Friday night. Just chillin’. I just made a fresh batch of guacamole, I’m flipping through blogs and a song in Japanese wafts through my headphones from my Spotify feed. I don’t understand a thing the singer is telling me, but her plaintive voice is lovely and the horns, bells, flute and strings backing her up send me into a state of relaxation that seems perfect for the end of a busy week.
The Net is rife with stories about comedian Garry Shandling, who died this week of a heart attack at the age of 66. For reasons not entirely clear to me, the coverage irks me beyond all reason. My Zen-like state is gone.
I’ve never been much of a television watcher, so the first time I ever heard of Shandling was during a visit to the old NBC Studios in Burbank back in the 1980s. (Side note: I found it somewhat sad to learn, while performing research for this post, that NBC’s TV broadcast operations have since moved to the roller coaster, Harry Potter schmaltz of Universal Studios. And today’s so-called studio tour? Its “video host” in Hollywood is Jimmy Fallon, who actually records The Tonight Show a continent away at NBC’s 30 Rockefeller Center studios in New York).
Thirty years ago, I lived in New York and was visiting California for the first time. I stayed over a few nights with cousins who lived in a gorgeous San Fernando Valley home that was destroyed by an earthquake just a few years later. They even lent me one of their cars, which turned out to be a comical experience. For one thing, this was my first time driving the LA freeways. In the days before GPS and smart phones, I depended on a road map to navigate the labyrinth of freeways that seemed to weave in and out, over and under in a tangled web. As if that weren’t enough, I quickly realized that my cousins’ speedometer was broken! So there I was, whizzing along with the high-speed traffic, not really knowing where I was going and trying to drive fast enough to keep up with the flow but slow enough to avoid a speeding ticket. Somehow, the parking lots that are the Long Island and Cross Bronx Expressways seemed tame by comparison.
I made it to Burbank and participated in the NBC studio tour. Naïve yokel that I was, I found it thrilling to sit in Studio 1 where The Tonight Show was recorded, before the famous multicolored curtain and the star on the floor where Johnny Carson stood to deliver his monologue. The group was told that we could return at 4:00 pm to be in the studio audience for the taping, but that Carson would not be there that day. In his place, I learned, was someone named Garry Shandling (who?). “He’s very funny,” the tour guide assured us.
Well, excuse me, I didn’t come here from New York to see some Garry Shindig or whatever the heck his name is! I left extremely disappointed and did not return for the taping. Today, of course, I would have checked online in advance and determined the proper day to go. But back then, being a tourist was largely a hit or miss proposition.
While rabid Shandling fans would undoubtedly disagree with me, he will never be on the “A list” in my book. Yeah, yeah, I know he had a couple of shows of his own. Call me a meanie if you will, but to me he is not in the same league with comedians such as Carson, Leno, Fallon, Robin Williams and Jerry Seinfeld.
But I digress. Depending on which website you visit, you’ll see that Shandling was in good health or that he had medical problems. Pick one.
One of our local television station’s news programs used his death as an opportunity to educate viewers about the dangers of being out of shape as we age. Obesity, diabetes and high blood pressure are killers, the anchor intoned solemnly, and the average age of fatal heart attacks has now lowered to 60. The big mistake people make, he continued, is in thinking that controlling conditions with pills is the answer instead of exercising, eating right and losing weight. So, I guess this means that I am going to die shortly and join Garry Shandling in that great beyond.
Thank you so much for reminding me. I’d better get my affairs in order, call a lawyer and make out my last will and testament. Time to buy that cemetery plot. And, by the way, shame on those nasty doctors for making me take all those pills for nothing!
Apparently, the fact that a lot of us have been fighting (and losing) uphill battles against these conditions since the days of our youth isn’t sexy enough to make it onto TV. Believe me, we are all aware that we are ticking time bombs and that our days are numbered. We’ve been to a million doctors, had a million tests, taken oceans of pills. Meanwhile, we try not to dwell upon our conditions so that we can live some semblance of a normal life in whatever time remains to us.
I’m just glad that I’m not a public figure. This way, the media circus can’t make an example of me when I’m gone in a misguided effort to educate us regarding health conditions that we are either intimately familiar with or else don’t give a damn about.
Garry, you’ve really made my day.