Here’s to Yohai and Mankiewicz

Published 7:17 pm Thursday, August 5, 2010

My heart, though having survived a stress test, is very heavy this week. And for those of you Suffolkians who celebrate the lazy days of summer the way I did in my youth, you should feel a little heavy-hearted as well. You see, two men who richly affected my summers as a couch potato have passed on.

Morrie R. Yohai died of cancer this week at the ripe old age of 90. Who is Yohai, you might ask? Among other things, Yohai was the creator of the all-time greatest sitting-on-the-couch-doing-nothing snack food ever invented. That’s right. Cheez Doodles.

This plucky little Harlem-born, Bronx-residing snack genius developed the treats in the 1950s, and our fingers have been stained with his cheese-dusted bounty ever since.

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Sadly too, Tom Mankiewicz, a screenwriter who worked his magic on some of my absolute favorite James Bond films like “Diamonds are Forever” and “The Man with the Golden Gun,” has also left this Earth.

Considering that I have seen every Bond flick from “Casino Royale” old-style to “Casino Royale” modern and have done so several times, I can only sigh at a loss that only Bond film fans and screenwriters can truly appreciate.

To know that the things that shaped your life are actually the brainchild of one or perhaps a small group of people is not only humbling but inspiring, as well. It was also eye-opening to read about people like Yohai and Mankiewicz in their obituaries and understand that they were just men, no different than me or you. They just had ideas—ideas that turned out to be achievements that all mankind could enjoy.

I am very happy that people like Yohai and Mankiewicz exist. Doctors and politicians may save lives, but creative types like these men save life itself from the threat of monotony.

So I’m glad Mr. Yohai looked at liquefied corn meal and saw what could be, instead of what was. And I’m glad that — though I’m only guessing on this one — Mr. Mankiewicz thought it would make a more interesting villain if Francisco Scaramanga from “Man with the Golden Gun” had a third nipple. You just can’t get that kind of thinking everywhere.

So to Mr. Mankiewicz, I thank you for making my coach potato days full of action-packed dreams and adventure. And to Mr. Yohai, I thank you for supplying the snacks while I dreamed of being 008, James Bonds’ successor. My orange-stained fingers and keyboard will always be my tribute to you.

It’s too bad we hardly ever get to meet those who shape our lives. But if I ever do, I’ll be sure to take the time to show my appreciation.

Before it’s too late to express my feelings personally, can some one please find the person who invented Funyuns? I owe them a great big kiss on the lips.