Hy Kloc is the associate general manager and director of development at Boise State Radio. But don't let that fool you. He has worked as an assistant buyer of ladies shoes in New York City's garment district, holds the patent on a wooden box drum, ran the Midwest chapter of the Grammy Awards and recently assumed the alter ego of the Scapegoat, an Old Testament creature that assumes all of the sins of a community and carries them off into the wilderness.
Kloc and his wife, Joan Wallace, moved to Boise in 2001, and quickly got involved in local politics. Kloc and Wallace live by this advice: If you don't get involved, you don't have any right to complain.
So I think I read on Facebook that you were born in Germany?
Germany; Essen, Germany. In a refugee camp.
What kind of refugee camp?
Right after the war. My parents were survivors. We were on our way out of Europe as fast as we could. I was born in a refugee camp, and we lived there for three years. My parents were originally from Poland. We lost, obviously we lost all of our families pretty much. And we were the lucky ones, getting out.
How did your parents survive the war?
They were lucky, they were very lucky. My mother ended up in Siberia and my father fought with the Polish underground. They escaped from a camp and they were in Lublin, Poland, and they escaped from that camp. Did you see the movie, Defiance? It was out last year, it was really a great movie, but they lived that kind of life. Yeah, they escaped together, and in order for my mother to make it, she had to go to Siberia. We lost a sister along the way. My brother went blind along the way.
And they were reunited afterward?
Yeah, he went to Siberia and found her. And they walked out of Europe into all these displaced persons or refugee camps. They were set up for all these people that were survivors of the war. That's where I was born.
And you came here when you were 3?
Three, to Brooklyn. We had an uncle who left Germany in 1936, my mother's uncle. So he sponsored us and we were able to immigrate here. But we found out that the streets were not paved with gold. Went through Ellis Island, did all that stuff.
What did your parents do in Brooklyn?
My dad first worked in a paintbrush factory, then he went to work as a baker. My mother, she worked in bakeries as well as a salesperson. Then my sister was born, she was the first born here in this country.
Did you grow up in a Jewish neighborhood?
Yeah ... All the ethnic groups that came to this country, in Brooklyn, basically found each other. And there were societies set up to help new immigrants come over and we belonged to the society from Poland, and people that were also survivors. But I remember growing up seeing lots of people with numbers on their arms. And I always wanted to have one. Because it was like, everybody's got one. Why can't I have one? Then I found out why I couldn't have one and why I was lucky not to have one.
Did you ask your dad about it?
They didn't like talking about the war. They lost their whole families. My mother had seven sisters, they were all gone. My father, he had like three brothers and four sisters and they were all gone. And of course, all their parents were gone.
Why'd you leave New York?
It wasn't so much escaping New York as looking for new adventures. One of the things that I was always impressed by my dad I tried to emulate was the fact that he could come here with a wife and two kids not knowing the language and survive and make it. So I always wanted to do the same thing and that's why I moved around so much. And when the opportunity to go to school in Kalamazoo, Mich., came up I decided to go live there. How could you not go to a place called Kalamazoo ... Plus I was listening to a lot of music and I always liked that song "I Got a Gal in Kalamazoo." I think it was by Artie Shaw ... no the Dorsey Brothers.
Was it an adventure?
It was completely night and day between living in New York, growing up in an environment where there were, first of all, a lot of Jewish people that had shared similar experiences to me, going to a town that had a very small Jewish population. For some of the people I met, I was the first Jew they had ever seen. That's where I met my wife Joan.
Have you always had dogs?
Not always. Che actually was my first dog. I got him in Kalamazoo when I was there. He was a great dog. I always got my dogs from humane societies or pounds. Me and Che lived in a little apartment in Greenwich Village. We had a one-bedroom apartment while I was teaching up in Spanish Harlem on the Upper West Side. It was hard taking Che to Central Park because we always had to hitchhike up to Central Park, couldn't afford to take cabs anywhere. So we would hitchhike during the weekend and let him play on Sheep's Meadow. Up Sixth Avenue.
I don't think that's done much anymore.
I didn't see very many people hitching even when I was doing it. But I was living in a fantasy when I was doing that. I was teaching in a grade school and I was living in Greenwich Village. And it was like, it was one of the fantasies. When I was 12, 13 years old, I used to go to Greenwich Village on the weekend and all I wanted to do was grow a goatee and wear a beret and hang out with the beatniks. And I'd come home about 3 o'clock in the morning and we were still living in Brooklyn and my mother would always get all over me for staying out so late.
Tell me about this drum of yours.
The Gato drum. I did that for about 10 years doing arts and craft shows. And then all of a sudden I started dealing with Sears Roebuck, FAO Schwarz. So I went from making maybe five drums a week to 50 drums a week, to where at the height of my little factory I was making 150 drums a week. Then the drum just took off by itself and I ended up jobbing it out to some other manufacturers. The one thing I learned about business, you can grow too fast and be out of business just as quick and that's what happened.
Was that a profitable venture?
Why is it called the Gato drum?
I named it after Gato Barbieri, who is a saxophone player from Argentina who during some down times in my life I would listen to all the time. I think he's best known for the sound score for Last Tango in Paris.
How did you get to Boise?
We were in Detroit and I was working for Detroit Public Television at the time. Actually we were living in Farmington Hills and in Farmington Hills we couldn't even take our dog into any of the city parks even if the dog was on a leash. And we would go to the city council and try to get that reversed and we were running into lots of opposition and it wasn't going to happen. So we were going to move anyway. And then this job opened here in Boise and we were on our way to Europe when I got the call that they'd like me to come out for an interview. So we had to cancel that trip, we came here ... it was like a five day-interview. That was our vacation, we had never been to Boise before and it just blew us away.
Is a five-day interview normal at Boise State?
Maybe it was a three-day interview. Joan got a chance to just explore the town. I said, "Joan, where the yids at?" When we were here, we were having lunch at the Cottonwood and we were walking down the Greenbelt and we saw this sign that said, "Future home of the Ann Frank Memorial." That's when I turned to her and said, "Where the yids at?" She actually found the synagogue downtown. She came back and said, "I found them." We went and we called the synagogue to check out what the Jewish community was like because I still wanted to be around a Jewish community.
How are you the Scapegoat?
The Scapegoat is something I've been fantasizing about for years. My original thought was ... I'll come into your business and you can blame me for whatever is wrong with the business. You can't hit me, you can't sue me, but you can blame me. We were having dinner one night and we were talking about this fantasy of the scapegoat and what this meant. And someone suggested well why don't you do this as a performance art piece at the Modern when they were doing their art night. And she made this goat costume for me and I got a Segway to drive around the Modern's parking lot taking the blame for people. People would blame me for the strangest things.
There was a lot of political blame. People blamed me for W. Some people blamed me for being a single mom with three kids. Some people blamed me for lying to their third grade teacher in school. It was a combination of blame for things that they felt guilty about and it was also something of taking the sin and passing it off to me. The only thing I wouldn't take the blame for was somebody trying to blame me for having to put their dog down and I said, no, even the scapegoat has got certain boundaries I won't cross. I rejected that one.
Do you feel like you relieved people of these burdens?
I think so. I think some of the people who did it that night at the Modern, they were laughing about it later and they said yeah, it feels like it was good just to get it off my chest.
Get something off your chest today at scapegoat.boiseweekly.com.