Hearne: Panhandler Jerry Mazer Off to Cheeseburger Heaven

Stop the complete presses…

Who said bad news comes in threes? Try four. To that lineup in the sky of recently departed local icons – DiPardo, Grigsby and Murphy – add the name, Jerry Mazer.

According to sources, Mazer, Kansas City’s most mercenary medicant, is no more.

Loved, hated, arrested, bullied, spat on, feared, banned – but most of all – recognized and well known. Who among the habitues of downtown KC, Westport or the Plaza wouldn’t recognize Mazer’s signature line, "Can I get a downpayment on a cheeseburger?"

The irascible Mazer, 56, was a fixture in Kansas City pop culture for the better part of the past five decades. In the mid 1990s Kansas City was forced to make a cash settlement with Mazer and agreed to repeal its anti-begging ordinance.

"Really, I hadn’t heard anything, I’m sad," says Tivoli Theater owner Jerry Harrington when told of Mazer’s passing. "I mean, he wasn’t a friend of mine but he was a Kansas City character – there was nobody like Jerry. No matter how irritated he made me, I always laughed. And when Jerry mellowed out a little it was better. In his belligerent days he was hard to take. He would cuss you out if you didn’t give him any money."

Midtown freelance paralegal Shawn Smith says: "I heard from a couple of people that he had died. And I talked with one of the African-American panhandlers who used to trade off with Jerry on the Plaza and he said, Yeah, Jerry had died in November. Then when I Googled him I couldn’t find anything. So it could have been something blown out of proportion – an urban legend – but when you hear something three times…"

Barnes & Noble on the Plaza’s Wolfe says, "As far as I know, he’s dead. We don’t know for sure but nobody’s seen him all year. Not since around last Thanksgiving."

Three years ago in the Star, I reported Mazer had contracted cancer.

""The doctor says I’ve got two years to 20 to live, so I figure Iíve got 10 years," Mazer told me then. "That’s a helluva estimate, isn’t it?

"I’m doing fine," he continued. "It’s almost been a year since I was diagnosed, but I’m doing fine. I’m trying to stay out of trouble — the cops pretty much have been leaving me alone …."

The end game for Mazer, I asked.

"For me? D-E-A-T-H. That ís between seven and 10 years now if I’m lucky. You never know because it’s up to God."

Had his philosophy on life changed? I asked.

"I’m trying to be nicer and crack jokes," Mazer said. "I don’t even think about the death sentence. But it’s changed my philosophy about how I want to be right with God and right with people, where I’m not a bad guy, so maybe I can go to heaven.

"Like yesterday I asked somebody for a down payment on a cheeseburger, and I got no results. So then I asked somebody for a down payment on a hippie-burger, and he called the cops and said I called him a hippie mother-(something). It didn’t sit too well with the cops, but they let me get out of here."

It’s funny, I could have sworn I saw Mazer sitting on a bucket outside the west end of Barnes & Noble Monday. From behind. If I’d had more time, I would have stopped and asked him how he was doing. Maybe entered the Twilight Zone or something with him.

So Jerry – if you’re out there somewhere reading, listening, looking down (or up) – come home; all is forgiven…

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26 Responses to Hearne: Panhandler Jerry Mazer Off to Cheeseburger Heaven

  1. Unbeliever says:

    I’m done with this
    Your choices between who is a douchebag & who is a lovable rascal are unbelievable. This site is dead to me.

  2. Nuisance says:

    This guy was a major nuisance. I’m no fan of panhandlers to begin with, but he was aggressive, mean and threatening. His humor was utterly lost on me.

  3. Hearne says:

    Eh, maybe to some. But colorful, no question. He single handedly backed down the city and the Plaza when they decided they wanted to keep street people off the streets. Like some of the musicians down there now – and yes – fellow panhandlers.

    Dead to you? That’s a bit dramatic. You’re starting to sound like Mike Hendricks.

  4. Fredo says:

    Better than glass and hunt
    I like this guy better than I like clark hunt and/or that piece of shit glass, at least this guy never ruined the Royals and fkd up the Chiefs……. that being said…….. I never gave him a penny, and he never much bothered me. RIP to him, maybe God (or the devil) will fill his change cup.

    I encounter this guy many times… here was our typical conversation…

    him: Got any some spare change for me?
    me: Do you have some spare change for me?
    he would give me a weird look and I would move on down the road

    No harm, but he usually smelled foul.

  5. smartman says:

    Nuevo Tres
    Griggs, DiPardo and Murphy are one triumvirate. Consider this; Danny Mayo, an icon in his own right was 59. Mazer, another icon, get it…. I Con…. was 59. Mayo-Mazer….who completes this group? As JC,(Johnny Carson), used to say wierd, wild, crazy, whacky stuff. Let us pray that Jerry is finally getting a Cheeseburger In Paradise!

  6. Matt says:

    Now I feel kind of bad…
    for chasing him down Main Street @ 40th back in ’85 or so. He called me an MFer and I let loose…it was very funny at the time. RIP Jerry.

  7. chuck says:

    I think I read once that he owned a house and did ok
    Still, he had a very questinable dental plan unless that was part of his shtick.

    He was always outside of Barnes & Noble for years. I read that he hassled a lot of folks, but he just rattled his cup at me. Never said a word.

    Maybe he died of cancer of the teeth.


  8. Tony says:

    He had an apartment with his girlfriend
    He paid the bills with our change.

  9. doG says:

    Bums never die, they just rattle the cup
    He aint dead, c’mon man.

  10. Unbeliever says:

    I’ll exhume the body this once
    I was actually refering to your character assassination of Brian Euston. Never knew him. Never met him. Don’t condone his choices.
    I’m just saying.
    I now uncerimoniously kick the carcass back into the grave.

  11. rocko says:

    I told him “suck my d**k, beggar”
    this was back in the early 80s, before Hearne blew him up.

    I was in a bad mood – so thought I’d head over to St. Pat’s church for noon Mass , and get it together.

    He was a 1/2 block away from church, and panhandled me, and I replied as above. He was taken aback for a sec, then said” yeah…nice thing to say on your way into chuch”

    he did have a point

  12. mermaid says:

    Maybe in San Fran?
    Years ago I was in San Francisco and while I was walking down the street I actually saw Jerry. I talked to him for a bit but this was years ago. So maybe he went someplace warm for the winter. He never hurt anyone. Actually a nice guy if you really talked to him as a person. Let’s hope he’ll be back.

  13. Rick in PV says:

    Get a proofreader, Hearne!
    It’s not medicant, it’s mendicant (i.e., beggar). Likewise, I caught haden’t, belligerant and Goggled.

  14. Hearne Christopher says:

    The rumors that he lived a life of splendor on other people’s dime was an urban myth. He had a lady friend – non romantic I think/hope – he stayed with at times. So he was better off than many down and outters but there was no Welfare Cadillac, no fancy-schmancy bachelor abode.

  15. nunya says:

    Curtis in Westport
    Do you have any idea what happened to Curtis who was a fixture in and around Kelly’s in Westport? At least Curtis was engaging and shined shoes and would talk about local happenings, Chiefs, etc.

  16. Merle Tagladucci says:

    Gone like a fart in the wind. Next.

  17. craig glazer says:

    Sorry to hear that. I knew Jerry, he was ok. Not in the league with grigsby,Dipardo or Murphy, but well known, cause of Hearne’s stories.

  18. nunya says:

    Craig… do you know?
    Since Curtis hung out by your old joint you had to have known him. Any idea what happened to him?

  19. craig glazer says:

    Last I Heard Curtis Moved to be with his Mom
    I heard he moved to Minnesota…not sure. Havne’t seen him in 8 or 9 years. Nice guy though.

  20. Curt says:

    Cheeseburger Dude
    I walked around the corner about a year ago and he gave me the “Change for a Cheeseburger? ” line. I said, “no thanks I just had a steak at McCormick’s and Schmick, can’t hold another bite” Dude never missed a beat, said “was it good?”….He was a pain in the ass though.

  21. Hearne Christopher says:

    Heard he moved up to Minnesota where he was from I believe. Something about his mother being sick. Jeez, we’re talking – what? – seven or eight years ago?

  22. Scott says:

    Don’t Count Your Cheeseburgers Yet…
    You never know, but he might still be working the streets somewhere else. Jerry actually took his show on the road for months at a time. About 10 years ago I was standing in downtown San Francisco and heard that “downpayment on a cheeseburger” line. Yep, it was him. He even sent his hello’s to his “friends” at the Plaza Barnes and Noble. He’s also been spotted from time-to-time in Denver/Boulder i think. So don’t be surprised if you see Jerry show up once the whether improves.

  23. sally n porter says:

    Hearne..graduated Sunset w/your Sis..please say “hey” to her for me..Sally Navran (Porter)..

  24. Mo Rage says:

    your comparison??
    How dare you compare the likes of Tony Dipardo, Mike Murphy or Bill Grigsby to this irritant. I thank the universe I no longer have to be asked that infernal, long-ago-not-“cute” question. I would not and never did wish Ill on this guy but geez, put him in perspective. Those 3 made Kansas City a much, much better place to be and in a lot of ways. They also brought joy to people.

    Mr. Mazer was an irritant, at best.

  25. Quincy says:


  26. John McBomb says:

    He’s still alive as of April 25 2012. living in SF
    He just asked me for a down payment on a cheeseburger. He was on Montgomery Street @ California Street. San Francisco CA.
    looked cleaner than some of the tourists. it’s annoying, because there are a ton of homeless people here with real mental illness, who are incapable of caring for themselves, and here’s jerry, asking for money, all cleaned up, freshly laundered clothes…. The other guys are doing their best to ignore the voices and hide from all the imaginary people following them, living a terror filled life of constant stress and hardship.

    so fuck this guy.

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