Tony and lionOut of the gate this week went from hi to lo then back up to ultimately very high again, and is now over. Phew! Not being one to think in terms of mercury being in retrograde, or in the bathroom, as the case may be, I just gotta say, this has been some week. So much so that I’m saving a whole other rant for next week and telling the true stories, the real tales that unfolded in my particular world this past week that gave me pause, if not knocked my  bloody socks off.

Monday night, Mel Brooks at 87 yrs of age, played to a packed house in the main theater at the Geffen Playhouse. And I was there! We had great seats, right up in front, in the  500 seat theater.  Several times during the night I had one of those beautiful, rare moments, when I pulled back and witnessed my life and asked myself  how.  How, and through what grace, did I get here.

Or, put another way, ” Holy Shit! I’m sitting up close and personal watching the great comedic genius and master, Mel 2000 Year Old Man Blazing Saddles Hero of Every Comic Alive Brooks! Wow…I live  a damn good life! How the F did I get here works too!

Mel  told stories. He took a trip back from his beginnings as a young comedian up in the Catskills, the Jewish summer ghetto/holy grail where all the old timers honed their skills, up through his movie career , to the present. He took us along through the years; the clubs, the names and places,  New York, Hollywood, Gene Wilder, Madeline Kahn and of course gave us several long peeks into what he called his wonderful marriage to the amazing Ann Bancroft.  Now there’s a wall I’d like to be a fly on. In their bedroom…OMG…between her fabulously sexy voice and great beauty and his humor, whoa what a happy fly I’d be! At 87 he  still has his comedic timing. He’d take us there building the story, “Ann and I were etc, etc, etc and then Sammy Davis Jr. came in …”, then bam ! A joke! The  hi-light of the night was the introduction fo Carl Reiner who was sitting in the front row. Another master of the Comedic Universe and Mr. Brooks ‘s pal, cohort, co-star and co-creator of the masterpiece 2,000 Year Old Man routine, he got up to talk about his friend and when the two started swapping dialogue the silence in the packed house was reverential .

Through trials and tribulations, loves and losses, in sickness and in health, Mel Brooks is still loving show business. It’s still his life blood, his passion. And  he has a good voice!  Who knew! So it was a big high, that night. Lots to think about, learn and feel. I took it all in gratefully, even if I did get hungry and wished I had a tuna sandwich to pull me through the second act. Half a Snickers bar consumed at intermission gave me a slight head ache and played havoc with my blood sugar level so by curtain I nearly ripped my husband’s arm out of it’s socket dragging him up the aisles, out the theater, and to our car, yanking and jerking him like he was on a chain anytime he dared stop to utter as much as a hello.

Just two days later our really close friend, Robert, who is the nicest sweetest most adorable and kind to everyone no matter man, dipped us down from the heights. Through no fault of his own.

A teenage girl, texting, hit his bicycle with him on it so instead of re-hanging all of the art in his house Wednesday as he and his wife had planned to do, he spent the day in UCLA EMERGENCY TRAMA WARD.  All day, by the way, and into the night. He didn’t get into a nice private room until 9:30 PM. And dare I say that was with extremely heavy connections. It really pays to have good friends on the boards of hospitals now. I’m not kidding. If they hadn’t had a phone line into a heavy hitter on the board, Robert might still be waiting in emergency for a bed to open up. Seriously. I gotta make some friends on a few hospital boards, I can see that now or I’m a gonner.

Sorry I digress. Getting back to Robert, and UCLA, the blessing, of course, is that he is alive. That he always rides with his helmet on probably saved his life. Take that in, please, any and all.  Wearing a Helmet Saves Lives!  He broke his clavicle bone, his right elbow in several places and his right side is all bruised and banged up. Life as he knew it the moment before she hit him and he hit the ground, has changed completely.  Plans made for the following few weeks became null and void when the car knocked him to the concrete ground.

So all of us, his plethora of friends, have been weaving in and out of his morphined vision for the last few days, pilgrimaging to Ronald Reagan Medical Building at UCLA. (Which I need to say a few words about in a moment).  We keep saying the same things, the same sentences, preaching to ourselves and anyone in earshot how blessed Robert is to be alive. How even though he is hurting and inconvenienced and his life may be on hold for a bit, it is a miracle he is alive. Kids, it is a damn Miracle any of us are alive when yet again we look at the randomness of this event, this accident, this split life changing second that can never be taken back.

But getting back to UCLA…another big fat blessing, to have access to that beautiful hospital. It’s great! Spanking new with sweet faced volunteers all over the spacious modern yet not cold hallways, smiling and asking to help guide you around. Lovely and at my age I note these things the way in my 20′s and 30′s I noted nice little boutiques I wanted  to come back to.

Wrapping up on Roberto, sitting up looking dazed and bruised, he charms the nurses, kibitzes with orderlies, and even in a hospital gown, most unbecoming to the rest of us, he glows. And his wife, a tall dynamo made taller by her high heeled Louboutins, she who looks most relaxed working her cell phone while walking into a meeting shifting her LV messenger bag into  it’s correct position, has morphed into the Babe Paley of Jewish mothers.  Elegantly clad, she hunches over, wiping his brow with her tender hand calling for the nurse for the 3rd time in 15 minutes convinced her Robbie has a fever.  She is in rare form and fabulous.

I make note to self to sign her up to be at my hospital bedside if  I should ever need it and if I make the absolutely needed friends to get me into said hospital bed!

Ok so this was, in fact, a dip, a down dip in my rollercoaster of a week, but like my Monday with Mel it  provoked both thoughts and feelings, and brought fresh speculation about miracles and blessings. Robert will be fine. The person who hit him I hope will someday heal from  her part in this, as well, and hopefully appreciate how fortunate she is that her take away from this wasn’t someone’s death which would’ve been her own life sentence, for sure.

Yikes on all of it. Which takes me to Thursday and the big yikes; Mr Yikes himself.  Tony Fitzjohn, the Field Director and head honcho of the Mkomazi National Park in Tanzania landed in LA  and began his yearly round of Mkomazi lectures and educational/fund raising events. Tony Fitzjohn is a one of a kind character. Leaving London and his private school background at 19, he fell in love with Africa, adopted it as his homeland, hooked up with George Adamson of Born Free fame and became his protégée. For 18 years Tony worked alongside George in Kenya’s Kora National Reserve learning to love, care for and  protect African wildlife. Invited by the Tanzanian government to take over and rescue what he refers to as a 1,500 square mile wasteland,  Tony took the challenge and ran with it creating, Mkomazi a thriving African Game Reserve that’s recently been upgraded to National Park status by the Tanzanian Government. A rogue and  maverick by nature, he is now one of the leading experts on the relationship between man and African wildlife preservation. He is also an extremely cool dude with an extremely cool, adventurersome and brave English beauty of a wife and four great kids. All raised in the wild amidst the elephants, rhinos and African hunting dogs.

Tony and his wife Lucy are so the people I wish I had the guts to be. Living in this somewhat desolate stretch of land called Mkomazi for over 20 years they have worked it, nurtured it, built irrigation systems, landing strips and built schools in it’s surrounding villages.  At Mkomazi he’s built a Black Rhino Sanctuary helping to save the highly endangered Black Rhinos from the brink of extinction, saved the funny looking African Hunting dogs and raised his own kids to be loving and be at peace in the world and in the wild. The survival of everything good and indigenous to Africa is what Tony lives for. It’s what he’s dedicated his every waking working breath to. I love this guy.  He comes on these jaunts that he really isn’t so comfy doing as he’s much more at home with a lion’s big paws griping his shoulders than asking for money, but he comes and does it, talks about the early days with George, shows all the slides that elicit OHHHHs and Ahhhhhs, does the power point on the budget;  how much goes to feed the rhino’s, and what it cost to fuel up the tiny plane he flies looking for poachers. His blond hair, long and wild, is thinning now,  showing more grey with each trip, and his sun dyed skin, once tan, looks a little like cracking leather. This all makes him look even more attractive in an Out Of Africa heroic way. Seeing the slides always gets me, listening to Tony’s self deprecating comments said in his out of the side of his mouth English accent, always gets to me. It got to me again Thursday night in Lisa Kitchen’s garden in Rustic Canyon. Lisa kindly and very generously kicked off Tony’s LA tour with good drinks and abundant hors d’oeuvres. Always helps with the ask, those good drinks and tasty hor d’oeuvres.

He was given a beautiful cocktail party at the Michael Stars store in Cross Creek in Malibu.( One of my personal favorite shopping centers in the world, my husband would agree!) .  The owners, Suzanne Lerner Cohen and Michael Cohen  generously donated 20% of all sales to Mkomazi and made a nice big fat personal donation. This is going to sound like an ad but it’s not. Just an observation. I try to stay away from stores and shop in my own closet these days . Really. Prices are silly and I’ve all the stuff I need sitting right there in my closet begging for attention.  Having said that, going into the Michael Stars store was an eye opener for me. They are making great simple cotton, linen and silk clothing.  Good quality , in great colors,  very comfy, great basics  at prices that make sense.  Comfy and cozy …isn’t that what we all want now…comfy and cozy.

Before this sounds less like me and more like a Travel and Leisure piece, or photo 22like I’m on the take for T shirts,   I just have to say that I was lucky enough to go to Mkomazi with my family eight years ago and it was not a trip, but THE TRIP of a Lifetime. Didn’t need Meryl Streep or Robert Redford to help with this picture at all.

Obviously both Tony and Mkomazi are my big Sharing and Caring this week. You can go on and learn more, if you’d like.

In closing, since  I’m writing this on a Sunday, church girl that I am,  try to  love yourself,  your neighbor, and the planet.

Oh yeah,  and What We’re Wearing… A Helmet!










2 Responses

  1. Annie,

    Love how you always remind us, with great humor and humanity, what’s important!

    Sandy D.

  2. As usual, great piece Annie!

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