Alan Muskovitz reflects on his memories with his late friend Jeffrey Zaslow who gave him his defining George Costanza moment.
Long before I became a contributing writer to the Jewish News, I was asked to participate in a JN story that featured local members of the Detroit Jewish community who resembled famous personalities.
While my likeness to Paul Newman was unmistakable, the editors thought I more closely resembled Jason Alexander, aka George Costanza of Seinfeld. Go figure. I respectfully agreed to go along with that premise and well, yada, yada, yada, I was featured on the Dec. 22, 1995, cover of the JN as Jason/George.
Actually, my dear friend, the late great author Jeffrey Zaslow, beat the JN to the punch in the summer of 1994 when he asked me to enter a Seinfeld contest. No, not “that” infamous contest for you Seinfeld aficionados — a look-alike contest.
For 12 years, Jeff hosted an annual singles party, the Zazz Bash, in Chicago, which drew 7,000 of his Chicago Sun Times readers, resulting in 78 marriages and generous donations to charity.
Among the entertaining festivities that year was a Seinfeld cast look-alike contest. The field of Jerry, Elaine, George and Kramer contestants would be judged by applause by the thousands in attendance at Chicago’s Navy Pier.
Believe it or not I came in second, but only by inches. Inches? Yep, the winner was much shorter than me which turned out to be a “shrinkage” issue in that guy’s favor. I was 5 foot-10 inches and Jason is 5 foot-5 inches.
I would have to wait a quarter-century to have another encounter with my alter ego George. Jason, who won a Tony for Best Leading Actor in a Musical in Jerome Robbin’s Broadway in 1989, the same year Seinfeld debuted, was bringing his comedic and song and dance talents to Detroit to perform with the DSO at Orchestra Hall. His Nov. 2 show was a sellout, but thanks to two extra tickets from my wonderful friends Mark and Jennifer LoPatin, I would be in the audience!
Prior to his engagement, I heard Jason on the radio talking about how he would bring audience members on stage to perform with him. I immediately began to strategize how I could be among those lucky few. Then, to my absolute shock, I saw a photo of my friend Michael Seltzer on Facebook who had just posted, in real time, a photo of himself with Jason Alexander. Wait, what?
Michael was with Jason in the LAX Delta Sky Club. Michael on his way to China, Jason to Detroit. A panicked phone call to Michael went to his voicemail. But his wife, Lori, answered her phone only to inform me that after a conversation suggesting Detroit restaurants to Jason, he boarded his flight. He was gone! I believe my startled response equaled one of Kramer’s famous whip-lash type head jolts of shock. I was dismayed but not deterred.
I arrived early to Jason’s Nov. 2 show with a copy of my 1995 JN cover photo along with a short, handwritten note to him that an Orchestra Hall manager said she would hand to him personally. She even asked for my seat number so that Jason could find me during the show. Things were looking up!
Halfway through his performance, as advertised, Jason began hand-picking seven volunteers to perform a shtick with him. I didn’t raise my hand because of course Jason had my seat assignment. He would seek me out, right? Right? Right?
Nope. I could hear the soup Nazi yelling at me: “No show for you!”
I hold no animus toward Jason Alexander. As a legendary song and dance man myself — twice I’ve sung the “Banana Boat” song on Detroit’s Opera House stage with Harry Belafonte — I know how tough it is to appease adoring fans.
Upon reflection, the incomparable Jeffrey Zaslow had already given me my defining “George” moment during his contest. The mentsh that he was, Jeff also went on to get my Jewish News cover autographed by Jason Alexander when he interviewed him for USA Today. I wouldn’t trade those memories with Jeff for anything … even a chance to be with the “real” George.
Alan Muskovitz is a writer, voice-over/acting talent, speaker and emcee. Visit his website at laughwithbigal.com,“Like” Al on Facebook and reach him at email@example.com.