usher at Stanford’s Lively Arts concerts and I was one of the ushers. We bonded then because we both love classical music and the two of us went to the San Francisco Opera together.
Because our birthdays are three days apart (and 26 years… Mark just turned 59) we decided to celebrate together in London this year.
Mark told me I was a funny lady 35 years ago and insists I look exactly the same as when he first met me… Did I mention Mark walks with a white cane and a German Shepherd?
We finished our meal with a brilliant Happy Birthday sparkler and I thought this was my Grande Finale to the 85 Birthday Bacchanal.
I was wrong.
Yesterday night I took the train to Gravesend for dinner with my dear darling friend Richard Rycroft. He showed me the sight that made Gravesend famous: a statue of Pocahontas.
She actually met her death in a barge outside Richard’s balcony.
I was stunned and very impressed.
We went back to Richard’s place to view his modern toilet, one that really flushes (a new experience for Richard) and his spiffy state-of-the-art kitchen which is stocked with enough food to feed the entire town, should Brexit block food deliveries.
There, nestled between the bread-maker and the tea kettle, on top of the dishwasher and under several animal effigies that Richard keeps to remind him that we are all one race was ANOTHER CAKE. This one had a unicorn horn on it.
We stuffed ourselves with ice cream, berries, cake and conversation. And thus ended eight glorious days to welcome my entering my 86th year.
Now that I am so fucking old, it occurs to me that I should share the conclusions that life has given me after all this living…
The one thing I now know is how little I know.
I have finally accepted that the only thing I can control is my own behavior.
I am what I am… It is too late to bemoan my lack of looks, talent or financial status.
This person I see in the mirror is what I have made, day by day, month by month and year by year. She is filled with imperfections, but she has survived.
That, for me is very good news.
And No… I am not telling you my wish.
I want it to come true.