The Rittenhouse Review

A Philadelphia Journal of Politics, Finance, Ethics, and Culture

Monday, January 26, 2004  

My $1.58 Gummi Bears

I suspect most Rittenhouse readers are too young or too removed from New York to remember “The Bess Mess,” the gripping 1980s contretemps involving former Miss America Bess Myerson; her assistant, Sukhreet Gabel; her boyfriend, Andy Capasso; her boyfriend’s wife, Nancy Capasso; her friend, former New York Mayor Ed Koch; and the judge overseeing the Capassos’ divorce, Hortense Gabel.

That’s a shame. Really, it is.

There’s a terrific book about all of this, When She Was Bad: The Story of Bess, Hortense, Sukhreet & Nancy, by Shana Alexander -- you know, of “Point/Counterpoint” fame, “Shana, you ignorant slut,” and all that, except she’s a fantastic writer and James J. Kilpatrick was nothing more than a predictable irritant -- and while the book is out of print, and while I used to have a copy I cannot now locate, and one I promised to lend to a Philadelphia Inquirer reporter, it is worth finding, by you and by me, and not only because I once referred to the book, at TRR, as “the best beach read ever.”

Anyway, in the book Alexander several times makes mention of Myerson’s legendary, well, let’s call it, thriftiness.

While shopping in New York, whether at a fashionable boutique or at a knock-off shop on Canal Street, Myerson had the propensity, while she and her face were still well known in that city, having heard the quoted price, to respond, “Yes, but how much for Bess Myerson?”

I don’t know what took over me, but tonight I decided to try the same strategy. After trying to buy juice at the corner bodega (my choice was out of stock), I opted to treat myself to a bag of Gummi Bears.

“A dollar fifty-nine,” the cashier said.

Now, they know me there. They know me there very well. So I thought, what the heck, I’ll ask.

“Yes, but how much for Jim Capozzola?”

The cashier smiled and said, “A dollar fifty-eight.”

Do you know what? I pulled a dollar bill from one pocket and then reached into another and counted out my available change, and that spare change, remarkably, totaled exactly fifty-eight cents.

And so I procured my bag of Gummi Bears for not one cent more than a dollar fifty-eight.

Take that, Bess!

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