Unsung Heroes of Hispanic Heritage Month: Berkowitz the tailor

yossiberkowitz They were ordinary people living ordinary lives, until one singular sensation of circumstance conspired with fate to make them UNSUNG HEROES OF HISPANIC HERITAGE MONTH.

In 1978, a young Chicano actor from Montebello, CA went to tailor Yossi F. Berkowitz to try on a new suit custom-made for his starring role in a Los Angeles play. Right away, he noticed that the coat sleeves were too long.

“No problem,” said Berkowitz, a long-time shop owner in nearby Boyle Heights. “Just bend them at the elbow and hold them out in front of you. See, now it’s fine.”

“But the collar is up around my ears!” the actor complained.

“It’s nothing. Just hunch your back up a little . . . no, a little more. . . . that’s it.”

“But I’m stepping on my cuffs!” he cried in desperation.

“Nu, bend back a little to take up the slack; put your hands in the pockets and pull up. There you go. Look in the mirror — the suit fits perfectly.”

Leaning like a tree, clutching his pants, the actor lurched out onto the street, startling a passing couple. “Oh, look,” said the woman, “that poor crippled man!”

“It’s terrible,” said her boyfriend, “but what a beautiful suit!”

We know that young actor as Edward J. Olmos; old man Berkowitz, of course, was sewing the Zoot Suit.