On this day, ninety-nine years ago (one year short of a century!) Jerry Rosenblum, amateur singer and raconteur, was born in Brooklyn where he spent his first forty-one years before moving to Santa Monica. I’ve known Jerry for over a decade and he’s the most optimistic person I’ve ever met. As he puts it, “At my age, any time above ground is gravy,” adding, “I just bought 4 new tires and hope to live long enough to wear them out.”
Being so sharp mentally, Jerry makes age 99 the new 66. Plus, having been in the men’s clothing business for 50 years, he’s always dapper. (Even his face mask matches his outfit!) Sharp of mind, sharp of dress, he’s also energetic to the point he can wear me out.
For example, last summer I finally finished a year-long labor of love, co-writing Jerry’s memoir, “An Angel on My Shoulder. (My First 100 years).” The story takes us all the way from his childhood memory of Charles Lindbergh’s historic landing in Paris in 1927 to his 2018 special friendship with Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. On occasion I’d have Jerry over to my apartment to show him updates of what I’d written and, trust me, after three hours I’d be the one needing the nap.
Recently, a mutual friend suggested we should get his book into a local book store and Jerry was excited at the prospect. I called DIESEL a highly popular independent book store on 26th Street in the Brentwood Country Mart as I had written a review for an author who had a very successful book signing there. As I was “pitching” Jerry’s book to the manager, he interrupted me, “Actually, Jerry was here when we opened and persuaded us into ordering his book. He’s one special guy,” he exclaimed.
Jerry’s book was placed in DIESEL’S display window next to Barack Obama’s “A Promised Land,” which sold 890,000 copies in the first day. (Jerry’s sold two but he was nonetheless beaming with pride to have his book to be next to Obama’s.)
On the other side was a framed of a smiling Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez fondly holding Jerry’s book. You see, in 2018 he’d written two campaign songs for her which led to a personal meeting in December 2019 in Venice at a packed “Bernie For President” rally. Like an exuberant teenager Jerry described meeting AOC as “One of the happiest days of my life!”
Jerry had big plans for promoting “Angel on My Shoulder.” Though tentative, famed Strand Books in NYC was considering letting Jerry have a book signing with the slight possibility AOC would introduce him all being broadcast on CSPAN. Unfortunately, the pandemic quashed those dreams. While I was discouraged, not so Jerry, “We’ll do it next year, Jack” he said in his typically upbeat way.
The pandemic also interfered with big plans for Jerry’s birthday. For the past four years there had been a celebration at a Karaoke Club in Culver City coordinated by Jerry’s best friend, kind-hearted Katie Miller, a beautiful millennial who met Jerry six years ago. As a volunteer, Katie was assisting seniors at Silvercrest, the Salvation Army apartment building on 5th Street, with their computers and cell phones. Jerry had neither but the two hit it off immediately. (On her Instagram page, Katie lists herself as “Jerry Rosenblum’s adopted grand-daughter.”)
At the birthday bashes Jerry entertained the crowd by singing two of the fifty classic songs he knows by heart, Frank Sinatra’s “That’s Life” and, most appropriately for Jerry, “Young at Heart.” Though Covid caused this year’s party to be canceled, “glass half full” Jerry assures me “My 100th birthday will be all that much sweeter.” (Years ago, Katie, set up an Instagram account for Jerry and he now has 22,000 followers so he’s already received birthday cards from all over the world.)
That brings me back to “DIESEL A Bookstore,” an invaluable asset to the community. Married couple Alison Reid and John Evans have owned DIESEL since 1989 but opened the Santa Monica store in 2008 where they’ve hosted book signings from authors including: Annie Leibovitz, John Dean, Chelsea Clinton, Katherine Schwarzenegger, John Sayles and Maryanne Williamson, to name but a few. DIESEL has been hit hard by Covid but with their Go Fund Me page and heart-warming community support, they’ve managed to keep staff employed and with continued health insurance.
As for Jerry’s birthday, today he will be the virtual guest on a special live edition of the “Mastering Modern Midlife” video podcast hosted by Catherine Grace O’Connell. So, at this very moment Jerry’s probably happily sharing stories and songs and enjoying his 99th birthday with the same joy he does every day. If you ask me, the DIESEL store manager got it right. Bless his soul, Jerry’s one special guy.
For DIESEL’s Go Fund Me page, Google “Help DIESEL A Bookstore keep open.” “Angel on My Shoulder” is available at DIESEL, Amazon and, for Jerry’s “personal curbside delivery” of a signed copy, call (310) 451-5383. With no curbside delivery, Jack is at: email@example.com.