Jack Kemp Vs. The Poet
My friend Walden Muns was a classmate of GOP vice presidential standard-bearer Jack Kemp at Van Ness Avenue Elementary School in Hollywood in the '40s.For years I've been hearing about how Muns had the "dubious honor of being kicked in the ass, on the shin, and at the left clavicle by Jack Kemp." Obviously my friend now has some savory opinions of Mr. Dole's running mate.Muns, who is known as a poet's poet, is conservative by inclination. He supports himself by his work in the real estate business. But if he were to vote for a Republican, it's a good guess Kemp would not be among his top choices."Jack Kemp," says Muns, "played his role as the selected leader of an intimidated Unterkinden, and was unhappy unless he was barking out orders to this unsmiling but cooperative squadron--the sixth grade pin-soccer team."Muns may have been every bit as WASP as Kemp, but at Van Ness he hung out with Borski, Binder, Stone and Levin, sons of Levi, all of whom lived on Norton Avenue in an otherwise solidly Presbyterian upper middle class neighborhood. (Kemp's family, of course, were Christian Scientists.)"We always seemed to be the object of ostracism. We were the ones Kemp always ridiculed in front of our teammates," Muns observes.On an otherwise beautiful blue day (they used to have beautiful spring days back in 1946), the wannabe-VP of half a century later yelled at Muns, "You sonovabitch, you missed the goal, needledick."Muns remembers another time when Kemp, at the head of a gang of his "boys," elbowed past him and his Jewish friends in the bathroom in a threatening manner."He pushed, he tripped me. He literally strong armed people. He'd kick you in the shins if you missed a goal, but I can't say he ever slugged me or hit me with a baseball bat. He just tried to make your life miserable all the time."Kemp never struck Muns as particularly smart. He could be calculating, but his intellect seemed rather prosaic. Kemp was also snobbish, which is why Muns and the Jewish boys from Norton Avenue never ate lunch with Dole's future running mate or his kind.Muns says that even though World War II was just over, there was still a strong residue of anti-Semitism, and anti-Asian sentiment, at Van Ness Avenue Elementary School. A few teachers were openly anti-Semitic in their classrooms."I never heard Kemp use a racial epithet, but at that time in my life I wasn't interested in competitive sports. I was interested in music, writing, taking long walks by myself. I was looking for heroes, not bullies. Kemp was a bully who really pushed people around, a physical bully. When I saw his face on television recently, I said to myself, 'Mrs. Randall didn't teach that boy a thing, not even manners'."Muns pauses. "And I guess I'm still afraid of Jack Kemp."