In April 2012 a report came through that US comedian Larry Miller had slipped at the entrance of an Irish pub and had serious head injuries. Silence followed for month after mysterious month, and fan websites had regular pleas from followers keen to know if he was alright. Some contemplated that he was so badly injured he would never leave hospital.
Australians aren’t very familiar with Larry Miller but they would recognise his face – the mean doorman on Seinfeld, Walter Stratford in 10 Things I Hate About You plus a litany of roles in movies and TV including The Nutty Professor, Pretty Woman and Boston Legal.
This month, January 9 to be exact, Larry resurfaced in America on his regular radio podcast This Week with Larry Miller nine months after falling. He slipped (safely) behind the microphone without fuss and told his story.
Larry recounted his experience so calmly you started to think he was talking about someone else. “I can’t wait to tell the story”, he announced and then rushed into a tale of ordering martinis at a rough, tough pub which was a known haunt of his. When he went out front for a smoke between orders he stepped aside to let a couple in, fell back and hit his head. A friend offered to call an ambulance and Larry agreed, wandering back to the barman to collect his second drink before the vehicle’s arrival. “I think I walloped my head,” he recalls saying.
It’s only when Larry starts talking about not remembering the ambulance drive, head swelling, being placed in an induced coma then moved to a rehab house that you realise how critical his injury was. For a comedian, having a brain injury must be as terrifying as being a runner who loses his legs.
“I’m very lucky, people die from this…I’m the luckiest guy in the world.” In the intimate world of the rehab house Larry’s friends became a couple of soldiers plus a young fifteen year old girl all suffering brain injuries. They became so accustomed to one another that they didn’t even require privacy when they were due for shots or pills. In this intimate environment life was getting up, eating, treatment, returning to a single room for tired sleeps and watching TV.
What’s truest for Larry is that he knew he was leaving again from the start while others he met did not necessarily have this as their reality. You sense the depth of his gratitude in his statement on healing. “One of the greatest blessings about healing, and it doesn’t always heal, is that I’m here, I knew early on it was just going to heal unless something went crazy.”
One moment, one miniscule incident, one trip as tiny as a mistimed word in a comedy monologue can change a person’s life.
Now, the closing lines Larry has used for many of his blogs and podcasts over the years ring true like never before:
“If you walked out of bed today and had a job to go to, and a home to come back to, and someone waiting there who cares about you? Folks, the game’s over, and you’ve won.”
Welcome back Larry Miller, it’s great to see you.
This week is stressful. We’re zipping overseas to visit our children. Lucky? Yes. Stressed? Absolutely.
Countdown 5 days:
Husband, (I’ll call him ‘Wise One’) accompanies me to luggage store, forcing me to buy smaller suitcase. Something to do with not paying excess baggage yet again. After an emotional public debate I return home with an object the size of Barbie’s wallet.
Countdown 4 days:
Full hour spent choosing toilet bag ingredients. Pain-killers, anti-malaria, anti-nausea, ultimate strength sunburn cream, waxing strips, emergency antibiotics, nail scissors, anti-blister plasters, lip gloss, paw-paw cream, miniature toothpaste. Place in Barbie’s wallet. Great! It takes up half my suitcase space.
Countdown 3 days:
Clean out fridge so there’s nothing growing when we return. Discover five jars of tomato paste, 3 bottles of curry mix, 2 half-used containers of chicken stock, 4 shrivelled garlic cloves and 1 softening ginger stem in the back corners.
Countdown 2 days:
Serve ‘Wise One’ delicious Chicken Curry in garlic and ginger sauce flavoured with a touch of tomato paste and simmered in chicken stock.
Complete packing of Barbie’s wallet. ‘Wise One’ refuses to pack extra pair of ‘good’ shoes and winter jacket for inclement weather in his giant suitcase. I burst into tears.
Damn, forgot to put hold on mail. Hurry to post office and discover they need 3 working days notice. Rush home to sweet-talk neighbour into checking letter box.
Countdown 1 day:
Rush to chemist and buy compression socks essential for long-distance air travel. Choice of black, black or black. I choose black, then pick myself up from the floor when I see what they cost.
Rush home again and squash cat into wire cage despite her attempts to freeze limbs so she won’t fit. Drive to cattery trying not to listen to woeful mews emanating from back seat.
Sneak pair of boots into bottom of ‘Wise One’s’ case.
Serve ‘Wise One’ delicious Beef Curry in garlic and ginger sauce flavoured with a touch of tomato paste and simmered in chicken stock. He comments that meals are starting to taste similar.
Undress for bed, discover pair of boots back in wardrobe. Oh well, there’s always the morning when he’s distracted with locking up house. It’s been a stressful week. But tomorrow it will all be worth it. See you somewhere soon!
Here’s a given. This week, every woman’s magazine on our news stands will feature Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes on their cover following news of their separation.
So how many of us will be tempted to open our purse and sneak one into our shopping basket?
Lives of celebrities fascinate us. We can’t help a gloating sense of self-satisfaction when something like the TomKat phenomenon collapses and we can say to our friends, “Well, as if that was ever going to last. What with Tom’s scientology stuff, and Katie having a poster of him in her bedroom as a teenager and that crazy stuff he did jumping on Oprah’s couch. That marriage was doomed from the start.”
The Tom and Katie show is a business. It’s a business for magazines, celebrity shows, the film and TV industry, the fashion industry. Suri is rumoured to have a wardrobe worth millions and we devour every photo of her wearing toddler stilettos and designer outfits. On one level we hate Tom and Katie, but on another level we desire the wealth and trappings of their lifestyle. Some of us copy Katie’s hairstyle or gorgeous outfits because, let’s face it, she always looks great.
How do we encourage our daughters and even ourselves to be more interested in the great female achievers in others walks of life? Why aren’t we consumed by Burmese politician Aung San Suu Kyi, Australian doctor Fiona Woods who pioneered spray on skin for burns victims, Catherine Hamlin dedicating her life to repairing fistulas in Ethiopian women, Elizabeth Blackburn creating breakthrough research that may affect cancerous cells?
Is it because they’re not sexy in the Hollywood definition of the word? Do you have to have make-up artists and wardrobe consultants to be admired in the 21st century? Let’s be brave this week. Let’s spend the money we could have used purchasing the TomKat story on a donation to a charity led by an altruistic, selfless woman. And let’s sit down with our daughters and tell them the attributes of women who could be great role models for them as they grow up.
There’s something I’m not getting at the Crying Olympics in London. Yes, that’s what they’ve been re-named as we watch athlete after athlete breaking down when they win, oh shame oh no, an apparently meaningless Silver Medal or even worse aren’t even placed.
What kind of perspective, what kind of dignity are we teaching these young competitors? Are they receiving so many positive, feel-good talks that no-one tells them there’s a chance they might lose?
The other new phenomenon is the ‘celebrity parent’ interview. After every event Mum and Dad take centre-stage to comment on their children, of course always concluding with “I just want them to be happy.”
Do they? Of course they do, but has the quest for true happiness been confused as parents are drawn into the intense build-up of training and supporting elite athletes? Have the parents themselves lost perspective of what happiness means?
The worst example is Chinese diver Wu Minxia, a three-times gold medalist, who has only just found out during the London Games that both her grandparents died more than a year ago. Her parents didn’t tell her because they didn’t want to disrupt her training. Father, Wu Yuming, is believed to have told the Shanghai Morning Post, “We accepted a long time ago that she doesn’t belong entirely to us. I don’t even dare to think about things like enjoying family happiness.”
The parents of shamed Australian Olympic rower Josh Booth have visited the shops he vandalised to apologise to the owners. Why? Their son is 21, he’s been an adult for 3 years and should be capable of taking full responsibility for this tantrum on his own. Some commentators have even tried to excuse Booth, stating that it’s understandable because these guys have sacrificed drinking for a long time to be in peak performance mode and are understandably devastated when results don’t go their way. Give me a break. This is unacceptable behaviour fair and square.
We’ve watched Silver Medallist Emily Seebohm burst into tears saying she has let her parents down, seen Korean fencer Shin Lam inconsolable, badminton teams cheating, our own James Magnussen discovering he is a fallible human being rather than a missile.
The only crying any of us should be doing over these Olympics are tears of joy that for the first time Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Brunei have sent female athletes to compete. Now that is a victory for all women to rejoice in
Recently we took our beloved cat to the vet for a check-up. We returned with a heavy heart and, it transpires, a heavy cat.
Xena, named 12 years earlier by our son because of her good looks and warrior princess athleticism has succumbed to middle aged spread and was declared ‘obese’. Beside her on the seat of the car for our journey homeward was a large box of food sachets. We turned the label, Obesity Management - Feline, away from her because we wanted to avoid the added expense of a cat psychologist if she became aware of her current weight status.
We're not sure how it happened. One minute she was leaping on mice, racing down the hallway, pouncing on passing dogs, then suddenly she slept all day, waddled from couch to lap and had to be lifted onto the bench to be fed. The change occurred around the same time Oprah went off-air. Maybe she got depressed losing her daily TV fix. She was always fascinated by Oprah’s pet dogs.
The electric blanket cat bed she received last year may not have helped either. She's glued to it and not from electrocution. But it was so cold last winter and she loves it.
Yesterday a stray cat wandered through the yard begging and mewing at our glass door to come in. We had to wake Xena to make her aware of the trespasser; she yawned then squashed herself deeper into our cushions. It was all too much trouble.
We've googled to find advice and discovered the Adelaide Animal Hospital's Pet Weight Loss Clinic which would provide Xena with progress trackers, gifts for reaching weight milestones and even entry into the national Pet Slimmer of the Year competition but she'd hate the publicity if she won.
When we gathered courage to show Xena a packet of her new food she was insulted. The manufacturer was a company called Royal Canin. 'I'm not a dog and removing the letter 'e' from the label hasn't tricked me in the slightest" she meowed as she slunk off, fat flaps swaying close to the floor.
If you've got advice for Xena we'd appreciate it. It's lonely when even your cat won't talk to you.
By the time you hit 40, you’re pretty clear on what suits you. You know to avoid the shop hangers dripping with flesh-eating leather leggings and the spandex vests that cling like a limpet to each body outline. It’s clear that a gentle V neck jumper will disguise your EE bust, flowing fabric will waft over the post-baby stomach and you’ve long replaced the suicidal stilettos for ‘sensible’ footwear that avoids you splaying down the staircase when you’re late for work.
So why don’t all clothing shop assistants get this too?
You’ve gone into the change room with the maximum number of garments, received the plastic deli ticket and the first discovery is no damned mirror supplied in the cubicle. It’s brutal. You’ve got to try on the outfit, then parade your chosen item in the public arena to check it fits.
Of course it never fits. It’s two sizes too small, the zip you forced over your rolls is biting into your flesh and you can’t even do the button up on the cuff because your tuckshop arms are gravity-forcing your arms to widen around the wrists.
Then the shop assistant approaches. “That looks stunning on you, it is just your colour.”
“I don’t think it’s right.”
“It’s perfect. You just need a belt to finish it off.”
In front of the growing retail audience the shop assistant proceeds to girth you like a horse, pulling bits of fabric over a belt she’s had to wrench to reach the loosest notch. She stands back again and lets out a sigh of admiration. “That is gorgeous. The belt’s made all the difference.”
“I’m not sure. Do you have it in a bigger size?”
“Well I’m not sure if this designer goes higher, but I can check.” She swishes her hair over her Size 6 shoulder and sets off on her quest. You retreat to the security of the cubicle cursing that the curtain still leaves a gap when you pull it closed.
She pushes the replacement through the curtain. Seconds pass as you struggle to pull the new one over your head.
“How’s that?” she calls through the curtain.
“I’m not quite in it yet.”
“Would you like some help with the zipper?”
“No,” you yelp.
“I’ve got a brown jacket that might look good with it.”
“No thank you.”
“It comes in green too.”
It’s too much. You grasp at the baggy tracksuit you’ve lived in for a year and scoop up the pile of rejects.
“I’m sorry, I don’t think any of these seem to work.”
She doesn’t hear. She’s turned already to the beautiful woman blessed with the model’s body who has just chosen two complete suits without needing to try them on.
You exit the shop and cross the road to the Krispy Kreme outlet. That donut is the best fit of all.