Authors: Warren Adler
Tags: #Humorous, #General, #FIC022060, #Fiction
This edition first published in the United States in 2008 by
The Overlook Press, Peter Mayer Publishers, Inc.
[for individual orders, bulk and special sales, contact [email protected]]
141 Wooster Street
New York, NY 10012
Copyright © 2008 by Warren Adler
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or
transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical,
including photocopy, recording, or any information storage and retrieval
system now known or to be invented, without permission in writing from the
publisher, except by a reviewer who wishes to quote brief passages in connection
with a review written for inclusion in a magazine, newspaper, or broadcast.
THIS BOOK IS DEDICATED TO
Joey Adams, Bruce Adler, Morey Amsterdam, Jack Barry, Milton Berle, Shelly Berman, Joey Bishop, Lenny Bruce, Red Buttons, George Burns, Sid Caesar, Dick Capri, Eddie Cantor, Jack Carter, Myron Cohen, Norm Crosby, Billy Crystal, Bill Dana, Rodney Dangerfield, Phyllis Diller, Dan Enright, Totie Fields, David (Dudu) Fisher, Phil Foster, George Gobel, Shecky Greene, Buddy Hackett, George Jessel, Danny Kaye, Alan King, Mal Z. Lawrence, Jack Leonard, Sam Levenson, Jerry Lewis, Jackie Mason, Ann Meara, Jan Murray, Carl Reiner, Don Rickles, Joan Rivers, Freddie Roman, Dick Shawn, Phil Silvers, Jerry Stiller, Jackie Vernon, Jonathan Winters, Henny Youngman, and the scores of other “tumlers” who got their start in the Borscht Belt and made their humor universal
HE WOMAN OPENED THE DOOR TO
ORLICK’S SUITE AND
two men emerged. The shorter one grabbed the woman’s buttocks and squeezed.
“Is that a tush, Pep, or what?”
“World class,” the taller man said.
Mickey Fine, who had been waiting in the corridor puzzled over the men. The shorter one wore a brown pin-stripe double-breasted suit with a red rose in its lapel and a beige fedora. His glance washed over Mickey like a spot-light in a prison movie, freezing him in its glare like a pinned insect.
The other was taller, handsomer, dressed to the nines in a blue serge suit and matching satiny blue tie on a white-on-white shirt. He wore a pearl gray fedora and his black shoes were spit-shined, in contrast to his shorter companion’s scuffed browns. He was also handsome in a hard way and his lips wore a thin smile that was anything but warm.
Mickey watched them both swagger toward the elevators. It was the tall one who looked back at Mickey, studying him briefly,
as if trying to recall him from some previous occasion. Mickey had the same sensation.
“Mr. Gawlick will see ya now,” the woman said, dissolving his effort at remembering. She was tall, with a voluptuous figure and a low-cut dress that showed much fleshy cleavage. He followed her as she pranced into the suite on swivel hips that swung at an exaggerated wide angle. A tush like the Pied Piper, he thought, confirming the earlier comment. Follow it anywhere. Does it come with that swing? he wanted to say, then thought better of it. But the idea did boost his energy level and chase away the edginess that the appearance of the two men had brought on. He came into the suite with a theatrical bounce and a face-aching smile.
Clouds of smoke layered the air in Sol Gorlick’s suite. He was a short corpulent man with squinty eyes and thick lips. As Mickey entered, he was just lighting a long expensive-looking cigar. The jacket of his double-breasted suit was open, showing sweat puddles on his blue shirt. His pants were high-belted over a balloon-like stomach and his bald head appeared lacquered, reflecting the slanting rays of late afternoon sunlight.
His complexion was waxy and although his face was round and fat, his skin did not hang in jowls. Greeting Mickey with a nod, he pointed with his cigar to a chair beside the coffee table.
“Sit,” he grunted.
Mickey sat in an upholstered chair beside the coffee table, on which were a number of used highball glasses, a half emptied bottle of seltzer and nearly empty bottle of Johnny Walker. Salted peanuts were strewn around the table. There was also a silver pistol cigarette lighter and an ashtray filled with smashed cigarette and cigar butts.
The woman who had shown him in sat opposite Mickey on a
matching chair, crossing her legs, showing an expanse of pink flesh on either side of her black stocking suspenders.
“This is Mickey Fine, Mr. Gawlick,” the woman said. Gorlick’s big behind sank deeply into the soft cushions of the couch. He sat upright, his back stiff, his belly resting on his thighs. Mickey noted that he had star sapphire rings on the pinkies of both hands.
“Here I’m Fine,” Mickey said. “But finer in Caroliner.” Keep the one-liners coming, he urged himself. He prayed that his nervousness wouldn’t erase his memory.
Gorlick smiled thinly, nodded and picked up a paper from the coffee table. Mickey watched him as he puffed on his cigar, blowing thick smoke rings as he read. Mickey could see it was the letter he had sent outlining his experience. Not earthshaking. He had been a waiter and substitute tumler at Blumenkranz’ in Lock Sheldrake for two summers. For three summers before that he had been a bus boy at Grossingers and been in some of the week-night shows.
Off-season he played small club dates, mostly Jewish veterans and women’s groups. Days he helped in his father’s ladies underwear store on Sutter Avenue in Brownsville. Nights he went to CCNY.
“It’s short,” Mickey said. “I ran out of lies.”
“You’re twenty-two?” Gorlick said, inspecting him.
“All year,” Mickey replied.
“He looks like a Jewish Tom Mix. Don’t he, Gloria?” Gorlick said, tossing his head toward the woman.
“And here I thought I was passing for a goy. I know. You saw my horse, Tony.” Mickey turned toward the woman. “He’s circumcised. How can you hide it?”
Gloria made a sound like a Bronx cheer.
“Sometimes I forget and say ‘Oy Oy Gold’ instead of ‘Hi-Yo Silver.’”
“That’s the Lone Ranger,” Gloria snickered.
“You think he’s not Jewish? Why do you think he travels with his tanta?”
Gorlick, not reacting, puffed a smoke ring into the air, then picked up a stray peanut from the cocktail table and popped it into the smoke cloud belching from his mouth.
“Such a tumler,” Gloria said winking. “He’s a real cutie pie. The girls would get a kick out of him.”
Mickey felt her inspection, distracted by the swell of the upper part of her full breasts. But when he forced himself to shift his glance, he found himself watching that stretch of pink bare thigh.
“What kind of a store your father got?” Mr. Gorlick asked, looking over the paper again.
“Foundation garments,” Mickey said, not with a slight twinge of embarrassment. People always reacted with a snicker and Gorlick and Gloria were no exceptions.
There was humor in it, he knew, but mostly to others; less to Mickey or his mother or father or sister. To them the store meant survival and they lived above it. To the Fines foundation garments were serious business, although Mickey had developed a repertoire of jokes about it.
“Corsets, girdles, things like that?” Gorlick asked, smiling.
“We fix flats, too,” Mickey said, looking pointedly at Gloria, who needed none of his father’s wares. As if to emphasize the obvious, Gloria straightened in her chair and flung out her chest.
“Bet you seen plenty,” Gorlick chuckled.
“Plenty is the word for it. It’s turned me into a vegetarian.”
Gorlick grunted another chuckle, then turned his eyes back to the paper.
“What kind of courses you taking?”
“General,” Mickey said. “If things don’t work out, maybe, as a last resort, I’ll become a shyster.” Despite the joke it was a bone of contention between him and his parents. To them becoming a tumler was not a proper career path, although they often laughed at his jokes. “I get a kick out of making people laugh,” he told them. You can still be a lawyer and make people laugh, they would say. It was a never ending complaint.
“A shyster.” Gorlick nodded. “At Gorlick’s a shyster would have a field day.” He turned and winked at Gloria, who smiled thinly.
“That’s if show business doesn’t pan out,” Mickey said, reluctant to reveal his secret yearnings for comedy stardom.
“A putz business,” Gorlick said.
“Maybe he wants to be a movie star,” Gloria interjected. “The Jewish Tom Mix and his faithful horse, Moishey.” She laughed heartily, her big tits shaking.
He felt a sudden twinge of resentment, wondering if they were taking his ambition seriously. That part was not a joke.
“What we are seeking here,” Gorlick said, “is a special kind of tumler for ‘Gorlick’s Greenhouse’—a classy boy, a diplomat, an organizer, a social director with “tum,” ya know whatimean?”
“Also funny, Solly,” Gloria said. “Goes without saying. Sure funny. It also helps if you can sing a little.”
Mickey nodded. He had a fair voice.
“And a good dancer. A refined talker. Ya know whatimean, a smart classy funny boy who can keep the guests happy.”
“They liked me at Blumenkranz,” Mickey said. He was at somewhat of a disadvantage over that. He had been set for the
season at Blumenkranz, another Catskill hotel, then Mrs. Blumenkranz hired her brother’s son for the job. With ten days until Decoration Day, when the Catskill hotels traditionally opened, he was in no bargaining position. It was Blumenkranz who had recommended him to Gorlick, who had apparently had some disagreement with the tumler he had hired then fired.
“Blumenkranz,” Gorlick sneered, “A pigsty cockeninyam operation. We’re not like the other hotels. We’re special. We got a special clientele.” He took a deep drag on his cigar and looked at Gloria. “Small but eleganty. One-fifty guests max on weekends. A showplace. Great coozeen. Kosher but gourmet. We don’t even have to advertise. All woid of mouth. In the middle of the week we got the wives, the kids, the girlfriends. Weekends when the boys come up we expect you to put on a show, sometimes we hire a specialty act, and we got a three-piece band all week. I say sometimes, because mostly the boys want action.”
“Big time action. Poker. Crap tables. Slots.”
“Is that legal?” Mickey asked, instantly regretting his hasty response. Blumenkranz and Grossingers had been straight places. But Sullivan County, which covered the Catskills, was considered wide open for gambling in some of the hotels. He had played slot machines at hotels near Lock Sheldrake.
“Legal shmegal. Not my business.”
Mickey shrugged, watching Gorlick use his big cigar as if it were a baton.
“… it’s the weekdays I worry about, especially when it rains. When the boys come, ya know, they inject a happier prospect, if you get my meaning. But on the weekdays the girls get bored with the machines and not all are not into cards. You gotta tumel them, keep them happy. They get bored, moody, start to complain about
the coozeen. On the weekends they tell the boys and we got tsouris.” Gorlick raised his eyes to the ceiling, as if he needed validation from a higher source.
“Tell him about last year’s, Solly,” Gloria piped. She extracted a compact from her bag and began to fix her makeup.
“A schmuck. Not bad on a stage. A good dancer. A schmoozer. He could tell a lotta jokes. A genius at Simon Sez. But on the floor, he was not a diplomat. Worse, he was a schmuck with a schmuck, if you get my drift.” He looked toward Gloria, who peeked out from behind her compact and giggled.
“I love it, Solly.”