The song of despair, as performed in the New Year’s Eve late show, was the perfect cap to a year that in Bernhard’s summary, was “a total f***ing disaster!” But it also showed her respect for the writer and song, as she delivered it fiercely, yet with a measure of fun as she wrung out the emotional ending in a wonderfully overwrought manner that demonstrated her commitment while drawing loud laughter.
Disastrous year notwithstanding, Bernhard revealed that in her case, at least, it ended on a high note with her attendance at Jane Fonda’s 75th birthday party, where she ran into Sally Field. Speaking of whom, how dare Steven Spielberg make her audition for the role of Mary Todd Lincoln in Lincoln?, Bernhard wondered out loud.
“Mary Todd Lincoln wishes she looked like Sally Field!” she declared, hysterically observing that considering the way Mrs. Lincoln and her contemporaries looked in 1850, a little of Field’s commercially endorsed Boniva osteoporosis medication “woudn’t hurt anybody!"
Bernhard, per usual, dropped plenty of other celebrity names and uproariously described encounters (Warren Beatty, Michele Lee), and related an ominous phone conversation with Marianne Faithfull a day after her 66th birthday: “'The Grim Reaper’s tapping on my friends’ shoulders, Sandy!’” she intoned in glorious Faithfull-inspired Brit accent. Back in her own voice she added: “That’s a great way to start the year!”
Switching to politics, she proclaimed, “We don’t deserve Michelle Obama!,” then mimicked those who have objected to the First Lady's health initiatives (“That colored girl can't take away our ‘Big Gulps’ and spicy Fritos”) and contrasted her with her predecessor, who just “sat in the White House for years smoking menthol cigarettes.”
Of Laura Bush’s predecessor, Bernhard said she could just “fall into Hillary Clinton’s ample bosom and weep.”
“Of course she’s got a little blood clot with all her globetrotting work and the attention on her hair!” Bernhard said, explaining that the Secretary of State, after all the fuss on her hairstyles, had finally let it grow out as a way of saying “f*** you!”
Turning to the holidays, she observed that in New York “you’re either a vegan or a butcher,” then recounted her nightmarish experience in first buying, “first come, first served,” a duck at Chelsea Market—where there are “girl butchers, boy butchers, butchers with tattoos”—then after cooking it, discovering it was so tough it was barely edible.
And speaking of family, she refused to refer to her girlfriend as her partner (“What? Are we in a law firm together? Doing litigation in lovemaking?”), and reported that when her daughter, now 14, announced that she was through with summer camp and wanted to join a gym instead, she told her, “I’d rather see you sitting at the bar at the St. Regis!”
Also among Bernhard’s music choices was a lovely, lonely new one, “I Am Missing You,” co-written by her and her longtime pianist/musical director Mitch Kaplan—who was splendidly supported by young New York musicians and Berklee grads Zac Taylor on guitar and Bruno Esrubilsky on drums. Kaplan cleverly led the trio in the late Dave Brubeck’s “Take Five” when Bernhard left the stage to step out of her black fashion dress and into shiny black pants and one of her new caricature design t-shirts.
Prior to closing with a blend of Cutting Crew’s “(I Just) Died in Your Arms Tonight” and Haddaway’s “What Is Love (Baby Don’t Hurt Me),” she urged attendees to run over to an ATM on Bond Street, since her post-show sale of CDs, DVDs, posters and t-shirts was strictly a cash-only proposition.
“I don’t care if you get mugged and come back bloody with a broken tooth, go get some more money!” she said.
Afterward, she offered a sort of New Year’s benediction.
“Think a little more, be more sensitive—less edgy, less bitchy,” she implored. “Drop the pretense and try the best you can to get through the s**t.”
A great Twitter user, Bernhard nevertheless commanded the SRO crowd to “get off social media and call someone and blow someone’s mind.”
Noting that “the Mayans had it right” in that 2012 marked the “end of white patriarchy,” she asked, “How blessed can we be, to be here tonight on New Year’s Eve in a warm place after Hurricane Sandy?”
That devastating storm’s namesake concluded with her stated hope that all take 2013 “to a higher place.” And starting the new year off right, no one appeared worse for wear from the quick trip to Bond Street.
Subscribe to my examiner.com pages and follow me on Twitter @JimBessman!