When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro. - Hunter S. Thompson

05 August 2005

From the Catskills' Last House Jester, Kosher Corn - New York Times

At my Dallas hotel, every morning there is a complimentary copy of USA Today (no thanks) outside my door.

I step right over it on my way to the lobby, where the front desk has copies of the New York Times and Wall Street Journal.

Surprisingly, however, there is no Dallas Morning News on offer. You can't even buy a copy in the hotel.

I asked about that. "Who wants to read the Dallas Morning News?" the desk clerk asked rhetorically.


Anyway, here's a sweet, sad and funny story from today's Times, about the last living tummler in the Borscht Belt:

From the Catskills' Last House Jester, Kosher Corn:
Mr. Krohn's occupation is unique to the borscht belt, where hundreds of hotels and bungalow colonies competed for the affections of the millions of New York City Jews who made the Catskills their summer refuge before air-conditioning, cheap airfare and changing tastes drained the region of its lifeblood.

The hotel tummler (pronounced TOOM-ler, with the oo as in look) was often a steppingstone to bigger careers in comedy. Alan King, Danny Kaye, Billy Crystal, Jerry Lewis and Jackie Mason all got their start as tummlers. Others, like Mr. Krohn, 49, never left the mountains, although he makes frequent freelance appearances at nearby Hasidic bungalow colonies or at lavish bar mitzvahs in New Jersey, where his Simon Sez challenge is a big draw. "I like to frustrate spoiled Jewish kids," he said grinning. "They all think they're so smart but no one ever lasts a minute."

Before he was hired at Kutsher's in 1986, he worked at Grossinger's, until that hotel went the way of countless other borscht belt landmarks. Although a handful of big hotels survive, none of the others have a full-time entertainer. "I'm the last of the great tummlers," Mr. Krohn said as he slipped a whoopee cushion beneath the bottom of an unsuspecting guest. "After I go, that's it."
Flying back to New York tonight... then returning to Dallas on Tuesday.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Uh. Check your hotel documents carefully, and you'll see that they add a $0.50 charge to your room for the *free* USA Today (it's hidden in the room rate and not as a separate line item). I think you can call the front desk to say you don't want it.