I'll swear it was a touch of the pathetic fallacy that had a gale funnelling around The Lanes and sunlight glistening off the pale sugarloaf terraces, when I caught up with Lynn Ruth Miller last Friday at the 2009 Brighton Festival.
And I do mean 'caught up'. You can doubtless hear how out of breath I am just from the recollection!
Our initial plan for meeting had gone awry, due to her hectic schedule. A message to her mobile soon elicited the announcement: “Rosy! I'm sitting in the Cafe Feliz, 30, North Street, you can't miss it. And I've ordered.” I could hear a muffled conversation in the background with the Portuguese proprietor. “There's a car park at the top of the hill in the street on the left. Now, darling, I really do want to meet you so don't you go running off! I'm waiting!”
I think I must have stalled at the thought of that labyrinth of mostly narrow, one-way streets. She had gone off the map I'd printed out from the Internet.
Half an hour and a new map book later, I found the diminutive figure sitting at a window table, holding court with a journalist and being greeted by other frequenters of the establishment who recognised her from her Laughing Horse show at The Quadrant, Aging is Amazing. She's a seasoned hand at the Edinburgh Fringe, but this was her first time in Brighton and she'd managed to take it by storm within a couple of days, playing to a packed house every night with a matinée on Saturday. Not bad for any age. But seventy-five...!
Miller, a journalist, playwright, comedienne, storyteller, author, twice-married, suspects that her former spouses are terrified of her. She writes her own material, including many of the songs, and is a strident critic of discrimination towards the elderly. In her character of Queenie, the Senile Stripper, she pokes rib-splitting fun 'at cabaret and the sexy girls who walk around', celebrating her sags and creases in inimitable style to uproarious mirth while extolling the virtues of Spandex. She is a past mistress of timing. Some folk leave in tears, not of laughter, but because they're genuinely touched to see a performer who's had the courage to defy the aging process and follow her dream of singing on stage in the autumn of life. “Getting older, I love it all,” she says, and she doesn't balk at mentioning the incontinence pads. "I let the audience know I'm still having fun.”
The local Press have been sensational, eager to exploit this take on seniority in a stretch of Britain's South Coast where the population as a whole has long lost the first flush of youth. But the star was anxious to explain that her scantily-clad image in the Brighton Argus didn't show her at her best: the nipple tassels on her costume were missing!
While we were talking, her phone rang two or three times. She was being hassled by another entertainer to meet at a venue around the corner in The Lanes. I agreed to walk with her as she wasn't sure of the way, but, before we left, she was giving instructions to mine host about when next to expect her and who would accompany her. Her appointment turned out to be with a good-looking young man who was evidently delighted to see her.
She is on the way back to the Pacific Coast at this moment, somewhere up in the air over the Atlantic. I hope that California is more ready to welcome her home than Britain was to receive her. Apparently, she was stopped as she went through customs on the way in because of a Visa dispute. “I wasn't happy with the way they treated me,” she declared. “I'm a seventy-five year old woman and they searched me and fingerprinted me. Luckily, I was allowed to stay.”
And I don't doubt she'll be back, with all her sauce and humanity. I was thinking of referring to her as 'Ms Dynamite'. Pity that name's taken!
Causes Rosy Cole Supports
World Vision, International Prison Outreach, Salvation Army, Emmaus Project, Poor Clares, DogsTrust, BUAV (against animal testing) WWT (Wildfowl &...