19 December 2014, Melbourne Town Hall, Melbourne, Australia
So, comedians… giving eulogies.
If there’s one thing Stella and I agreed on, it’s that the job of the comedian, like the court jester before us, is to speak the truth.
If people laugh, you’re lucky.
I know what I’m supposed to say.
That I’m ok and we were lucky to have had her and everyone is special and we’re all irreplaceable.
But that’s crap.
The truth is, I don’t feel lucky.
I feel robbed.
And it’s impolite to say, but many humans are pretty unremarkable.
There are literally billions of us on the planet and most of us are a dime a dozen.
But you, my darling Stella, were one of a kind.
Firstly to Stella’s family.
I can only say sorry. Your loss is the most devastating.
No one can create a human like Stella without being an exceptional family. Exceptional parents, exceptional sisters.
Thank you for sharing her with us.
To her friends
What a beautiful, true friend Stella was.
The day after her death my two-year-old daughter looked at me and asked, “Where’s My Stella?” Two years old! One thing I’ve realised this week is that we all thought she was our Stella. That’s because she loved so large.
To her beloved crip community.
She loved you. Oh, how she loved and adored you and spoke about your community like it was a warm blanket that embraced her at every turn.
She was yours and you where hers.
To her ABC, Channel 31, Melbourne Museum, Comedy Festival, comedian, writer and other work friends. We have lost a creative giant.
A pocket-sized giant that filled every room she was in, every stage.
To the activist communities – disability, education, preventing violence against women, youth – we’ve lost a foghorn. A true agent of real change.
Who else but Stella could cut through the BS with a single sentence?
On organised religion:
“I lost faith in god the day I found out there was a stairway to heaven.”
“I’m not interested in talking about dignity in death until we all have dignity in life.”
On the apolitical – and currently in vogue – so-called positive psychology movement:
“No amount of smiling at a flight of stairs will turn it into a ramp”.
Who else but Stella could sit with those – sometimes on national television – who believe that people with disabilities should be grateful because, “Things are pretty good in Australia” and who, at the extreme end, think people with disabilities should not exist?
What puny minds!
What highly educated, well read, well-argued, well-researched and puny minds.
If you can’t see the hole – the size of Uluru – just one small cripple in red high heals and some leather pants has left today, then you cannot see anything worth seeing.
And you must not be listened to.
As most of you know, one of the many wonderful things Stella left behind was a letter to her eighty year old self
I am not ready to live in a world where Stella Young doesn’t live to at least eighty, so I’ve chosen to imagine the rest. Go with me.
Next year, as planned, we take her debut solo comedy show on a national tour, starting in Stawell (of course) and ending at the Opera House.
The entire tour is sold out and her reviews are glowing.
One idiot reviewer describes her as “brave” but she rolls her eyes and says, “I tell you what’s brave – dealing with dickheads like you.” At the after party, Stel runs into seventeen gay Qantas hosties she met on the trip up. Why seventeen? I have no idea; but when Stel’s around, gay men magically reproduce themselves. Like a camp kind of compound interest.
They take her to a hot new club. It has a “fabulous basement darling” but they don’t notice that the stairs are a “bit of a problem for Stelz”. Stella grabs a lesbian leaving the club – knowing she’ll know all the accessible venues within a 100km radius (it’s in the handbook) – and they head off to the “Honey Pot”. Bryce and Adam are there.
They’re always there for Stella.
They have a few drinks, party well into the morning and during a particularly vigorous dance session to “Wrecking Ball” Stella is mid way through a pash with Ruby Rose when she falls out of her chair and breaks a few ribs.
Adam and Bryce take her to the hospital.
Moments later (it’s imaginary) a surgeon walks in. He’s short, squat, and devastatingly handsome. He takes a look at Miss Young and concludes that he’ll need to see her many, many times again.
On day three he proposes marriage.
She says no, “But if you’ll move to Melbourne I’ll consider dating you”.
Eventually he gives up his surgical career and becomes Stella’s publicist.
(You know, finally does something useful with his life).
The next year we take Crip Tales to London.
Stella is the toast of the town.
One night I notice Dawn French in the audience, the other Kim and Kanye.
Stephen Frye comes a couple of times but it’s when Amy Phoeler rocks up to a Saturday matinee that Stella gets really excited.
Amy wants to chat to Stella after the show, but the crip mafia are forming a crop circle with their chairs and no one gets past that shit.
It’s ok, Amy calls the next day.
She wants to set up a US tour for Stella.
Jay-Z and Beyoncé bankroll it and Stella buys a Rolls and a driver.
By coincidence, the driver is Crazy Eyes from Orange is the New Black.
They become BFF’s.
Hilary Clinton comes and says if she’s ever President, she’ll make Stella the Disability Commissioner of the Universe. Stella accepts in advance, but only if she can do an accessibility audit of every building everywhere, ever built.
Hilary says, “No worries.”
Stella returns to Oz and, frankly, has become a bit up herself.
The hot surgeon has started to complain about always playing second fiddle and wants her pull back her career and focus on him. She tells him where the nearest accessible exit is.
Stel goes on to tour nationally and internationally for many years.
She makes sitcoms.
She writes books.
She becomes a regular on Sesame Street.
In 2020 Stella is announced as Australian of the Year.
In 2022 she starts a new Political Party called The Borgen and becomes Australia’s first President.
By 2035 everyone has seen how well she’s done with Australia and she’s running the world!
Carpenters and bricklayers from all the lands rejoice!
All public buildings in the world are made accessible!
If they can’t be made accessible they’re knocked down and rebuilt!
When some heritage ning-nong argues the old buildings should be kept for “history”, Stella reminds him that the human right to access is more important than the human right to nostalgia.
On that note, all the cobblestones in the world are also crushed up and made into garden gnomes!
The Paralympics now includes Wheelchair Synchronised swimming!
Everyone – able bodied or not – has access to hovercraft wheelchairs!
(Of course, they’re solar powered – Stella believed in radical ideas like a round earth and climate change).
Dancing at any opportunity is mandatory!
Women with disabilities are no longer the group most at risk of Family Violence!
There is no family violence!
Full gender equality has been achieved!
Those very few men caught still committing this crime are sent to a gnome factory on Christmas Island to crush the old cobblestones.
And, in a nice twist, all the refugees, are sent to Stella’s beloved South Yarra.
Under Stella’s presidency the ideologies of individualism, neo-liberalism and conservatism die a quick and painless death.
Along with Dr Phil.
These ideologies tell people who face challenges that it is them who are sick rather than the society they live in.
Stella says No.
All Australia number-plates now say:
“Affirmative Action. Not affirmations.”
All mothers and fathers talk to their kids about healthy and equal relationships.
Like Stel’s mum, this happens anywhere from home to work to Coles fruit and veg.
“You know Stel, if you did every possible thing you could think of with another person’s body, you’d never get anything done!”
“I know mum!!!!!”
Diversity audits are mandatory in all workplaces!
RampUp is reinstated.
As is funding for Community TV.
By the way, if you really want to honour Stella’s legacy today you won’t eulogise her endlessly. You’ll do something about it.
On that note, I have to say, Stella would be most bemused, amused and confused by some of the people who’ve been eulogising her over the past week.
With some, she’d be downright ticked off.
It would be inappropriate for me to name names here…
But suffice to say, I’m not going to Pyne over it.
Ironically for such a brilliant wordsmith, words were not enough for Stella Young.
She demanded action. When you leave here today do an access audit on your workplace, a diversity audit, a gender audit. How about you start with asking, “Can everyone get in the building?” and go from there.
Finally, be proud. Really.
Stella’s favourite line was “You get proud by practicing.”
It was tattooed on her arm.
If you loved Stella, you’ll practice pride every single day:
The pink and
The purple polka dotted
PRIDE. TAKES. PRACTICE.
Especially if you’re on the margins.
Practice it daily.
By the time Stella dies, at the age of 85, she is our most famous Australian. Ever.
She leaves world a better, brighter, fairer and far more beautiful place.
And, by the way, if you think I’m joking about the most famous Australian ever part, you are wrong. That girl was on a rocket to the moon. She was going there very fast and I have absolutely no doubt that she was about to explode globally.
In the truest sense of the word, she was special.
I know, “Piss off Nelzies!!!”
Stel wherever you are, I will always try to think of you on that rocket – charging around, abusing people who move too fricken slow and ramming into their ankles “accidentally”.
My darling Stella, you were out of this world.
I just so wish you were still in it.