Another One Gone, Another Namedrop Story

Published by Rick on Tagged Uncategorized

It was sad to hear the news of the comedienne/actress Anne Meara’s passing yesterday at age 85. She and her husband Jerry Stiller were the quintessential husband-wife comedy team in the 70’s, plus their marriage lasted over 60 years. Not to mention the success in film of their son Ben Stiller, who would have been 13 at the time me and my partner got to meet the couple in 1979 on our Robin tour.

I’ve already given full descriptions in previous blogs about that tour and the week in April 1979, at the Copacabana in New York. There were A-listers at the shows virtually every night, and one particular night, the Stillers were there, though without Ben. I don’t think there was an age restriction on the shows, for I remember after one show meeting Gene Simmons of KISS. At this time, Simmons was dating Cher, and the two were supposed to be there, but Cher was ill, so it was just Gene and Cher’s daughter Chastity, the same one who’s now Chaz. We met the two of them, and had to do a command performance in our dressing room of our Cher bit, as per Simmons’ request, since they’d arrived late to the show and missed the bit. That was strange, doing that in front of Chastity, who was about 11 at the time, but she sort of giggled and said, “Yep, that’s my mom!” This all gets back to the point that the Stillers could have probably brought Ben to the show.

Our dressing rooms were positioned so that if anyone wanted to go to Robin’s, they had to pass by ours first, which was how we met most of the celebs that week. The Stillers were no exception, and we hung with them for nearly a half hour. I’m not even sure whether they got to say hello to Robin or not. Anne was the more lively and emphatic of the couple, saying several times, “We want to adopt you guys!” The picture we took with them had our entire group in it, including our manager, and for some reason I can’t remember, I was wearing Jerry Stiller’s beret. That’s one of the few photos taken back then that I haven’t scanned and uploaded to my laptop (I don’t have a scanner, silly me), so I could then share it with the masses. I’m sure you’ll take my word.

We said our goodbyes and assumed we’d see them again. Well, I did see Anne once more, and I wish I could say it was as exciting as the first time. This was two years later. I had moved to LA, and in my first couple years there, I spent quite a few of my non-working nights at The Improv comedy club on Melrose Avenue. Celebrities dropped in there more frequently than the rival Comedy Store on Sunset, as it had an area apart from the showroom where people could socialize. I can’t begin to count the number of famous names I either met or saw there.

So this one night in 1981, I was hanging out there with some friends and was told that Anne would be coming by. As with most celebs, the time they’re due to arrive somewhere vs. the time they actually DO arrive depends on who they are. If it’s Mariah Carey or Rihanna, you usually wait three hours. Meara got to the club about an hour after her table reservation was booked for, by which time I’d gotten down a couple more beers and was thankful my house was within walking distance. When she finally arrived, I managed to get her attention and asked her, “Hey, do you remember meeting me and my partner in New York? Rick & Ruby? Opening for Robin Williams?” Finally, I got, “Why, yes, Rick, nice to see you,” and that was it. Though the moment was a bit embarrassing from my end, I came to understand again just how many people celebrities meet, and how nearly impossible it is to keep a mental rolodex of how and when these encounters happen.

I didn’t hold it against her, and I was glad to see that while her husband got a high profile gig as a regular on “Seinfeld,” she was far from inactive. She appeared in several of her son’s films, no surprise there, but I also liked her turn in “Awakenings,” as one of the patients in the ward alongside Robert de Niro’s character. Stiller & Meara were a wonderful comedy team, and of course my partner and I were greatly influenced by them.



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