Welcome, Heraldonians to the Fall “Almost Famous” installment for 2014 – the journey you’ve taken with me since 2001! Got a potpourri of stuff to catch up on from classic rock to modern art and then some, so let’s get this show on da road!
Marty Balin – The Throckmorton Theatre, Mill Valley – 2/22/14
Oh what a night! A delicious combo platter to satisfy multiple senses: an art exhibit of portraits of classic rock icons from a classic rock icon – who then delivered his own musical all-you-can-eat and then some acoustic rock extravaganza!
Local boy made great legendary singer Marty Balin from Jefferson Airplane and Jefferson Starship fame made a rare appearance at The Throckmorton Theatre in Mill Valley to showcase his stellar artistry of portraits he’s painted of fellow musical legends such as Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix while he conducted an impromptu meet ‘n greet with his fans who flocked to catch a glimpse of the man, his artwork and his music.
Marty Balin’s impressive portraits of his fellow music icons
I count myself as one of those longtime fans of that singular voice of classic songs such as “Count On Me” and “Miracles” and of course, have multiple “Almost Famous” connections to the man and his music throughout the years. Back when I was a teenager in 1979, I was cast as the ingénue “Sunny” in the award-winning rock ‘n roll musical Breakfast In Marin, which ran for over a year in SF at Chez Jacques and Marin. The rock star character “Tim Springfield” was patterned after Marty Balin, who came to see the show at the Ali Baba Café in Mill Valley. But it wasn’t until the year 2000 in New York City, when I attended one of Marty’s first art shows that I met him personally and of course, gave him a copy of my brand new CD. Marty e-mailed me about a particular song on the CD, “What Are We Runnin’ From Now”, saying he loved it and “could see myself recording this song!” Of course, that never happened and here are a few pictures of me reminding Marty of our connection and giving him my biz card and a copy of my CD Sycamore Street with that song again! Marty was polite and attentive, even though he appeared to have no recollection of anything I was talking about.
Marty and moi – reunited after all these years with the goods exchanged again!
Shortly after our encounter, the aging hippie/hipster crowd filed into the showroom with great anticipation. Although there were a decent amount of people in attendance, I was surprised there wasn’t a line around the block and considerably more fanfare for this man who was one of the forefathers of San Francisco ‘60/70s rock history. To my delight, right before the show started I met one of my Marin County coming-of-age radio heroes: former KTIM DJ Trish Robbins, who was also Marty’s longtime girlfriend back in the day. She used to be a musician as well, and I had attended a few of her shows. She couldn’t have been sweeter, and even gave me her seat when she learned I was reviewing the show, since mine was farther away.
Ponytailed Marty and Co. took the stage as an acoustic trio, with an upright bass player, lead guitar player and Marty on rhythm guitar for a 90-plus minute set with no break. At 72, vocally, Marty has never sounded better. Age has not diminished his vocal capacity at ALL: his tone, his range, and his stamina are nothing short of extraordinary. That singular voice still reigns supreme. But the pacing, timing and delivery of this non-stop feast for the eyes, ears, hearts and souls of the loyal fans was a curious one. Sonically, the combo was solid and satisfying, until it became clear that there were no real dynamics. The guitar player, while obviously an excellent musician, just kind of played and soloed through everything, making what could have been outstanding in spurts, all sound the same, especially since it went on for 90 minutes. Third song into the set, Marty dove into “Miracles”, arguably his biggest hit with Jefferson Starship, which was just WAY too soon for the audience to sing along and get as excited as they certainly would have, had he saved it for later in the set, or even the encore. And speaking of singing along, I certainly was adding all the “Grace notes”, as in Slick, because there were no background vocals at all! The guitar player attempted to sing a few lines in unison here and there, but mostly it was just Marty carrying the vocal load from start to finish, which made the overall sound feel like something was missing throughout. Wonderful familiar Starship gems like “Count On Me”, “With Your Love”, and Marty’s big solo hit “Hearts”, were interspersed with early, lesser-known (to these ears, anyway) Jefferson Airplane songs and a ton of other songs from his other projects over the years and his newer solo songs. It was all well-executed but there just wasn’t enough of a break in the action to justify the 90 minute-plus set length. A shorter set or a break in between would have been welcome.
Marty Balin & his acoustic trio
As impressive as Marty’s performing stamina was, the fact that he had very little to say to this audience who was hanging on his every word was a missed opportunity to take this show to a much higher level. While making it clear he was now long past his wild youth, anytime he made a reference to drugs, or anything to do with the ‘60s sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll culture, the crowd went nuts, and it was obvious they were dying to hear from their hero about the good old days. Marty introduced a couple songs by telling a story about a young girl who used to come to the Sunday afternoon Bill Graham Fillmore shows, who inspired him to write several songs, and the audience ate it up like manna from heaven. This was HIS crowd, HIS people, in the place it all began, and all they wanted was to share it with him. More stories in between the songs, please, sir!
After the show, I went up to Marty and offered up my background vocal services, informing him I have a great ear and blend, am a quick study and require minimal rehearsal. Marty looked at me and said, “We might be pulling a full band together sometime, you just might hear from me!” I gave my card to his wife/manager/photographer.
At press time, after two follow-up e-mails to his manager/wife, I have not. Not about the band member names, my CD, my song, or the gig. Marty & Co. will be back at The Throckmorton Theatre in September. Think I’ll get a call?? I don’t think I will be holding my breath on that one – but nevah say nevah…
Jemima Kirke Art Exhibit “Platforms” – Fouladi Projects, SF – 3/21/14
One great artist begets another…in keeping with the theme of this column, this month and forever – allow me to introduce the next generation of fine art and rock ‘n roll history: Jemima Kirke! My first experience with Ms. Kirke was NOT as a fine artist, OR as the daughter of another rock icon I have written about many times in this column, my friend drummer Simon Kirke of Bad Company! Nope, I became enamored of Ms. Kirke for her seethingly hilarious portrayal of the beautiful, self-obsessed and self-destructive “Jessa” on the controversial, smash HBO series Girls, of which I am a huge fan. I actually had no clue she was Simon’s daughter until I looked her up online – it was a total coincidence! And like the character she portrays, Ms. Kirke is a Brit, now New Yorker!
But it wasn’t until I received an invitation from the acclaimed San Francisco art gallery Fouladi Projects to attend the reception for Jemima Kirke’s “Platforms” that I became aware of her other striking talent: the ability to capture the raw angst and complicated inner life of young women through stark portraits devoid of glamour.
Jemima Kirke’s “Platforms” portraits
Fouladi Projects is a contemporary art gallery located at 1803 Market Street@ Guerrero “offering relevant and inspiring contemporary fine art complimented by carefully curated functional works in an inviting gallery setting.” Their goal is to unite their program with art enthusiasts, whether they are seasoned collectors or first time buyers. And that’s exactly the crowd of trendy-looking 30-50 something art enthusiasts they drew at this event honoring Jemima Kirke. The evening began with a near-emergency situation when I couldn’t get out of the one bathroom right after I arrived – it locked shut and I couldn’t open the door! Has this ever happened to anyone else? Somehow I managed to free myself – the owners might want to look into that!
Otherwise, it was a lovely event, with the strikingly beautiful Jemima making herself available to chat with whomever approached her, surrounded by her arresting paintings. There was a charming retro music duo playing called The Ramshackle Romeos – great name and thoroughly enjoyable. I followed her outside the gallery onto the street, where she and some friends were taking a smoke break, and patiently waited until I could get her attention. Finally, I managed to steal her away and learn that this was only her second solo art show, the first being two years ago in NYC. “It’s my first time in San Francisco, it’s so beautiful!” she gushed about our city. “There is excitement and discoveries here – I needed to have a little adventure!” When I mentioned I knew her dad, Simon Kirke, she said, “Well, tell him hello if you speak to him, you probably have more recently than I have.” That kind of changed the mood a bit – and I just hoped she didn’t think somehow my friendship with her dad was anything more than that, which it is NOT. I told Jessa I hadn’t heard from her dad in quite awhile either, since the B R. Cohn Wine Festival Concert where I met her mother backstage. It was time to bid my farewell to this lovely and multi-talented artist. I look forward to what’s next for Jemima Kirke – and the next season of Girls!
Joan Osborne & The Holmes Brothers – Jewish Community Center of San Francisco – 6/5/14
Back in the early ‘90s when I lived in New York City, I used to be a big fan of this sultry, soulful and bluesy rocker gal. Loved that combo platter of sassy grit and plaintive intimacy she threw down. Oh, and the nose ring. Then she got a record deal and came out with a brilliant album in 1995 called Relish, releasing the single “One Of Us”, a controversial little ditty questioning religion and asking that burning question: “What if God was one of us?”, which became a Top 10 hit worldwide. Much of her album was steeped in subject matter like this. But the dilemma was that nothing about the sound of this single reflected her down and dirty soulful side and radio just didn’t respond to any of the subsequent singles. Not to mention the fact that Joan decided she really didn’t want to be a pop star after all and follow all those not-so-golden rules – so she forged her own long and winding road touring with the Grateful Dead, covering old soul songs, and releasing eight albums, including being nominated for a Grammy for Bring It On Home for Best Blues Album in 2013.
Joan Osborne’s breakthrough album and single
Joan partnered with the acclaimed Virginia-born NYC gospel trio The Holmes Brothers back in 1997 when she hired them as her back-up band to support a Bob Dylan tour and it has proved a fruitful one. She went on to produce their record Speaking In Tongues on Alligator Records and has worked with them on and off ever since.
So, it was with great anticipation that I set out to see Joan Osborne and her oldster soulster pals The Holmes Brothers at the JCCSF! Mazel Tov, y’all! But what I witnessed was an odd mixed bag of tricks with even more curious timing. The show opened to a full house of JCCSF patrons with The Holmes Brothers and a very familiar-looking female singer who was not Joan Osborne singing “Amazing Grace” on one of the bro’s microphones. Wait, that’s Emma Jean Foster, my old singing pal and Glide Memorial Church choir soloist, what was she doing up there and why couldn’t even they give this mystery gal her own mic? They proceeded to sing a few more gospel songs and then Emma left the stage and I ran outside to say hello. Turns out they are old friends and just “brought her up at the last minute”. Hmmm…
Then Joan came out and joined The Holmes Bros., dressed like an old-time Sunday school teacher in a very conservative brown midi-skirt and long-sleeve blouse with a bow. Even her shoes were vintage – this was clearly not a rock ‘n roll show. They performed more gospel songs and Gladys Knight’s “Midnight Train To Georgia”, all of which sounded like Joan was being very careful, not really digging in deep to anything like I’d heard her do back in the day or on her records. But there was obviously a lot of love between them, which was sweet - although I truly wondered what this particular audience was thinking of the song selections besides “Oy vey!”
The Holmes Brothers left the stage and Joan brought out her duo partner Keith Cotton to play some of her more well-known material and new songs off her new album Love & Hate. The whole vibe was more like a rehearsal or a house concert, with Joan telling some fun anecdotes about the songs. But her decision to use her I-phone as a means to singing to backing tracks, putting it on a stool next to her and then experiencing technical difficulties trying to get the thing to work didn’t work for me at all. Why not bring out a percussion player or at least have the soundman figure it out? It all just felt thrown together at the last minute and not very professional.
The Holmes Brothers came back out again and helped her deliver her signature song “One Of Us”, which was actually the high point of the night. While she sang well on everything, not once did I hear that impassioned and gritty voice I had come to hear in its entirety. I never felt like she really let loose and just got lost in the moment. The whole kit ‘n caboodle of folks coming on and off the stage seemed to go by much quicker than what I had anticipated – but I was so thrown off whatever I had expected to witness that I guess I lost track of time. It couldn’t have been more than an hour.
Afterwards, Joan and the Bros. signed CDs and greeted their fans. My friend Steven Gary bought a new copy of Relish for her to sign and I said hello, telling Joan I used to go see her in NYC. Steve and I listened to the CD on the way home and agreed this was the voice we came to hear. All’s well that ends well…
ULUV Music Day - All over San Francisco and the world! – 6/21/14
Here’s a perfect way to end this summer season’s jaunt through the streets of San Francisco: ULUV Music Day 2014!! It’s the culmination of over 300 artists performing in multiple locations all over the city: the BART stations, in park lets and storefronts and businesses and squares from Noon-5pm – along with other musicians in cities WORLDWIDE! This is a time-honored tradition that has its roots in France and has continued for decades - and I was one of the chosen few San Francisco musicians who were honored to carry this torch! My location was in front of Four Barrel Coffee on Valencia Street representing The Mission district!
My set on ULUV Music Day 2014 with guitarist Mike McKevitt and Steven Horgan on cajon’! (First two photos by Jeff Spirer, who took the best shots of my Haight Ashbury Street Fair Main Stage performance in 2011!)
The entire lot of us all gravitated toward Delores park at 5pm and performed a “flash mob” style version of Bob Marley’s “One Love” with no rehearsal – just the magic and ULUV Music Day 2014 coordinator Robin Applewood to guide us. I was blessed to join Nona Brown’s ONE LOVE choir and you can see my lil’ redhead bobbing up and down amidst the other angels all through this amazing YouTube video! Mastermind Robin leads us in solidarity and brings out multiple soloists! The rapper is truly inspired and make sure you get to 5:15 to hear the violin solos. As much as I LOVED performing my own set at Four Barrel Coffee, this was my FAVORITE part of the whole experience by far. The perfect end to this San Francisco Magical Mystery Tour…
The flash mob performance of “One Love” on ULUV MUSIC DAY 2014 in Delores Park!
Lucky gal yours truly with ULUV MUSIC DAY 2014 coordinator Robin Applewood!
But Beautiful – Rosemary Conte CD review and “The making of…” backstory!
Many of you may look at this stunning album cover and think you are seeing one of the jazz chanteuse greats from the Blue Note Records era of the ‘50s/’60s. But what you are actually gazing upon - and soon to be savoring if you’re smart – is the debut album from the Tri-State area’s (New York, New Jersey and Connecticut for those of you uninitiated) and the world at large’s best kept musical secret: Rosemary Conte, serving up some of the genre’s most beloved classics in supreme and timeless fashion. Except it actually IS from an era long ago. Huh? Curious?
Before we venture into that fascinating explanation, told in part by Lady Rosemary herself, I’d like to offer up my own backstory of how I came to be so invested in getting the word out about this extraordinary woman.
Back in 1986, I made my first trip across country to visit the city that I fell madly in love with and would eventually become my home for many years: New York City! It was on that first East Coast adventure that I met Rosemary’s son Steve Conte, a phenomenally talented singer/songwriter/guitar player. Steve is one of those artists I’ve mentioned many times in these columns who should be a household name, along with his mega-talented bass player brother John – both of whom have toured with the likes of Blood Sweat & Tears, Billy Squire, The New York Dolls, Michael Monroe, Billy Joel – the list goes on and on. In between all those high profile gigs, they have continued to put out some of the greatest records I’ve ever heard with their bands Crown Jewels and The Contes and Steve’s solo projects The Crazy Truth and NYC. I’ve reviewed many of them over the years right here. No matter what coast I’m on or anywhere in between, the brothers Conte always continue to make and put out Grammy-worthy and award-winning, supremely crafted and magical music.
The Conte Brothers and their records
Where did so much talent come from? Obviously, these guys must have great genes, and I ain’t talkin’ Calvin Kleins, y’all!
Little did I know that many years later, I would have the pleasure of getting to know their multi-talented and gifted mother Rosemary Conte. I have yet to meet her in person – but we have communicated via e-mail, phone and social media and I have come to find that this woman is somewhat of a superhuman dynamo. With one foot in the senior generarion and the other still kicking up a storm in the here and now, the seemingly ageless Rosemary Conte has established herself for decades as a highly respected vocal coach and clinical hypnotherapist, as well as a tireless community organizer and political activist. Always a part of her mind, body, spirit and most of all, her giant heart – Rosemary has stayed committed to keep performing the music that has defined who she remains to this day. But where did it all begin…
Back in the day in late ‘50s/early ‘60s New Jersey, Rosemary’s jazzy star was on the rise and later her adolescent sons were her back-up band. But raising four children as a single mother was her priority, and her dreams of recording and performing stardom had to be put on back-burner status. Years passed, she established herself in other areas and her kids all had their extremely busy lives. Life goes on. But still Rosemary Conte had no CD of her own. Where was her stamp, her legacy to leave for her grandkids and all the students she’s guided?...
The eras of Rosemary Conte
Thankfully, that question has been answered in the nick of time and it is a delicious one well worth the wait, with the release of But Beautiful, a newly re-mastered recording of some of the greatest songs of any generation. Best of all, it’s a beautiful Mother’s Day gift from her family – her legacy finally revealed from a fateful NYC recording session in 1987 that up until now had lain dormant and all but forgotten. Here Rosemary explores the nuances of jazz standards like the easy, breezy “I’m Beginning To See The Light”, the sensual “Sugar”, the heartbreaking Billie Holliday classic “Good Morning Heartache” and my favorite, the title track, “But Beautiful”, which this record and Rosemary’s interpretations most certainly are. She has a way with a twist of a phrase, and her singular, effortless delivery – such a relaxed tone and sweet vibrato at the end of those phrases with a wry little kick that puts a smile on my face and makes me feel warm inside, especially upon repeated partaking of this delightful sonic surprise. If a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down, all you need to do is keep taking “a million trips to those lips” that utter such delectable notes and you will be cured of all that ails ya! An added bonus is her decision to add “alternate takes” of a few of the tracks, showing even more versatility and finesse. Pianist Michael Abene, guitarist Al Gafa, and bassist Chip Jackson add just the right sauce to this jazzy stew.
The story behind the making of this record that took so long to be heard is almost as fun as hearing the final result and I’m going to let Lady Ms. Conte do the honors below. Get a copy of your own at http://www.cdbaby.com/Artist/RosemaryConte or at I-Tunes and Amazon.com and experience the lady and her legacy yourself! I am honored to know and support this truly deserving, kind and exemplary human being. You GO, Rosemother!!
In Rosemary’s words…
In 1986, with newly activated charge cards, a girlfriend and I set off for London—for my first vacation. We didn't want to do the typical touristy things. We wanted to experience the culture--like we were Brits; the institutions, neighborhoods, the courts, average folk hangouts, etc. Experiencing socialized medicine was not on our list; but after being thrown from a big red bus, our injuries introduced us to a London Police Station, London ambulance, then a stint in the hospital.
It never entered our minds to sue the bus company, so we were surprised when a London Bus Company rep visited us in our hospital rooms with a check for 1,100 pounds in hand. To this single mom raising four kids it was a windfall…and never mind what it cost! And my first thought was that the money would allow me to record.
In 1987, I called my friend; the great jazz bassist Chip Jackson. He called pianist Mike Abene, an in-demand singers’ player, and guitarist Al Gafa, and set up the record date at drummer Jimmy Madison's studio on NY's West Side. There was no rehearsal...just a list of songs and the keys in which I'd sing them.
My plan was to splurge on the train ride from NJ to NY, then instead of the bus, take a cab to the studio so as to arrive calmly psyched and in good voice. (You know what sometimes happens to the best laid plans. J)
The exotic-named cabby didn’t know how to get to the address, and he drove every which way apologizing, then voluntarily turning off the meter. I was already late for the session when on a busy four-lane highway the hood of the cab sprang up covering the windshield! I screamed for the cabbie to pull over and it seemed like forever until could and I jumped out of the cab and ran.
I had no idea where I was. It was a desolate area...no traffic...lots of warehouses and no sign of a cross street or traffic light ahead. I eventually reached a busy cross street where I hailed a cab...but not before getting an asthma attack triggered by the stress and running. It was really late, and I thought of the embarrassment I'd feel being late for the session arranged by my friend. I’d understand if the players were pissed, and how that could create a poor rapport for the recording session. Then there was the matter of the clock ticking away the amount of money I had allotted for a two-hour session. Most serious, though, how would I sing when I was having difficulty breathing?
I arrived at the studio shaken and not in my best voice. There was, however, an interesting element that the breathiness or breathlessness added to my performance. You know how it’s said that “You gotta be hurtin’ to really sing the blues?” (I returned to the studio a week later to re-do a couple of the vocals.)
Through the years, hundreds of my students have come and gone, giving me their CDs, and though I had recorded backing up other people and some jingles, my own performance had never found its way onto a disc for commercial release…or just something well recorded for my family to have when my voice is made silent. This year, I finally accepted that after a singing career of 60 years, I would not record an album, and I stopped thinking about it. Then something wonderful happened.
On Mother's Day this year, my kids, Steve, John, and Jennifer Conte---John and Steve NY musicians and producers----presented me with the CD Steve produced on his label, Thunderdog Recordings. He had digitized and mastered the CD “Rosemary Conte – But Beautiful” from the master tape of the recording session of that fateful day in 1987.
I love that the cover’s vintage design pays homage to the Blue Note jazz label of the 50s and 60s.
Thank you for your support. I hope you like the sounds. J And would you be so kind as to leave a review at the bottom of my CD Baby page? www.CDBaby.comIf you are not a returning customer, you just need to register as a first time buyer, then in the search field: But Beautiful, Rosemary Conte. Thank you very much!
Once more with feeling – But Beautiful – Rosemary Conte!
We lost a lot of people this year and recently who meant a great deal to me, both personally and professionally. Some to natural causes, some to tragic ones, but it is all a profound loss. So long and farewell to actors Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Lauren Bacall, radio/TV announcing greats Casey Kasem, Don Pardo and musicians Jim Preston (drummer for Sons Of Champlin) and my friend guitarist Andre Bush.
But none hit so hard as beloved comedian actor Robin Williams, who I met and wrote about several times over the years. Depression is a REAL illness and unfortunately, it takes tragedies of this magnitude to wake people up and get us to acknowledge just how real it is.
I wanted to grab a few excerpts from my “Almost Famous” columns over the years to share with all of you once again the joy this once-in-a-lifetime human being brought into my life – enjoy!
Robin Williams as “Mork” and Brian Seff from Rick & Ruby
From my very first “Almost Famous column in 2001:
In ‘79, I got cast in a rock ‘n roll musical comedy called BREAKFAST IN MARIN as "Sunny From Ohio", an innocent ingénue (which I was) who gets indoctrinated into the wild world of sex, drugs, rock’ n roll, health food and new age this, that and the other thing (which I did). It was a work in progress and so was I. The line between the stage and my life blurred. (The show was written by two San Francisco State graduates, Brenda Warren and Barbara Freidkin, William Freidkin’s [the director of THE EXORCIST] niece and one of the actresses was Robin Williams’ college sweetheart at College of Marin and he had just broken up with her before she was cast - (and he became MORK)! (Fun fact #3: A year after BREAKFAST closed, I met Robin Williams when this guy I was dating, the male half of the SF comedy duo Rick ‘n Ruby, landed a guest spot on MORK & MINDY and he flew me down for the taping. I had a short, precisely styled hair-do (ala Sheena Easton), and when Robin was introduced to me, he immediately went into this gay, French hairdresser character and started cooing and fussing over my hair while he "styled" it. I played right along, acting like a spoiled diva and everybody laughed. For a minute, me ‘n Robin had ‘em rolling in the aisles, baby!
From my Rickie Lee Jones Bimbo’s show review in 2001:
After the house lights came up, I went over to a very low-key, bespectacled Robin Williams and introduced myself and told him I’d written a piece for the SF Herald about meeting him 20 years ago. He very politely and honestly said, "I don’t believe I’ve ever heard of the San Francisco Herald." "Don’t worry", I replied. "No one else has either. But I think you might find it amusing and worth your while. And we just won ‘Best Neighborhood Newspaper’ in the SF Weekly!!" I gave him the website address and he thanked me and told me he’d be sure to check it out. I’m certain he ran straight to his computer the moment he got home. Why, I bet he’s probably still chuckling about "our moment" right now…
And from my New York City diary right before 9/11 – right after I played my own set at The Bitter End:
So we all went across the street to celebrate with food and drink at an outdoor Mexican restaurant. I had to be on a plane in 7 hours and was floating on a surreal, post-gig cloud, when a guy walked by and somebody called out to him and he stopped to let them take his picture and began to walk away. Someone at the table goes, "Look, that's Robin Williams!" Without missing a beat, I grabbed the last issue of the SF Herald (which of course I had a copy of on me) stood up on my chair and jumped over the railing onto the sidewalk and yelled, "Hey Robin!" and ran up to him. He turned around and I said, "Kimberlye Gold, San Francisco Herald, the Rickie Lee Jones show at Bimbo's in June!" (He was seated next to me and I chatted with him after.) He goes, "Oh my God, it's YOU!" in mock (I hope) horror. "I wrote about you, it's right in here!" I exclaimed and handed him the issue. He took it and said, "Great! Thank you for this!!" and walked away, waving back to me, "Thanks again!!" I think he was genuinely amused.(God knows everybody else was!).
Thanks for the memories, Robin…
Hold the presses – this just in…9/4/14 – Joan Rivers left us too…
Well, I had already turned in my column ending with my little birthday soiree when something else happened that just rocked my world in the worst way - and there was no way I was going to let this column go to press without paying one last tribute. Like our publisher Gene Mahoney so poignantly stated: “Somebody always dies at deadline”…
But this was not just “somebody”. This was a LEGEND. Someone cut from the same cloth as the badass women from my own mother’s side of the family, someone who represents EVERYTHING I’ve learned about beating the odds and reinventing yourself over and over again and WINNING. Say what you will about Joan but she sure as hell did it her way and she remained a trailblazer in a field where few women even get acknowledged and did so till her last breath. Truly inspirational, even if she hurt some folks’ feelings. As Joan would say, “Oh grow up! or “Get Over it!”
Joan got over a LOT – including her husband’s suicide and being told she would never work again – and she kept going and going and going like the comedic Energizer Bunny. Joan Rivers had an UNBELIEVABLE work ethic that would rival anyone at ANY age – and at 81 years old, she was still going gangbusters and remained completely RELEVANT. This wasn’t her time to go – Joan had a LOT more to do. A world without Joan Rivers will be a less funny place. And I loved her relationship with her daughter too. Poor Melissa ... Don’t rest in peace, Joan. Keep telling it like it is in your formidable take-no-prisoners fashion straight into your next nine cat lives. Thanks for the lifetime of laughs…
What the general public probably isn’t aware of is Joan River’s kindness, encouraging nature and humanity. All over social media, people are sharing their personal experiences being the recipients of Joan’s generosity of spirit. I’d like to end this tribute with a beautiful memory from my fellow castmate from Breakfast In Marin, Nancy Scher, who worked with Joan some years back:
Years ago, I had the pleasure of working on a commercial with Joan Rivers. There were 6 or 7 of us; all dressed the same, all Joan Rivers look-a-likes. It was for MCI. (Remember MCI?) Before she arrived, someone from the production company came over to coach us on how to "be" with Ms. Rivers. He asked us not to engage with her "too much". We all looked at one another. What? Was she a Diva? We were all big fans, so this was not good news. Our spirits dampened, and we were noticeably bummed. Someone - someone very brave - asked, "Why? Why couldn't we talk to her?" "Because we won’t get any work done. She'll hang out and play with you, and we need to keep her on track." Well, we all felt much better, and ignored his request, and hung out and played with Joan, who turned out to be completely professional, and insisted on taking a lot of breaks for us, because, "These women are just standing here, let 'em sit down already". She was very conscious of time, and when she had some trouble reading the teleprompter, she stopped the shoot to edit the copy so it was more reader friendly. I was so impressed by how fast she did that. No complaining, no joking, just "put a comma here, slow it down a bit, ok, ok, that looks good, let's go again." At the end of the day, we all lined up and she posed for a photo. A few weeks later I got the pic, autographed. I still have it. I have never forgotten how wonderful she was that day. RIP Joan…
Nancy Scher working with Joan Rivers – that’s Nancy on the lower left, Joan in the middle, and Joan’s autograph on the upper right hand corner.
Last but not least, I want to end this journey on a happy note. I just completed another jaunt around the sun and became a year older on August 27, 2014. To commemorate this auspicious event, I had a FABULOUS birthday bash show at one of my fave haunts: the lovely wine bar by the sea A Grape In The Fog in Pacifica! They had a birthday banner for me on the stage, we packed the joint and we were having so much fun the cops came – whoo HOO! My favorite moment was covering Iggy Pop’s signature “Wild Child” with actual founding and current member of The Stooges Steve Mackay playing his mean, old saxophone and all us jammin’ our faces off! Haven’t uploaded it to YouTube yet but it’ll get there!! Ya gotta love it when the Rock ‘n Roll Hall Of Fame incites the cops to come out to a lil’ ole’ Pacifica wine bar!! Happy birthday to ME!!
That’s all for now, Heraldonians! Hope you’ve had a great year so far!! ###