A Tribute to Richard Lewis

Comedian/actor/author Richard Lewis died today. Heart attack at age 76. I knew he had Parkinson's Disease but just saw him on Curb Your Enthusiasm Sunday night, doing his crazy improv riffing with Larry David. Worked right up until the end. That's how I want to go. Giving my all until my next nine lives...that's how Richard rolled...
I first met Richard in January of 2001 at his book signing for "The Other Great Depression" at Booksmith on Haight Street in San Francisco. He signed it, "To Kimberlye, A beautiful name for a beautiful woman. Have a beautiful life. Love, RL"...It was, well, beautiful. I'll never forget that night because I lost my car and didn't find it till the next day. I blame Richard for that. No, nothing happened, I know what you're thinking. I left the bookstore and literally couldn't find my car. A friend had to come get me and we went back to the scene of the crime the next day and there it was right where I left it.
Here's what DID happen. And it was a spectacular run.
Richard was a HUGE part of my early professional journalism career from 2001-2005 or so. I think I interviewed him at least 4 times and had dozens of pieces published all over the country in daily and weekly papers and prominent magazines. We had this crazy connection from the first few words we spoke to each other on the 1st interview in 2001...like we'd known each other forever and bantered back and forth like clever banshees...of course, I did my research and had planned questions, but all that had to be thrown out the window and brought back and forth into the conversation when I could get a word in edgewise...it was like a wild chess game on steroids, not for the faint of heart!
ALL the phone interviews were hysterical and chaotic and brilliant, but almost unintelligible, his brain always fired a million different directions at 500 miles a minute, and I would yell at him, "Richard! Slow down! Stay on at least ONE topic! You have to at least finish ONE sentence!!" I would be jotting things down as the tape rolled because I knew he had just said something hilarious or profound that I would want to use, all the while laughing so hard I could barely catch my breath, and somehow, I learned how to decipher his ranting, off the cliff riff-fest and pick and pull it together to write coherent articles that got published. Richard had a lot to say, from the dark to the light and all points in between, and I was on a mission to help him share it from his unique perspective and heart. It began with local paper The San Francisco Herald for my "Almost Famous" column and took off like a lightning rod from there. I started to track his stand-up tour schedule and pitch my interviews to entertainment editors of the daily and weekly papers in each town he was appearing, competing with the staff writers of those papers and it eventually paid off! My 1st freelance piece I sold was an interview with Richard for the daily paper in St. Louis, MO. I will never forget that day. I ran around the house and jumped up and down off the couch like Tom Cruise on Oprah screaming, "I'm a PROFESSIONAL freelance writer now!"
I still have some of the transcriptions and the microcassettes are in storage somewhere. I swear they were even funnier than his stand-up act. Richard reserved a V.I.P. table for me at his sold-out Cobb's Comedy Club show in SF in 2005, comped everything, and had me brought backstage so he could hug me, crediting me with his sold out 3-night run because of the Dog Bites interview I got him in the SF Weekly, which he signed for me. We were both so emotional we were practically crying. An out-of-body experience. Why didn't I get pictures?? I gave him my Sycamore Street CD as a parting gift, hoping he would share it with his music publisher wife.
I got Richard in Time Out NY Magazine, which he had tried to get his whole career, right before he headlined for the first time in his hometown of Brooklyn, NY, and he credited me with that too. He was SO grateful. I got him on the cover of Recover Magazine with a 4-page color spread, so he could just talk about his sobriety and life in recovery, which meant so much to him. Richard made fun of my relentless pursuit to get him published everywhere, making up names of publications, like "I'm in 'Dry Cleaning Weekly', now, what?!!!" but he was thrilled , always yelling at me, "GOLD! It's all YOU! You're a brilliant writer!!" Richard never ended our interviews or conversations first. It was like we could just talk forever and never run out of topics. He trusted me to get it right every time. It was an AMAZING time in my life.
We lost touch over the years, and I turned my attention to my music career, but I am still in touch with his former publicist Michelle Mourges Marx ,who was the conduit to making all this happen for us. I am eternally grateful. Ditto to "Master Of All Media" and my journalism career mentor and dear friend Ben Fong-Torres for connecting me with her.
My heart goes out to all of Richard's family, colleagues, friends and fans, especially his wife Joyce Lapinsky, Michelle Mourges Marx, Larry David and all who loved him.
Here's my 1st interview with Richard Lewis from 2001 for my Almost Famous column in The San Francisco Herald that got edited several times by editors all over the country and landed me my first freelance piece, leading to all those interviews with Richard over all those years. I'd greatly appreciate you taking a few minutes to read it and enjoy his brilliance:

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