The George Carlin Letters: The Permanent Courtship of Sally Wade


Sally Wade shares her life with George Carlin with us in The George Carlin Letters: The Permanent Courtship of Sally Wade, a scrapbook-style memoir filled with his musings, love letters, notes, and doodles, plus hilarious and touching photos.

You can "Like" Sally Wade's very active Facebook page for the book:

You can follow Sally on Twitter: @spotwade

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George Carlin had a history of cardiac problems, including three heart attacks in 1978, 1982 and 1991. He died of heart failure on June 22, 2008, at age 71.

His death brought on a wave of tributes: HBO broadcast eleven of his HBO specials; NBC reran the premiere episode of Saturday Night Live that he hosted; Larry King devoted his entire June 23 show to him. Carlin's autobiography Last Words was released in 2009. 

From the book, here's George on politics:

"I had a left-wing, humanitarian, secular humanist, liberal inclination on the one hand, which implied positions on myriad issues. On the other I had prejudices and angers and hatreds towards various classes of people. None of which included skin color or ethnicity or religion. Well—religion, yes. I used to get angry at blue-collar right-wingers but that passed because I saw that in the end they were just a different sort of victim."

George on values:

"The worst thing about groups are their values. Traditional values, American values, family values, shared values, OUR values. Just code for white middle-class prejudices and discrimination, justification for greed and hatred. I believe in giving everyone, as I encounter them, one at a time the full value of their dignity and their honor in the world. Whether I’m seen as a celebrity on an elevator or I’m just George the stranger, I open myself to them and I take them in and I give them everything I would want myself in terms of treatment, feeling and consideration. I call that a value."



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Much Ado About Publishing

George Carlin: The Art & Science of Being Annoyed

It's common for people who don't write humor to ask those of us who do, "Where do you get your ideas?"

When I interviewed humorist, columnist, and author Dave Barry 25 years ago, he said that when he's asked that, he answers, "Vermont."

In 2003, after I'd sent him a humorous essay I'd written about a woman who'd called me to ask if I could refer her to a ghostwriter because she wanted to write a book rather than press charges against the creep who'd nearly killed her, Jim Barnes, the editor of this magazine, asked me where I get my ideas.

I told Jim that when I write humor my ideas come from whatever pisses me off or whatever I find absurd. This woman's desire for fame rather than justice managed to do both: it pissed me off and it was clearly absurd.

"Do you think you could get pissed off for us once a month?" Jim asked me.

And that's how he offered me this column.

"Hey, I can get pissed off for you at least once a day, if you want," I said, accepting his offer.

Most people who write humor would agree with me: We turn the annoyances and absurdities of life into an art form that we hope will wake people up and make them think while they're laughing.

Oscar Wilde said it best: "If you want to tell people the truth, make them laugh, otherwise they'll kill you."

And George Carlin described the process best: "I like applying the entropic principle from science to this country, this civilization. I think it is slowly disintegrating. For me, it isn't the fact of the disintegration so much as the act of it, watching it, seeing it. It is a freak show. And in this country you get a front row seat. And some of us have notebooks."

In their book Annoying: The Science of What Bugs Us (John Wiley & Sons, 2011), authors Joe Palca and Flora Lichtman note that, "There seem to be two extremes in coping with annoyance. One is to fight back with every inch of your being...The other extreme is rising above the annoyance -- not letting it get to you in the slightest."

Humorists are masters of the first coping solution, which is why they can't possibly do the second.

"One of the biggest challenges facing a new scientific field, such as the study of annoyance, is that it has to develop the instruments to take measurements. There are no annoyingometers (though most people do come equipped with annoydar)," Palca and Lichtman write.

And, for a humorist, when the annoydar goes off, the fun begins.

Contrary to popular belief, a humorist who points out annoyances and absurdities isn't necessarily miserable.

George Carlin wasn't.

"He was a sweet guy. The opposite of this edgy, dark guy," says comedy writer and performer Sally Wade when we talk on the phone about her book The George Carlin Letters: The Permanent Courtship of Sally Wade (Gallery Books, 2011). "We lived our lives tongue in cheek. Real, but goofy. He taught me to enjoy the little stuff in life."

They were together for the last ten years of his life, and her book shows us a side of the late comedian, writer, and actor that the public rarely saw: The romantic, playful George Carlin. The one who wrote the hundreds of musings, love letters, notes, and poems, and drew the doodles that Sally included in this memoir: a beautifully designed, madcap, soulmate scrapbook.

"It's a drop in the bucket," she says. "And they show his amazing use of language when he's coming from the heart. Everything he did and said came from the depth of him."

What may surprise readers most is that George Carlin "had a traditional streak," Sally says. "He wanted to be a good person. We had meaningful rituals that connected us to something bigger than us. It was a spiritual edge he wanted. He had intellect. He also wanted to open up his heart and feel."

Among the shorter notes that show us the off-stage Carlin:

"Sal: Love is all we need. Plus vitamins. Geo"

"I'm so in love with you I could burst -- But I promise to clean up the mess."

"You're the Queen Kong of my heart. You can climb my skyscraper any time."

"To Beanie Baby, You're my beanbag baby -- I love you more than all the beans times all the bags, times all the distances bean bags were ever thrown, times all the people who ever ripped open a bean bag to get the beans out, times all those beans they got out. Love, George"

"Sally, Teach me to be a perfect man. George"

The last note he wrote said: "The Permanent Courtship of Sally Wade." Sal found it propped against her computer when she got home from the hospital on the day her Geo died.

She used that phrase as the book's subtitle.

"He left that note by his computer so I would write this book," she says. "He liked nothing better than announcing our love to the world."

I speak for millions of people when I say we're annoyed that George Carlin is no longer here. It's just absurd.

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As a journalist, columnist, essayist, and media critic, Nina L. Diamond's work has appeared in many publications, including Omni magazine, The Los Angeles Times Magazine, The Chicago Tribune, and The Miami Herald.

She was a regular contributor to a number of "late, great" national, regional, and newspaper Sunday magazines, including Omni; the award-winning South Florida magazine; and Sunshine, the Ft. Lauderdale (now South Florida) Sun-Sentinel's Sunday magazine.

She covers the arts and sciences; the media, publishing, and current affairs; and writes feature articles, interviews, commentary, humor/satire/parody, essays, and reviews.

Ms. Diamond is also the author of Voices of Truth: Conversations with Scientists, Thinkers & Healers (Lotus Press) and the unfortunately titled Purify Your Body (Three Rivers Press/Crown/Random House) , a book of natural health reporting which has been a selection of The Book-of-the-Month Club's One Spirit Book Club and the Quality Paperback Book Club.

For its entire run from 1984-1998, she was a writer and performer on Pandemonium, the National Public Radio (NPR) satirical humor program, which aired on WLRN-FM in Miami.

She has appeared on Oprah, discussing the publishing industry, but, in a case of very bad timing, that appearance was two years before her first book was published.

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Read some of Nina's previous Much Ado About Publishing columns:

Be Careful or You'll End Up In My Novel

The Joy of Obits

Apocalypse Fatigue