And Then There’s Mel
Actor Mel Gibson’s recent drunken tirade against the Jews reminds me of a story I haven’t told anybody for a long time. Maybe it’s worth telling again now.
Back in 1973 I got my first real job working at Elgin Office Equipment at 810 Main St., downtown. I was a farm boy, just out of college, trying to get used to city life. I was ignorant about religion.
My boss at Elgin was Jim Weiss, the owner of the business. I worked with him and his brothers, Larry and Rodney, and became best friends with another guy who worked there, Jerry Heltzer. He and I would often go to movies together and on one Thanksgiving, when his wife was out of town, I invited him to go with me back to my parents’ farm in Indiana to celebrate the holiday. It was a great day and my parents “treated me (Jerry) like a king” — his words, not mine.
Somewhere along the way during my three and a half years at Elgin — and I can’t remember how or when exactly — it came to my attention that my boss, Jim, and his brothers and best friend, Jerry, were Jewish. Again, I was ignorant. I didn’t know what a Jew was. The Weisses all thought this was pretty funny, and I remember Jerry laughing at me about not knowing the difference between a church and a synagogue.
33 years later, I now know the difference. Jerry is living somewhere in Maryland, and I drop in at Elgin and visit my former boss, Jim, from time to time. I now know what a Jew is but I’m still going to plead ignorance. To me, people are just people.
And then there’s Mel.
I know he’s sorry about what he said and he knows it was wrong. Yes, he was drunk and liquor makes you say things you regret later. But it also sometimes lets the truth out, and I think Gibson’s true colors have seen the light of day.
He’s a fine actor and director, but I would rather be an ignorant country boy named Larry Gross than a hotshot racist named Mel Gibson.
— Larry Gross