Mickey Katz, Borscht Jester


In the 1960s, my father kept a handful of well-worn LPs in the rack under the hi-fi: some Broadway soundtracks, some SinatraMitch MillerTchaikovsky and, of course, Mickey Katz. It was mandatory in every Jewish home.

What did Mickey Katz give the world? For starters, his son, Joel Grey – the Oscar-winning emcee of Cabaret. For another, his granddaughter, Jennifer Grey – the memorable Baby of Dirty Dancing. And, oh yeah, Katz also made some records.

They make for great listening, but even just to see them is to remember them forever. The cover of Mish Mosh features Mickey sitting with his trademark clarinet on a kosher deli counter, and The Borscht Jester shows him dressed as a clown on the king’s throne, holding a salami.

His shtick was Borscht Belt, Yiddish-spiced parodies, like a Weird Al Yankovic for an earlier generation. Among his memorable tunes: “Duvid Crockett, King of Delancey Street.” Another: “How Much is That Pickle in the Window?” – because “a pickele is good with hot doggies, or salami that’s hard like a brick.”

Katz died in 1985, but tomorrow would have been his 104th birthday. A freilekhn geburtstog, Mickey!

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