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Comic Lynn Ruth Miller at 85: two steel plates, three screws and a secret wish…

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.

The first of many 85th birthday cakes for Lynn Ruth Miller

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.  

Lynn Ruth celebrating her birthday on a night in with the boys

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.

Lynn Ruth also celebrated at the Phoenix Club in London…

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.

Lynn Ruth Miller – stimulated, plated and screwed

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.

One of many celebratory climaxes for Lynn Ruth on her 85th

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.

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Comic Martin Soan on spirituality and Malcolm Hardee’s “Oowwerwerwouer”

Martin Soan in full jester garb last night

Martin Soan in his resplendent garb last night

Performance artist and comedian Martin Soan was richer than Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II in one thing this year – birthdays.

Her Majesty has two birthdays every year – her real one and her official one.

This year, Martin Soan had three.

He had a birthday party last Monday. He had his actual birthday on Wednesday.

And yesterday he had another birthday party, coinciding with the Queen’s official birthday.

The Queen decided to knight actor Tony Robinson yesterday.

A 60-year-old man ping-longs yesterday

A 60-year-old man ping-pongs yesterday

Martin decided to play ping-pong at home and then go down the pub and get pissed with his mates and neighbours.

Well into the evening, I had a chat with him. He is now 60 years old. He was wearing a jester’s outfit, given to him by fellow Greatest Show on Legs member Steve Bowditch. This was befitting as, the previous weekend, Martin had been created ‘official fool’ at the annual International Jesters’ Tournament at Muncaster Castle in the Lake District. He receives his annual salary in beer.

“So,” I asked him, “what is it like being 60 and drunk and dressed as a jester?”

“John,” he replied, “let me ask you this… Do you know about your spiritual side? Have you a spiritual side, John?”

“Well, I have a spiritual stomach,” I replied. “Some people might call me Buddha-like.”

Martin re-installs my pussy at Fleming Towers this morning

Martin pays homage to my pussy picture at Fleming Towers

“I have seen some of the pictures on your wall in your home, John,” persisted Martin, “and I would say you would have a spiritual side. But, a bit like Malcolm (Hardee, Martin’s deceased partner in the Greatest Show On Legs act), you are really reluctant to go to your spiritual side and talk to me and converse with me on a spiritual level. Exactly the same as Malcolm.

“Over all the years I knew him,” Martin explained, “I got Malcolm to talk about it twice. Now, you have some art on your wall that tells something about your spiritual side. Blog about that, John, blog about that.”

“Which pictures?” I asked, slightly taken aback.

“I don’t remember the bloody names of them,” replied Martin. “You know the ones I’m talking about: the eye, the…”

“The eye?” I asked.

“Well, there must be one with an eye,” said Martin. “I can’t remember them all.”

“Do you mean the cat with spectacles on?” I asked.

Martin Soan

The barely-glimpsed ship about to enter a living room

“Yes! Ah! Yes!” said Martin. “The cat… The ship coming through the house… What’s his name?”

Dominique Appia,” I said. “So what was Malcolm’s spiritual side?”

“Even though we were close all those years,” explained Martin, “and did all that stuff together, there were only a couple of times when he could actually say something to me, like Hello, mate. We done well, ‘aven’t we? He normally just went Oowwerwerwouer. A bit like you. You’re a bit Oowwerwerwouer.

“Am I?” I asked. “I’m Oowwerwerwouer?”

“Yeah, you are,” said Martin.

“I swear to God I’ve never gone Oowwerwerwouer in my life,” I told him.

“If people are close,” said Martin, “why not just embrace it? Malcolm had a tough time accepting that. Malcolm would go Oowwerwerwouer… So what do you say to that, John?”

“What was Malcolm’s spiritual side that you saw twice?” I asked.

The Greatest Show on Legs in their prime

Malcolm Hardee (left) – the spiritually repressed family man

Martin told me: “That he actually did have a wonderful family side to him and he did actually love me but he could never express it and that he…”

“I can’t blog that,” I said. “People will misunderstand because it sounds gay.”

Martin gave a shrug:

“Malcolm and me grew up together, we had loads of experiences together and, if I tell you them all, it just makes them sound petty, but we went through shit and we had a great time and there was a spiritual side to us that was like brothers. We were like brothers, but he would never admit to that.

“When we took acid or got stoned or something like that, he’d just go Oh no, I… No I just feel a bit off and… But a couple of times I got him off-guard and he said We did well, we did well.

“With Jim (comedian Boothby Graffoe) I can say Oh fuck, we did really well, man. We did that and We did that. I love you, guy – We did that! We did that together. We fucking did that! Malcolm would never say that and we did so much. He’d just go Oowwerwerwouer.”

“How did he go?” I asked.

“Oowwerwerwouer,” repeated Martin.

“It’s as if Malcolm was in the room,” I said.

“You are like that, John,” Martin told me. “You are like that, John. You crack naff jokes to escape what it is dealing with people.”

“Mmmm….” I said.

“Yes you do,” said Martin.

“I wasn’t saying No,” I said.

“I can say that,” said Martin. “You’re blogging about me and I can say whatever I want to make my blog that you’re doing about me more interesting.”

“You’re interesting to begin with,” I replied.

Another comedian not going to the Edinburgh Fringe this year

Martin Soan says he is spiritual but is not interesting

“No I’m not.”

“Yes you are.”

“No I’m not,” Martin repeated. “Who’s interesting?”

“That bloke with one eye who killed two policewomen,” I said.

“Yeah,” conceded Martin. “He might be interesting.”

“So what’s your spiritual side, then?” I asked.

“My spiritual side,” said Martin, “is that I love rain, I like moss and I love mist… I did manage to take Malcolm on a little walk once and we did see that side. He did actually go Oh yeah, OK, that’s pretty cool… My spiritual side is all to do with getting out there and being in the wind and the rain.

“I loved today. I love today. It’s my birthday party, it rained and I loved it. Absolutely loved it. I loved the wetness… No, I don’t love the wet. I love the effort you have to put into protecting yourself against getting wet and cold. That’s what I love. I love sitting there and being cosy and looking at wet because I know I’ve protected myself. That’s really significant. Really significant. So tents… I love sitting in that tiny environment and I can control that tiny environment and remain dry. It’s an amazing feeling. I love being surrounded by weather and being cosy.

Martin Soan – a man who likes all things natural

“My glorious, absolutely top fave moment was when I went to the Welsh coastline with Vivienne (Martin’s wife) and it was raining and I had a tape of Keith Jarrett where it’s just him improvising on piano.

“It’s absolutely gorgeous: very classical and free, not just pinned-down by notes that you have to play, so he’s interpreting. And the rain was going against the window of the car and I put the tape on.

“It was the best ever, man. It was the best ever. The best ever.”


Martin Soan will be performing at the Edinburgh Fringe with The Greatest Show On Legs during The Increasingly Prestigious Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards Show on 23rd August — and I will be talking to comedians in five shows at the Fringe – So It Goes – John Fleming’s Comedy Blog Chat Show, 19th-23rd August.

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Filed under Comedy, Humor, Humour, Psychology, Spirituality