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Mel Brooks Misses the Bagels in Vilna

But other than that, the comedy legend is pretty happy in Los Angeles

Stephanie Butnick
August 12, 2014
Mel Brooks speaks during a 'Salute To Sid Caesar' at on July 16, 2014 in Beverly Hills, California.. (Imeh Akpanudosen/Getty Images)
Mel Brooks speaks during a 'Salute To Sid Caesar' at on July 16, 2014 in Beverly Hills, California.. (Imeh Akpanudosen/Getty Images)

Comedy icon Mel Brooks was born in Brooklyn in 1926, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t miss the old country. Specifically, Vilna (though his mother’s family was from Kiev, and his father’s family was from Danzig.)

In an entertaining interview with Tablet contributor Taffy Brodesser-Akner in Town and Country, the father-son duo of Mel and Max Brooks sound off about Los Angeles, where Brooks has lived since directing Blazing Saddles in the 1970s. The younger Brooks, born and bred in L.A., is an author and screenwriter. He spoke to Vox Tablet in 2012 about his second zombie novel, World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War.

Here’s Mel on leaving New York for the west coast:

The only thing I really missed were the sounds of Brooklyn: the quick rhythms, because I noticed they are much slower here, their talking, their rhythm. I still miss the pizza. And the bagels from Vilna.

And on growing up in Williamsburg.

MAX: But you always said you liked houses better than apartments, because when you grew, up a house meant success.

MEL: Right. I came from Williamsburg—the south side, not rich. My mother raised four boys on her own, and we moved from one apartment to another. We had an option to buy the Rising Glen house, but we didn’t. We moved to another place, on Foothill Road [in Beverly Hills]. It was a ’50s classic ranch house. High ceilings. My favorite memory of L.A. was moving into the Foothill house, with that U-shaped pool. I said, “If there’s such a thing as heaven, this is it.”

And on horse racing, and food:

MEL: The thing that has never changed is Santa Anita racetrack. I love racing, and I think that is the most gorgeous racetrack in the world. MAX: But we just lost Hollywood Park.

MEL: That was a heartbreak. Not only did we lose a famous historic racetrack, we also lost the stir-fried chow mein they served there, which I ate every Saturday and Sunday.

You can read the full interview here.

Stephanie Butnick is chief strategy officer of Tablet Magazine, co-founder of Tablet Studios, and a host of the Unorthodox podcast.

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