Carla Zilber-Smith is the star of a new ninety-minute retrospective documentary film showcasing her onstage talent as a comedian and jazz singer, called Leave Them Laughing.The title has a double meaning—Carla was diagnosed two years ago with ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig's Disease. It's a fatal disease that destroys the motor neurons, and the majority of patients do not survive even thirty months after diagnosis. Carla was diagnosed twenty-four months ago, and has only weeks, or hopefully months, left. Yet she's creating more art and doing more charity work than most people do in their lifetime.
The project Carla is most actively promoting is one that showcases and supports other with ALS. It's a 2010 calendar she "masterminded," featuring people with ALS. Carla says ALS stands for "Always Looking Sexy" rather than Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, so that's what the theme of the calendar is. If you're inclined to spend part of your holiday budget on a good cause, please buy the calendar,which shows people with ALS, from age twenty-three to sixty-nine, spoofing famous scenes from the cinema, and proceeds will benefit ALS research. Carla says the calendar "will remind you...how unbearably lucky we all are to live on this beautiful planet."
Her last CDwas completed before her diagnosis, and has the kind of jazz vocals she's known for in the San Francisco Bay Area and beyond. She's working diligently on completing another, even with the escalating physical challenges she faces daily.
As you may have gathered from her calendar, her humor is as serious as her musical performing. "I'd much rather have been diagnosed with a basketball disease," she told the San Francisco Chronicle last year. Her irreverence and joie de vivre has been a source of inspiration for her friends, helping them get through the last two years since her diagnosis. (Too many of them brought her copies of Tuesdays with Morrie, she complained, and set out to do it her way.)
She also has a teenage son. Last Monday, December 14th, was her birthday, and he guessed her password to surprise her on her own blog with a loving tribute to her.And like his mother, he asked people to join in to share memories of her. Raising a wonderful child may be her greatest legacy.
It's Red Room's honor to introduce you to this amazing woman while you still have time to meet her and to show your support in her lifetime. Please leave a comment below for Carla and her son to read, and let's take her up on her offer to remind us how unbearably lucky we all are to live by acting like it.
–Ivory Madison, CEO and founder of Red Room