Perennial Boy Scout Jasper Kraft’s conversation made me think, “My God, this guy can’t be for real!”
Even as a Scout, I never spouted Jasper’s brand of goody-goody b.s.
Jasper had moved near me on Central Park West, and I shuddered at the idea of having to listen even more often to his self-justifying prattle. I didn’t want to get snookered into vying with him as to who was the “better” man.
At the New York Athletic Club, he told me he was a CPA in a big accounting firm.
His wife, Leona, was a child psychologist with children from a previous marriage. Jasper said, “My new family comes before everything else in life.”
He passionately accepted responsibility for raising another guy’s kids.
Professionally, he claimed that his accounting methods far exceeded the routine level in his firm. “I’m an artist,” he said, “They don’t use my real talents!”
Now, as an opera singer, I am sympathetic to such talk. My own career has greatly benefited from admirers.
I’m enough of a Boy Scout to answer a cry for help that’s practicable.
I told Jasper I was getting my income tax papers together soon, to file with the IRS.
Jasper announced elatedly that he was going to help me by taking over my tax filing. “I admire you so much, I’m going to do your taxes for you — gratis.”
After work, Jasper dropped by, and for hours, sought stray tax stuff on my computer.
“I’m rebuilding your system — everything in apple pie order!” Jasper said.
I felt a strong need to repay Jasper somehow.
I suggested giving a few singing lessons to Leona’s 14-year-old daughter “gratis.”
The kid, Ursula, picked a lesson time and then didn’t show.
Jasper blurted out that his coming to my place was irking his wife because “the family (her kids) came first.”
I laid a “5 C’s” in Jasper’s hand, and said, “Jasper, let me pay you and get this tax thing done pronto.”
Jasper protested the money while pocketing it.
Fred Franklin, CEO of a prominent stock exchange firm, invited b.w. and me to dinner with his partners and their wives at the Metropolitan Club on Fifth Avenue.
Suddenly one of my do-gooder Boy Scout ideas popped into my stupid head.
I called Fred and asked if I could bring Jasper and wife along.
Fred paused, then laughingly said, “Of course… of course.”
Jasper was happy as a puppy when he heard this.
Later he called back to say his wife had “something more important” to do that evening.
“OK,” I said. “Come alone.”
He said, “It’s a date.”
The day arrived, and 10 minutes before we were leaving, Jasper phoned to say he decided to replace Leona with her 14-year old daughter, Ursula, as his dinner partner.
“That’s impossible!” I sputtered.
“Hold on…” Jasper said. A minute later he stammered, “Leona is so furious about your treatment of her daughter, she says she’s ready to walk out!”
Jasper abandoned me — with my half-done taxes and my now-fouled-up computer.
I’m living proof of Oscar Wilde’s old adage “No good turn ever goes unpunished.”
Do they award merit badges for being an “ass”?
Right now, I’m sewing a scarlet “A” on my sweater.
Who is Louis Roney?
Harvard’42—Distinguished Prof, Em.—UCF
2004 Fla. Alliance for the Arts award
(Assisted by beautiful wife Joy Roney)