This last chapter of the Elliot Mintz Sound Portrait is not a farewell. We hope that we have been an usher in the cinema of elliotmintz.com and its content. Within, we hope you may find entertainment and perhaps learn along the way.
The inexhaustible supply of memories and subjects shared by Elliot Mintz draws back to this man for another glass on another evening of pleasant reflection.
Hans Lippersey, being the likely inventor of the telescope, was looking for something beyond what everyone else was looking for… In this last chapter we turn the polished lens of his perspective upon the man himself.
Again, Elliot Mintz invites us in…
Elliot Mintz: I’m in your hands, Paul, one more time.
Paul Leslie: Yes indeed. Indeed.
I just poured myself my first glass of the evening and it’s a 2012 Macon-Villages Chardonnay.
Well, I am also drinking a Chardonnay. The last time we had a conversation of this depth, I was drinking red and you were drinking white, and now we are both drinking white wine.
Would you like to propose a toast over the telephone and after you propose the toast, we’ll click our glasses against the receiver?
Okay, I will. May the airwaves never cease to carry your work, may the calm voice never fail and may the whole world be privileged to mince words.
That made a lovely sound. So ladies and gentlemen, the man I’m talking to is Elliot Mintz. Thank you so much for joining us.
My pleasure, Paul.
Who does Elliot Mintz say that Elliot Mintz is?
Who does Elliot Mintz say that Elliot Mintz is?
The first time we talked I asked you, “who is Elliot Mintz?” and you said it depends on who you ask.
I’ve got you now.
Check, but not quite mate because there are others of course in all of our lives who had issues of who we are, what we represent to them, what we mean etc. And then there are those of us who are quite assured of who we are. I’m not. I can’t answer the question because I don’t know who I am. I am working on that on a daily basis. I’m a creature that changes by the hour, minutes and seconds like in kind of subjectively discuss things that interest Elliot Mintz and this is about I can do all of that, but the actual essence of me is still elusive. I think it was Sir Winston Churchill who once said that history of all countries should be written as a citizen of a different country, so the perspective would be from an observational point of view and frequently a biography tends to be more accurate than the autobiography. So I therefore would have to return to my initial answer that I gave to you that it depends on who you ask. I don’t know, but I am not completely in touch by what Elliot Mintz is as an individual.
There are two people that would have called you when they were around, they would have called you “son.” Everyone on earth has that in common. We all come from a mother and a father. And so, who were your mother and father and what are your strongest recollections of them?
The first of the two that come to my mind is my father, because I was closest to him. A very, very, very, very good man, an immigrant from Eastern Europe who arrived on the shores when he was 16 years old with just a shirt on his back and no particular skills, a vision and a dream escaping the madness of what Europe was like in that time. Who began to work in what was called in New York the schmatta business, please don’t ask me to spell it, but schmatta is kind of a Yiddish word that refers to a clothing or fabrics. And he spent 30 or 40 years of his life as a cutter, cutting from patterns that would have eventually become women’s coats, and he eventually had a small company with his brother called A&N Fashions.
The Garment District was five or six blocks away from Times Square in Manhattan. It was a very difficult life. It was before air-conditioning and summers were hot in that place where my father worked with those machines; we would cut through 20-30 different layers or levels of fabric and cotton, things like that, post-war things. I only visited him once or twice when I was a little boy, he took me downtown so I could see where he worked and it was grimy and dirty; there where two or three employees, a bookkeeper. He would walk with those pushcarts through the sidewalks of Manhattan in the heat of summer delivering his goods to people who might purchase them for retail.
He did that most of his life. Towards the end of his life he dabbled a little in real estate, buying small pieces of property with the money that he saved all of his life. He married my mother after they had a chance meeting at a place called Corsinger’s which was in Upstate New York. It was kind of like the getaway place from New York where usually Jewish couples would go to listen to Henny Youngman, to dance, to socialize, they would call it “being in the mountains.” And one day he met my mother there, who at that time was a bookkeeper in a small restaurant, the restaurant/nightclub which she left one day telling her friends that she was going to go to Corsinger’s because she wanted to find a husband. And as the story is told to me by my sister, the two of them found themselves in the same large room of what would look like a kind of a Country Club. And there was a Sadie Hawkins dance that came on and my mother, somewhat uncharacteristically – but I wouldn’t question my sister’s reportage – walked up to my father, who was at the end of the bar, with a couple of his pals and asked if he wanted to dance.
And he said yes and after a very, very brief courtship, he asked for her hand in marriage and it was less than a year later that I appeared on the scene in 1945. My mother was a homemaker and enjoyed that role, raising my sister and I. We grew up in a lower middle class neighborhood in the upper part of Manhattan. My father would wake up every morning at six or six-thirty, board the subway and go down to the Schmatta district, work until seven o’clock in the evening, come back on the subway. He now would be grimy, dirty, exhausted, he would take a shower and my mother would have food prepared at the table for the four of us just sitting and have a simple meal in a two-bedroom apartment that they lived in all of their lives. Both of them passed away in that apartment. He’s the one that I left when 17 or 18. They were loving people, demonstrably loving people. They held hands frequently; they talked with each other constantly and loved to laugh. I was the first born. They had no road map as to what to do. My mother read Dr. Spock’s books and listened to the advice from my granny. She did her very best with me and she did better with my sister. And she loved my father dearly. I remember my sister told me that when my mother died of a massive, unexpected heart attack in that apartment and the emergency crew arrived as they were taking my mother away on a stretcher and she was pronounced dead in the apartment, my father asked the EMT guys to stop for a second and he got down on his knees and he touched her hand and he said “thank you.” Those were the kind of people my parents were.
That’s very touching and both sad and amazing image to think of.
More than 50 years together and during that period of time, I think they spent two or three days apart. It was a different time, Paul, it was what we called the real deal time and I am certain that there are relationships – I’m just pouring myself one more glass, hang on a second – I am certain that there are married couples today who have that kind of romantic camaraderie, but I don’t run into a lot of them in this city that I call my home.
On your website, ElliotMintz.com, the introductory course, if you will, is an extensive interview that you do. You’re being interviewed by the famed DJ Jim Ladd. I wanted you to tell everyone what are your recollections of that night. I’m assuming that it was all one night, it looked like it was, you covered a lot of ground.
We did two interviews. We did one interview, just Jim and I are talking, and it was a long two-three hour interview. At the end of it, Jim said, look, there is so many other questions I want to ask you, but it was two or three o’clock in the morning, you know me, and he had to get home, but he said we should try and do this again sometime and go into greater depth. I thought that we had pretty much done it. In fact, that first interview with Jim was edited and I’m debating right now whether or not we should place some of those segments on YouTube, because there are things discussed in that first one that I never got around to in the second. But we finished that interview and not long after that, I met a young web designer who will be talking to you about in a little while and I showed him what we had taped that night with the two cameras.
You know, he said, it’s just kind of interesting, but basically you just have two talking heads going back and forth–his language and I don’t know who the heck you are and barely know examples of what you’ve done, so you might consider doing another conversation with Jim that could be intercut with videos and audio tapes and stuff from your archives and photographs and like a little bit more intriguing than just two talking heads. That led to me inviting Jim back to the house a few weeks later where we sat. It was all done in one evening. I think we taped six hours that night. It was a two-and-a-half bottle Chardonnay evening, because remember when the crew left around 3:30 in the morning and I was kind of cleaning up, I noticed the bottles that were directly behind the speaker which was the platform that the Tiffany lamp was standing on. And it was very long, it was very intense and Jim exercised tremendous patience. He obviously took a nap in the afternoon to prepare himself for that, but I was determined, Paul. I was determined to tell my tale once completely so I would not have to revisit those experiences again. And I simply told Jim, he should feel free to ask me anything and everything that he ever wanted to ask me, no holds barred, there would never be a “no comment” on my part and that’s how that on the website it’s called „Mintz on Mintz”, a homage in a way to “Blonde on Blonde” and I wanted it done. Also in the old days when people would sell Hoover vacuum cleaners door to door in the media and in marketing and in sales, they tell the story of that when Hoover introduced their standup vacuum cleaner, a salesman show up at the door, they would knock on the door and they would say to the housewife who was at home in the afternoon, look, I’ve got this wonderful machine that will take all the dirt and dust off the top of your carpeting and floors and if you let me come in for just a minute I’ll demonstrate the product for you. And obviously 10s of thousands said sure, come on in, the man would come in, he would toss a little bag of dirt on the carpet, plug in the Hoover, go back and forth for 15-20 seconds, allow the housewife to do the same.
The dirt was gone and he would say for $39 or whatever it costs, you can have this marvelous device. Frankly, I don’t know how people got dirt out of their carpet before the invention of the vacuum cleaner. Something worthy of research on a very quiet evening and that was how the Hoover vacuum cleaner became a household product. In media, one of the lessons learned is, if you want people to trust the product, you have to get them to trust the salesman who knocked on the door. Imagine today if somebody walked up to your front door, knocked on the door and said they were, you know, selling a vacuum cleaner, would you let them inside, so they can throw some dirt on, you know, people hanged up on telemarketers, they would slam their door. It was in that first moment when the salesman would have to convince the housewife who he was, that she was safe, he had something to deliver and perhaps it would enhance her life and he had 30 or 60 second sound bite in opportunity to do that.
“Mintz on Mintz” on my website is modeled up to the Hoover vacuum cleaner to some degree, that before you pay any attention to the 100 hours of content that I present on the website, maybe it’s important to know a little something about the guy who did this stuff and put it together and who is giving it to you for free. Maybe you’ve got to trust me a little that I’m not going to send you astray. Maybe you have to trust me about halfway through a sign will come up – if you want more send $8 a month to this post office box address. Maybe if you knew something more about me and how I felt about the world, you might feel a camaraderie with me and say, you know, I kind of see things very much like that guy or I don’t, but I find what he says to be intriguing. I’d like to know a little bit more about his world, his experiences, and the voices in people that brought him to the tentative conclusions that he’s sharing with me. That’s the purpose of “Mintz on Mintz.”Semnat de Paul Leslie