For years, I have been a fan, follower and admirer of Ashleigh Brilliant. His wit and words have been recorded in books and populate gift shops everywhere with terse but incisive phrases capturing the essence of our shared humanity.
More than anything else, Brilliant seems to understand the universality of the human condition; that the things in our lives, which we think are intimately most sacred, are in fact universally most common.
One of the greatest radio talk show hosts of all time, the late Neil Rogers, understood that better than most. From his studios in South Florida, whether it was at WIOD or WQAM, Neil would shock our senses by starting off his show talking about his diarrhea the night before.
Inevitably, someone would call in and say how gross that was, and those of you who heard Neil would know that he would rail back at that caller with wit and wisdom, venom and vitriol that left you shaking with laughter.
It’s been two years since ‘Uncle Neil,’ one of my best friends for 30 years, passed away. He was South Florida’s leading liberal iconoclast. Can you imagine what he would be saying about drone flights today?
With Neil, you never knew what to expect. He could have interrupted an argument I was making in court to demand that I rearrange his will to include a new beneficiary, some hot dude he had just met at the Plantation Mall.
With Neil, you never knew what to expect. He could have interrupted an argument I was making in court to demand that I rearrange his will to include a new beneficiary, some hot dude he had just met at the Plantation Mall. “I am leaving my entire estate to him. Have my new will brought to me at the Panthers game tonight!”
You can’t make these things up. Neil actually did that. Neil was an open, transparent gay man, who talked about his betting, his boys, and his lawyer ‘Norma,’ too busy publishing his ‘fag’ newspaper than tending to his professional needs.
Hell, if you don’t know who Neil was, stop reading this column for a moment, go to YouTube and run out his ‘Bridge tender’ rap. Addicted you will become.
Anyway, Neil was impatient. He had no patience for patience. Neil had a commanding and demanding passion for professionalism at every level, whether it was the telephones in his studio or the producers running his show. He had no tolerance for mediocrity, and that impatience made him a demanding taskmaster on one hand, but a greater person on the other.
Honest to himself, he apologized to no one. He came out as gay in 1976, on the air in South Florida, the same year he enraged half of Miami by calling a papal trip to Miami a colossal waste of police dollars and highway space.
“Let him go click his red heels at the Vatican with all the other priests and their little boys,” Neil would say. He was prescient.
“All you have to know, kids,” he would say on the air, “is that if some guy tells you that you have to pull your pants down to be his friend, he is the pervert and you should run away.” Then, 10 seconds later, he would go on a rant about some hot bag boy at Publix, he wanted to pick up. That, folks, was our ‘Uncle Neil.’
Just like I collected baseball cards as a kid, I guess today’s kids have collected tapes and discs of Neil’s shows. For the past few months, more and more of Neil’s old shows are popping up on YouTube.
The one he did on gun control in 1999 after the shootings at Columbine is riveting. You may not remember all the players, but his caustic and candid comments make me realize whether it was Columbine in 1999, or Colorado in 2012, our lives are linked and shared; past and present together.
Like me, Uncle Neil loved Ashleigh Brilliant’s post cards. They are called Pot Shots. How appropriate for me, elected last week as the Chair of the Board of Directors of the National Organization for Reform of Marijuana Laws. I needed another job you see, because my law offices and this newspaper are just not enough. To quote Kipling’s poem “If,” another favorite, I am just trying to fill the “unforgiving minute with sixty seconds’ worth of distance run.”
Ashleigh Brilliant, on the other hand, has captured our universal commonality with pot shots such as “Anything made of chocolate is good,” or how about the epigram “Everytime I close the door on reality, it comes in through the window.”
Like Ashleigh Brilliant, I have no patience for apathy or inertia. There are just too many things to do and too short a time to do it in. I always wanted to be more patient, but I wanted that patience to come to me right damn freaking now. I hate slowing down and waiting, although as I get older, “I have abandoned my search for truth. A good fantasy will do.” Ashleigh Brilliant’s line of course, not mine.
In my time here on this planet, I have been lucky enough to be blessed with great friends and a wonderful family; to have survived cancer and carried on. I have woken up on beaches in Mykonos and the floors of Amsterdam’s hotels all too stoned. I realize that as much as I aspire to the sun and the stars, sooner or later, life brings you shade as much as rainbows.
You simply pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and start over again. Faced with some health issues this past month, I have been playing the Hospitalization visit Waltz. While the staff of
SFGN has risen to the occasion of putting out our largest and most incredible newspaper ever, I have dealt with cardiologists, neurologists, oncologists, pulmonologists, radiologists, and gastroenterologists.
At Pridefest, which I had no business attending even for two hours, my friend Peter Clark, the publisher of Hotspots, cut me down with the line of the day. “I notice you have not been to a proctologist,” he said. “But then we all know you have always been a perfect asshole.” Everyone laughed, because everyone is made better with humor and laughter. It is another thing we all have in common.
The truth is, no matter what I do, or as busy as I am, I am no different than any of you. As we get older, we hurt quicker, and heal slower. Every day things are getting better, and if you know me, there are worse things than me having to stay at home and watch the World Baseball Classic and major league spring training games in bed. Hell, I will always be grateful for how much I love my life – especially the gay part. By the time it is over, whenever that day comes, and I hope no day soon, I will have been able to marry my shortstop.
Neil Rogers used to say, ‘there are a lot of great Italian restaurants out there, but nothing in life feels as great as a good crap.’ Gross and garbage mouthed though he often was, take a few courses of chemo and tell me that ain’t true.
Neil Rogers was also a gay man who used his pulpit on the airwaves to defend homosexuality, and your right to be who you are today. Might I add he personally endorsed, sponsored and raised over one million dollars for embryonic AIDS agencies, animals in distress and homeless populations in Miami. All he wanted to be was a ‘fag’ who hosted a radio show. Other than that, leave his life the hell alone.
Ashleigh Brilliant, the world’s most brilliant epigrammatist, knew what he was doing when he named one of his books, “Be a Good Neighbor, and Leave Me Alone.” Leave me to determine my personal choices. You worry about your own diarrhea. We all have been there.
At the end of day, your life has got to be your own. Don’t live it for someone else. Dare to be you. For what else are you here? Go see La Cage, and remember the words, “I am who I am, and what I am needs no explaining.”
To Learn more about Ashleigh Brilliant, visit http://ashleighbrilliant.com Norm Kent