Lynn Ruth Miller, journalist and teacher who overcame illness and unhappy marriages to find new life in his 70s as a successful Edinburgh Festival comedian – obituary


She suffers from an alternation of anorexia and bulimia from the age of 16 and several suicide attempts in her twenties and thirties. At 29, she had divorced two husbands (the first hit her, the second turned out to be gay). Later, she almost died in a car accident.

“They call the women of the 1940s and 1950s – and that’s me – the walking injuries,” she says. “We belonged to our husbands. Our worth was determined by our appearance. “

She wanted to be a journalist, but ended up teaching after earning a degree in education from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, and a master’s degree from the University of Toledo, Ohio.

After her second marriage ended, she enrolled at Stanford, where she earned another Masters in Communication, graduating at the top of her class. However, with so many degrees, she realized that she was overqualified for entry-level journalism jobs. So she returned to Ohio and taught humanities at the University of Toledo, while trying, usually unsuccessfully, to sell self-published books in a suitcase. .

A turning point came at the age of 36: as she lay in hospital weighing less than four stones, her body stopping from malnutrition, doctors told her she would die. “I realized how superficial it was to think that being fat or thin could make me successful,” she said. She broke free and, apparently by sheer force of will, overcame her anorexia, even though it took her 10 years.

In 1980, inspired by John Steinbeck’s Travels with Charley, she took her dogs in a truck, bought a trailer and flew to California, settling in Pacifica – the perfect place, she said. found, for “an elderly woman without a family. I could inaugurate the theater, the symphony and the opera, learn to tap dance – really live my life.

She began writing regular columns for the Pacifica Tribune which were eventually published in book form – Thoughts While Walking the Dog (1991) and More Thoughts While Walking the Dog (2003). She has taught painting, organized exhibitions in local galleries and published an autobiographical novel, Starving Hearts.

At the age of 71, she was writing a feature film about San Francisco Comedy College when she decided, to add color to the play, to enroll in the course. “Lynn Ruth is the only member of our troupe who could die on stage,” her teacher announced. “But the truth is, I am not dead,” she recalls. “Instead, I started to live.”

For her final exam and her first concert (in San Francisco), Lynn Ruth Miller spoke about the “horrors of mammography” and brought the house down. “All of a sudden you’re doing something where it all comes together,” she told an interviewer last year. “I imagine it’s like a mutual orgasm – I’ve never had one, so I don’t know.”

After achieving some success in America on the club circuit, at age 80 she crossed the Atlantic on the promise, from a television producer, of a visa, “a nice house and a great salary” . The beautiful house was a seedy apartment above a Brighton chippy and the visa never materialized, but her first UK gig was at the Edinburgh Fringe, and her acting career took off. To her surprise, she discovered that “Brits love quirky old ladies.”

She then moved to London, performed everywhere from Harrogate to Hanoi, and even made an appearance on Channel 4’s First Dates, telling the waiter, “The good thing about dating at my age is that you don’t have to meet their parents. “

She caught Covid during the pandemic, but thanks to having “the immune system of an elephant”, recovered quickly and then performed a skit on YouTube, with the chorus: “Don’t lock me up!” “. “I plan to die on October 11, 2033 [her 100th birthday] in Leicester, ”she insisted.

She was scheduled to record a stand-up special for BBC Radio 4 on July 2, with the working title “Not Dead Yet”, but suffered a “mild” heart attack shortly before the recording, causing the session to be postponed. She was subsequently diagnosed with cancer.

Lynn Ruth Miller, born October 11, 1933, died September 7, 2021

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