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If You Knew Susie ...
Is Susie Green ... cursed?
She's got a successful -- if philandering, frumpy -- husband; a gorgeous Hollywood Hills home -- maybe a bit too close to the noxious next door neighbor; and a sense of fashion that a lion would envy if he ever ran out of bold stripes.
How could she be cursed?
"Not cursed, you m#$**&!!$ idiot; cursing, you G--!4you*&^$!"
When Susie Green gives you a piece of her mind, rest assured Plato's platitudes won't be a piece of it.
Yet when Susie Essman gives you hers, she's as likely to include Plato the great Greek as well as another sage whose philosophy can be summed up in four words:
"Kish mir en tuches."
Guess where those words of advice come from -- and it's not an anal Aristotle.
"Oh, my grandma, Millie Essman; she had such an important influence on me."
Profanity, Plato ... What Would Susie Say?
Exactly; Susie Essman has had a lot of say in the character-chaotic "Curb Your Enthusiasm," a Sunday-night HBO laugh riot that leaves the politically correct defenseless with their clubs of Jell-O jeremiads.
As Susie Green, Essman "S"-s and "F"-s her free-association hellion haikus with the abandon of a college kid freebasing on attitude.
Language has no limits, and Green grouses so grittily that the devil looks for an opening to jump into to rejoin those lovely warm fires he left behind for the unmitigated heat of Susie Green.
Essman's Green is a primary color and purpose of "Curb," Larry David's wickedly dented view of the world, where wheelchairs and wobbly love handles are handled with the same brilliant lack of aplomb and respect he shows for the onscreen Richard Lewis.
What would Susie say?
It all comes out in Essman's wonderfully witty and freewheeling autobiography that's big on the graphic; not one to kiss asterisks as a popular New York comedy club performer, she holds back just a bit here, but only in the subtitle: Bullsh*t Wisdom About Love, Life and Comedy.
Expletives deleted indeed!
She takes the bull by the horns and details a life of struggles, stretches and some sexism in a state of the art that sometimes plays artless in its attitudes toward women.
Not all funny girls have to look like Fanny Brice. As Alan King once introduced her, to Essman's dismay, to an audience in Atlantic City: "You know, in my day, all the funny women were ugly, but this broad is pretty and funny."
Write it off as an experience, reasoned Essman.
The twist here is that the 54-year-old really knows how to write, and not just her standout stand-up act. The pages rip and ride and bounce and brood with each of the flippant comedian/actress' flip of a wrist; it's as if she's discovered the writer's version of Jew-jitsu.
"People have been hocking me to write a book, but I told them I have nothing to say," she says with a shrug in her voice.
Arm twisted, she delivers straight and sassy. "I wanted to tell a story so my kids" -- she has four stepchildren, having married longtime beau Jim Harder last year -- "could discover my struggle to be a comedian."
Struggles that included a bout with clinical depression.
"It was not that difficult to deal with; it seems so long ago," she says of her battle 25 years ago that led to a suicide attempt. "It was who I was."
Now, she's the Susie who gets stopped on the street by smiling well-wishers who, well, want her, to call them "fat f---s," much like she does her TV husband.
What would Bubbie Millie say?
"I speak to her all the time," says Essman of those inner-soulful dialogues she has with a woman who she calls "one of those remarkable people," Jewish émigrés who made their mark here through "push and strength." When push came to shove, Millie mopped up anyone who would stand in her way.
But when she put down the mop, would she have taken up some soap to clean out Susie Green's mouth?
"She would have no understanding of what I do for a living," says Essman.
But then sometimes life itself -- and the central casting of it -- makes no sense.
As Essman writes of her early acting ambitions in first grade: "The lead female part was Mrs. Claus, which I wanted but was given to my best friend, Lisa Kor."
She considered contacting the Anti-Defamation League to pursue her claim of anti-Semitism but -- wake up, little Susie! She realized it wouldn't stand up because Lisa was Jewish, too.
"I remember thinking what morons they were -- not for mounting a Christmas play for a class full of Jews, but because they didn't recognize talent when they saw it."
That's the old saw; but people see it now. And that includes old LD; indeed, after seeing her do a Friars Club roast -- it's not considered well done unless it comes out raunch -- of Jerry Stiller 10 years ago, Larry David knew he had his Susie.
No one's a bigger fan than hubby Jimmy Harder. A mixed marriage with pure heart: Where better to stage the wedding than at the Friars Club, where comic chutzpah and chupah co-exist.
"In the George Burns Room," she recalls proudly.
After all, the Burns-Gracie Allen marriage was a long love affair; George's heart didn't stop beating for Gracie once she died.
How romantic? Yes, and possibly bigger, as Essman writes: "The reception was in the Milton Berle Room. Milton Berle was legendary for something else entirely, which also bodes well for a happy marriage."
And one bursting with laughs.
Does Essman -- New Yorker, and longtime Yankees pinch-hit punchliner -- have any regrets?
"No regrets at all," she quips.
With that, the woman kissed on the forehead by the twin philosophies of both Bubbie and Plato picked up her tuches and prepared to lasso faux fashionista Susie Green's Rodeo Drive one more time.
Now where the f*&$#! was that parking space?