by Anura Guruge
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When I was living in San Francisco in the late 1980s and early 1990s, I had some clients who were also my friends who were standup comedians. I would frequently hang out with them in the various comedy clubs throughout San Francisco, and spent a lot of time in the green room backstage with a number of comedians, many of whom went on to be quite famous.
At one particular club, ‘The Holy City Zoo‘ that was located out in the avenues in San Francisco, on many Sunday nights at around 9:00 to 9:30 p.m., Robin Williams used to show up unscheduled, and whoever the headliner was for that night would simply step aside and have Robin alone on stage where he would proceed to do 45 minutes to an hour of his unbelievable and extremely energetic standup comedy.
A lot of people would come to the club on Sunday nights knowing that there was a chance Robin would show up. On a few occasions, I was backstage in the green room when Robin came there and had the opportunity to spend some time with him and hang out with him and a number of comedians. Usually, I would be the only non-comic in the group.
One night he and several other comedians were hanging around backstage, and he and the others were going crazy laughing, joking, and doing parts of their routines, with Robin being Robin. The phone started ringing with no one answering it, and finally someone working at the club yelled out and asked if someone would pick up the phone. Since I was the one closest to the desk, I walked over and answered the phone. This was of course in the days before everyone had a cell phone.
I said hello, and the voice on the other end asked if Robin was there. I held the receiver down and yelled to him that he had a phone call. He asked, “who is it?” I asked the caller, “who’s calling please?” and the voice said, “ his wife.” I said, “it’s your wife.” I watched as Robin went from his zany, warm smile, to a very somber and serious face in an instant, almost as if someone had flipped a switch and turned off one mood and turned on the other. Robin came and took the phone from me and then proceeded to cup his hand over the phone and talk very quietly into it. I walked away to give him privacy.
Another time, he and Jay Leno, and my friends, Tim Bedore and Jack Wright, went out to ‘The American Music Hall‘ in San Francisco to watch a comedian who was a friend of all these guys. I forget who the comic was. I sat at that table while Robin drank soda water with lime since he was clean and sober at that time, and had an amazing time while Jay and Robin and the other comedians heckled the guy on stage. The audience loved it, and we all had a great time.
I will never forget these nights and the few times I had the pleasure of being around Robin Williams. Everything I have been hearing about him in the news describing what a warmhearted and talented guy and wonderful person he was all ring true for me having had a small opportunity to see it firsthand.
I do not know whether any of this would be of any interest to anyone, or even if it would be appropriate that I share it publicly. However, feel free to talk about it as you like on your blog or otherwise. It is just nice to be able to be a person who can share a story about Robin Williams.
by Anura Guruge
>> PLEASE donate your body to science — Oct. 12, 2013.
As some of you may have worked out from my posts, especially this one about donating your body to science, I, strange at the best of times, am incredibly strange when it comes to death and funerals. I really don’t care what others do, and I haven’t been to a funeral is over 20 years. All I care about is that I will NOT be having a funeral. I want my body to be picked up and taken away, with zero fuss, ASAP. Just one phone call. So I tend to look at funerals with somewhat of a detached manner. Recently I heard about a funeral that was being held, in this country, 11 days after the person died. That got me thinking. That, to me, seemed like a long time.
I know that there are certain religions that expect prompt burial — and I think one of them basically states that the body needs to be disposed by the first sundown. So, in that context, 11 days seems rather long.
As a papal historian, I am, of course, very familiar with the notion of novendiales [also novemdiales], the nine consecutive days of mourning following the death of a pope — though this typically starts, at least in ‘modern’ times, after the funeral of the pope. I chronicled the novendiales for John Paul II (#265), following his death in 2005, in my book ‘The Next Pope 2011‘.
But, the pope’s funeral per se was held on April 8, 2005, six days after his death on on April 2.
I then checked the most recent VIP — and all I could think was Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela. Died December 5, 2013 and the final State Funeral was on December 15, 2013 — though for reasons yet to be explained nobody got to see any ‘close up’ images of his final, resting body. So those 10 days was a good reference point.
JFK — 3 days! Wow. Three days. I double checked this because it seemed so fast.
Ronald Reagan a total of six days up to his burial at his Presidential Library in Simi Valley, CA.
Gerald Ford, the last U.S. President to have died, four days — and one of those was January 1, 2007.
Richard Nixon five days.
Then, given that I do consider myself a denizen of the world, I checked some other world leaders.
Indira Gandhi four days.
Jawaharlal Nehru (who I had the honor of meeting and shaking hands with when he visited Ceylon in 1962) one day; died 14:00 on May 27, 1964, cremated May 28. Wow. But, I gather that was per religious requirements.
But, to be fair, given my nationalistic bias, the first dates that I checked were for, of course, dear Winston Churchill. I do remember, as a child in Ceylon, seeing a film, c. 1965, which I think had a title along the lines of “A Journey’s End” about his funeral. I have done a post about his funeral. Sir Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill, KG, OM, CH, TD, DL, FRS, RA, the largest (known) State Funeral for the time, five days.
So in the overall scheme of things eleven days does seem atypical and unnecessary.
by Anura Guruge
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Since I had seen the news before I went to bed (around 2 a.m. this morning), and given that Deanna is an avid fan of movie stars and likes to be on top of any news, I told Deanna the news as soon as she woke up this morning. She started laughing which was slightly unexpected. She went onto explain that she could never think of Lauren Bacall without remembering her beloved (lobsterman) father’s reaction to her tampon commercials in the 1970s — when Deanna was between 10 and 12.
I wasn’t in the U.S. at the time so I have no clue about these commercials.
It appears that Deanna’s father had quite the sense of humor and that Lauren Bacall’s tampon commercial used to ‘get to him’. Per Deanna, each time it aired, he would growl: ‘sounds like she has one stuck down her throat’!
You have to admit that that is funny. So, while lying in bed, listening to CNBC, sipping my coffee (kindly brought up by Deanna), and using my ‘large’ 10.2″ Le Pan Android tablet I tried to find the commercial because I knew YOU would like to see it — and hopefully visualize this lobsterman, from Cushing, Maine, in his late 40s, with black glasses, growling ‘sounds like she has one stuck down her throat’ and Deanna never failing to crack up laughing. I couldn’t find it though I kind of worked out that she was plugging Playtex. Deanna was going to have a look too — when she has some time. Busy today. Having folks around for dinner.
Yes, I checked YouTube, of course. Yes, of course, I can see all the coffee commercials — but zilch for tampons. Shame. This is when I realize that we, or at least I have, become so accustomed to thinking that the Web is infinite and infallible — though I know better. I just hope, if not expect, that you can find most things of ‘recent’ import on the Web.
Hopkins Center, Dartmouth (N.H.), Showcasing 5 Shows That Commemorate The Centenary Of WW I Through Art.
by Anura Guruge
a/ King George V’s ‘Great Silence’ proclamation … — July 9, 2013.
b/ Origins Of “Armistice Day” (a.k.a “Poppy Day”) — June 11, 2013.
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As you know we have been marking this momentous centenary over the last few weeks — my recent posts having to do with my efforts to purchase one of the ‘Tower of London’ commemorative ceramic poppies.
Well the Dartmouth Hopkins Center is doing their part too — and, as ever, doing so with aplomb and style. They appreciate that this centenary provides a time for great collective reflection on that war’s causes and ramifications. So, in order to promote that reflection they are hosting a a series, “World War I Reconsidered”, that not only examines that conflict but also captures some of the creative foment of the pre-war and post-war periods, and looks at war in general.
Here is their program. Click to ENLARGE. Use the ‘HOP 50’ logo above to access their official Website.
by Anura Guruge
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I wanted to stop because the marquee outside the shop talked about trains and in particular ‘Lionel Trains’. I had to have a look. It is a compulsion I have. Easier than walking past book stores but I do have trouble not entering stores that have trains. What can I say?
I saw the elephants at 30′ — across a room, while walking past the doorway. As soon as I saw them from the corner of my left eye I knew exactly what it was. Devanee was with me. I told her: ‘elephants from Ceylon’. I had NOT see the inlaid ‘Ceylon‘ on the bridge at that point. I was too far away.
Most middle class houses in Colombo, Ceylon would have one of these elephant bridges at the time I was growing up there, i.e., 1950s to 1967.
It was cute. Not sure how one ended up in Concord, N.H.