Akron’s quite a hike from the rising hills of Hollywood but Irv Korman knows you don’t have to go to Tinseltown to rub elbows with your favorite celebrities. In fact, he’s written a whole book to prove it.
In his book, “I was Jerry Lewis’ Bodyguard for 10 Minutes! … and other celebrity encounters,” Irv Korman leads readers on an exciting stroll down memory lane through his interactions with various celebrities. As a theater critic, this Akron native had the opportunity to meet dozens of stars when they came to Northeast Ohio to perform, including Mickey Rooney, Brady Bunch dad Robert Reed and George “Spanky” McFarland of The Little Rascals, just to name a few.
“As the celebrities I had met began passing away, I would tell people about how I met them and the particular situation concerning the meetings,” he says.
Each chapter details one of Korman’s celebrity interviews and includes photos and autographs he collected along the way. With articulate attention to detail, Korman’s stories transport you back in time and make you feel like you’re also mingling with Hollywood’s legends.
Korman, who got his start in the entertainment industry by lip-synching to Jerry Lewis’ “Never Smile At a Crocodile” at his grade-school summer camp talent contest, hopes that everyone who reads his book will take away a memorable experience from his stories.
While some people collect baseball cards or coins, Korman “collects” celebrity interview stories. In his filing cabinet at home, Korman has files on every star he’s met, including a short bio, publicity photo and notes on the star’s performance and what happened during their interview.
“In the case of entertainers, I have notes on how long each set was, the number of songs they did, the make-up of the band that backed them, and most have an audio recording of an interview with them,” he says.
Although Korman has spent time with dozens of celebrities over the years, he didn’t start writing theater reviews until 1978, and by that time, several of his favorite actors had died.
“I liked Errol Flynn’s movies and would’ve liked to ask questions about his life before Hollywood and about other stars he acted with,” he says.
Korman says he would have also enjoyed talking to celebrities about their Akron connections.
“I would’ve liked to interview Clark Gable and ask about his time in Akron before he left to pursue an acting career,” he says. “ … George Burns’ brother had a women’s store in Summit Mall called Birnbaum’s. Birnbaum was George Burns’ real last name; his first name was Nathan. That’s why his wife, Gracie Allen, always called him, ‘Natty.’”
Korman is currently writing a sequel to this book, which will include 30 other celebrity encounters, with the working title, “I Was Jackie Mason’s Chauffeur for 5 Minutes and More Celebrity Encounters.”
When Korman isn’t writing, he’s performing in local theater productions or appearing at events as one of his alter egos: Mildew the Mundane, Marlowe the Magic Clown or Santa Claus. He was also an Akron Public School speech pathologist from 1967 to 1997 and a senior lecturer at The University of Akron’s School of Communication for 13 years.
Today, Korman lives in Fairlawn with Francine, his wife of 42 years, who was behind the lens for most of his celebrity photos.
While each celebrity Korman met left a different impression on him, as well as a new memory for his “collection,” he learned the valuable lesson that celebrities are people, too — and it’s not impossible to find them in Northeast Ohio.
/ Writer Leighann McGivern is a senior at KSU working on her bachelor’s in journalism. She is currently the editor of the Daily Kent Stater.
E-mail them to managing editor Abby Cymerman at email@example.com.