Show Business: Elliott Gould: The Urban Don Quixote

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the reasons was to see that I didn't trip on anything or step on anything that might be crawling."

No wonder he watched his step. Gould is the product of a frustrated and confused childhood that he has never outgrown. His early life sounds like a black-comedy nightmare by Philip Roth out of Bruce Jay Friedman—an anxious tale of well-meaning error populated by an overbearing mother, an overshadowed father and all the tensions that go with being an only child in a middle-class Jewish household. His trouble began in an apartment in the Bensonhurst section of Brooklyn, a claustrophobic 21 rooms where Elliott shared a bedroom with his parents until he was eleven years old.

Elliott's father, Bernard Goldstein, had been a Broadway paper boy back in the old days when Eddie and Ida Cantor would come over after the final curtain of Whoopee at the New Amsterdam to buy a copy of the morning edition.

But Bernie made his steady living in the garment business, moving from one job to another. At the age of 18 he fell in love with a girl he met at a Sweet Sixteen party, but instead married Lucille Raver "on the rebound." He found himself, on Aug. 29, 1938, the father of a baby boy. Bernie was only 24 and none too pleased.

He tried to make the best of things. He took his son to his first baseball game at Ebbets Field when Elliott was only 19 months old (the Dodgers v. the Cubs). "Four home runs were hit in the game," Bernie says. "I didn't see one of them. I was in the men's room with Elliott each time." As a child, Elliott was always anxious to please and quick to apologize when he imagined he had done wrong. When his father would tire after tossing the boy in the air and catching him, little Elliott would say, "I sorry, Daddy," throw his arms around his father and give him a conciliatory kiss. At the height of World War II, when Elliott was 51, Goldstein was drafted into the Army. He promptly fractured an ankle, contracted pneumonia and spent eight months in the hospital with a collapsed lung. Lucille made ends meet by selling artificial flowers to neighborhood beauty shops, while Elliott, saddened and confused by his father's sudden departure, spent a lot of time on the Brooklyn streets.

"We'd play things like Ring-a-leevio, Three Feet to Germany, Johnny on the Pony," says Gould. But he excelled at flipping trading cards bought by the fistful down at Irving's Candy Store. "There were Smilin' Jack cards, baseball cards, World War II cards with General MacArthur and the bombing of Tokyo on them," he recalls fondly. But mastery of card flipping and having his own charge account at Irving's were not enough. Gould was terribly conscious of "a degree of vulnerability, of not wanting to make a fool of myself. I didn't feel abnormal, but I certainly didn't feel normal."

Elliott's mother remembers. "This child," she says, "was too good to be true. He was too well-behaved. He wanted to please so desperately. I was too strict with him." She shakes her head. "Yes, Mama watched over him perhaps too closely. But it was done out of love. I wouldn't leave any stone unturned as far as this child went. I'd cut off my arm for this child."

When Elliott was 81, Mama decided that elocution

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