Burt Prelutsky

Most people have a natural curiosity about their ancestors. I, on the other hand, have absolutely no interest in mine. Seeing as how my parents and their parents were all Russian Jewish peasants, I suspect that none of their ancestors ever had the opportunity to be anything else. They may well have been swell people, but once you got beyond finding out that they always slept under many blankets, hated wolves and Cossacks, and loved borscht, I doubt if there was a lot more to know. Opportunity to broaden their horizons and the horizons of their offspring was, after all, the whole point of their coming to America.

As it happens, there aren’t many Prelutskys around. For one thing, my father only had sisters; my eldest brother never had children; my middle brother had two kids but he had changed his last name along the way, as did my son. So I am always surprised when a Prelutsky pops up. The first time I heard about one to whom I wasn’t directly related was the day several years ago when a hotel manager here in Los Angeles called to ask me if I was related to a Canadian named Gregory Prelutsky. I asked him why he was phoning. He said the guy had just run out on his hotel bill. I said that sounded like a Prelutsky, but I didn’t know the guy. The manager asked me if I wanted to pay the bill. I declined with thanks for the offer, and suggested he contact the Mounties.

The next Prelutsky I got wind of was Jack. About 30 years ago, a friend of mine mentioned that her kids loved his books of funny poetry. I had never heard of him, but I dropped him a note care of his publisher. I didn’t hear back and, so, I forgot about him until about six months later. It was a Saturday night and one of my delightful “Mary Tyler Moore” episodes had just aired. The phone rang, and it was Jack. He said he’d just seen my show, which he’d liked, and it prompted him to call. It seems he had come out from back east to visit friends in Seattle. He said there was a slim chance he’d be coming down to L.A., and, if so, he’d be in touch. I told him I was working on a pilot script at MGM, and if he wanted to reach me, that was the place to do it.