Musings

My two cents. Sometimes three.

@QuiltingMuriel and Tiger

Muriel B. September 5, 1918 – March 4, 2016

Muriel B. The beloved, independent lady who lived in a beautiful apartment on the upper west side of Manhattan with her little “New Yorkie”, Tiger, is gone at the age of ninety seven and a half. New York will never be the same. You all made her life so rich. Now that it is at an end, here is how twitter’s “@QuiltingMuriel” came to be.

Summer 2010: There she was in Riverside Park, a lovely white haired woman, gaily dressed, with big earrings, sitting on her scooter while working a large puzzle book. Her little Yorkie stared intently at where the squirrels were sure to come, because the woman had a large bag of peanuts in the scooter’s basket. I happily thought, “This is what I’ll be when I’m seventy”. When we started chatting, I discovered she was 92. Amazing. Amazing! (She always said I used that word too much.) She had freedom, mobility, charm, opinions (oh yes), and a dog. She lived independently with the help of a fantastic part time aide named Jean. Once again, I had met a smart, vibrant older woman who had long days and nights to fill, with most of her friends gone, and who had so much life left inside. I seemed to collect them.

I have Helen in L.A., now 83. I had Dottie, my L.A. neighbor, who had such a zest for life, when she died at 86, there were two tickets to “Lord of the Dance” for that Saturday night, waiting on her kitchen table.

And then there was Muriel. We became great friends. She was always lonely when I went back to L.A. She was adept at email and the internet (she once rebuilt her own hard drive), so I had an idea. “I’ll open a twitter account for you. If you use hashtags, you can find like- minded people talking about anything and everything that interests you”. So began twitter’s popular account, “@QuiltingMuriel”.

She never tweeted. “I’m too busy.” She was. She filled her days with classes, quilting, visitors, manicures, baking, taking Tiger to the park, doing all her own paperwork, etc. etc. But she’d get lonely and sad, and I still believed twitter could help alleviate that. So I started tweeting for her, to show her how it was done. Still, she never tweeted. I continued to tweet “QuiltingMuriel”, hoping she’d fall in, as I channeled Dottie and Helen and Muriel and every other senior I had the pleasure, and frustration, of knowing. Helen was the loving mother, malaprop prone, “Gracie Allen” voice. Dottie was the sharp, no nonsense voice, and Muriel was the savvy, lifelong New Yorker, with smart, sensible, Democratic values. All of their mothers marched for the vote for women. They themselves fought for civil rights, human rights, worked their whole lives, raised children, missed their departed husbands, were progressive and open minded, loved dogs. All of them were admirable, and there are millions more like them who stand alone at gatherings and parties and are passed by unnoticed, a lifetime of knowledge and experience just waiting to be shared, yet ignored, by younger people who have no idea what richness they are missing.

Muriel never learned to tweet. I was about to close the account when I realized how much people were responding to its humor, kindness, positivity. I loved the people who tweeted to “Muriel”. And then I discovered an even greater social experiment, if you will.

As a comedian of 43 years, people have decided they “know” me. When, in my own twitter account, I tweeted about gun control, or being pro-choice, or anything politically charged, or things that were uplifting and loving, the trolls came out in force and dismissed and dissed me instantly. When I tweeted the exact same sentiments for Muriel in much the same way, people wrote “Preach!” and “So true!” and “Tell it!” Wow. In accidentally holding this mirror up to society, I found a little bit of hypocrisy, and a whole lot of seeing people blinded by their pre-conceived notions. What a discovery. I never had a loving family, I left home at sixteen. A darling regular, who always called “QuiltingMuriel” “Nana”, and whom I came to adore, tweeted: “Nana, who will you be voting for?” I’m sixty -three, I felt qualified to answer. In answering the questions of people decades younger in a loving and kind way, I finally got the mother I never had; me. And I got to be that mother for others who needed one too. So in trying to give Muriel the gift of being valued and cherished, in her refusal to tweet, she ended up giving that gift to me, and to “her” followers, instead. She was the smartest woman I ever met. Amazing.

Muriel grew to love reading the account, though she never tweeted, and we never told anyone, not even her family. Only the wonderful Jean knew. And our great friend and Muriel’s dear sewing teacher, Judy Isaacs. When the agents at CAA discovered the account and had Muriel and me (and Jean) up for a meeting about a book based on the account, we had to tell them the truth too. Other than that, I stood way back and let Muriel bask in her new found glory. She was happily “@QuiltingMuriel”, I was happy to let her be, and go along with her to all the wonderful events that came “@QuiltingMuriel’s” way. (Thank you to the magnificent Audra McDonald, and Holland Taylor, who brought so much joy into Muriel’s life these past few years. Thank you to the authors who sent Muriel their books from all over the world. How wonderful. Thank you for the yearly birthday wishes, and funny stories, and daily weather reports from around the globe. Thank you. Thank you.) Muriel was incredibly charming, delightful, adorable; people loved meeting her. And she indeed could have tweeted that account if she wanted to, but she baked the cookies and I did the writing.

I hope you will remember “@QuiltingMuriel” for the positive, loving, uplifting gesture it was meant to be. I will tweet “@QuiltingMuriel” no more. I couldn’t, with Muriel gone. This is a heartbreaking day. I am flooded with sadness. In honor of Muriel, please try to see the gray ghosts among us; at a party, at the market, in a store, museum, sitting in the park. They see you. They are so rich in life to be shared. Remember Muriel; her spirit, her generosity, her life spent fighting on the right side of history. Remember her joy in living, her ability to embrace everything that came her way until the age of 97. I’ve never seen anyone enjoy Mallomars with more childlike delight. Or chocolate, or peanut brittle. She was infuriating. I’d bring these delicious gifts all the way from L.A., and she wouldn’t share! Yet she did so much to help us rescue animals, making magnificent quilts for my Tails of Joy to sell so we could save more needy, homeless dogs and cats.

She will be missed by so many, especially dear little Tiger. My heart is breaking. People always tweeted to “@QuiltingMuriel”, “I hope I can be you when I get old”. Why wait? You can be her now. I was.


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Poems, Jokes & Rock n’ Roll with Dr. Maya Angelou

Since the passing of the great Dr. Maya Angelou, there have been so many incredible stories shared about her, her contributions, her history. I would like to add one more.

It was the night before Bill Clinton’s first inauguration. I was emceeing the Constitution Hall Gala, a four hour show with incredible acts on the bill, including Melissa Etheridge, Graham Nash and David Crosby, etc. etc. I caught a glimpse of Crosby/Nash’s manager, who was very handsome. Unfortunately, I had one of my constant migraines (I think half the shows I’ve done in my lifetime were done with a searing migraine), and I was throwing up into a paper bag, so decided not to introduce myself just then.

The next day, Inauguration Day, was a sunny, freezing, breezy, gorgeous, headache free day. I had gotten my ticket to the inauguration and was headed from the hotel to the bus stop. A limo pulled up, the window rolled down, and Graham Nash and his wife Susan said, “You’re taking a bus to the inauguration? Don’t be silly, get in the car.” I got in and sat down right next to the manager, Bill Siddons. Graham, Susan and I talked and laughed. We all sat down on one of the long benches at the inauguration, and I ended up sitting next to Bill.  It was stellar; the speeches, the excitement of the crowd, the feel of a new beginning with a new young president. We didn’t talk at all, we were rapt, and sometimes I’d be holding back tears, and I’d sneak a look over at Bill, and he’d be holding back tears too. And then they introduced Dr. Angelou:

“Please welcome the new Poet Laureate of the United States of America, Maya Angelou.”

The crowd went wild. She had such a presence, she was magnetic. She stepped forward. Again, we held back tears. She had written a poem for the inauguration, called “The Inaugural Poem – On the Pulse of Morning”. It was never published and sold, the only copies were the ones given out to the V- V- V -VIPs sitting with the Presidents up on the balcony.

She stepped forward, and waited, majestically, in silence. We were transfixed. She began, slowly, deliberately:

“A Rock.” (she waited.)

And then: “A River.” (she waited even longer this time.)

And then finally: “A Tree.”

And then, nothing. She stood there looking out over the crowd, waiting. A rock, a river, and a tree.

I couldn’t take it. I leaned over and whispered into Bill’s ear, “Walk into a bar”. And he swears he said to himself: “I’m going to marry her”.

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A Beautiful Brush With James Garner

In 1966, my husband Bill Siddons was hitchhiking in Hollywood, with a gas can, since he’d run out. A car comes zooooming past, screeches to a halt, backs up and picks him up. It’s James Garner (be still my heart). Bill, always a speedy driver, says, “Nice driving!” James says, “Thanks. I just finished making this movie, ‘Grand Prix’, and they really taught us how to drive. I’m lovin’ it”. Years later James was eating at Musso & Frank’s in Hollywood. Bill walked by the table, deciding not to disturb him.  James looked up and said, “You have gas in the car?” What a great guy.

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The “Jim” Bill is referring to in the photo is Jim Morrison, not Garner. (Lynn Krieger, Bill, and Robby Krieger, on the road with The Doors, 1970.)

The Comedian Who Changed My Life…

Home / IB Comedy / Comedy Feature Stories / The Comedian Who Changed My Life is Totie Fields

By  on April 8, 2014@twitter.com/elayneboosler

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The Comedian Who Changed My Life is a series where comics talk about, you guessed it, the comedian who changed their life.

This is Elayne Boosler and the comedian who changed my life was a great comic named Totie Fields even though I never met her. It was in the seventies and I was selling out all across the country and yet I could not get on the Tonight Show because Johnny hated women comics. And as good as I was they wouldn’t put me on and without it you couldn’t really get a raise in pay or get into Las Vegas or work the good jobs because it really was the only door open in show business in those days and it was closed to me and women. So, they did have guest hosts in those days and Helen Reddy was about to guest host. The LA times did a piece on new comedians and I was in it saying that ‘gee I can’t get on the tonight show.’ Totie Fields read it. She happened to be good friends with Helen Reddy. Helen read it and called Totie Fields and said ‘do you think I should put her on?’ Totie had never even seen me and said ‘I hear she’s great, put her on.” And she did put me on and it opened the door to every single thing in show business for me. So even though I had never even met Totie Fields, it was the most wonderful thing anyone could have done for a young comic.

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Comedian, writer and activist Elayne Boosler is a comedy veteran who hasappeared on virtually every talk show ever on TV, has produced and written five one-hour Showtime comedy specials, and appeared on Politically Incorrect over thirty times. Her performances in the 80′s were groundbreaking for female comics and paved the way for many who have followed her and she continues to perform on stage and television. Boosler has upcoming appearances in Palm Beach, New York City, Pennsylvania and Maryland. You can get more dates and other information at ElayneBoosler.com and follow her on twitter @ElayneBoosler.

Read more Comedians talking about “The Comedian who Changed My Life” and find out who changed the lives of Artie LangeDavid SteinbergRobert KellyJackie MartlingMichael Ian Black and Jim Florentine

NY Times: “Names of Health Plans Sow Customer Confusion”.

“The names are, for the most part, ‘marketing gibberish’, being unhelpful, confusing and in some cases misleading.” Well I think our “Official Super Duper How Ya Doin? Alternating Breast and Testicle Squeeze On Even/Odd Years Plan” with a “ten thousand dollar deductible and all the street drugs you can find” is just perfect. Of course, substituting Selfies for X-Rays just doesn’t seem professional.

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They Handed Me An Empty Bag

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A new sweets shop is opening on Amsterdam Avenue (101st street). It covers all of the new buttons: “Gluten Free, Wheat Free, Soy Free, Refined Sugar Free, Low Fat, Mostly Organic, Made Fresh to Order, Vegan Available.” I handed them a twenty, they handed me three sesame seeds and blew some quinoa in my face..