A Green Room Memory of George Carlin

07/02/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Count me among the many regular, non-celeb folks who are missing George Carlin. I so admired his funny-tough take on things, his fearlessly speaking what we were thinking but were afraid to say, and his love and mastery of words. I bought his books, saw him perform stand-up in Vegas, Tivoed his TV specials and his talk-show appearances. He was one of the great ones.

I actually met him years ago, right after he had traded in his short-haired TV weather man persona for a pony-tailed post-beatnik look. I spent an hour or so sitting next to him in a green room waiting to be interviewed for some game show. (Back then, when I was in my 20s, I went through a period where I wanted to be validated by those shows. I was on Jeopardy! And then I was on two more shows I can't remember.) Dozens of years before Deal or No Deal and the gaggle of dopey reality shows, winning a few hundred dollars, an encyclopedia and a carton of bubble bath was a big deal. And so was being on TV.

I can't remember if we were in New York or California, or what game show we were trying out for. Maybe he was hanging out for no particular reason. I do remember that I didn't understand why Carlin would be there and I realized I hadn't seen him appear in a while. Maybe he was down on his luck, or he was in a heavy drug phase. It was a bit mysterious.

He was sitting with his young daughter and he was totally involved with her. They talked quietly, playing some game or another. He nodded at me a few times, but I might as well have not been in the room. I allowed him his privacy.

You can tell quite a bit about a person when you see how he treats a child. Carlin was gentle and focused. I watched him, and I felt for him. Funny how the memory of this comedy icon is so personal, even though I didn't know him. He seemed like such a doting father.

Like some of the other original comics who died too soon -- Lenny Bruce, Richard Pryor, Andy Kaufman-- George Carlin changed comedy, nudging and sometimes pushing it along. Although he wasn't overtly partisan, he would have had much to say about the ironies and hypocrises of the upcoming election. But we'll have to go on without his keen observations, his out-there word play, and his absurd take on life.

We honor George Carlin by speaking those seven famed verboten words wherever and whenever we want. But I suspect, at least in regard to his daughter, that he was a softie whose private words were loving.

Lea Lane is founder/editor of www.