Zero Mostel portrait on last post spurred HG thoughts about that comic genius/egomaniac/monster. He got his unusual name when he made his debut at the Cafe Society night club in Greenwich Village. He had no background. No reputation. Therefore, he was dubbed “Zero.” Of course, he was a sensation and his career took off like a comet until he was blacklisted in the Joe McCarthy Red Menace era. Zero named no names and rebuffed the inquisitors. He retired to his studio in the wholesale flower district of Manhattan and painted. He was quite a good painter. He outlasted McCarthy and triumphed in film with “The Producers,” and on Broadway with “Fiddler on the Roof,” and many other plays.
HG remembers waiting before the smoked fish counter at Zabar’s, the renowned food emporium on the Upper West Side. Zero was there and he and HG chatted and expressed mutual admiration for Zabar’s Russian pumpernickel bread. HG told Zero pumpernickel and chicken fat had been his favorite after school snack. Commented Zero: “Pumpernickel and chicken fat killed more Jews than Hitler.”