A Selfie-Made Man, Jerry Rosenblum is a Corsair to Watch
Social media phenom
Jerry Rosenblum is a Corsair to watch.
Jerry Rosenblum sings a song, dances a jig or mugs for the camera, he
brings pleasure to 17,800 people.
That’s how many
followers the Brooklyn-born retiree has on Instagram.
Which is pretty
remarkable, because Jerry never sang a note in public before his 69th birthday.
And he doesn’t know a thing about social media.
His whole career
was in men’s clothing stores. Before that, he was a Navy machinist during
World War II. The only songs he knew were “The Star-Spangled Banner,”
“Chattanooga Choo-Choo” and “God Bless America.”
and a Crooner
Jerry credits SMC’s
Emeritus Program with unleashing his mellow tenor. For the past 20 years, he
has been taking Vocal Training (Music E04) at the 2nd Street
campus in downtown Santa Monica. By now, he has a hundred Golden
Oldies in his repertoire. He keeps a song list in his pocket. Ask for “Young
at Heart” or “It Was a Very Good Year,” and he’ll croon it on the
Recently Jerry strutted
his stuff at the Edgemar in a program he lovingly organized to
showcase the talents of his longtime Emeritus “singing friends.”
On top of his
voice class, each semester Jerry faithfully enrolls in Current Events (Pol SC
E00). Thanks to that course, he went to the polls last November fully prepared
to vote intelligently on every candidate and ballot measure.
“To be able to
keep up with events taking place domestically and overseas makes you a more
interesting person,” he says. “When you know more and read more, you can
converse with all kinds of people.”
years ago, Jerry added Sheila
Laffey’s film criticism course (TH ART E30)
to his standing
curriculum at Emeritus.
teacher’s pet,” he chuckles. “I never miss a movie.” (His all-time favorites are
Fiddler on the Roof and The French Connection,
though he relishes everything from film noir to nature documentaries.)
Wonderful, Wonderful Experience”
It was only in
retirement that Jerry discovered the joys of learning. As a young man, he didn’t
have time for college. It was the Great Depression. He went to work at
14 to support his widowed mother. She lived to be 102, and Jerry, a confirmed
bachelor, took care of her all those years. It was for the sake of her health
that they moved from New York to Santa Monica in the 1970s.
Nowadays Jerry is
an ardent advocate for life-long learning. He talks up the Emeritus Program to
friends and neighbors, calling it “a wonderful, wonderful experience—a place to
make up for some of the things you didn’t have time to do when you were busy
with your family and working on your career.”
remains sharp as a tack. He can tell you the name of the cardiologist who performed
his quadruple bypass in 1991. Last year he easily passed the DMV test to
renew his driver’s license.
Yes, Jerry still
When he isn’t
taking Emeritus College classes, Jerry hangs out at the public library,
attending author talks and reading the financials to track his Schwab investments.
He’s a landlord, too, with rental properties in Las Vegas and Florida,
where his niece and nephew live.
It doesn’t sit
well with Jerry that his Emeritus classes are free, so he makes a cash donation
every semester. This winter, he went a step farther, creating his own
fundraising web page through the SMC Foundation’s Promise Holiday
Giving online event. The fund provides scholarships, textbook aid and
emergency relief for needy Corsairs. (You can help Jerry meet his $1,000
fundraising goal by donating
Star Is Born
Instagram celebrity came about serendipitously, thanks to an intergenerational
Katie Miller is a 27-year-old Uber marketing
manager who volunteers at the Silvercrest Senior Residence, where Jerry
has lived since his mother passed away in 1999. Every Friday, Katie leads
digital device workshops in the reading room of the Salvation Army-owned
building. Though Jerry himself has no interest in technology, his quick wit and
chatty, up-beat personality charmed Katie. She started coming early to join him
for dinner in the cafeteria. They became best buddies. Her friends became his
friends, and vice versa.
and Katie’s social media skills converged in 2015, after he penned a campaign
song for Hillary Clinton. Hearing that the presidential candidate would
have a book signing in Los Angeles, Jerry recorded his jaunty pastiche, sung to
the tune of “That’s Entertainment,” and burned it on a CD.
He set out for The
Grove bright and early that day. Seven hours later, he won a guffaw from
Clinton as she signed his copy of Hard Choices.
Hillary, I was a young man when I got in this line,” he’d quipped.
But Jerry never
heard back about his campaign song. When he shared his disappointment with
Katie, she whipped out her smartphone, videotaped him reprising “That’s
Hillary Clinton,” and uploaded it to YouTube. Deploying her arsenal
of social media skills, Katie made sure it got noticed. Time
magazine picked up the story. Soon Clinton herself was tweeting it out; her
campaign’s Facebook page posted a link to the video.
Katie kept snapping
pictures and making short movies of the bright-eyed nonagenarian as he went cheerfully
about his days. It was too good not to share.
In fall 2017,
she created an Instagram account, Jerry_Rosenblum,
and started posting her growing collection of life-affirming Jerry-isms.
Like this one:
“Raise your cane if you’re excited for the weekend!”
And this one:
“I just got my license renewed in January so now it will expire when I’m 101. I
always joke that I hope I don’t expire before it does.”
He started getting
fan mail from around the globe. More than a hundred birthday cards flooded his
mailbox last January. Followers send cookies and chocolates. One had gourmet
ice cream shipped from Penn State’s dairy farm. Another sent a box of
baclava from Amman, Jordan, with instructions to “share them with Peggy.”
A friend and fellow Silvercrest resident, the 100-year-old Peggy often appears
in Jerry’s Instagram feed.
Last summer, Katie
and Jerry discussed their unusual friendship on an LATalkRadio
seventy years apart in age,” she told the hosts, “we agree on many things. We
just really get along; we learn from each other.”
Next up: Jerry
is publishing his memoir, told through 125 “vignettes.” There’s even talk of a
reality TV show.
Clearly this 96-year-young
Corsair has a bright future ahead of him.
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