the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

A Chicken Sausage for One of the Mishpucha


(Mishpucha: family in Yiddish)

Jordan Monkarsh
Jody Maroni’s Sausage Factory

An Open Letter

Dear Jordan Monkarsh,

Before I tell you why I’m writing to you, please let me explain who you are to the readers of this blog.  You are the gourmet hot dog and sausage king of the Los Angeles area.   I first learned of your delicious gourmet dogs at your famous Jody Maroni’s stand on Venice Beach.  Soon, you had stands in several places around town, including Dodger Stadium and LAX.   Trader Joe’s even started selling your great turkey and chicken sausages. 

I thought about writing this letter to you for about a year now, but I always felt embarrassed and "chickened out," as they say in the sausage business.  Today, Sophia suggested I blog about you, and hopefully you’ll end up seeing this on Google and respond.

My reason for writing you is quite simple.    A year ago, I learned that you, the creator of my favorite gourmet hot dogs, weren’t really a Jody Maroni, but a Jordan Monkarsh.  Now Monkarsh is also my mother’s maiden name.  I have never met anyone else with that last name.   Do you know where this name comes from?  Is it the name of a small village in Eastern Europe somewhere perhaps?   Who knows, maybe we are long-lost relatives brought together by our love of chicken sausages?

Now, I’ve been reluctant to write to you because I was afraid you would think that I’m a crackpot, or worse – some loony out to ask you for money.  I’m sure you’re worth millions by now.  Even if we are somehow related, I do not want a penny.  I don’t even want any free sausages.  OK, one might be nice — just as a gesture for the family.

All I really wanted to do was say hello.   I thought that there might be some weird spiritual reason that one of my favorite Los Angeles foods was created by someone with the same last name as my mother’s.

While I have your attention, here’s a little story you might find amusing:

Several years ago, my wife, Sophia Lansky, and I went to Memphis to visit Graceland.  While walking around town, we noticed that inside the famed Peabody Hotel was a men’s clothing store named Lansky’s.  It was a famous place in town because the Lansky Brothers were Elvis’ official clothiers.  They supplied Elvis with his flashy early clothes and his famous Gold Lame’ jacket for his early performance on the Ed Sullivan Show.


We went inside the store and asked one of the salesgirls if there was still a Lansky involved with the store because Sophia’s last name just happened to be Lansky as well.   All of sudden, the salesgirl grew concerned and called over a security guard.  The store seemed to go on red alert.  A curtain opened from the back and an elderly, but dapper, very-successful looking Jewish man entered.  This was BERNARD LANSKY himself, the man that clothed Elvis.  We were as close to being with Elvis himself as we would ever get. 

"So, you say you’re a Lansky," he asked.

"Yes." said Sophia.

"Where were you born?"


"Where in Russia?"

"Odessa, now in Ukraine."

"I know.  I know.  Do you have two forms of ID on you proving that you are a Lansky?"

Sophia showed him her CA drivers license and her SAG card.

Bernard Lansky eased, but only a little.

"And what do you want?"

"Nothing.  Lansky is a fairly rare name. Just curious to meet someone with the same last name."

Bernard Lansky explained that over the years, many people, claiming to be Lanskys, had tried to get money from him.  We assured him that we had no interest in his money.

He became friendlier and told us all about clothing Elvis wore and how he personally made Elvis his gold lame jacket.  He said that his store on Beale Street became a big success because everyone wanted to dress like Elvis.   Bernard Lansky and Sophia talked a bit.  It seemed that Bernard’s family came from Russia also.  When some customers came in, we decided to leave.   Before we left, he told Sophia to "keep in touch."

"One more thing," he said.  "I have a gift for you."

He gave Sophia a souvenir from his famous store in Memphis – a hanger.  Mind you, it said "Lansky" on the hanger, but it was a hanger.

So, Mr. Monkarsh, as you see, Sophia did not walk away empty-handed.  Sophia left Mr. Lansky carrying a precious memento. 

What about you?  Would it kill you to give one free Tequila Chicken Sausage with Jalapenos, Corn and Fresh Lime sausage to someone who just might be part of the mishpucha?



Today on Blogebrity:  Humanity Critic  (his site)


  1. schuey

    see, my last name is also a big toy store in NY and when I went there, I had to pay for the toys I bought. I’m jealous.

  2. better safe than sorry

    there’s a theatre in my city that has my name on it, well, almost my name, one letter different. some of my friends will see something in the paper about a new play opening and ask me whether i was named after the person the theatre was named for. maybe i should contact them too, i might be a free ticket, well, at least a piece of the ticket, with my name on it.
    i never realized what neil was short for until i saw your full name, sweet!

  3. LisaBinDaCity

    YUM, I miss that sausage, that’s good stuff! If you are related to them could you ship me some freebies? Thanks ever so.

    LOVED the Lansky story. I adore that kind of thing. Wasn’t there a gangster named Meyer Lansky as well? Maybe Sophia is related to him too. Think of the souvenir you might receive from his FAMILY 😉

  4. anonymous city girl

    and you wonder why you have a cholesterol problem? 😉

    man, now I’m craving a hot dog.

  5. ekramer

    even though your grandparents came from poland in a shtetl called nehra that i am sure no longer exists. the name monkarsh was traced to be from hungary

  6. Melissa

    I always feel like I’m missing out on something around here because I’m not Jewish…

  7. He's Dead, Jim!

    Neil, your mother has been making sausages under a pseudonym for all of these years, and just now you’ve figured it out?

  8. JJ

    God, that sounds good.

    If you get two, FedEx one to me.

  9. Elvira Black

    PS: Those sausages: are they glatt kosher–or at least regular kosher? Is there such a thing as kosher sausages? I smell oxymoron.

  10. M.A.

    I want to be a part of the mishpuca. And a sausage one would be awesome.

  11. Pearl

    Trying out my Jewish geneology knowledge on you and your mom — could Monkarsh be a bastardization of the word Munkatch/Munkacz, Hungary, home of the great Munkatch Rebbe? Perhaps family roots lay there…

    The only other Lansky I know of is gangster Meyer Lansky, whose birth name was Majer SuchowliÅ„ski. Don’t know if Sophia wants to claim being related to him.

    My maiden name is rather famous in the world of music, the theatrical stage and psychology. My married name is famous in the world of children’s TV/movie entertainment.

    As for me, I’m not so famous; okay, I am, but only on my blog…and maybe yours!

  12. TWM

    You do know the next time I am in Memphis I am going to check this out, right?

    Sophia, Lanski, Odessa, Ukraine.

    Now I need to work on my accent.

  13. Neil

    Pearl — Wow, the internet is amazing. In five minutes, I think you just solved an age-old family question about the Monkarsh name. I’m calling my Mom now.

    And Elvira — No, they are definitely not kosher. Even the chicken ones are use a pork casing. I have no idea why almost all hot dogs use a pork casing, except for the real kosher ones like Hebrew National. Maybe Jordan Monkarsh can explain it.

  14. Jack

    If you want Kosher Sausage you can always try Jeff’s

  15. Heather B.

    well I’m jealous because I have no famous family members and I’m not Jewish.

  16. kris

    What a fantastic possible relation . . . I’m pretty sure I’m related to Arvid from Head of the Class.

  17. Neil

    Don’t laugh, Kris. That’s a Hollywood connection. Would you know if he’s looking for a screenplay to star in?

  18. mrsmogul

    My last name is the same as a famous director. When I used to go to my local video store, I told them I was the daughter of this director, thus getting free videos!

  19. Neil

    When I was younger, I used to get Kramer vs. Kramer jokes. During Seinfeld, I would hear Kramer comments. When I first moved to Los Angeles, people would ask me if I related to someone at Kramer Toyota in Santa Monica (you have to live here to understand this one).

  20. Sanora

    My husband’s last name is Bartels. There is a Bartels Harley Davidson shop in Marina del Rey. Here’s the kicker, we’ve never gone down to the store and he actually is related. I think they’re first cousins. I never thought about the possibility of getting a t-shirt out of it. Of course, Carl wears an Indian Motorcycle t-shirt because his dad worked there for years in Springfield, MA so the rivalry would probably kill the moment.

  21. anne arkham

    Too bad he felt his real last name wasn’t as marketable.

  22. Hope

    That sausage sounds delicious. If you are heir to a sausage fortune please don’t forget about all of us little people in blogland.

    My last name is not so common, but was also the last name of the superintendent of my school district growing up. I befriended her daughter who is a year younger than me, and she backed me up when I told teachers I was the super’s neice and I would get them fired.

  23. Ted

    Sanora your hubby could come to Seattle, we have a huge Pharmacy chain called Bartel’s.


  24. brando

    I thought about changing my last name, but I didn’t want to be accused of being anti-semantic.

  25. Brooke

    When I was a kid, my brothers used to tell people that Pete Rose was our uncle. I hope that they don’t believe that now.

    Recently, however, I found out that Lauren Bacall is my distant cousin. Now that is cool! Bogie is my cousin by marriage!

  26. jaimie

    I like the style of writing a letter to someone on a blog. I’ve done that a few times too.

    That was a good post!

  27. Jack

    People always ask me if I am that Jack Nicholson from the movies.

  28. ashbloem

    Oh my god, I LOVE Graceland. You are, officially, now one of my favourite people, since you went to Memphis specfically to visit Graceland.

    When I went, my two friends and I put fake Elvis tatoos on various body parts and displayed them proudly. We were put to shame by maybe a few people who had real ones.

  29. modigli

    This is great! And wouldn’t it be fabulous if you ended up with a statuette of a chicken sausage with “Monkarsh” enscribed on it? You could hang it next to that Billy-the-singing-Bass thingie you have that scared off the liberal dolphin trainer from San Diego.

    BTW, do you ever worry about writing all your family names on here? Mother’s maiden name is often a security verifier, right? Be careful, Neilochka! I think California is the 3rd most common state for ID theft. (Hey, just lookin’ out for ya!) 😉

  30. Neil

    Great, Mo. Now you tell me. Online. Along with everyone else reading this. But I have great faith in my readers. They may be a bunch or crackpots, but they aren’t criminals.

  31. miss marisol

    There is a clothing boutique in Madrid and a national bus line in the Philippines that both bear my last name. I got nothing free from either when I pointed this out. That’s a lie…the clothing store in Madrid gave me a plastic bag with my last name on it. Which I lost before I left the country.


  32. Pauly D

    I used to tell people my uncle was Jon Davidson from That’s Incredible. People always believed me so I suspect I didn’t pick a big enough star.

    Oh well. Next up – Tommy Davidson!

  33. Lynn

    Aah, the Peabody Hotel. Did you see the duckie march?

  34. Miladysa

    That was a great post, I hope you receive a least one sausage 🙂

    We are all family but it is something special when you find a family connection you were unaware of until that moment. BTW, this was how I entered the blogging world, some research I was undertaking led me to a blog and now I have a new distant cousin who I am extrememely fond of even though we have never met. I hope we meet one day and that I can introduce him to our distant loving family.

    Thank you for you kind wishes.

  35. DCS

    This is my first time on this site. I came here via Life Is Hilarious. You are so cool! I’m bookmarking you and plan to visit often. Awesome site!

  36. jungle_jane

    Although I am part of the Great Unwashed (i.e. i only get around 1 comment a day on my blog) i recently wrote about the complexity of pornogami and referred to a book i had bought on the subject. A day later the book’s author wrote a comment and gave me some very helpful instructions on rude paper folding…

  37. dan-E

    oh gawd i totally miss jody maroni hot dogs. although, and tell me if you agree neil, the on place that has better hotdogs are Pink’s Hotdogs up in hollywood.

    if you ever score a free sausage, be sure to tell us.

  38. Leaveit2cleavage

    Great post! I hope that you will keep up updated if anything comes of this, especially if you get the free sausage.

  39. Jack

    Hey now, Pinks is actually part of my family. Good stuff. Yum.

  40. Claven

    My first Jody Maroni’s sausage was at an Angels game seven years ago. It was a blissful experience for me. Not so much for everyone around me. That was possibly the most potent fuel that had ever entered my body. Good times.

  41. pattygal

    we met Mr. Lansky at the Peabody too. He wasn’t very nice. Kind of pushy and confrontational when he realized we just wanted the advertised Free Elvis poster and had no intention of buying a shirt! what did you think of the ducks?

  42. Dennis sweeting

    I went to the peabody met the man shook his hand and came back to england and wrote a song about him ,I could not get closer to elvis but mr Lansky had to do
    a fine man who ask for nothing and gives you his hand , god bless him , I hoped he liked my song as he never said , but I am just one of many people who have been there , and loved it ..

  43. Wolff

    Just wanted to let you know my family’s original name is also “Monkarsh” (maybe also spelled “Monkarj” or a variation of that). But my great grandmother changed it on Ellis Island to “Wolff”. So there may be others that are in unknowingly in disguise.

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