is Lotusland Without Lotus in It?
The summer has gone. And with it, three strong, gracious women, bounteous of
spirit, have left this realm.
Despite the media overkill, Princess Diana's work for AIDS and the issue of
land mines will forever imbue her with saintly status.
Mother Teresa of Calcutta? Even if she is not eligible for canonization for
five years, according to her church, Calcutta's poor, its brain-damaged
children, the lepers, the progeny of prostitutes and other destitute denizens
consider her now and forever a saint.
And then, there's Lotus Weinstock.
If you're puzzled, then I'm only sorry you never got to see her work. She
cured people with laughter.
Lotus described her humor as a mix between her California cosmic right brain
and her Philadelphia Jewish left brain. As she maintained, "One of my goals
is to be the most non-competitive woman in the world."
I always considered her the Zen Comedienne.
It was my dear pal, the mind-numbingly brilliant comedienne-writer Carrie
Snow, who introduced me to Lotus. So, when I was reviewing for some consortium
of throwaway newspapers some years ago and was told that Lotus was going to be
doing her shtik in someone's living room, I was already there,
Parlor Performances, the brainchild of Jeannine Frank, had musicians and
comedians do their thing in the relative comfort of private homes. Lotus, never
one to shy away from her own innate sense of curiosity, saw me taking notes
while sitting on a couch. "What are you doing?" she gently chided me.
"I'm writing down every single thing you say," I teased her,
In her typical, compassionate, non-confrontational manner, she turned the
fact of my being a critic into a comedic interview, with me as subject, as
everyone stopped drinking coffee and eating cake to witness this turn of events.
But at a memorial for Lotus recently at the Improv in Hollywood, I was
stunned by a story told by comedienne Diane Nichols. It seems she and Lotus were
performing standup and being mercilessly heckled by a woman in the crowd. The
interloper finally left after interfering with Lotus' routine. But Lotus
followed her outside into an alley, saying, "You know, we're not your
The woman slapped Lotus in the face.
And with perfect aplomb, Lotus responded ironically, "I feel your
And the heckler and Lotus sank to the asphalt, crying together and holding
That is taking the phrase "turning the other cheek" to new heights.
But if you knew Lotus, you could believe it. Producer Robert Weide delivered
a remarkable eulogy, as touching as it was funny. He described her as "a
woman who understood God but couldn't figure out how to use her ATM card at the
Weide, as did others, quoted from her unfortunately out-of-print Bantam book
"The Lotus Position," recalling her aphorism, "I used to want to
change the world. Now, I just want to leave the room with dignity."
With powerful emphasis, Weide intoned, "Lotus, you did both."
Another high point of the jam-packed memorial was when Lotus' lovely daughter
Lili Haydn, who had, as a teen, performed music and comedy with her mother
onstage, played violin to cello and piano accompaniment, on a piece that was a
favorite of Lotus'. It brought tears to many and, at its conclusion, brought all
instantly to their feet.
I didn't know her as well as many there, but just meeting Lotus was enough to
make you care about her. There is no rhyme nor reason as to why someone as
deeply spiritual as Lotus would leave us at 54, with a brain tumor. The
resentment and sadness, however, can best be addressed by the phrase she
popularized, included on the cards passed out at the memorial, with her
wide-eyed, waif-like visage:
"Angels can fly because they take themselves lightly."
Diana, Teresa, Lotus. We will miss you all. You stepped outside of your own
needs to make the world somewhat improved. It's a big job. And there aren't
enough people actively employed.
My favorite Lotus-ism was this: "With all the Jewish comics in the
world, how come Israel doesn't have a 'Laughing Wall?'"
I hope I won't be infuriating anyone up there when I suggest that Heaven can
use some reorganization.
And Lotus is just the woman for the job.