by Roger Zotti
In Steve Lazarus’s remarkable and often laugh-out-loud memoir, “The Pope and Me at Yankee Stadium,” he’s at his hilarious best when he writes about some of his co-venders – like Roderick Coleman. “During any given day he’ll stop wherever he happens to be… set down his Cracker Jacks… stand ramrod straight, and announce, ‘Ladies and Gentlemen, now batting, number fif-ty fiiive, Hidecki Matsui… Matsui… Matsui.” (Roderick always “[throws] in the reverb from the loudspeaker.”) He’s equally uproarious when he tells us about his Grandma Rosie, who “threw expletives around like a discus champion… Like peeling wallpaper, we just got used to Grandma Rosie – until company came; then we cringed.”
Steve wrote his book because “It got to a point where after you read a book, you say, ‘My story’s more interesting than that.’ I thought that being a comedian and vendor I had an interesting and unique story to tell. I don’t think anybody has ever walked in my shoes.” The events Steve writes about take place between 1977 – when he started vending at the original Yankee Stadium – and 2008.
Though writing “The Pope and Me at Yankee Stadium” with his longtime friend and co-vender, Sandy Miles, was a plus, Steve said, “we also got into many arguments about what to put in the book and what not to – well, that’s a way to almost break up a friendship.” Also, reliving some of the things “I lived through wasn’t easy or enjoyable. There’s some serious stuff in the book about gambling and being brought up gambling.” But overall, Steve added, “writing the book was a positive experience.”
What Steve hopes readers take away from his book is, first, that though people know what a vendor is “they don’t know what goes on behind the scenes, and I hope they say, ‘Wow! I never knew that about a vendor.” Second, there’s the book’s gambling aspect – which is, Steve makes clear, a serious disease. “On TV you see these celebrity rehabs for drugs, but you never see or learn much about gambling rehab. Maybe after reading my book, people will realize that gambling is a serious problem.” (Read the chapter titled “Seventh Inning.” You’ll learn how Steve supported his gambling problem that was “slowly and surely sucking the life out of me on a daily basis.”)
As for the standup comedy Steve started doing in the early nineties, making people laugh “is the greatest job in the world. I recommend it highly to anyone who has always said, ‘I want to be a comedian.’ Just do it because it’s enjoyable.” Steve’s biggest comedic influences are George Carlin and Robert Klein – “because it is so hard to come up with new material like those guys did year after year.”
If the people and situations Steve writes about weren’t real, they’d have to be invented – which is a big reason why his book is so distinctive and terrific. Visit Steve’s website, www.ThePopeAndMe.com, to order it. It’s a great read.