Old rapper’s got great form

Performer, ex-commie jock and mayoral candidate Howard Gomberg moves to his own beat

Subsection 1, Paragraph 3/ Item 9, Addendum D/
“See above” – What do you know?/
It says up there to “See below”/
And that’s the way of the system

He’s done nearly everything in his life, but one thing he’s never been is an everyman. Born Aug. 16, 1939 in Brooklyn, N.Y., he has always done as he pleased, from his youthful days trying different career paths, to his nearly 100 TV and film credits, to a questionably successful run for mayor of Toronto.

Meet Howard Jerome Gomberg, Through his own poems — and raps — he gives some insight on who he is, and how he got here.

This is the way we educate/ Guideline, administrate/ Back to basics, that’s the fad/ Bored to death? Isn’t it sad/ But that’s the school of the system

“I was one of the glorious dropouts of Thomas Jefferson high school,” says Gomberg, who is just as animated a character over the phone as he is in person. “I got what they call an equivalency thing a dozen years later.”

Gomberg said he was never one for the structured classroom setting, and left at age 16 to pursue his own interests. The schooling system, he feels, is too streamlined and only caters to one type of thinking, leaving some behind.

“Even though you may be a genius at mechanics ­— fixing cars and toasters — you still have to learn American history or Canadian history, stuff like that, and people fail at it.”

Yeah, I’m an old rapper/ word-trapper/
mind-zapper/ finger-snapper/ toe-tapper/
now look what’s happened/
and that’s no crap

Gomberg says coming out of school he had a bunch of interests — and he pursued them, whether it was wrestling, communism or football.

“I wrestled professionally for a couple years; I was Erich von Hess,” he said, before impersonating his old character. “ ‘Ein, zwei, drei dummkopf, I take you, I break you, I throw you from zee ring!’ That kind of guy.”

Then he tried politics — sort of.

“I was actually the troubadour, for the Socialist Labor Party in New York for the better part of a decade,” he said. “And I did play five years of semi-pro football and had a tryout with the New York Jets, so I was a commie-jock before I became an actor.”

Once he made the move to acting, Gomberg says his family breathed a sigh of relief, feeling that it was actually a step up from his prior endeavours. Now, over 40 years later, his acting credits include commercials, voiceovers, television and films, including a part in the recent film, Barney’s Version.

“It was a pleasure to be involved with a film of that calibre,” he said. “In making movies, I also got to work with Leonard Nimoy in a film called The Good Mother with Liam Neeson and Diane Keaton way back when. I also got to be in the (David) Cronenberg film Naked Lunch.”

The biggest notch in his belt though, Gomberg says, is being the founder of the Canadian Improv Games, a nationwide high school competition that’s seeing its 33rd year, and is continuing to grow.

“We have teams coming in from Australia now,” he said. “So if there’s a legacy that I have, that’s it — tens of thousands of young people learning the skill and art of improvisation.”

This is the way we pass a law/ To cover the way we screwed up before/
Form a committee, it’s ever such fun/ Form another to study that one/
And that’s the way of the system

Perhaps an underappreciated performance from Gomberg was his unsuccessful run for mayor this past fall. Though he had his own “Gomberg 4 Mayor” umbrella, it wasn’t enough to sway the votes his way. He managed only 477, which put him 33rd out of 40.

Or did it?

“Rocco Rossi’s votes, I count them as mine since he endorsed me,” he said, referencing a televised debate where frontrunners at the time were asked to endorse another candidate. “He was the last voice heard, endorsing me, so I claim his votes as my own, coming in fourth place.”

Gomberg’s platform relied on creativity as a means of moving forward.

“The principle was a city of creativity, and not just creativity in the arts, but creativity in our financing, in our culture, our hospitals — creativity everywhere!” he said. “That was the idea — to establish the world’s municipal university … a place where cities of the world come to learn how to be great cities.”

I’ve been a Buddhist/ a nudist/… I’ve whirled like a dervish/
I’ve worked with Ed Mirvish!/ I’ve sat in Indian sweats/
I mean, how weird can you get?/ And I love it all

Faith is also a major part of Gomberg’s life. He says while he used to speak very sternly against religion, now he can’t get enough of it.

“I’m a God intoxicant,” he said. “I love God in every manner, shape or form.

“I lived my own faith for 40 years, having been born and raised Jewish. First 20 years I was an atheist — hardcore, prosthelytizing, anti-god, anti-religion atheist. The next 20 years I was anything but Jewish.”

For the last 20 years, Gomberg says, he has returned to the faith of his birth through the study of Kabbalah. He then listed an array of faiths, teachers and mentors he has followed.

“I’ve studied the wisdoms of every culture in every time in history,” he said. “So I have a very rich and full spiritual life.

“How about you?”

About this article:

By: Shawn Star
Posted: Jan 25 2011 2:32 pm
Filed in: NEWS
Edition: Toronto