Five hundred people filled the auditorium at College of Marin to see the documentary about Carla, "Leave Them Laughing." Five hundred people were on their feet for a standing ovation. How much love can five hundred people generate? A lot. It was overwhelming.
I saw a rougher rough cut of the documentary in carla's apartment a month or so ago. The rough cut Friday night felt much more coherent and smooth. I don't know what the director did exactly to make the flow better, but whatever it was, worked. Actually, I think I do know; the addition of subtitles stating things like "Six months after diagnosis," or "a year before diagnosis" served to clarify the chronolgy and added the extra layer of information that we viewers needed. Now we didn't have to waste any time figuring out when such-and-such a scene happened in relation to other scenes, and we could just sit back and drink in the scathing humor, the beauty, the love, and the poignancy.
After the film, Carla wheeled out onto the stage, joined by Maclen, and John Zaritsky the director and Montana Berg the producer, and the place erupted. Mac was a real revelation. I remember him as a semi-inarticulate thirteen year-old, a typical male adolescent answering dumb adult questions in monosyllables ("how's school?") and ducking out of social situations. Where did this tall, handsome, self-possessed, hyper-articulate young man come from? He could be running for Senate right now, if only he were old enough to vote or drink. As it is, I'm seeing First Jewish President in gold letters under his name.
He served as Carla's extra voice, articulating things she wanted to say but didn't have breath for, thanking people when to do so would have made her cry (and then choke,) adjusting her mic, and in general being the smoothest, most helpful, grounded, confident teenager I have ever seen, bar none.
I loved it when Carla announced shyly, "Soooo....I've joined a gang. We usually sit in the back, because, well, we're a gang. you may have heard of us. We're the Crips."
There was such an incredibly diverse crowd there, from people in the ALS and disability communities to students and former students of College of Marin, to the Driving Miss Craisy cohort, to family, friends and Muselings. In some ways it was like a giant wedding, with guests asking each other, "So how do you know Carla?"
Carla looked beautiful, dressed in a short skirt and gold top, with a big smile. I worried that the event would wear her out, but she seemed to be gaining energy from all the energy that surrounded her and patiently answered audience member's questions. Whe one woman asked how she was managing to surrender her independence gracefully, she answered honestly, "I'm not. I hate losing my independence. Some days I am really cranky about it."
When someone else asked her who or what was her inspiration, (maybe they were expecting her to say Buddha or Jesus or Ghandi,) she cited Mac and then said "My girlfriends. They raised me. They taught me how to be a woman, how to be a mother. And they teach me about love every single day."
I brought Marci with me as my date, and afterward I was trying to thank her for coming with me and she kept stopping me to thank me for having brought her. The movie, and then seeing Carla speak, blew her away. Me too. I needed her help just to find the freeway entrance to get home afterward, and lucky for me the car drove itself, because I sure as hell wasn't capable of much navigation.