The 2000-Year-Old Man On 44th Street

The 2000-Year-Old Man On 44th Street

Reading the newly released Mel Brooks book “All About Me” recalled my hysterical weeping years ago when hearing his LP record The 2,000-Year-Old Man, a multitude of comedy sketches he performed with Carl Reiner.

The Press boys, Uncle Irving and Poppa Paul unbeknownst echoed the Brooks-Reiner routine minus Yiddish accents.

The Brooks/Reiner version:

Here’s a man who was actually seen at the crucifixion 2,000 years ago, and his first words were, ‘Oh boy. You knew Jesus? Yeah’ he said, ‘Thin lad, wore sandals, long hair, walked around with 11 other guys. Always came into the store, never bought anything. Always asked for water.’

The Heyday shop on 16 East 44th Street had a private telephone line from Uncle Irving’s private corner in the custom department to dad’s office in New Haven. I remember once taking the phone from my uncle,

“Dad, Prince Albert of Monaco, Grace Kelly’s son just came into the store with a retinue of retainers all decked out in Paul Stuart. Never bought anything.”

Irving frequently one-upped his brother bragging to him about the vast coterie of top tier celebrities he befriended who “came into the store and bought.” Dad’s lowdown was strictly New Haven, albeit patrician bands of Elis renewing their patronage and friendship with Paul Press often cited by them, “the Cary Grant of York Street.”

New York social climber Dick Press utilized club memberships, charity benefits, prep school/college reunions, top tier boozing all over town to lure these tribal entities into J. Squeeze. Unlike the Jesus/Two-Thousand-Year-Old Man chatter none of them wore sandals or sported long hair. Most of them bought. And they didn’t ask for water.

Back to Mel Brooks, “If I cut my finger that’s tragedy. Comedy is if you walk into an open sewer and die.”

I walked into plenty of open sewers during my years on 44th Street., however I’m still breathing. 





We’ve all heard of great guitarists who let one get away, and spent decades looking for it. “Why in the world did I ever trade/sell/give that guitar?” Just prior to Christmas vacation in 1968, I went into the store on York St. and bought my Dad a beautiful Norfolk Jacket in Harris Tweed, which he loved, and always wore it on appropriate occasions. (He was a great clothes horse and looked great in it.) Fast forward to 2000, when my parents’ house was being emptied for the new owners, and for some reason I let several of his things go, including the Norfolk Jacket. Now it’s “Why in the world di I ever leave that, my favorite garment, although it was my Dad’s?” So now I’m doomed to surf ebay looking for it, settling for a beautiful Eddie Bauer, but still…….

Van E Smith