From the pages of Plotz ¥ Number 9 (PO Box 819, Stuyvesant Station, New York, NY 10009; $1)

Excerpts from: Tan Like Me

By John Bowe

As a halfie (half Jew, half Irish Catholic) I’ve always had a bit of an identity problem. My mom was the family Jew, so it was settled early on that I would, in fact, be Jewish. But without a male Jew-model to imitate, I had no idea what kind of a Jew to be. Did I wanna be the pencil-geek guy named “Andy” or “Lee”–the repressed, hardworking, shorthaired, strictly 87th-percentile-but-steady-as-a-rock guy who gets ahead in the world simply by showing up and never offending anyone? Did I wanna be one of the higher performance, big-haired girlie-men who look a little bit like Maureen Stapleton? You know, the ones with the weird body who tend to be funny and smart, but also very neurotic (i.e. Albert Brooks)? Or maybe the little guy, the super-intense, nutso nerd-type, like Woody Allen?

I got stuck here. Why? Cuz there ARE no cool male Jewish types to emulate. What the hell!?! Was this the legacy of so many Jews hiding in WASPs’ clothing for so long? (Answer: yes!) The only cool guy who was even relatively up-front about being Jewish was Bob Dylan. So, in my early twenties, I tried to be him–to no avail. Okay, I’m from Minnesota, he’s from Minnesota; I had that going on. But with methedrine being really hard to find back then, me hating folk music and not knowing how to play the guitar, it was kinda hopeless.

Finally, I opted for a rarely used but super-recognizable stratagem: the BLACK Jewboy. That is to say, the Jewboy who wants to be a Negro. I’m talking about the vein of Jewboys where you find most of the hipsters and bad boys–the Lenny Bruces, the Lou Reeds. So in my mid-twenties, I began to wear shower caps. I had a huge, heavy bike chain that I spray-painted gold, which I WORE while I sang for my band, The Minneapple Explosion. We had two identical twin backup singers. We played nothing but covers, rip-offs and psychedelic, FX-heavy spin-offs of Kool and the Gang, the O’Jays, Isaac Hayes, the Ohio Players, etc. I listened to nothing but James Brown’s “Hot Pants.” I had TWO black girlfriends. Pam was a junkie. She’d come over and nod off. Tana and I would watch all the blaxploitation flicks–you know, Dolemite, Superfly, Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song, etc. That kinda worked for awhile. But then I noticed that I had never once seen a black guy trying to act like a Jewish guy. Whoops! That took all the fun out of it. Finally I realized that short of taking melatonin pills and using shoe polish and going the “Black Like Me” route, the whole black thing just wasn’t going to happen. So eventually, I gave that up, too.

You’re probably wondering how the story ends. Well, as you noticed, all the “types” I mentioned were film people. I’d always been interested in making movies. And I finally realized that there was a Jewish type who was, if not cool, then powerful enough to be somehow beyond effective disdain–the movie mogul! Sam Cohn. Samuel Goldwyn. Right? I mean, they were HORRIBLE people. Fat, arrogant, tyrannical–but they got stuff done! Lots of stuff! And even when they TRIED (which they did) they could never hide the fact that they were Jews.

How does one go about becoming a movie mogul? I’m just going on faith here, but this being the 90s, I’m starting with my image first. Later I’ll get to the personality and talent stuff. For now, I’m getting my hair removed and sculpted into a bad comb-over, and I’m eating cream cheese like it’s going out of style. I’m getting a bunch of expensive, ill-fitting suits made up. And best of all, I’m spending a lot of time in the tanning booth to get that orange look that so many successful people have. Darling, I’m loving it. But I really gotta go now, cuz the mogul thing is ALL about having a million things to do. You know how it is. Gimme a call.

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Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): zine cover.