I had lunch last month with the LA Weekly‘s Pulitzer-winning food critic, Jonathan Gold, and we got to talking about high school. He mentioned that one of his teenage tormentors at Beverly Hills High School was his Jewish co-religionist, the now notorious Jack Abramoff, and told me he had recorded a segment for “This American Life” detailing the drama.
That segment, which originally aired in June 2006, was rebroadcast last week and is now making the blog rounds.
“He was the sort of person who would walk across the street to be unpleasant to somebody,” Gold says.
Gold, who only recently trimmed his fiery-red Hessian hair, describes his high school self as “nerdy soft kid who brings his cello to class.” Abramoff, legend has it, was the bulked-up jock who could squat over 500 pounds.
“In my most notable instance, I was walking down the hall to history class, and he hip-checked me ... I went sailing down the stairs with my cello,” Gold says. “He was laughing about it with his friends. I suspect he forgot about it five minutes later. I didn’t.”
When Abramoff was sent to prison, Gold was elated. “It’s just beautiful. It’s more than I could have wished for.”
Abramoff’s demise was a long-time coming, and was indicative of the corrupt influence of K Street on Congress. The most amazing comment Abramoff, an Orthodox Jew, gave during his downfall was to The Jewish Journal:
I had lost a sense of proportion and judgment. God sent me 1,000 hints that He didn’t want me to keep doing what I was doing. But I didn’t listen, so He set off a nuclear bomb.
For what it’s worth, Abramoff claims he’s never met Jonathan Gold. It sounds to me like Gold wasn’t the kind of classmate he would remember.