Ruby’s Rap by Ruby Comer
Stir a bit of Paris with a dash of Zurich and you’ve got a Düsseldorf cocktail. My continental wanderings have led me to this ancient Rhineland city. And lordie is it old. It was founded around 1135, but moldy it’s not. Düsseldorf is a sophisticated town, a center of fashion, culture, and good living. I mean, c’mon, Claudia Schiffer was discovered here! Today I’m hanging with a different Claudia, another raving beauty, my friend, Claudia Jordan, host and actress and so much more. You, darlings, probably know her from Deal or No Deal and The Celebrity Apprentice, among other gigs. She also has her own Sirius radio show. We met here yesterday and we’re going to explore Düsseldorf together for a couple of days.
Right now Claudia and I are eating breakfast at the enchanting, petite Hotel Sir Astor, whose sparkling proprietor is Wilfried Meuse, better known as “Willy.” He’s kind and very accommodating. (Days later when I departed Düsseldorf, I was waiting for the train at the Hauptbahnhof and realized that I had left my traveling companion behind in my Asian-flavored red room—a little stuffed lamb named “Lammie.” I frantically called Willy who was calming and reassuring. When I arrived at my next hotel, there was Lammie waiting for me, all boxed up, and ready for a hug!)
Ruby Comer: Oh, gawd, girl, these chocolate croissants are tee-rific! [I napkin my chocolatey mouth.] How have you been affected by the AIDS epidemic?
Claudia Jordan: When I first heard about it I had nightmares, Ruby, and I was already a bit of a hypochondriac. About ten years ago my agent died. He was very honest and open and fearless about it. I watched him endure till the very end. His positive spirit was amazing. [She pauses.] I don’t know where that strength came from, but I admired that quality in him.
What we human beings have to endure sometimes, huh? Man. I know you’ve been active in the AIDS community….
Yes, Ruby, I did a campaign in my home state of Rhode Island for AIDS awareness and prevention. The ad portrayed a couple, me and a male model, and it was put up all over the state. It said something like, ‘If you love the person, you should know.’ I remember all the ignorant folks complaining that the billboard made me look like I actually had the disease. It was so frustrating. I did the job to increase awareness: to encourage people to get tested and use protection. It made me realize how difficult it must be for people who are living with HIV and to have to deal with ignorant people. It actually broke my heart.
Regrettably the stigma still exists, Claudia. Are you involved with any other charities?
I do when I can, especially when it comes to the homeless. I’ve participated in walks for breast cancer and I dedicated one of my radio shows to breast cancer awareness. There are so many charities that need our help now more than ever. In our poor economy, charities are suffering.
You have an Italian mother and an African-American father. As you know, sadly, your black brothers and sisters have one of the highest HIV infection rates. What line of ammunition can we use to enforce safer sex?
Well, I think having high profile people in the black community coming forward and admitting they have it can help. No one will ever forget the day Magic Johnson told the world he was HIV-positive. That one act probably saved countless lives. I really respect him for that, and also Elizabeth Taylor. She’s been relentless in bringing about HIV awareness!
Definitely two trendsetters.
It’s really heartbreaking, Ruby, how many women are becoming infected from their men who are not being honest with them. I think the bigger problem is men not wanting to embrace their real sexuality; so they hide it and lie. Of course, AIDS doesn’t discriminate, it affects everyone. [We finish up our last bites of the fluffy vegetable omelet.]
Claudia departs for Old Town as I dash off to the city health department to address a group of female sex workers. (Prostitution is legal in Germany.) My spiel is entitled “Fond’a Condums.” Afterwards, I meet up with my two delightful tour guides, Rebecca and Renate, both a font of wealthy information. We pile into Rebecca’s van and head outside the city to the Hombroich region to visit the Langen Foundation. It’s an architectural gem of a museum and it lies within lush active farmland. It contains a treasure of artworks by Cezanne, Warhol, Uecker, and also a grand collection of Japanese prints. Next we meander across the street to the Hombroich Museum Island, a mix of outdoor art, designer buildings, and a wonderful park, which has a labyrinth of woodsy trails and manmade ponds. Both structures form the Hombroich Cultural Environment, tranquil and thought provoking. We return to the city and have a late lunch at Füchschen in Old Town. After our typical German meal of sausage and potato salad and several mugs of Alt Beer, their own brew, I say “Ta-Ta” to my guides and rejoin Claudia at Media Harbour to view the visually stunning buildings designed by American architect, Frank Gehry.
What astonishing art, huh? Curvy, distorted…like the buildings are melting.
Yes. Incredible. And how was your tour, Ruby?
Oh, Claudia, it was the best. [We continue walking the promenade that borders the Rhine and a few handsome männer pass by. I raise my brow at Claudia.] I just can’t get enough of these European men! What’s it like for you single girls out there in the dating pool? Tell me the dirt, you former Miss Rhode Island Teen USA!
[She chuckles.] It’s awful! I recently met a man who swept me off my feet. He even got on one knee and proposed. But I hadn’t done my research. So I’m back to dating. I confront issues just like any other woman, meeting a man and not knowing if he’s being honest.
Some of those men are on the “DL,” aren’t they? Claudia, do you get tested regularly?
Getting tested is scary, Ruby, but necessary. I go running and hiking with my girl friends. It builds sisterhood and we plan on all going together and getting tested again. It’s so important for our peace of mind.
[We near the end of the harbor and come to what looks like huge-palmed, neon-colored aliens ascending up the side of a building.] Look at that! What are they?! [We ask a couple of school kids standing by. They’re plastic sculptures titled Flossis—or, fins—by artist, Rosalie.] How…unique. Claudia, what would you say to kids today about HIV? I mean, if you were addressing a high school or college assembly?
[She thinks a moment, looking out onto the sun-glistened water.] It only takes one unprotected sexual situation to cut your life short. Many people don’t even know they are carrying the virus and it just takes a few minutes of unprotected sex to endanger your life. It’s not worth it; be responsible.
I just know there’s a cure out there somewhere. [We sit on the dock, looking back at the magnificent skyline.] Too often people think that HIV is something that happens to “them.” That’s foolish. [She stops and pierces those gorgeous exotic eyes toward me.] It can happen to any of us, Ruby. It’s time for the stigma and stereotypes associated with AIDS…to end!
Ruby Comer is an independent journalist from the Midwest who is happy to call Hollywood her home away from home. Reach her by e-mail at MsRubyComer [at] aol.com.