Brother Michael’s turned 68. First of my adulthood friends, our kinship spans decades. Birthdays, like his today, are honored not with gifts, but with breakfast.

I’m not sure what this means (probably nothing), but when I met MJ he was the same age my son is now. We were, (believe it or not), in Bea Fried’s Studio—at dance rehearsal for a Deak play. He was the preferred candidate in the upcoming lodge election, and when the soon-to-be Outer Guard shook my hand I thought I’d touched royalty. (You have to remember, Hal and I’d been weaned on The Lodge. Our father had us in Shaker-Lee Hall long before our mother showed us to The White House. Priorities, you know).

I can still picture that night. As the new kid on the block, the only one I really knew was Jeff Schneider. Michael, on the other hand, was the Pope. Moreover, he’d just returned home, having buried his father. All eyes were on him…until they were on me, clumsily pirouetting into the star. More than once.

He was intimidating—larger than life—and I didn’t know what to expect. I waited for this Jewish Jackie Gleason to explode. What came though was a smile, and laughter. Arm around me, in his thick Philly brogue, he calmed me: “Relax, Bogie,” he said. (HE KNEW MY NAME!) “Be glad I didn’t stomp on you.” It was a moment of warmth and the first time I truly felt lodge-accepted. (Picture the end of “Casablanca” when Rick tells Renault “Louis, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship” and they walk together into the mist).

Indeed, the friendship has been wondrous. Still, while we’ve shared a myriad of social and life cycle events, what I most treasure is the fact that my friend has never lost faith in me. Ever.

Like at lodge, where he encouraged my innovation (and controlled my damage). It was ’83, the year I was Chancellor, and the average age of our brother knights was deceased. Eyeing the future, ignoring the wisdom of 600 or so altacockers, I chose Brothers Cutler and Widman to run the all-important entertainment committee. (Think: Secretary Of State). The Deaks never got behind us; they never responded. Heck, it got so bad that one Thursday Widman sat through an entire meeting with a brown paper bag over his face—eyes and mouth cut out, introducing himself as “The Unknown Brother.” Week in, week out though, Michael kept his game face on. Night after night he stood before his peers pumping up future social events, knowing full well each was destined for failure.

It was Michael, too, that cajoled me to travel. “Bogie,” he said back then, “You’ve GOT to see San Francisco.” (I’d have rather seen Youngstown). But we went. Oh, I negotiated a stop-over in Vegas…but five, yes five glorious days were spent in that city by the bay. My then-wife loved it, but me? Counting each hour, I knew it was time for me to keep MY game face on. From Finocchio’s nightclub to Fisherman’s Wharf to Julius Castle…you’d have thought he worked for the Chamber Of Commerce.

“Bogie, you’ve got to see Napa Valley.”
“Bogie, you’ve got to get wine labels with your name!”
“Bogie, you’ve got to see Sausalito.”

I never objected; I always smiled. He was, after all, ahead of me in the lodge. No, I never bitched, never moaned…but once. We were at Hanson’s Art Gallery that very first night. My wife saw a Susan Springer painting she liked and like thunder that east coast voice crackled “Bogie, buy it. It will only go up in value.”  We abstained.

Four days passed and our bags were packed. Three hours separated us from a flight home. And then I caved. The rat-a-tat-tat of Michael’s urging brought me to my knees. No mas! Retracing steps to the gallery, we plunked down $500 on the credit card de jour. “Bogie, when the artist dies you’ll be rich,” he promised. (Ed. Note: Our marriage died in ’95; last time I looked Springer was alive and well).

Those were salad years, to be sure. But when times went south, Michael stayed. Friending me when I deserved much less, he gave not only furniture and clothing, but love. There wasn’t a year in my odyssey that he and Lana didn’t invite me to Seder or the “break fast.” Not one.

Best of all though, Michael’s championed my recovery from Day One, readily accepting my new regimen while sustaining our lifelong bond. He remains not only the link to a chunk of my past but a directional to my future growth. In tandem, the Jacobsons integrate with all Bogarts, keeping up on not only Hal’s health, but…valiantly, on Helen’s stealth.

And so it is that as he teases the ripe old age of 70, I wish Brother Michael a hearty, happy birthday. And…maybe this year, maybe even a present. But he’ll have to pick it up. It’s at a house in Beachwood and I don’t have the key. It’s on the wall, though…nicely framed.

The artist is Susan Springer.

One Response to “THE RIGHT STUFF”

  1. Sherry says:

    Michael, you are the ultimate mensch…Springer or not. Wishing you a very happy birthday and many, many more.

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