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Articles and Stories by Sonia Pressman Fuentes

Sonia Pressman Fuentes

In Memoriam: Lynn Ruth Miller

I met my late friend, Lynn Ruth Miller, an American who had spent the last several years in London, on only one occasion. This is surprising to me because we had been such close friends. But our friendship flourished through emails. I did, however, have a phone conversation with her with regard to sending her a present for her 87th birthday on October 11, 2020, and she planned to visit me toward the end of 2021 in Sarasota, FL.

On the afternoon of September 7, 2021, however, I received an email from Sarah-Louise Young, a British actress, writer, director, and internationally-renowned cabaret performer, who was a close friend and entertainment collaborator of Lynn Ruth's. Sarah-Louise told me that she had just received a phone call from the hospice where Lynn Ruth was staying telling her that Lynn Ruth had died at about 4:30 p.m. London time (11:30 a.m. Eastern time in the U.S.). Sarah-Louise and I had been expecting that call for several days.

Sarah-Louise made the arrangements in connection with Lynn Ruth's death and memorial service.

The one time I met Lynn Ruth was on August 31, 2008, at the wedding of my gay friends, the late Michael Fein and Arnold Hanna, in Montreal, Canada. Michael, who was Jewish, was the publisher of a monthly online magazine called the Gantseh Megillah, with articles of interest to the Jewish community, and Arnold, who is not Jewish, helped him with the magazine. (Megillah, which has various English spellings, is a Hebrew, Yiddish, and English word that means "scroll" or "volume." It refers especially to the Book of Esther, which is read aloud at the Jewish holiday of Purim. Its slang definition is "a long, involved story or account." Gantseh, which also has various English spellings, is a Yiddish word that means "whole." Thus, "gantseh Megillah," often used derisively, means "everything, every aspect or element.")

Both Lynn Ruth and I had contributed articles that were published in that magazine and had become friends of Michael and Arnold. Lynn Ruth at that time lived in San Francisco. She entertained at the wedding by telling humorous stories, as I recall.

Michael and Arnold had been living together 20 years at the time of their wedding, but after Canada allowed same-sex marriages on July 20, 2005, they decided to get married.

Lynn Ruth was an American writer of articles and books, an amateur painter, and a comedian. What made her unique was that at the age of 71, she embarked upon a show business career as a comedian--and became a flaming success after not having been a success at much of anything in her entire life: she didn't have a particularly good relationship with her parents, had two failed marriages, never had any children, none of her books had attained fame, and she didn't have much in the way of money. But after she became a comedian, she sold her San Francisco home, moved to London, became known as the oldest stand-up comedian in the world, and traveled the world doing her comedy routines. Before she was felled in July of 2021 by a mild heart attack and an advanced case of esophageal cancer, she told me she planned to buy a house and get a Ph.D. I believed she would do these things as she appeared to be unstoppable.

Her comedy career started when Lynn Ruth, at 71, noticed an ad for a course for aspiring comedians at the San Francisco Comedy College, the largest stand-up school in the U.S. She thought that would be a good subject for one of her newspaper articles and discussed that with Kurtis Matthews, founder of the college, who agreed. Lynn took the course and then realized she herself should become a comedian. So, she did. When she got offers to host two TV programs in the UK, she left her U.S. life and moved to London. Then she found herself in a visa struggle with the government of the UK, which she, of course, won. It is described on John Fleming's blog.

Thereafter, she went from success to success as a comedian and occasional burlesque stripper. Her past website told part of the story:

"Dubbed the new Joan Rivers of Fringe Comedy at the Edinburgh International Fringe.

"LYNN RUTH MILLER started comedy & cabaret at 70. She made it to Las Vegas in America's Got Talent, 2008, won People's Choice in 2009, Branson Comedy Festival, the finals in Bill Word's Funniest Female Contest 2009 and semi-finals in the SF International Comedy Competition, the top 100 in Britain's Got Talent not to mention winning both nights for the Texas Barbecue Festival without taking anything off that matters. . . .


"2014 TOandST winner: best cabaret Edinburgh Fringe
2015 Liberty Award Leicester Comedy Festival
2015 Old Comedian of the Year Finalist"

Lynn Ruth traveled the world to do her comedy routines. Among the places where she performed were London, Singapore, Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon), Hanoi, Bangkok, Amsterdam, and Utrecht (in the Netherlands).

Lynn Ruth died at the start of the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah, which has a special significance in Judaism. Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who was also a friend of mine, and also 87 at the time of her death, also died during the Jewish New Year. A Reuters article of Sept. 19, 2020, by the Reuters Staff, states as follows about RBG's death at that time of year:

"Her death on the eve of Rosh Hashanah also has significance in Jewish tradition, rabbis and friends said. 'One of the themes of Rosh Hashanah suggests that very righteous people would die at the very end of the year because they were needed until the very end,' said Rabbi Rick Jacobs, president of the Union for Reform Judaism.

"Those who die on the new year holiday are considered 'tzadik,' a title given to the righteous and saintly.

“'God has held back until the last moment bc they were needed most & were the most righteous,' National Public Radio journalist Nina Totenberg, a close friend of Ginsburg, wrote on Twitter."

I like to think that my dear friend, Ruth Lynn Miller, was also held back until the last minute.

©2021 by Sonia Pressman Fuentes