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All about Me!: My Remarkable Life in Show Business
Author:Mel Brooks

All about Me!: My Remarkable Life in Show Business

Mel Brooks

       “I was so careful.

I picked the wrong play, the wrong director, the wrong cast. Where did I go right?”

    —Max Bialystock, The Producers


The writing of this book serves as a kind of confession.

You, the readers, will be my confidants. I’m going to tell you all my secrets. Things I’ve never told anybody. Things I don’t want anybody to know! I don’t want you to breathe a word of what you find out in this book. Keep everything under your hat!

Wait a minute, wait a minute…that might not work.

I’m not in a confessional booth, and a lot of you are probably not priests.

This is a book! And this book needs to sell!

* * *

So let me revise what I’ve just told you:

Don’t keep it under your hat. Spill the beans! Spread the word. Let the secrets out! Tell all! Tell everybody! Let everybody you know hear all the terrible things I’ve done. Everything I didn’t want the world to know—shout it from the rooftops!

(Because I think I’m gonna need a couple of million confidants to make any money on this book.)

* * *

So fasten your seatbelts and hang on for this wild ride that’s mostly about my life and career in this crazy thing called show business.

Okay, let’s start the adventure!

Chapter 1


It is 1931, I am five years old, and my older brother Bernie takes me to see a movie called Frankenstein at the Republic Movie Theatre. Big mistake! That evening, even though it was a hot summer night, I closed the window next to my little bed. My mother hears it being closed and immediately comes into the bedroom and quickly opens it.

“Mel,” she says, “we’re on the top floor and it’s a hundred degrees in here. It’s very hot. We have to keep the window open.”

I counter with, “No, we must keep it closed! Because if we keep it open, Frankenstein will come up the fire escape and grab me by the throat and kill me and eat me!”

(Even though it was the doctor who was named Frankenstein, all the kids called the monster Frankenstein because that was the title of the picture.)

My mother, realizing that she could never win by demanding that the window stay open, decides to reason with her five-year-old baby boy. “Mel,” she says, “let’s say you are right. That Frankenstein wants to come here and kill you and eat you. But let’s look at all the trouble he’s going to have to get to Brooklyn. First of all, he lives in Transylvania. That’s somewhere in Romania. That’s in Europe. And that’s a long, long ways away. So even if he decides to come here, he has to get a bus or a train or hitchhike to somewhere he can get a boat to go to America. Believe me, nobody is going to pick him up. So let’s say he’s lucky enough to find a boat that would take him here. Okay, so he is here in New York City, but he really doesn’t know how the subways work. When he asks people they just run away! Finally, let’s say he figures out it’s not the IRT, it’s the BMT and he gets to Brooklyn. Then he’s got to figure out how to get to 365 South Third Street. Okay, it’s going to be a long walk. So let’s say he finally gets to Williamsburg and he finally finds our tenement. But remember, all the windows at 365 are going to be wide open and he’s had a long journey, so he must be very hungry. So if he has to kill and eat somebody, he probably would go through the first-floor window and eat all the Rothsteins who are living in apartment 1A. And once he’s full, there is no reason for him to go all the way up to the fifth floor and eat you.”

    The story made good sense to me. “Okay,” I said, “open the window. I’ll take a chance.” And that’s how my patient, loving mother solved only one of the many problems I would hand her each day.

Since we’re talking about me, let me go back to the very beginning. I was born on June 28, 1926. As far as I was concerned, a very good time to be born. Maybe not so good a date for the Archduke Ferdinand of Austria, as it was the twelfth anniversary of his assassination, which kicked off World War I. But in America things were good, we were still at peace and the Great Depression wouldn’t start until 1929. I was born in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn, New York. That’s where the Williamsburg Bridge makes its way over to Manhattan. I was the last child born to Kate Kaminsky, whose maiden name was Katie Brookman. A little later on in life when I was fourteen and learning to be a drummer, it occurred to me that if I was going to be in show business, Mel Brookman was a much better stage name than Melvin Kaminsky (which would be a good name for a professor of Russian literature). So with my new stage name decided on I began painting it on my bass drum, but when I got to B-R-O-O-K-there was no room left for M-A-N. I only had room for one letter, so I threw in an S at the end of BROOK. Hence, Mel Brooks, which has stood me in good stead ever since. But let’s get back to Melvin Kaminsky.

    Rumor has it that my mother said she already had three boys and the only reason she tried again was in the hopes that this last child would be a girl. The story goes that when the doctor delivered me and said to my mother, “You have a big, beautiful bouncing baby boy!”

My mother replied, “Do you want him?”

But I’m sure she was kidding. (At least I hope so.)

Being the baby of the family was good stuff. Everything went my way. I had three older brothers: Bernie who was four years older, Lenny who was seven years older, and Irving who was ten years older. I remember Bernie telling me one night that Daddy had come home with a little yellow rubber duck in his hand. Bernie was sure the duck was for him, but Daddy went right past his eager face and of course gave it to the baby—me. Bernie never forgave me for that. But my brothers were wonderful; we were like puppies in a cardboard box. We enjoyed one another’s company tremendously. Plenty of fights, but plenty of fun. My uncles and aunts also adored me, as I was the youngest. I was always in the air, hurled up and kissed and thrown in the air again. Until I was five, I don’t remember my feet touching the ground.