In the spirit of O.J.’s search for the real killer, I bring you the search for an actual dead body…
We’re talking about notorious Plaza panhandler Jerry Mazer, of course. He of the, "Can I get a down payment on a cheeseburger?" fame. The dude who in 1994 knocked the Plaza and City of Kansas City on their butts and got an ordinance banning bumming on the Plaza overturned. Not only that, the city had to cough up some cash for Mazer’s trouble to settle the case.
Mazer’s travels to San Fran and beyond and his subsequent run-ins with the Gestapo-like Plaza Patrol went on for years as he continued his pursuit of the American Dream along Kansas City’s Appian Way outside Barnes & Noble.
Until, several sources say, sometime late last summer or early fall.
That’s when Mazer, 56, allegedly tipped his toes toward the sky and said goodbye.
But absent confirmation of his death, who’s to say he’s not lying on a bed of pain somewhere – he was diagnosed with cancer three years back – or off gallivanting about the French Riviera or skiing the Alps?
"I don’t know," says Barnes & Noble staffer Tom. "But I know he had HBO, I heard him say that to someone else. I haven’t seen him for months."
Ditto, adds B&N staffer Ann.
"We heard he died in November and before that it had been since July since we’d seen him. You know, we all had sort of mixed reactions. He could be a pain in our neck – but no one wanted to see him die – he was a fixture. One of our staff thought he should put a cheeseburger outside on the curb as a tribute."
"He had a lot of regular contributors from Lockton and Polsinelli," B&N’s Becky adds.
So Mazer is missed?
"I don’t know, I go back and forth because I’m a journalism major and I’m for free speech," Becky says. "But we would have customers come in and complain."
"He would get mad or make up nicknames for people he didn’t like," says Tom. "Like he called me Kojak."
Which brings us to the search for confirmation of Mazer’s whereabouts.
After combing the Plaza and Westport and talking to dozens of people with no tangible detail of Mazer’s demise, I went to Kansas City’s department of vital records. There, had he died in KCMO, for $13 unlucky dollars I could get a certificate of his death.
"It’s not coming up at all," said the clerk. "But (even) with homeless people, their death certificates are most definitely filed if they died here in Kansas City, Missouri."
So is Mazer alive? Did he come to an untimely end at the hands of a pissed off passerby? Is he lying in an untrimmed lot of weeds, behind a grassy knoll, along a riverbank? Perhaps in his former "girl friend’s" basement, forgotten, the HBO blazing away on a black and white portable television.
I’ll investigate next week with Johnson and Wyandotte county authorities.
In the meantime, please forward any information you may have to firstname.lastname@example.org