Tag Archives: San Francisco

Lynn Ruth Miller on dating a ROMEO, ageing and stripping in San Francisco

Lynn Ruth Miller performing burlesque in SF

Yesterday’s blog saw American comedian and 84-year-old burlesque performer Lynn Ruth Miller returning to the US for three weeks of dates.

That is ‘dates’ in the gig sense and in the romantic sense.

This is what happened next in San Francisco…


I had a date with one of a series of very old men who seem to think it is safe to feed me since I am as ancient as they are. 

The first one was a musician who has never played for money: a journalist who has never published anything after his stint at his high school newspaper 65 years ago. 

I was amazed at the interest this gentleman took in life and his love of the life he is living even though he no longer drives. 

He relies on public transportation in an area that has no concept of human need or time constrictions and he can only do one thing in a day.  

He goes to a monthly meeting of a group of men called the ROMEOS (Retired Old Men Eating Out) and has been taking a jazz class for years at San Mateo college. He is filled with stories of days gone by and can take as long as an hour to answer any question since he ties it all in to his checkered and endless past, each incident told in a thousand words or more.

It is hard to believe, but I was with that man for three hours and said absolutely nothing. He couldn’t hear me anyway… just one example of my dating pool.   

I have three more old men to go before this trip is over. I also have three or four YOUNG men who are treating me to meals and rides, all of them reminding me that I really didn’t miss the boat at all.   

This afternoon I met my dear friend Ursula and heard about her husband and all his troubles. Ursula has broken the same wrist I broke back in 2014 and is in a splint. Her biggest worry is that they will put her in the hospital and she will not be able to care for her husband.  

I realized, as I listened to this woman who is ten years younger than I, how lucky I am.   

My problems are all psychological and work related. Death or loneliness are her two elephants and they follow her wherever she goes. Mine are my nasty personality and disgustingly aggressive drive to succeed. They are much more life sustaining.  

Ursula is a wonderfully kind and industrious woman but plagued with the problems age brings. 

Her husband is all but helpless. It is she who puts in his catheter, carries him to the toilet, feeds him and monitors his bowel movements.

And he does nothing for her but exist. 

He is a brave man and does his best to take care of himself when he can but she is his full-time care-giver and nurse. She loves him and I know this is not a burden to her but still…

I had so wanted the life she had… and now I see the end result.   

As I have said over and over, sometimes you are blessed when your dreams do not come true. 

We drove by my old house and they have reversed the colors so it looks very California. It is now royal blue with white trim but it is still my house and my gorgeous garden. I realized as we passed it that that is now a closed chapter in my life. Beautiful while it was mine but mine no longer.

Alan Kahn picked me up and we went to Red Hot Burlesque. He is a young man (to me) whom I met when he was having a helluva time with his girlfriend, Amy.  Now he has a new one and she sounds lovely and stable. However, he is plagued with responsibilities and the need for life-changing decisions.  

The gig was an hour show at The Stud, south of market in San Francisco. 

It was a great little show where people threw money at the performers. 

I got $30 for coming out in a towel and putting on my clothes… and was given a shot of whiskey which I could not drink because it sends me to the moon and back.  

It was all glitter, gold and twirling tits – except for me, of course. 

My tits lost their charm many years ago. I rely on humor to titillate and it evidently worked – probably because it was such a change from what everyone had been seeing on that stage.  

Before and after the show, Alan and I talked about his problems. He has two children who will not leave home and I am always reminded of Dan Edwards’ comment that he could not get his children to leave, so he did. Maybe that is the answer for the parents of today.  

Again, I was faced with what I have avoided. 

Alan’s father died about three years ago after suffering several years with dementia and his mother died just a few months ago. He has two children who refuse to take responsibility for themselves and a sister who is the executor of his parent’s estate. 

He is a creative, intelligent and very interesting man who is chained to obligations not of his making. He has so many dreams he wants to make happen but cannot bring himself to leave the security of a job he likes but does not love, because it gives him a pension and security and pays so very, very well.  

It is a case of insisting on having the cake and eating it too and he has to come to grips with the eternal truth: If you want adventure and excitement, you have to give up stability and security.  

… CONTINUED HERE

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Lynn Ruth Miller goes home to join The Dinosaurs of Comedy in San Francisco

In recent blogs, sharp-tongued, globe-trotting 84-year-old American comedian and belated burlesque star Lynn Ruth Miller, now based in London, has shared her experiences while doing gigs in PragueDublinBerlin, Paris and Edinburgh.

She is currently gigging back in the USA for three weeks and this is the first in a series of her thoughts about being back ‘home’…


The flight landed in San Francisco an hour late and I was greeted by cool wet California fog as I exited the airport to wait for my beloved dog sitter to collect me in his Ford pickup truck.

When he did, he informed me that the mist was not fog, but smoke from the California fires that are sweeping the northern part of the state. 

I first met Leo the Dog Sitter when I was in my late 50s and he was a young buck of 48. He came to fix my toilet and fell in love with my dogs. And that was the beginning of a friendship that has lasted almost thirty years.

It has been four years since I have been in the Bay Area and, in that time, I have diminished from 5’2” to 4’10” and Leo has contracted diabetes, arthritis, irritable bowel syndrome, replaced knees and hearing that is worse than mine. We scream at one another when we both think we are whispering. 

I am staying in his Burlingame home and, after four years in London flats, I am struck with how large this house is for two people. The bedroom I am in is as large as my living room, kitchen and bathroom in London and the kitchen-sitting room area here is larger than my entire flat in London. 

Everything is on one floor. I have not climbed so much as a stair since I arrived. I am certain my leg muscles have atrophied.

On the drive home, we spoke about the homeless problem here in the Bay Area and the increasing amounts of theft. The problem is that no-one can afford to live in this area but they are so strapped for cash they cannot afford to move either. And so they struggle on. It amazes me how many people pay astronomical rents but eat food reduced for quick sale to reduce the huge credit card debt that is the elephant in everyone’s room here.

There is no middle class here. You are either rich or poor.

To make matters worse, San Francisco is a ‘sanctuary city‘ which, on the surface, seems marvellous. But what it has done is encourage homeless people to remain homeless because they are paid a substantial sum to live on the street. And the city – instead of encouraging decent sanitation habits – has employed a huge cleaning force to hose the streets of human waste each morning. Toilets are evidently passé in the city by the bay.  

Tonight I was in a show called The Dinosaurs of Comedy, at The Punchline, the place where I got my real start as a professional comedian. It is not part of their regular programming.

The Dinosaurs of Comedy was started by Michael Meehan – comedian, artist, filmmaker and general creative human being – because The Punchline refused to book him and all men his age as they were considered to old to attract an audience.  

The theory was that, if they were not TV stars or had not gained national recognition by the time they were approaching 50 or older, they were has-beens.

The comedians tonight were Johnny Steele who is one of the cleverest, most original comedians I have seen on both sides of the ocean, Larry ‘Bubbles’ Brown who has been on David Letterman’s TV show, (but not as a regular) and, of course, Michael Meehan who is a comic genius.  

I was the MC which, in the US, is the bottom of the pecking order in a line-up. However, I was unbelievably honored to be in this sharp and very clever show filled with talented yet unrecognized men who should be top of their field. 

It was far better and far more fun than I dared dream it could be.

For me, one joy was that so many people recognized me.

After all, I have been gone for four years.  

The best part though, of course, was that I opened which is the hardest job any comedian faces.

And they laughed at every joke.

Or did they just laugh at me?

Who knew? Who cares?

But home I went filled with the adrenalin of success and with money in my pocket.

The man who drove me home is a would-be comedian who has wanted to take to the stage ever since I met him at least eight years ago. He has still not absorbed the cruelty and lack of integrity of the profession here in California and he said: ”Do you think they didn’t give me a chance to go on stage at Cobbs Comedy Club because I am funnier than the MC?”  

I assured him that that was not so.  

He asked another comedian to help him write jokes and is convinced that the reason that helper has not been available is because he is afraid my friend will steal HIS jokes.  

I assured him this was not so. 

He told me he needs help writing his jokes but is afraid someone might take his ideas.  

I assured him this was not so. 

His ideas, sadly enough, are just not funny.  

… CONTINUED HERE

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Gay American comic would steal babies

Mike Player: the shock of the funny gays revealed in the US

(This was also published on the Indian news website WeSpeakNews)

The 5th annual Outlaugh Comedy Festival – America’s first gay and lesbian comedy festival – is currently being held in Los Angeles and lasts for another two weeks.

Mike Player wrote the book Out on the Edge: America’s Rebel Comics. He created and organises the Outlaugh Festival.

I asked him how and why it started.

“I lost my mind,” he told me, “which is the only way to get anything done in the U.S. At the time, America had no national queer comedy festival and we (the comedians) were all tired of things like Gay Tuesday Night at Mongo’s Steakhouse. We wanted something that actually meant something.”

I have been to Los Angeles but not San Francisco. I think of the West Coast as being fairly laissez-faire and (in the British use of the word) liberal, but Mike tells me is was not easy for gay comedians even eight years ago:

“In 2004, my comedy group, The Gay Mafia, got kicked out of a club in Hollywood. We were doing a sketch where two retired Navy SEALs were getting married. The straight club owner had a brother who had died in Iraq and he said that portraying Navy SEALs as gay was deeply offensive to him and that he would pull the light cords out if we did the sketch. So, naturally, we did the sketch. We sold out the house and he was too busy helping sell drinks at his bar to pull the plug. But he kicked us out afterwards.”

So gay comedy was not totally accepted even eight years ago?

“I can tell you,” Mike says, “that The Gay Mafia, was reviewed by the LA Weekly without them mentioning that anything we did in the show had any gay content or that the show was gay at all. I heard the reviewer only showed up for the free meal.

“But,” Mike admits, “there was no real resistance to the idea of starting a gay comedy festival. No-one resisted except, oddly, the queer TV and film companies, though we conquered them in the end. The place you find the haters hating Outlaugh is on Netflix where they write homophobic reviews of our movie and TV show.”

Because the even more admirable thing – to me – is that Mike managed to get a movie made about the first Outlaugh and then an 8-part TV series The Outlaugh Festival on Wisecrack. I asked him How come?

“I financed the movie with my own money,” he told me, “which is amazing because I didn’t have any money! But it made all its investment back. With the TV show, for once, I was in the right place at the right time. We had Margaret Cho hanging out with The Gay Mafia and everyone in America worships celebrity more than Jesus. All you have to do is spoon cat food onto a dish in a commercial and people will treat you like you captain a spaceship.

“I was on a conference call with the folks at MTV’s LOGO network and Margaret Cho and my production company associates and we all listened in sad horror while a network executive sniveled and begged Margaret to do anything and be on any shows in addition to Outlaugh.”

“During the production of our TV series Outlaugh Festival on Wisecrack, conference calls happened every day with the production company I worked with, myself as the artistic director, the network and what they call ‘listeners’ who are opportunistic network assistants who actually spy on conversations for some network reason – probably to take over the country. LOGO and other networks have to hear a celebrity commit to a project to prevent celebs from backing out. People have to sign agreements and swear on the Bible – or just the parts that don’t condemn gays.

“Just like straight people, though, queer people in entertainment are mostly out for themselves. In TV and film, it’s all about whose project something is, rather than the merit of the project. I had film people and TV ‘suits’ fighting over who should get credit over what, more than how to make the idea of Outlaugh good. I had to make sure Outlaugh was good myself.”

Even today, Mike tells me, gay comedy in the US is not totally acceptable.

“A lot of the comedy clubs out here,” he says, “have ‘gay nights’ on non-weekend nights and many advertise the comedians as Some Gay and Some Not to get people to attend. I think that’s bullshit. Imagine advertising a ‘black comedy night’ with Some Black and Some Not. There is a sentiment which is fading away that ‘gay comedy’ is not accessible to everyone. Again, bullshit.”

In my British Islander ignorance, I think of San Francisco as being more gay and Los Angeles less so, but Mike tells me I am wrong:

“LA is actually gayer,” he says. “There is more gay theatre and comedy going on here than in San Francisco. I think because all the closet cases finally came out and because it’s chic to be gay now. I wish John Travolta would realize that.”

Inbrook, the New York based entertainment company for which I am a UK consultant, is in discussion about bringing Outlaugh to Britain.

Mike says: “I would steal babies for that to happen!”

“But,” I asked him, playing devil’s advocate: “why should the UK have a gay comedy festival? Isn’t that ghetto-ising gays?”

“No,” he argues. “It’s centralizing gays. There are gay film festivals and gay pride festivals and gay political organizations. Comedy is another major art form that we can rally around to tell our stories and assert our outrage.”

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A man with Tourette’s Syndrome and an FBI file… Plus how comedian Ricky Grover insulted me.

So, the story goes like this…

On Monday night, I went to the New Act of the Year auditions at the Comedy Cafe in Shoreditch, one of the jolliest and most brightly-coloured comedy clubs in Britain. A film crew was coincidentally filming scenes for an upcoming movie called The Comedian.

The Comedy Cafe’s owner, Noel Faulkner, has had a ‘colourful’ past which he revealed in his astonishing 2005 Edinburgh Fringe show Shake, Rattle & Noel. I first met him when we were both helping-out our mutual chum Ricky Grover by appearing in an early pilot/showreel for his planned movie Bulla, which Ricky has recently completed as a ‘pucka’ feature film with Steven Berkoff, Omid Djalili, Peter Capaldi etc.

Noel has Tourette’s Syndrome which doesn’t mean he swears uncontrollably but does mean he occasionally twitches uncontrollably… except, oddly, he doesn’t do it when he’s performing on stage or on film. This non-twitching while performing caused surreal problems during the autobiographical Shake, Rattle and Noel show, as he was talking about how he twitched uncontrollably without actually twitching uncontrollably.

Noel has lived a life-and-a-half and he isn’t through with it yet.

After being brought up in Ireland by the Christian Brothers and working on fishing trawlers and having some peripheral encounters with the IRA, he was in Swinging London at its height where he got involved with the young Malcolm McLaren & Vivienne Westwood and sold Gary Glitter his first glitter suit. Noel’s twitching made him a wow in discos – people thought he was a great disco dancer – and it was assumed to be drug-induced, so he fitted perfectly into the very Swinging London scene.

Then he went to hippie San Francisco before Haight Ashbury turned into Hate Ashbury and became a friend of the young, before-he-was-famous Robin Williams. Noel ended up on the run from the FBI, went to New York as an actor and comic, dealt directly with and smuggled dope for the early Colombian drug cartels, was caught and deported from the US, returned to London and set up the Comedy Cafe, one of the few purpose-built comedy venues in the capital.

So this – the Comedy Cafe – was where I found myself on Monday night for the New Act of the Year comedy auditions, the 28th year of the contest – it used to be called the Hackney Empire New Act of the Year (Eddie Izzard came 12th one year). The final used to be held a the Hackney Empire, which organisers Roland & Claire Muldoon ran. This year, the final takes place at The Barbican on Saturday 19th March.

It was well worth going because I saw for a second time the promising up-and-coming stand-up Pat Cahill and, for the first time, the very interesting indeed Duncan Hart who had a dark and very well-crafted set about a heart problem in a hospital, a drug overdose, a mugging at gunpoint and much more. Not obvious comedy subjects and potentially difficult to tailor for comedy in a 5-minute spot, but he performed it flawlessly.

The only downside was that, looking around the Comedy Cafe’s full room, I was, as usual, almost certainly the oldest punter in the room. This depressing scenario is even more depressing when I am up at the Edinburgh Fringe and street flyerers ignore me without a second glance because – clearly, at my age – I can’t possibly be interested in comedy.

Ricky Grover cast me as a bank manager in his Bulla showreel because he has always said I look like a banker (and I don’t think he was using Cockney rhyming slang). After the financial meltdown, I should take this as an insult. And I will. But I won’t tell him.

It would be far too dangerous.

It will be our little secret.

Just you and me.

OK?

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