On a stage, Mason seems to shed weight and worry. And years, although the question of his age is touchy; he insists that he's 51 in spite of good evidence that he is 55. There is a protective conspiracy in the family to hide Jackie's birth date. His brother, Rabbi Bernard Maza, who is quite willing to say that Jackie was, from youth, a comic and an intellectual nonentity in the family ("You didn't know he existed") is unwilling to reveal Jackie's age. "We don't believe in numbers," the rabbi explains. "It's bad luck to count your blessings by numbers. But getting back to Jackie's comedy. Now we think he's a genius. Then...?"
Jackie Mason was born Jacob Maza to a rabbi who came from Minsk and eventually settled on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. "My father, Eli, and my father's father, and my father's father's father—as far back as anyone can remember, all rabbis," says Jackie. There were two younger sisters (Gail and Evelyn) in addition to three brothers (Joseph, Gabriel and Bernard). "My three brothers all became rabbis, and I became a rabbi. I had no choice. It was unheard of to think of anything else. But I knew, from the time I'm 12, I had to plot to get out of this, because this is not my calling. I am not so sure about God, but I knew for certain that I worshipped the young girls, and this could get me into big trouble."
Jackie's gift for satire appeared relatively late in his life. "He was always the most serious person at the table," says his sister-in-law Malka Maza. "He only wanted to talk politics." Says Jackie: "My brothers were all brilliant and I was a shmuck. Every time I opened my mouth they told me to shut up. So I hung out with guys on the corner—Sol, Nat, Irving. Compared to them I was a genius."
Thursday, August 11, 2011
Who's Almost Who In KV History: Jackie Mason
an excerpt from a 1987 issue of People Magazine