And in the case of Kansas City’s best known panhandler Jerry Mazer, it’s far from over. That after being diagnosed with cancer last year. Over the years Mazer has been a fixture in Westport, downtown and in recent years on the Country Club Plaza. And he just happens to have one of the more memorable come on lines in panhandling; “Can I get a down payment on a cheeseburger?”
“The cancer is still in remission,” Mazer says. “Knock on wood.I haven’t had any chemo. It’s bone marrow cancer, it’s Leukemia – just call me Lew. It’s going to kill me one day, but it really doesn’t bother me. I take it with a grain of salt, go to the doctor every four months.”
With cold weather and the holidays coming and a Plaza mindset less than friendly to the panhandlers (they’re the ones remember who pushed thru the panhandling ordinance KC police say they won’t enforce), how are things going down on the front lines?
“What’s the latest? It’s peaceful,” Mazer says. Nobody’s bothering me. I haven’t been arrested since a couple years ago.”
Will he be working the Plaza Lighting Ceremony this year?
“No, it comes on Thanksgiving,” Mazer says. And I like to have dinner with my family and watch football – football and turkey and good company.”
Mazer says he lives with a woman friend in a “shack” in the “ghetto.”
” You know, like little house on the prairie, little shack in the ghetto,” Mazer quips. “She’s my roommate. It’s just strictly platonic.”
As for his cheeseburger line, “I should get a patent on that, but I’m not,” Mazer quips. “I can’t afford that.”
People are nicer to Mazer now – perhaps because he’s Kansas City’s elder statesman of panhandling.
“About 90 percent good and 10 percent rude,” Mazer says.
The kind of reaction he gets from the 10 percent crowd?
Get a job; or get a life and eat shit and die.”
What Mazer wants for Christmas: “My two front teeth, no my one front tooth,” he says pointing to the space where it used to reside.