Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Mom's Ex-Boyfriend

I should say it, right from the start: I’m taking liberties with the label.

They weren’t an “item,” as it were. Mom simply dated him. It was the late 40’s, and she was living in Manhattan. She was sharing an apartment with college friends, and because she had not yet met Dad, she was enjoying the company of a number of men. Back then, apparently, men and women dated a variety of others. They weren’t all focused on establishing exclusivity, so calling him her "ex-boyfriend" is stretching it a bit.

Still, though, they dated. And they dated enough for her to mention his name when she wrote in her journal during an oceanic voyage to Europe in 1948.

I once read that journal entry, where she compared him to a man on the ship. But aside from that, I don’t have too many details. I remember only Mom’s sharing with me that, at the time of their going out, he was at a loss for what to do with his life. Still in his early 20’s, he was considering becoming a rabbi. That, or maybe something else. He wasn’t sure.

He also told Mom a story once, and it was quite amusing. You see, when he was a child, he had surgery that resulted in his getting a glass eye, and perhaps because that acquisition began at such a young age, he ended up with more than one ocular back-up. And for some reason and at one point, he needed to use the eye that was kept at his mother’s in Ossining. So he let her know that he wished to retrieve it.

“Oh, no!” his mother responded. “That’s your Bar Mitzvah eye!”

...When Mom returned from her trip to Europe, Dad was waiting for her. And shortly after that reunion, they made plans to marry. They were living in Greenwich Village before and after their April 1950 wedding, and it was around that time that Mom ran into her “ex.”

He was in the neighborhood because he was taking classes at the New School. (Still unsure of his future; still trying to find himself.)

He also was strapped for cash.

When he asked Mom if he could borrow five dollars, she didn’t think twice. She went into her wallet, extracted the bill, and handed it to him.

And that was the last time my Mom saw Peter Falk.

She's always remembered him fondly.

July 2nd Postscript: I stand corrected. I'm not sure how the story became urban legend, but it did. I just spoke with my mother on the phone, and learned -- after 30 or so years of believing what I stated -- that I got the story wrong. Peter borrowed the $5 from her back when the two were dating. They were at a pizza place, and he was short on cash. A few days later, he dropped by the office where she worked, and he paid her back. Let the history books be written accordingly, and my apologies for getting it wrong!


Sioux said...

I also read that once, he was playing a baseball game, and the ump made (what Falk thought was) a bad call. Falk took out his eye and offered it to the ump, telling him, "You need this more than I do!"

What a great story, Katie!

Lauren said...

Loved your mom story.

Did your mom return the glass eye or use it as a paperweight?

Linda Medrano said...

What a lovely story! I was saddened when he died. I always loved him. This is sort of amazing isn't it? The paths taken and not taken! Hah!

cj Schlottman said...

Katie, What a cool story, and you wrote it down so well. I have never been around celebrities, so I am always fascinated by stories about them. Your Mom must have been something else! I loved reading this. Thanks.


Andrea said...

Thanks for this piece of history, Katie. I'm glad he became an actor, though something tells me he'd have made a good rabbi.

Anonymous said...

What a lovely tale to tell and to read. I love the way you dropped his name in right at the end. Was I alone in not expecting that? Though I have heard about Peter Falk's death on the newsI didn't connect the two until the last minute. Brilliantly written by the way :-)

Jules said...

Wow, is that true, your mom's ex was Peter Falk?! Any who... I was laughing at the glass eye retrieving. My high school teacher had one he would leave on the desk and say, "I'll be watching you." :)
Jules @ Trying To Get Over The Rainbow

Deb Shucka said...

Well, I didn't see that coming! What a great story, wonderfully told.

BECKY said...

Oh, Katie! I always love your stories of Celebrity Sight-Seeing in New York...but this one about your mom...WOW! Very cool. I loved him, too. He seemed like a "real" guy...down to earth.

Theresa Milstein said...

That's hysterical! Maybe she helped him get through a tough time, so he got to where he needed to be.

Jayne Martin said...

You could have been Peter Falk's daughter and then you would have been rich. So close...

What a great story. Falk was certainly one of a kind. I was sad to hear of his passing.