Occupational Hazard.  By A.K.A. Darla

Occupational Hazard. By A.K.A. Darla

. 3 min read

One PrimeCrush writer lives to tell the tale of that one time she mistakenly heckled a famous NYC mobster.

In this worst of times, through the lonely and uncertain days of 2020, I discovered new ways to work, play, love, and learn. I also discovered The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.

A lover of all things mid-century, I swoon over the perfectly executed sets, wardrobe, dialogue, and culture of the show’s period. The character of Midge Maisel, the bawdy and ambitious comedienne, is a hybrid of two real-life people: Don Sherman, the father of the show’s creator, Amy Sherman-Palladino, and the late, great New York comedienne, Joan Rivers.  

Way back in time in a land called “the ‘80s,” one could find me performing standup comedy in the very same clubs of Ms. River’s New York City. Once I learned that a certain one of those clubs was known for launching her career, I made a habit of taking an extra moment in its dressing room to drink in her spirit before hitting the stage.

It was during this period that I was in the early stages of dating my future husband and, on this particular night, he was coming to see me perform for the first time. There was lots of energy in the room that night.  It was one of those special nights when you notice that even the bartender, the wait staff, the lighting guy, and your accompanist are laughing.  About three-quarters through the show, a patron was heckling me from the audience. Without thinking, I heckled back.  For whatever reason, he blurted out inappropriate comments about my father. I challenged him. “Can you spell father?” The room got quiet.  Some people even moaned. I looked at the heckler again and recognized him as a guy I grew up with whose claim to “fame” was becoming a notorious mobster. I was jarred, but I pulled it together and continued with the show, praying I would not be shot.

When the show was over, I rushed to the dressing room, made a quick change, and exited the club. There on the sidewalk, I found the mobster and my boyfriend having words. A small crowd began to gather as my boyfriend, determined to defend my honor, was telling the mobster he should apologize to me. As I moved toward them, I noticed the mobster reaching inside his breast pocket for his gun. A gut feeling told me to step between my boyfriend and the mobster—not to take a bullet for my boyfriend, but to make the mobster realize that he would be shooting an innocent human shield before a sidewalk full of witnesses. The mobster recoiled, and a mutual friend of the mobster and mine physically removed him from the scene.

At home that night, my boyfriend and I realized how close we were to losing our lives in a valiant attempt to save and defend each other. We made a pact: I would not counter-heckle mobsters, and he would lay low at my gigs. I called it a night, gave thanks to the cabaret Gods for keeping me safe, and asked myself, “What would Joan Rivers have done?”

If you love me as much as I love you (and I really do love you!), then please help me grow by forwarding this {love} Letter to a friend!  And I'd love to have you join us on instagram, facebook & twitter.

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