My cousin Howie died last week.
He was six years older than me.
Way too young to go, in my opinion.
He and I were very close.
Even though when I was six and he was twelve, in a two-family bungalow that our families shared in the Catskills in 1953, he did everything he could to tease and scare the living bejeezus out of me.
But then, when I was twelve and my sister was six, I behaved likewise towards her.
I guess it's what kids did, and probably still do.
We all got over it, and Howie became the relative that I spent the most time with in my adult life.
He was a lifelong two pack-a-day smoker.
Something I was always on him about.
"Some day this is going to kill you!"
There was this movie that came out in 1979 called "Saint Jack"
It starred Ben Gazzara, and was directed by Peter Bogdanovich.
It was essentially a character study about Jack, a pimp, nightclub owner, and restauranteur who lived in Singapore.
The movie was about how everybody who met him loved him and wanted to hang around with him.
Howie was a low-rent version of Saint Jack.
He was one of the most gregarious, fun-loving, funny human beings I've ever encountered.
He had the mind of a professional comedy writer. But not the discipline.
He once said to me about his friend Paul, who had had a very easy time of things because his father had supported him handsomely, that "Paul has gone through his entire life by cab"
I have stolen that line whenever it was appropriate to do so.
And, like Jack, Howie spent his share of life on it's seamier side.
He was a blackjack dealer in Las Vegas, graduating to pitboss.
That dried up on him, and he made a very successful living selling porno tapes.
This was when you could make a very successful living selling porno tapes.
The Internet kind of dried that up for him.
I guess you could call him a con man.
But a very good-natured one.
He could never con anyone who would be hurt by the con.
He'd only con other con men.
It was something he had a talent for.
Connected to this was his other major talents: bragging and bullshitting.
The two were intertwined.
A lot of the bragging and bullshitting had to do with his exploits with women.
Judging by the women I knew of that were in his life, it was MAJOR bullshitting.
He was a bullshit artiste.
Watching him bullshit was like watching Picasso at the easel.
You were just in awe.
It was his sport.
And the bullshit was always totally transparent.
He never fooled anyone.
I think he knew that he never fooled anyone.
I think he knew that you knew that he never fooled anyone.
But he seemed to derive such pleasure from it.
When we were still living in New York, he in Brooklyn, which accounted for his thick Brooklyn accent, he told me about how he knew the actor-comedian Art Metrano.
Art Metrano was perhaps best known for going on variety shows and doing a phony magician's act, while accompanying himself musically to the tune "Fine and Dandy"---"Dah dah dah dah, dah dah dah dah dah...."
Howie claimed that he knew him, and went into an elaborate, hilarious story about him.
Cut to: about ten years later.
I hired Art Metrano to appear on one of my sitcoms.
I mentioned to Art that we know someone in common.
I mentioned my cousin Howie's name.
The reply I got was "I never heard of him"
And I made the very, very, very foolish mistake of telling this to Howie.
He didn't defend himself.
He merely looked sheepish.
He had a look in his eyes that said "Why would you go to the trouble of calling me on my bullshit? Are some things not sacred?"
I felt terrible.
And I never made that mistake again.
He was like a big brother to me, always looking out for my interests.
And my interests continually needed looking out for.
The last time I spoke to him, he was living in Las Vegas, where he wasn't working, merely living on his Social Security checks.
He told me he was moving to the Far East. Just like Saint Jack.
But for Howie, it was the Philippines.
People had told him that he could live like a King there on a nickel.
He was quite jubilant about it.
I wished him well in his upcoming royal existence, and asked him if he was still smoking.
This past week, I got a call from one of my other cousins.
It turns out that actual con men, not good-natured ones, had been the people who told Howie he could live in the Philippines on a nickel.
And when he got there, they Shanghai'd him, robbed him of all his Social Security money, made him sign over the next checks he received, tied him up, tortured him, and left him for dead.
Just for his Goddamned Social Security checks.
Just because he wanted to make life a little easier for himself.
He died shortly thereafter in a Hospice, and the body is being brought back here to be cremated.
Right now, I would give up the next six years of my life to not end up like that.
I can only hope that they let him smoke right up to the very end.
My books ,"Show Runner" and it's sequel,"Show Runner Two", can be found at the Amazon Kindle Store.
Along with the newer ones, "The Man Is Dead", and "Report Cards".
You can search by typing in my name, Cindy Williams, Laverne & Shirley, The Odd Couple, or Happy Days.
Check them out.
You don't need a Kindle machine to download them.
Just get the free app from Kindle, and they can be downloaded to an IPhone, IPad, or Blackberry.
The paperbacks, "Mark Rothman's Essays" and my new novel, "I'm Not Garbo" are not
e-books. But they are available for people without Kindle.
I have many readings and signings lined up for those, and the thing about Kindle is you can't sign one. If you'd like one of the paperbacks, personally autographed, contact me at email@example.com.
And now, we've got my reading of my "Laverne & Shirley Movie" screenplay on YouTube.
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- mark rothman
- Hi. I am, according to my Wikipedia entry,(which I did not create) a noted television writer, playwright, screenwriter, and occasional actor. You can Google me or go to the IMDB to get my credits, and you can come here to get my opinions on things, which I'll try to express eloquently. Hopefully I'll succeed. You can also e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Perhaps my biggest claim to fame is being responsible, for about six months in 1975, while Head Writer for the "Happy Days" TV series, for Americans saying to each other "Sit on it."