Tag Archives: comedy

“She Was Asking For It. What Did She Think Was Going to Happen?”

“She was asking for it.”

“What was she doing there?”

“What did she think was going to happen?”

I get it, sometimes it looks bad. But you cannot know the innocence and hope in the hearts of not –very- experienced- in- the- real- world young women wanting to succeed, who believe in goodness.

When I was starting out in 1973, as I’ve said before, we didn’t have a term for “sexual harassment”, we just called it “going to work”. That’s the way it was. I worked as a hostess in what was then the New York Improv in Hell’s Kitchen. In those days, before the big comedy boom, it was just a dive, often almost empty when the weather was bad.

I started to discover comedy that related to me, something I had never before imagined. The young comedians working there, mostly male, were lifetime comedy fans. I was new to the idea, and they kindly turned me on to Lenny Bruce, Lord Buckley, and all the great comedy album kings. A comedian there at the time, Bob Shaw, and I would take the train to his Brooklyn apartment in Carroll Gardens, and laugh into pillows while our bodies almost broke open, having to keep it down while his wife slept, so she could go to work early in the morning and support his dream, as did many of the comics’ wives/girlfriends at the time. I remember us almost bleeding out to Firesign Theater. Such a treat, and then when the sun came up and his wife woke up for her job, we’d all get café con leche. She went off to work and I took the train back to my apartment to sleep until work that night.

Celebrities often dropped into the club, sometimes famous comics came in and went onstage. For several nights, David Frye had come in and performed. I was a twenty -year -old, raised by the Taliban in Brooklyn. I left high school at sixteen because why even pretend? I was just accidentally discovering comedy, but recognized Frye from the Ed Sullivan Show from when I was a child. He was one of the premier impressionists in the country, his take on Nixon putting him squarely on the comedy map. This was exciting for all of us aspiring comics. Sometimes we all went to the Brasserie together if someone with more money than we had invited us. It was a fun, lively, midtown late night spot, always filled with interesting night birds and good cheesy eggs and toast.

Before I became the Improv’s hostess, Danny Aiello, the actor, had the doorman job for several years. I took over, but he still hung out there a lot and we became friends. One night around two a.m., when I was about to leave, Danny said David Frye wanted to take us to the Brasserie. I was always the last comic out, being the hostess/hostage, so no one was really around to go, except Danny and I. Danny assured me we’d have fun, and I loved going there, not to mention being a little star struck. We went and we ate and we did have fun. Then Danny took me aside, and told me Frye had lots of never-before-seen comedy tapes (etchings?) that were historical, hilarious, amazing, and rare. He suggested we all go up to Frye’s place and watch. Remember, most of us worked all night and slept all day; three a.m. was the perfect time for a social engagement in our world. I just had to make sure: “Danny, you’re going to stay and hang out too, right?”

“Of course!”

So okay. We enter one of those grand, large, pre-war apartment buildings. We go up in the dark wooded elevator. Frye opens the door on a large, dim, clearly moneyed home. I turn to Danny again, “You’re staying, right?”

“Honey of course!”

And with that he pushes me in and runs out into the elevator and disappears. Frye heads straight to the door and locks it. He’s coming at me and though he was short and older, he was also stocky and scary. I needed to get to the door he was blocking and get out, just so I could hunt down my good friend Danny and kill him. He comes at me, grabs me and pulls me down on the couch, holding me firmly on his lap. “No!!!”

“Well just sit here until I come.”

“No!”

And I push off and make it to the door and get out.

Can you imagine if I had been raped and tried to convince anyone I was not “asking for it”? I’m in this guy’s apartment alone at four a.m., I don’t know him, I thought I was going to watch comedy tapes. Yeah, right. So that’s how these things go, we really think good people are going to help us.

By the way, if every woman had a dollar for every time a horrible guy said, “Just (something) until I come”, we’d own the world. In the early days of my working at the club,  I was couch surfing, no actual place to live yet. I always made it very clear I needed a couch or floor to sleep on, and I was not coming over to have sex. Most everyone was decent and honorable; the bartenders, the wait staff, the comics. One guy who became a successful Hollywood writer, Marty Nadler, had other ideas. I sat down on his couch and to my surprise he sat down right next to me. “You can’t stay here for free.”

“But you understood..”

And with that he humped my knee until he came in his pants. Four a.m. on a subway to nowhere or wait until it was over, those were my choices. Then he wordlessly went into his bedroom.

And so here’s the worst of it. Of course the sex part is horrible, but just as bad, these guys then keep you from getting work. I have no doubt that to protect themselves from you possibly shaming them, and wanting to keep you out of their sphere after shaming themselves, they preemptively paint you as a nut, a liar, a whatever, and you are never given a chance to read for a part, or become a successful part of whatever business they are a highly esteemed member of; your profession. That is the glass ceiling, covered in jism. That is some of how and why women are kept down. I have a million of ‘em #metoo, but for another time.

When I Shoved My Pinkie Up Florence Henderson’s Nose

Everyone is writing the most glowing, loving and funny tributes to the now late, dear Florence Henderson. It’s what she inspired; love, fun, joy, and admiration. Florence was truly a “gamer”, a “good sport”, and she proved that a woman could be sexy and alluring at eighty two years old. Here is my most fun memory of us together:

In the nineteen seventies, one day Florence Henderson and I were two of several guests on the “Mike Douglas Show”. She was a gorgeous, petite woman, and was so encouraging to a new comic; me. At the end of the show, they had us all come out, sit on bar stools, and sing a closing number together. Being a silly comic, I spread my arms wide for the last note. With that, my pinkie went up Florence’s nose, and I knocked her backward off the bar stool. Needless to say, the mortification was unbearable to me. I thought I was done for. The show ended, Florence got up laughing hysterically. Not only wasn’t she upset, she spent the next half hour reassuring ME. And then we went our separate ways, after I apologized for sixteen hours.

Several years later, I was to entertain at an industry event, and I knew Florence was going to be there. I hadn’t seen her in a few years, and I kept hoping against hope that she wouldn’t remember what had happened. Suddenly, there she was. Florence Henderson: beautiful, dressed to kill, perfect, stunning, gorgeous, regal, surrounded by beautiful people. She saw me, she came toward me, and in front of all her admirers, stuck her own pinkie up her nose and, laughing heartily, said to me, “Remember? Remember? Hahahahahah!!” While everyone around her stood there gaping, we laughed until we cried. And that became our greeting every time we saw each other for the rest of her life.

May this wonderful human being, who spent her life making the lives of others better, who understood the insecurity and the humanity in all of us and who strove to honor it, who always saw the positive, now rest in peace.

Muhammad Ali Flash Mobs Fifth Avenue

At least twenty years ago, while I was walking along  Fifty Seventh St. in Manhattan, stopping at Fifth Avenue to wait  for the light so I could cross, I saw the most amazing thing. Across Fifth, a limo pulled to a quick stop. A beautiful man in a gorgeous suit jumped out and stood, looking around him. Within ten seconds, like dropping a huge dollop of honey in the middle of an ant colony, people on the street immediately started crowding Muhammad Ali. I saw paper and pens and pencils go high up in the air (no cell phones then), all shoved in his direction. He was smiling to the shouts of “Ali! Ali! Champ! Champ!”, and just started signing away. No announcement, no bodyguards. Cars stopped, traffic jammed. A police officer made his way to the center of the crowd to shake Ali’s hand. After five minutes he waved, jumped back in his limo, and was gone.

What a great time to be The Greatest. He might have just invented the Flash Mob. He didn’t have to check twitter to see how he was doing. He didn’t have to check Wiki, or IMDB, or Instagram, or Snapchat, or his Facebook fan page, or be isolated by virtual reality. His reality check was to check reality. He went headlong into it, saw he was definitely still trending, and with a big smile, The Greatest went about the rest of his day.

A Day in the Park

What a gorgeous spring day. Muriel and I had agreed to meet in the park, as usual. I was late, as usual. I had been held up by an hour of phone calls back and forth to lawyers, dealing with a horrible woman who was threatening to sue me, based on nothing. One great thing about America, anybody can sue anybody for anything or nothing, and you have to deal with it. I was pretty worked up by this point, mulling it over and over on my twenty block walk to our spot in the park. By the time I got there, steam was coming off the top of my head.

“What’s the matter?” she asked.

“Argh!! This c**t is driving me crazy!!”

“NO! No no no no no no no. Never never ever say that word. Ever!”

“Muriel, I never use that word. But she really is a c**t.”

“Stop it! Don’t say it again.”

“I know the difference between a bitch and a c**t, and in this case this is the right word.”

“I don’t care what she did to you, there’s no place on earth for that word. Don’t ever say it in my presence again. I’m not kidding.”

“I’m a writer. You don’t think I chose that word carefully?”

“You’re not funny.” She starts to scooter away, angry. I run alongside.

“Okay. I’m sorry. But sometimes it’s the only word that fits.”

“Never. Do you want a tissue?”

“No thanks.”

“A hard candy?”

“No.”

“A Band-Aid?

“No.”

“Well, that’s all I have.”

Cut to:

What a gorgeous fall day. I go up to Muriel’s apartment, because she can’t come to the park. Her scooter has been dying in the street for months. She’s been dangerously stranded more than once, definitely relying on the kindness of strangers to get her home. She needs a new scooter. Medicare has been stalling her all summer. She has been a virtual prisoner, under house arrest, missing the most gorgeous weather in New York City history. It’s unconscionable that a system set up to serve the elderly literally leaves them trapped in their apartments months on end for no reason except bureaucracy. Or maybe stupidity. They don’t know or care if she has a support system. For all they know she could be down to eating cat food. Or kale. It’s not right.

“What’s the matter?” I ask.

“Argh! I still can’t get my scooter.”

“This is still going on? I can’t believe it.”

“They’re waiting for me to die. They look at my age, and they keep stalling. They think if they can avoid paying for a new scooter long enough I’ll drop dead.”

“What can you do?”

“I just spent SIX HOURS on the phone with a woman at Medicare. I decided I was not going to hang up until I had a DATE for that SCOOTER to be delivered here. SIX HOURS!!!”

I had never seen her so angry.

“My God. Six hours for real? How? What did she say for six hours?”

Nothing!! She kept putting me on hold!! I was on hold for four out of the six hours!!!!! But I wouldn’t go away!!!! And she kept STALLING me, and coming up with all kinds of EXCUSES, and leaving me on hold again and again AND AGAIN!!!!!!!…….

“Wow. Was she a c**t?

“ABSOLUTELY!!!!!!!!!!”

 

 

 

Rescue, Trump, Clinton, Comedians, Charity

(Though animal rescue is the jumping off point here, my Tails of Joy website is for being uplifting and rescue-y, and this post is more put-downing and comed-y).

We received this email on our Tails of Joy contact page today:

To: Tails of Joy

From: (Oh Peeps, I wish I could)

Subject: Trust/etc.

Message:

Hey Elayne,

I moved out of CA. I’m in AZ now. I wanted to let you know that I had to remove myself from your Tails of Joy group and also you in general, which deeply broke my heart. I realize you are a public figure but you aligned yourself with Hillary Clinton a few months ago. That’s cool and your choice to do so. But I am a deeply political person and my roots lie elsewhere. I cannot trust you nor your organization or anyone that does this, either side, your organization is supposed to be for the betterment of dogs and I wanted to trust your organization to take care of my babies when I pass and also give money. Since it is so deeply opposing to me in many ways, I do not trust you, nor your organization and therefore felt unsafe leaving my most precious assets, the only thing I have been given to by Jesus here on earth, my dogs, to take care of.

I still think you are a funny comedian but moved on and got out of watching comics. They tend to only support Dems and slam and massacre Republicans or Trump fans and that is so beyond insulting it’s shameless on all of your parts.

Take care and good luck with Hillary and Bernie and all of the other things you hold dear and therefore so does your organization.

I have my babies in trust with organizations that will take care of them and there is no political bullshit.

NAME (If only I could)

And (pets names)  – Marley, Abby and Jasper

—————————————————————————————————————-

(I sincerely believe her pets did not give her permission to use their names on that.) Okay, so..

Dear (OH how I wish I could)

We were so happy when you contacted us months ago about including Tails of Joy in your estate planning. To that end we spent lots of time on the phone with you, answering all your questions, educating you about rescue, helping you explore all the different ways you could truly make a difference in the lives of desperate animals about to die. Then today we received your email. This will be my only answer to you, now and in future.

Intelligent grownups learn to work together for the greater good of their callings despite any private ideological or political differences, which never come up in, or affect the life saving work of, the world of animal rescue. Congress can’t do it, but rescuers can. I wouldn’t vote for Sarah Palin, but I’d save her cat.

By example, there are several rescue groups I have spent years working closely with, saving lives, helping each other, and socializing. One night our work went long, so I made some dinner and we started watching the 6 o’ clock news together. My greatest ally and dear friend from one of the rescue groups made a comment during the newscast, which led me to say, “Wait a minute, you’re a born again Christian? Anti-choice and everything?” She said, “Yes.” I said, “What a great tribute to us that in all these years of saving animals it never came up!!” And we fell down laughing. As I am a public figure, she certainly knew my views, but we accepted each other totally as dedicated fellow rescuers, spending our lives and our money doing something much bigger than nurturing a small-minded, selfish world view; thinking only of “me” and “mine” and trying to control others. We continue to work together in a spirit of friendship, love, and charity. THAT is what honest, decent people who are dedicated to a cause do. It’s called walking the walk. Animals about to die in the pound don’t care who you vote for, they just need rescue, medical help, love and kindness, and that’s what we give them, every day. What have you done for Jesus lately?

For twenty years, Tails of Joy has supported and given out “Little Guy Grants” to small rescue organizations across America. That includes Arizona, Texas, Florida, Ohio, Colorado, Georgia, and dozens of cities all throughout the republican strongholds of the south and midwest. I never stopped to ask the rescuers I was giving checks to there who they were voting for, what their religion was, or if they thought poor women who already had six children should be forced to carry a seventh after being raped. It didn’t matter to the sick and desperate dogs and cats about to be killed due to lack of space, or crawling bloody in the road after being shot with pellet guns, or who had their jaws blown off after firecrackers were taped into their mouths and exploded. In Ohio, it’s legal to shoot a dog if he is chasing a sheep or another dog. He doesn’t even have to reach him. If you want to follow him home and kill him, though he did nothing, that is legal too. You are allowed to “pursue a dog for a reasonable time“. I don’t like that law or the state government that made it, or the people who voted that government in. According to you then, I should turn my back on homeless animals in Ohio. But I don’t, because the rescuers there are saving lives, and that is what matters. I have no personal litmus test for helping rescuers rescue. I am a true rescuer, and nothing else about me has any bearing on the amount of lives Tails of Joy has saved for decades. Animals are non-partisan. By law, non-profit organizations are also non-partisan, though somebody ought to tell that to the church.

How ironic that the word “spiritual” is part of your chosen email name. I will chalk that up to your clearly great sense of humor. Yes, I am a public figure. You knew exactly who I was as my views have been open and public for forty three years. If I have suddenly “broken your heart” because you “just noticed” my favoring some political party (a party which also “rescues”; the poor, the under-served, desperate women, ailing seniors, hungry children, newly-arrived-to-America human beings, etc. etc.), I call bullshit.

When someone tells us he/she is considering a bequest to Tails of Joy, we listen. Until you, every donor I spent hours on the phone educating and working with did indeed kindly leave Tails of Joy money to continue our fantastic work. After one conversation with you I said to my treasurer, “There’s nothing here”. But because every rescue organization is always in such great financial need, he convinced me to continue phone calls with you, though I knew better. How many animals died while I listened to you prattle on? The only animals you care about are your own. We have re-homed the orphaned pets of hundreds of people who died having made no arrangements for their future, left no money to care for them, and probably never donated a cent to a rescue group during their lifetimes. We don’t punish the animals for that, even if their previous owners watched Fox News. And I never, ever made any one of those dogs or cats vote for a Democrat. That’s their business. I’ve spent endless hours and dollars trying to help save elephants, despite their links to the GOP. I hope it’s Sheriff Joe Arpaio you have left your dogs to so they can continue living in the bubble to which they have become accustomed.

Tails of Joy does not vote. Tails of Joy does not campaign or endorse. There is not one whiff of politics or partisanship on the scores of pages on Tails of Joy. But here is the difference between rescuers and dilettantes. I won’t be voting for Donald Trump. But if he is elected, I would do everything in my power to help him make his time in office successful for the betterment of our country. You seriously need to make an immediate, sizable donation to Tails of Joy to get right with your maker for wasting so much of our time that would have been spent doing the Lord’s life saving work. It’s what Jesus would want, as you so well know in your generous, intelligent, open heart. You are a miracle.

lily

                                    Rescue fundraising for elephants with Lily Tomlin

 

 

Peeps

All the Peeps in the World

Anyone who has ever seen me perform knows I love Peeps. In my “Live Nude Girls” special, I pledge my eternal love to the delicious bringers of sweetened smiles. That special aired on various networks for many years, and for years, fans brought Peeps to my shows; in their original form, in hilarious “art” pieces, even in the form of home made Peeps jewelry. And then one amazing day, cruel fate gave me everything I could have ever dreamed of Peeps-wise, and I couldn’t accept.

I was playing a college in snow covered, freezing, okay, kinda dreary, Elmira NY. It was one stop on an extended tour, on which I travelled with only carry-on luggage, as the shows were fly- and -perform -same -day. Waiting for luggage after each flight was not an option. Delayed bags could mean a missed show. Luckily, I have my packing needs down to the point where I could vacation in Europe bringing only a manila envelope. I walked into the college dressing room and Oh Joy of Joys!! I could not believe my eyes. The “Just Born” company, makers of Peeps, headquartered nearby, had filled every square inch of the room with boxes of Peeps for me! Wall to wall, floor to ceiling, inch by inch, step by step, quickly I turned..

What to do? I didn’t have enough time to make them into an edible wardrobe to bring along (believe me I thought about it). But I couldn’t walk out on the mother lode of all Peeps. I had promised to visit a retirement/medical rehab facility the next day on my way to the airport, a cheery visit for the residents. Wait. Wouldn’t it be great to show up with a colorful truckload of their favorite childhood candy to brighten up their snow bound, age bound last rest stop on their highway of life in Elmira? Yes. Yes it would.

I hired a truck and got to the home the next day with plenty of time before my flight. I had the orderlies help me bring in carton after carton of Peeps. The residents’ eyes lit up. Restricted diets don’t often leave much room for days like this. These elderly, frail people looked as happy as little kids, watching this glorious Peeps feast unfold. They couldn’t wait for the boxes to be opened. And open them we did, pink and yellow bunnies and chickies flying in a fireworks of color, sugary powder, thick marshmallow. Box after box being passed to eager elderly people with dry constricted throats. Such anticipation! And then, the choking began.