Yesterday in this blog, London-based American comic and occasional 85-year-old burlesque stripper Lynn Ruth Miller wrote about her trip to Singapore, Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi and Bangkok.
This is what she did when she got back to the UK…
Last August, when I performed in North Berwick, I met a lovely woman, Paula Stott, who told me that she was absolutely sure Harrogate would love my work. She ran events for the film society there and said she was going to find a way to get me to perform before one of their events. Did I know Marilyn Monroe would have been just a few years older than I, had she lived?
I did not know that.
Several months passed before I got a note from Paula asking if I would do a comedy performance before a screening of Marilyn Monroe’s comedy Some Like It Hot. I said of course and so the trip to Harrogate became a reality.
The timing was a bit tight, because I came home from Bangkok two days before and Paula wanted me to go to Harrogate one day early to have a reunion of all the women who had seen me that evening in North Berwick.
So I got home to London, unpacked, did laundry, ran to see Funny Turns, a play the wonderful David Forest was in and, the next morning, packed a smaller case for Harrogate – and Holland – and off I went to see one of the most charming towns in the North of England.
Harrogate is a lovely place: a far cry from the land of ornate temples, beautiful men dressed as women, loose cotton clothing and face masks to keep out pollution.
One of its highlights is Betty’s, a 100 year old café that features lovely afternoon teas and beautiful pastries. Everyone in Harrogate loves Betty’s but no one knows who Betty actually was.
In Some Like It Hot, Marilyn Monroe typifies the kind of sexiness that all we girls tried to emulate: sweet, kind and innocent but hot as a firecracker, out to marry money for our security and hope that love comes along with it.
For me, the interesting part of the movie is that Joe E Brown, the secondary lead, is from Toledo, Ohio, where I was born.
His favorite restaurant was my family’s favorite one as well: Naftalin’s.
Joe E Brown is a local hero in Toledo and they even have a park named after him there. I remember him in person on stage when he played the lead in Harvey, a play about a man with an imaginary 6 foot tall rabbit.
In Some Like It Hot, Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis cross-dress and, at the time the film was made, it was very common for men to dress as women for comic effect. My own uncle danced in a show called The Matzo Ball Revue in a flimsy skirt with a bangle glittering in his belly button and no-one thought twice about his sexuality. Nor did either of his wives or any of his children doubt his testosterone levels. They thought he was very funny.
Times change and now cross-dressing can often be a statement of gender identity. In those days it was a comic gesture.
At the Harrogate screening, I was preceded by The Ukulele Ladies, a group of women of a certain age singing ukulele favorites of yesteryear.
Then I performed my comedy about what it feels like to be 85… to a lot of people who were 85 and all I could think was: Why don’t THEY tell ME how THEY feel.
Then I flew from Manchester Airport to Amsterdam and was driven to my gig in Utrecht at Comedyhuis.
Utrecht is a lovely city filled with bright lights and no parking.
The comedy gig was run by comedians and they present very low cost shows for students to enjoy since Utrecht is a university town. The set-up reminds me very much of Angel Comedy in Islington, London. The audience was similar as well: young, eager to laugh and very welcoming.
The most interesting thing about the gig was that the line up was all women except for one man.
One of the girls was from Detroit, Michigan, which is 30 miles from my hometown of Toledo.
Detroit is the only place I can think of that is worse to live in than Toleldo.
She, like I, had got the hell out.
The next night was Mezrab comedy in Amsterdam. It is always well attended. The last two months it has been sold out.
When I do another comedy club in Amsterdam. I have trouble getting laughs because English is the second language of most of the audience. At Mezrab, there is no problem and although the audience is hugely diverse – Romanians, Russians, Bulgarians, many Dutch people – they are eager to laugh and very supportive.
The evening was a huge success.
Once again I headlined because one of the other comedians backed out.
And, once again, I was up at 7.30am, dashed to the airport and the plane was an hour late.
As soon as I got home to London, my body rebelled and I now have the cold to end all colds.
However, the show must go on.
At least I think it must.
There is a video on YouTube of Lynn Ruth Miller in her other creative hat, performing at Burlesque Baubles in Cardiff in 2017