Last year, a few weeks before I was supposed to open my one-man show in Dallas, I went to my doctor in Austin to have a lifelong problem with my nose fixed. I figured I had better have my health in top shape, because after a three-week run in Dallas, we were scheduled to take the show to New York. I had been rehearsing my show all summer, but I had been polishing it for years. I was 74 years old, and this was to be my show business swan song.
I had been experiencing breathing difficulties for some two years and had been to a number of doctors—ear-nose-and-throat specialists and allergists—all of whom maintained that the condition was something I would have to learn to live with. My latest doctor, and ENT specialist named James Eskew, knew that some sinus blockage was aggravated by a deviated septum, a common condition that causes narrowed nasal passages. He suggested that having the septum straightened would temporarily take care of the problem and that the blockage could be dealt with later. It was a minor operation, but I had to have general anesthesia.
When I regained consciousness my wife, Liz, was waiting to greet me. My whole nasal area was numb, so I felt no pain, just a pleasant euphoria from