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Carla Zilber-Smith Acts with Talent, Humor, and Courage
Carla Zilbersmith.JPG

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.)
Maclen Zilber and Carla Zilbersmith

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

16 Comment count
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Hello Carla. You are an

Hello Carla. You are an inspiration to all of us and indeed we are "unbearably lucky we all are to live on this beautiful planet."

I am going to twitter this page right now to my following of over 1000 people to try and share the word about your story.


Michael Pokocky

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For Carla

Love came and spread like blood in my veins and the skin of me,
It filled me with the Friend and completely emptied me.
The Friend has taken over all parts of my existence,
Only my name remains, as all is He.
(Amir Khusrau)

I quote this Sufi poet here for to 'leave them laughing' one has to empty oneself to get filled.

It is in the Now that we all live and the future is a second away. This is what makes us aware of what we have - breath. But how many of us breathe life into others? You appear to have done so with your music and your words and your son.

This is Life and will continue to be.

Thank you for making us wake up to this reality.


PS: And thank you Red Room to make the authors bond at such moments.

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The perfect poem.

I couldn't add anything to Farzana's words.  Blessings, Carla.

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Well done, faithful servant.

Dear Carla,

With few words; "very well done faithful servant". You have come into the world to bring us joy and LIGHT the path for your son - where your legacy continues. There is nothing lost or that stands between your eternal bond of love.

May we remember you always in our prayers until we meet again.

By the way, Carla, You are most beautiful and always look sexy:-)

God Bless You,

Catherine Nagle

PS-Thank you very much, Ivory.

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A long time ago

my sister was dying, far too young, of breast cancer and I wrote her a poem that included the lines:
"you are a flame
from which the candle wanes."

Sounds like you're leaving plenty of flames (and smiles, too... looks like you just told the dolphin a joke).

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Carla, You may very well


You may very well already know this, and have probably heard more about Lou Gehrig than you could ever want to.  But when Gary Cooper went overseas to entertain the troops during WWII, he was asked by them to recite the speech he'd given at Yankee stadium, playing Gehrig in the movie, Pride of the Yankees,  and was surprised and greatly moved by the tears in their eyes, by how affected these soldiers were, facing death themselves. 

For me this goes to the point that there is nothing I can say, and likely little that anyone here can say, good writers though there are, that can match the nobility and courage of what you have said and continue to say with your art and even more plainly with the example of your life.

Compared to you, we are all merely actors with scripts in our hands or lines on our lips.

Happy Birthday.

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You won't remember this, but

You won't remember this, but I met you, your son, and his father many years ago on the Ocean View playground, when he was beginning first grade (or maybe second). He had a good friend named Tommy; my son was good friends with Ian, Tommy's older brother. Our sons were also in Model UN together at AHS. Through my son and also because we live in the same community, I have heard your story, and, from a distance, admired your courage and strength, as well as your son's. I have a colleague whose brother died of ALS a couple of years ago (he also lived in Albany). She continues to be inspired by your story and does ALS fundraising with you and her brother in mind. Thank you for so living so publicly with this disease and sharing the pain as well as the joy of your life. Thanks to Ivory and Red Room for providing a place for us to put some of our feelings into words. p.s. Your son is--as you know--a wonderful young man.

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Hello Carla

Dear Carla,

Thank you for your words, reminding us " ...how unbearably lucky we all are to live on this beautiful planet."

If you would like to write anything - (anything you like, of course!) - for the upcoming website, based on the book, 'The Art of Living: a Practical Guide to Being Alive', we would be greatly honoured.

Please let me know if you would and I'll fill you in on the details.

Thank YOU for being here on this beautiful planet!

God bless,


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The Art of Living

Dear Claire, It would be an honor to write something. Please let me know what I can do. I'll also send a message directly to your page.



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e-mail address

Dear Carla,


Please could you send me your e-mail address again, as, I'm so sorry, but I cannot find the e-mail you sent(!!) Sorry!


(Mine is: clairet@caub.org)


Many thanks and warm regards,



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Dear Carla,

You son is truly lucky to be a part of you, and he a strong, strong person. You are inspiration.

For you:

For just a moment,
you flutter
between worlds.

Blood is ancient
alchemy that hesitates

in your fingertips
just before the secrets blossom.

You trade your sadnesses in and
become an infant,

leaving the last of your tears
to fall through
the eyes of others,


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A Poem for you

simple but discreet is her kiss
never expecting
never demanding
solitude is her vice
love completes her


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An amazing story

This story and the posts afterward brought me to tears. You have made us all better, Carla, and you will not be forgotten. I have a teenage daughter, and I can see the same sweetness in your son's eyes. A wonderful boy.

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Help is on the way!

Hi Carla,

There is much I do not know about life, and some that I never want to. Your story is filled with courage and optimism and is truly a noble thing to read. One thing I do know is that there isn't anything called death. Since the soul is eternal all we do is drop our body. We retain our awareness and have the magic to be able to see those we love and to fill their world with our presence. That is a transformation, not an ending. Enjoy every moment, notice everything. Fill your remaining years with so much that other people never have even if they live to 110. Take care and my prayers go with you.


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Carla, all I have to offer is this snippet I composed for another friend who left too soon:

Just-so stories must be told around campfires
and legends about you must grow.
For your time is
far too short among us
who look to find you
in the fire, protecting
us from the beasts that circle.

I thank you for the fierceness and humor in your eyes.

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Dear Carla: I am in awe of your courage and thank you for the love you so generously share with us all.