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Jackie Mason, one of the last borscht belt comedians, dies at 93

Jackie Mason, the sometimes-controversial standup comedian who unapologetically embraced Jewish themes and political incorrectness, achieving a national profile through a series of successful one-man shows on Broadway without substantial work in film or television, died Saturday in Manhattan. He was 93.

Close friend and family spokesman Raoul Felder confirmed his death in a phone call with NBC News. He said Mason had been in the hospital with various illnesses for more than two weeks. Covid-19 was not a factor.

“He died peacefully in his sleep with his wife and a few friends by his side” at Mount Sinai Hospital, Felder said.

“He had a great life,” he said. ” The trajectory of his life was amazing. He was active a year before his death. He was still writing. He had a very keen mind. He had knowledge in different fields.”

Comedian and actor Jackie Mason, shown in 1963, died at age 93 on Saturday in Manhattan, New York. Asher / Getty Images

Mason was one of the last of the Borscht Belt comedians, and he married that sensibility to strong views on racial and ethnic politics.

He also recurred on “The Simpsons” as the voice of Rabbi Hyman Krustofsky, the father of Krusty the Clown, winning his second Emmy for his efforts in 1992 and most recently voicing the character in a 2014 episode. He also appeared as himself in a 2007 episode of “30 Rock.”

In the 2004 TV special “Comedy Central Presents: 100 Greatest Stand-Ups of All Time,” he was ranked No. 63.

The comic received a 1987 special Tony Award for his highly successful solo effort “Jackie Mason’s The World According to Me!,” which ran for 573 performances. (He received an Emmy for writing the show after it aired on television in 1988.)

The one-man Broadway outings that followed included “Jackie Mason: Brand New” in 1990-91, “Jackie Mason: Politically Incorrect” in 1994-95, “Love Thy Neighbor” in 1996-97, “Much Ado About Everything” in 1999-2000 and “Jackie Mason: Freshly Squeezed” in 2005. His final one-man show, “Jackie Mason: The Ultimate Jew,” skipped Broadway.

Variety wrote of “The Ultimate Jew”: “The show is one long jab at the world’s hypocrisy, dusted with one-liners from the ‘take my wife, please’ vaults. Mason can be painfully old-fashioned, like when he tells the millionth joke about expensive restaurants serving small portions, but he doesn’t seem to care. For an aging crowd often ignored by the entertainment industry, the comedian’s refusal to be modern — and his mockery of modern ways — may be a comforting show of solidarity.”

“It’s harder to be amused,” Variety continued, “when Mason turns to minority groups. Inevitably, his barbs are about the foolishness of those who are not like himself and his aging, Jewish fanbase.”

Various recordings of his live performances proved quite successful on television or home video.

He defended his caricature again and again by saying it was his right to be “politically incorrect,” but they certainly did not endear him to minority groups. He denigrated then-New York City Mayor David Dinkins by using a Yiddish defamatory word for an African American — a term he used frequently in his act — generating controversy.

Mason made his feature debut in 1972 as the star of “The Stoolie” and later starred in “Caddyshack II” in 1988. The Washington Post declared that he looked “meek and miserable” in the part and was “upstaged by the gopher puppet.” In 2010 he starred as himself in the film “One Angry Man,” a courtroom dramedy that he also wrote.

He had supporting roles in a few other films, including Steve Martin vehicle “The Jerk” and Mel Brooks’ “The History of the World: Part I.”

On television he starred in the brief sitcom 1989 “Chicken Soup” and hosted 1992’s “The Jackie Mason Show,” which saw panelists address the topics of the day with irreverence in a manner that made the program something of a precursor to Bill Maher’s “Politically Incorrect,” which premiered the following year. (Comedy Central, which hosted the Maher program, was unhappy, however, when Mason came out with his 1994 one-man show “Jackie Mason: Politically Incorrect” and sued the comic, seeking unsuccessfully to force a name change.)

Jacob Moshe Maza was born in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, but grew up on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. He was ordained as a rabbi — there had been many in his family — but ultimately resigned from his post at a synagogue to become a comedian.

He brought an early version of his insult-heavy humor to a Borscht Belt hotel in the mid-’50s, but the audience was not ready for the sort of comedy that Don Rickles would later make more acceptable.

Mason made several appearances on “The Ed Sullivan Show” during the 1960s, but his relationship with Sullivan soured over Mason possibly having given the finger to Sullivan during one show; Mason sued Sullivan for libel and won, and the publicity helped his career at the time. Over the course of the decade he also appeared repeatedly on “The Joey Bishop Show” and “The Merv Griffin Show,” among others.

He made his Broadway debut in 1969 with the play “A Teaspoon Every Four Hours,” which he co-wrote. It ran in previews for 97 performances but upon opening closed after a single outing.

His career hit its stride with his first solo effort on Broadway, “Jackie Mason’s The World According to Me!,” in 1986.

Mason is survived by his wife, Jyll Rosenfeld, whom he married in 1991, and a daughter.

Diana Dasrath contributed.

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Pop mogul Simon Cowell was a racing flop with ‘awful’ £35,000 horse he owned with Ant and Dec – that didn’t win a penny

SIMON COWELL conquered the music world – but his foray into racing ended in disaster with an ‘awful’ £35,000 horse he owned with Ant and Dec.

The music mogul, 62, has done it all with bands like One Direction, Little Mix and solo acts Olly Murs and James Arthur, to name but a few.

Cowell owned an 'awful' £35,000 horse with Ant and Dec - but the runner didn't win a single penny in six races

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Cowell owned an ‘awful’ £35,000 horse with Ant and Dec – but the runner didn’t win a single penny in six racesCredit: PA:Press Association
Cowell remains a massive racing fan and loves Royal Ascot and the Epsom Derby

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Cowell remains a massive racing fan and loves Royal Ascot and the Epsom Derby

His Syco label – plus shows such as Britain’s Got Talent – have dominated the entertainment industry and brought him an estimated net worth of £385m.

A lover of Royal Ascot and the Epsom Derby, he looked perfectly poised to strike a knockout blow in the world of thoroughbreds.

But it turns out his runner was far from No1 in the charts – and never even finished better than fifth during a doomed six-race career.

Things looked promising at the start.

Named It’s A Yes From Me, the runner was trained with the respected James Fanshawe and sent off at 8-1 for his first race in June 2014.

But coming last of five by 13-and-a-half lengths was unfortunately about as good as it got for the gelding.

A month’s rest followed before he was sent off at 40-1 in a six-furlong sprint at Doncaster.

But there he could only manage fifth again, and it was same at Redcar the next month.

‘Dreadfully slow’

By October that year – with further finishes of sixth and tenth – It’s A Yes From Me came second-last in a one-mile race at Kempton.

One analysis of the race warned punters the horse was ‘one to tread carefully’ with.

Well, Cowell and Ant and Dec took that advice to heart as they never raced him again.

The horse was penniless from six races, never finishing high enough to recoup some of that £35,000 investment.

It’s doubtful Cowell, with hundreds of millions in the bank, lost any sleep over that.

But Ant and Dec revealed just how bad things has got with the horse during an interview last year.

Dec said of It’s A Yes From Me: “It was awful, it was a dreadfully slow horse.

“It wasn’t a racehorse it was just a horse, because it didn’t race.

“Every time we got to the BGT studio Simon would say, ‘I keep paying stable fees on this horse, but I’ve never seen it run’.”

Cowell originally wanted to name the nag after himself, but they settled on It’s A Yes From Me when they bought it in 2013.

‘It was awful’

Dec revealed its eventual fate: “I think it got rehomed.”

Of course it’s not all been bad for Cowell at the races.

He was one of the exclusive few at the Epsom Derby in June, having a great time with partner Lauren Silverman and Piers Morgan.

And two weeks later he was at Royal Ascot – where he first discovered his love of racing.

Cowell told SunSport’s Matt Chapman during a chat at Epsom: “I’ve got my son Eric with me today.

“My mum and dad years ago used to take me to Ascot and I was probably about his age – seven or eight.

Cowell with partner Lauren at Epsom earlier this year

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Cowell with partner Lauren at Epsom earlier this yearCredit: Getty
It's A Yes From Me trails behind in last during one of his six races

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It’s A Yes From Me trails behind in last during one of his six races
The music supremo tweeted about his horse's bad start... which never got much better

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The music supremo tweeted about his horse’s bad start… which never got much better

Most read in Horse Racing

“So the fact I can now bring him to the races as well is brilliant. It brings back a lot of good memories.

“Making TV shows is my passion. But racing is actually my second passion.”

He hasn’t made that passion the money-maker his music label is, but don’t rule out Cowell staging his own comeback at the track in the near future.

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Commercial content notice: Taking one of the bookmaker offers featured in this article may result in a payment to The Sun. 18+. T&Cs apply. Begambleaware.org


Remember to gamble responsibly

A responsible gambler is someone who:

  • Establishes time and monetary limits before playing
  • Only gambles with money they can afford to lose
  • Never chases their losses
  • Doesn’t gamble if they’re upset, angry or depressed
  • Gamcare – www.gamcare.org.uk
  • Gamble Aware – www.begambleaware.org

Commercial content notice: Taking one of the bookmaker offers featured in this article may result in a payment to The Sun. 18+. T&Cs apply. Begambleaware.org


Remember to gamble responsibly

A responsible gambler is someone who:

  • Establishes time and monetary limits before playing
  • Only gambles with money they can afford to lose
  • Never chases their losses
  • Doesn’t gamble if they’re upset, angry or depressed
  • Gamcare – www.gamcare.org.uk
  • Gamble Aware – www.begambleaware.org
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Minnesota wildfire doubles in size, creates its own weather

A wildfire in northeastern Minnesota more than doubled in size Tuesday, growing to more than 19,000 acres, after it produced pyrocumulous clouds that generated lightning and even raindrops, fire officials said.

The Greenwood Fire’s growth, most of which happened Monday afternoon, prompted firefighters to leave McDougal Lake, about 80 miles south-southwest of Duluth, officials said. Authorities fear that structures might have been destroyed or damaged.

“We had crews embedded, and as this fire took off, it was quite an effort to communicate with forces on the ground so they could get out,” said federal fire incident spokesman Clark McCreedy.

The pullout was a success, and no injuries were reported. However, downed trees and necessary cleanup mean crews have been unable to assess damage around the lake, McCreedy said.

In addition to the firefighter pullout, 159 dwellings were evacuated Monday, according to an update from the National Wildfire Coordinating Group. Cabins, homes and recreational sites remain under threat, the group said.

Patrick Prochaska, a Minneapolis resident who built a cabin near McDougal Lake in 2012, told NBC affiliate KARE that he watched via security camera as flames mostly bypassed his property Monday, causing minor damage.

“I was feeling very scared,” he said. “At the same time, I could see that it was not doing anything to the house, and it was kind of reassuring.”

The fire in and north of Superior National Forest has mostly performed according to the weather, fire officials said. On Monday, with dry fuel on the ground and temperatures in the high 80s, it was an expanding inferno punctuated by strobes of lightning.

“The winds were drawn into the fire from all directions,” the incident’s fire behavior analyst, Michael Locke, said in a video update Tuesday. “It created what we call pyrocumulous clouds. And really high in the atmosphere … you’d see a thunderstorm, and in fact they went high enough to produce a few sprinkles of rain and even some lightning.”

Temperatures dipped into the mid-70s Tuesday, and the blaze mellowed. “The real story was cloud cover and cooler temperatures,” McCreedy said.

More of the same, and possibly rain, was in the forecast, giving officials hope that they might be able to close the book on an unusually active and dry fire season in Minnesota.

Experts have said climate change has set the stage for extreme weather, including an increase in the frequency and intensity of wildfires in the Northern Hemisphere.

Firefighters — 426 were assigned to the Greenwood event — have been confronted with “prolonged, severe drought,” making parts of Minnesota look like the fire-prone West this summer, McCreedy said.

The Greenwood Fire, which was detected Aug. 15, is believed to have been sparked by lightning.

So far, firefighters have scored no containment, and areas including McDougal Lake, Sand Lake and the Highway 2 corridor have been under mandatory evacuation orders. The federal Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness was closed Saturday “due to active and increasing fire activity, extreme drought, limited resources,” the National Forest Service said in a notice.

Officials set a goal of Sept. 1 for full containment.

“We’re probably going to get more of that moderating weather for the rest of the week,” McCreedy said. “That opens the door for fire crews to make progress on the ground.”

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Hiker survives grizzly bear attack at Denali National Park

A tourist from Indiana was attacked and injured by a grizzly bear at Denali National Park and Preserve in Alaska on Monday night, park officials said.

The 55-year-old tourist, whose name was not released, was hiking alone in dense fog in the Thoroughfare Pass area when a mother bear and multiple cubs charged him from nearby bushes, the National Park Service said in a statement Tuesday.

He had puncture wounds to a calf, his left ribs and his left shoulder, the agency said.

The victim used bear spray that might have cut the attack short, the park service indicated. He walked 1.5 miles to a visitor’s center where “medical personnel” vacationing at Denali treated him as a park bus driver called 911, it said.

The hiker was taken to a medical center near the park before he was transferred to Fairbanks Memorial Hospital, about 120 miles away, park officials said. He was stabilized at the Fairbanks hospital, they said.

“Due to the apparent defensive nature of this attack, there are no plans to locate the bear involved,” the park service said. “Female bears with cubs are naturally defensive of their young, especially when surprised. There is no indication that this bear is unusually dangerous.”

Grizzly bears are federally protected as a threatened species in the lower 48 states. According to the National Wildlife Federation, fewer than 1,500 grizzlies are left in the lower 48, but they thrive, comparatively, in Alaska, where they have a population of about 31,000.

The backcountry area of the attack is closed for one week as a precaution, the park service said.

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