Grampa's Place of Politics

                    Grampa Jenkins

Maybe none of you remember me from my print work anymore, although I'm sure you recall me from the stage and the silver screen, but I could tell you a thing or two. Wait a second, maybe only one thing. But that one thing is this; I was mighty darn popular when I used to be part of the MSBM (Mainstream Show Biz Media).

No, I'm not talking about the obituaries I used to write for Variety, I'm talking about my late lamented column 'Grampa's Golden Pond', where I gave the common people of the world a glimpse of the glamorous world known as Broadway.

I've been away a while, I'll grant you that, although you might not know the reason why, abandoned as I was by the MSBM.

"Where's 'Grampa's Golden Pond?'", the people would cry, scaring the bejesus out of me with their loud voices. Without the assistance of my ingrate of a granddaughter Katy, there has been no one around to tell them about that horrible night on the set of 'Spamalot' back in March of 2006, that dreadful evening when an unsecured klieg light came crashing down upon my noggin and threatened to end my dancing days forever. It's been eighteen months now and I still freeze up at the thought of doing a simple shuffle hop step.

Only a few weeks before that I had received the highest award that Broadway has to offer, The Tony, steamrolling over my competition and winning the prize for 'Best Old Man In A Musical Comedy'. Want to see it?

Here's a picture, taken by the wonderful Manhattan photographer Charles LeBon. It sits atop my trophy case along side a top hat once worn by the great Fred Astaire,  and I've got a special little red spotlight to illuminate it. It's a beauty, isn't it?

What a fabulous night that was! Now granted, 'Old Man #7' was a plumb of a role, but not an easy one to play, and I would like to take this opportunity to thank the academy and say that show biz is my life, and show biz is my love, at least it was until that klieg light sent me to the hospital.

I was unconscious for three days, and I guess a lot of people thought that I was going to be a goner, because the first thing I saw when I woke up was Fred Thompson and that harpy Tyne Daly. I thought I must be in Hell, even though the room had a slight chill to it. But what would Fred Thompson be doing in hell?

"Grampa, you're alive," squealed Tyne, rushing over to clutch my broken fingers with those red, scaly hands of hers. I have despised that woman since 1989, when I starred with her in the revival of Gypsy, where she had the role of 'Mama Rose' and I had the role of 'Cranky Old Vaudeville Huckster'. The woman was always stepping on my lines (just like David Hyde Pierce trampled my fingers on that fateful night), and she knew it, she delighted in it.

"Don't fuck with Mama Rose," she would hiss backstage, and I would suavely respond that I wouldn't touch her patootie with a rubber johnson. Heh heh, good one, a rubber johnson is what we used to call a... you know. But the night Tyne Daly 'borrowed' my dentures and performed a pantomime of 'Grampa eating land crabs' in front of the rest of the cast, all bets were off, and fisticuffs ensued. That was the night I found out she really did do all her own stunts on 'Cagney & Lacy', and I never could get all the hair out of my lucky teeth..

My head was spinning when I realized I was in a hospital bed, and Fred Thompson didn't help at all when he said that he was there to study me in preparation for the lead role in 'The Grampa Jenkins Story'. Then he looked into my eyes, down my esophagus, and on into my immortal soul, and said like the true gentleman he is, "I reckon we might be just a little premature in the preparation department."

"Bluuugh," I burped, returning to sleep for another twelve hours. When I awoke, there was a strange woman beside me. It was my prodigal granddaughter Katy. "Don't smoke so close to the oxygen," I tried to shout, but my throat was so phlegmy that even I couldn't tell what I'd just said. Katy handed me a napkin. She's thoughtful like that.

"Sorry Grampa, but I forgot to feed your cat," she told me, flicking her ash onto my shoulder cast.

Poor Theodore, he was probably skinny as the late Audrey Hepburn in 'Gigi' after wasting away for three days. He was probably as hungry as I was after not eating for all this time. My thoughts turned to sausage and scrambled eggs, hash browns and little powdered donuts. "Did I ever tell you about the time I had breakfast at Montano's with Danny Kaye?" I asked Katy.

As a matter of fact, my belly is growling like a pack of gorillas as I write this. Sorry I didn't get around to the politics today, but I need to make a bacon sandwich something awful.

2007, Mark Hoback


     Grampa's Place of Politics

                    Grampa Jenkins

Mitzi Gaynor was a lovely and talented actress, and she could sing and dance with the best of 'em, at least she could up there on the silver screen. The funny thing is, even though Mitzi co-starred with some of Broadway's biggest stars, people like Oscar Levant, Gene Kelly, Donald O'Conner, and the great Ethel Merman, she was never a Broadway girl herself.

I guess she just wasn't tough enough owing to her size. She was a tiny little thing, just about four foot five, and she weighed about sixty-five pounds soaking wet, and believe me, being on the stage eight times a week is just too tough for a munchkin. In Hollywood, they've got wooden boxes for you to stand on to make you look taller. Like in South Pacific, they had her co-star with a jockey-sized Italian guy named Rossano Brazzi, who was only five foot two, and they still had to dig a ditch for him to stand in when they did their scenes together. Brazzi had one of his little legs bit off during shooting by what he thought was a stunt shark and he never did work again, other than at a olive factory in Milan, where he supervised the pimento stuffers.

Where was I? Fred Thompson was... no, my... has anyone here ever had the Mini Mitzi from Hannigan's Deli? It's a small sandwich, smoked turkey, rare lamb, and gouda on a croissant. Delicious. I wish I had three or four of them right now.

Last October, when Mayor Bloomberg proclaimed Mitzi Gaynor an honorary New Yorker, the three of us went down to Hannigan's, and the owner, Sal Greenstein, invented the Mini Mitzi right there on the spot. Mitzi could only eat about half of one and asked for a doggy bag, but Hizzoner and I must have eaten about a dozen Mitzis, along with those big Hannigan's dill pickles and ice cold Genesee Cream Ale.

My, what a day that was, at least until my ingrate of a granddaughter Katy decided to make an appearance and spoil everything by loudly insisting that she knew me. Bloomie had to call in his bodyguards to take her away, but not before Katy had called Ms. Gaynor a wretched withered gnome and performed an obscene imitation of her with one of those Hannigan's dills. She kept shouting some nonsense about her grandmother's teeth, and that woman had her final curtain call years ago.

Anyway, I've been thinking about a song that Mitzi used to sing when she was still able to perform at the supper clubs. She had learned a lot of the new songs from her daughter Gloria, and I believe that the song I'm thinking of was called 'I Killed a Policeman'. It was kind of a calypso number, and it was about a man who was being unfairly harassed by a sadistic law enforcement officer. There was a part of it that went like this.

Officer Brown always hated me
For what I sure don't know
Every single time that I try and plant a seed
She says 'I'm going to kill it before it grows'.

Officer Brown could have been Katy, just with a different name and a real job. I guess I always knew on some level that she was nothing but an evil law enforcement officer, but as the great Louis Armstrong used to advise, I've always tried to walk on the sunny side of the street. Walk on it, my Lord, I've tap-danced on the sunny side. I've smiled when my heart was aching, I've smiled when my heart was breaking. When there were clouds in the sky, I figured I would get by. I've lit up my face with gladness and hidden each trace or sadness, even when a tear was near because I knew that Katy was going to stomp on my damn seeds, like she's trying to do now with her senseless ridicule of my new political column, 'Grampa's Place of Politics'. Jealousy, thy name is Katy.

But I digress. Speaking of digressing, you ought to taste the dressing on that Mini Mitzi. I don't know what Sal puts in it but it is out of this world. Sorry I didn't get around to the politics today, but I need to get down to Hannigan's something awful.


2007, Mark Hoback