(this was published in different form in New York Newsday, Sept. 6, 1991)
In 1991, I spotted Jackie Mason on Fifth Avenue at 49th Street. I walked over and told him how much my family and I liked his humor, that I’d seen his last show on Broadway twice, and thought it was just great.
“Bless you,” he said. “Would you like to have an affair?”
I laughed. “No, but I’d like your autograph.”
He gave it to me. “Now can we have an affair?”
We were both heading down Fifth Avenue, so I asked if I could walk with him. He nodded. It was the Monday after the Tony Awards and he had presented one for best revival of a musical. After announcing it was between “Fiddler on the Roof” and “Peter Pan,” he remarked that it would be better if they gave it to a bunch of suffering Jews than to a flying gentile.
I told him that that remark was really funny.
“Good,” he said. “So now we can have an affair.”
I shook my head. As we continued walking, we discussed his act, other comedians, performing and writing. His wit came through. I held my own. Talking with him was fun.
“Are you seeing anyone?” he asked.
“Is that your business?”
“We should be honest with each other,” he said.
Before 36th Street, where we’d part, I asked for his phone number. He gave it to me.
“I’d love to have dinner when you aren’t doing your show on a Sunday or Monday,” I said.
“To tell you the truth, sometimes I’m busy those nights.”
“To tell you the truth,”I told him, “sometimes I am, too.”
At home, I told everyone in my life that I met Jackie Mason and we might go out. I got the following responses:
My friend Jane: Think you’ll go somewhere fancy or to the Carnegie Deli?”
My father: Who’s gonna pay?
My friend Louise: Get real. Jackie Mason’s not looking for a dinner companion.
My friend Wendy: I can’t see you with Jackie Mason.
My cousin Arlene: I can definitely see you with him. Bring him to Debby’s (her daughter’s) Bat Mitzvah. Hurry and call him while the iron’s hot.
Arlene’s sister, Jill: Jackie Mason’s a scumbag. Dinner? He doesn’t want dinner. He wants to get laid.
My mother: At dinner, let him do the talking.
I called him the following day and got his machine. I didn’t hear back. I did hear from my mother.
“If he calls,” she said, “let him know it’s not a free meal or who he is that interests you. Let him know it’s him. He needs the encouragement.”
That evening Jackie left a message. I invited most of my neighbors in to hear it. When I returned his call, we talked for a long time and the way I thought we left it, I was to call again early Sunday, maybe catch his matinee, and we’d have dinner after.
“It’ll be an interesting meal,” Jane said. “A lot of laughs.”
Right! If all goes well at dinner, I’d invite him to my daughter’s school play, to Debby’s Bat Mitzvah, and to Buffalo for Father’s Day. My father thought he was funny. Mrs. Gavenda, my parents’ next door neighbor, could put him up.
Except, he did not return my early Sunday call, the one I made a little later, and the two I made that week.
Then I read in the newspaper that Jackie Mason was engaged to his longtime manager/girlfriend. They got married. We didn’t have dinner. Thank God!
I wanted snappy repartee. Period. He really wanted a schtupp.
Jackie Mason’s comic material about politics and Jews and gentiles is a riot.