Calif. Bystander Helps Save Stand-Up Comedian

Calif. Bystander Helps Save Stand-Up Comedian

News Nov 14, 2012

Jackson Perdue is a stand-up comedian, but his visit to Temecula in May wasn't very funny. Nor was Perdue standing up.

At about 11 a.m. on June 3, Perdue and his girlfriend, Lisa Penhart were walking on the grounds of the Temecula Valley Balloon and Wine Festival. "I didn't feel good," he recalled, so when a festival volunteer, Ralph Rodriguez, was driving by in his golf cart and offered them a ride, they hopped on.

Perdue. 55, thought he was suffering from heartburn after drinking coffee. Coincidentally, Rodriguez had heartburn the night before, and offered Perdue the Tums he had in his pocket.

That wouldn't be enough.

Rodriguez knew something was very wrong when Perdue laid his head on the driver's shoulder. "I pulled over and told a friend to get help. Another cart pulled up and I told them we needed an ambulance. I checked and he had no pulse."

What Perdue did have was sudden cardiac arrest.

While Penhart gave him CPR, Rodriguez administered mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. He had received training in the procedure and had done it before - with mannequins. He then put his finger down Perdue's mouth to clear his airway. "Then the festival's safety crew arrived and took over until the ambulance arrived," he said.

Perdue, who lives in Hollywood, was flown by helicopter to Riverside Community Hospital, where he spent a week. During treatment, his larynx was cut, not a good thing for anyone, but particularly for a stand-up comic. "Sometimes I lose my voice right at the punchline," he said. "But I know there could have been permanent damage. If I had been alone in my room, I would be dead."

After each festival, a sponsor appreciation dinner is held to honor volunteers. Rodriguez, 35, who lives in Temecula, had no intention of going; he works in construction as a glazier and was tired that night. His wife and others convinced him to attend, knowing that he had been chosen as the recipient of the first-ever "People Saving People" award given by the festival.

He also got to reunite - under better circumstances - with Perdue, who is doing well and remains on the comedy circuit. "It was kind of emotional," Rodriguez said. "He was very thankful."

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After Perdue's brush with death, Rodriguez, a glazier, recalled, "I had trouble sleeping for three nights" wondering if his passenger was OK. As he looks forward to volunteering at the Temecula Valley Balloon and Wine Festival in 2013 - it will be his fourth year - he hopes it will be less eventful.

Copyright 2012 The Press Enterprise, Inc.All Rights Reserved

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The Press Enterprise
PETER FISCHETTI, Correspondent
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