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In 1900, the average American woman went into menopause and died.
Lifespan then was 48 years.
Today, women live to be an average of 84 - well beyond menopause, which occurs between 45 and 55.
So, what's funny about that?
Everything in the hit show "Menopause, the Musical."
This is a show inspired by a hot flash and a bottle of wine, says writer/producer Jeanie Linders.
What started as a celebration of The Change has evolved into a something much more - a cry for freedom from 43 million boomer women who aren't going to let menopause turn them into "the invisibles" like their mothers.
If menopause once marked the end of a woman's worth, today it marks a transition, a phase, but not a roadblock.
And, typical of women, they're going to use this transition to their benefit.
Just singing silly songs about menopause - like "Having a Hot Flash" to the tune of "Having a Heat Wave" - transforms The Change from a secret occurrence to a public acknowledgement, Linders says.
"But we've moved from entertainment to empowerment," she says. "We have become our own woman's movement."
There's an art show celebrating what women look like over 40, and a nonprofit charity, Women For Women Foundation, underwritten by the show's product and souvenir sales.
And even more.
Connie Stevens - who debuted as Cricket Blake on the TV series "Hawaiian Eye" - is the new national chairwoman for the Aging Out Loud campaign and the national tour of "Menopause the Musical."
She's a perfect choice.
Single with two daughters, and seemingly out of sync with Hollywood, she had tough financial times.
In the 1990s, she launched a new career in infomercials (www.foreverspring.com), created her own line of skin and beauty products and today is a business tycoon.
"I never forgot that a lot of my customers are women who are afraid to go into department stores," she says.
"They say no one pays attention to them or takes them seriously because they have started growing old."
As chairwoman of Aging Out Loud, Stevens will focus on health, not youthful appearance.
In 47 cities during its tour, she will be part of expos sponsored by the musical at each location.
"Women will be able to get some answers to situations and nightmares they have worried about for years," she says. "I'm talking about ovarian cancer, the silent killer. As we start to age, we have enough problems. Worrying about a silent killer isn't my cup of tea."
Stevens, 67, says she was chosen to "age out loud" because "I'm the picture of health. The boob (tube) keeps showing young, young, young, and that's a detriment to women's self-esteem."
"After all I've gone through and all I've experienced, I don't want to give anyone that power over me."
Far from becoming "invisible," Stevens wants to face down those who ridicule older women:
"I'm saying this is my package, so what are you going to do about it?"
For information on the national tour of "Menopause, the Musical" go to www.menopausethemusical.com.
(c) 2005, The Orange County Register (Santa Ana, Calif.). Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service.