Senior Planet talks to…James ‘Jimmy’ Carrozo
A lifelong entertainer and original cast member of Hair, New York-born LGBTQ+ activist Jimmy Carrozo finally makes his big screen debut in dramedy Moon Manor – at 84 years old.
A heart-warming story about a man with advancing Alzheimer’s who decides to throw himself a fabulous FUNeral before his intentional death, Carrozo tells SENIOR PLANET he has no plans on leaving us any time soon, especially now he’s had his first taste of film fame:
Q: When did you first discover your love for song and dance?
JIMMY: As a little boy, I would sing on the subway and my mother loved it. When I was eight years old I was in a show and sang, ‘Daisy, Daisy, Give Me Your Answer Do’. I loved the enthusiastic reception and told my mom I wanted to be in show business. But then her attitude changed as she probably saw a future filled with problems.
Q: And then you joined the army?
JIMMY: I come from a military family so it was expected of me. My great-uncle Jim was one of Teddy Roosevelt’s ‘Rough Riders’ storming up San Juan Hill in Puerto Rico, and my three older brothers were all in the service. My brothers Matty and Charlie were both in WWII and saw action and my brother Billy was involved in Korea. But when I joined the army, there was three years of peace in the world and I was stationed in Okinawa. I was a good soldier but didn’t see any action.
When I was outed as gay, to avoid a dishonorable discharge, I agreed to surrender all rights to my VA benefits.
Q: And you were able to entertain in the army?
JIMMY: Yes with FENO (Far East Network Okinawa). We supplied news and entertainment throughout the Far East. We were part of an elite cadre of Army, Air Force and Marine personnel. I learned some English songs in Japanese and sang with a trio in an off-limits Japanese club, singing Tokyo Boogie Woogie. When I was outed as gay, to avoid a dishonorable discharge, I agreed to surrender all rights to my VA benefits. I later was at the forefront of campaigning to have my benefits returned, which now provides a modest income.
Q: And after you left the army?
JIMMY: I lived in Miami for ten years where I was hired by a rep company, performing in Pajama Game, Damn Yankees and The Music Man. You name it. In 1968 I went to California to do Hair and never looked back.
Q: Did you ever come out to your parents?
JIMMY: No, I don’t think they’d ever even heard the word ‘gay’, but I’m sure my mom knew. I’m not estranged from my family but I left New York because I couldn’t be gay and express myself freely and that’s why I came to California. There I met Rick Granat, my late partner, and his family took me in. They were a good liberal Jewish family and when Rick was alive we went to Passover and Thanksgiving and Christmas – always at the Granat home.
Q: What do you think of today’s LGBTQ+ movement? Did you ever envisage this happening?
JIMMY: Back in the olden days, no. I was hiding as much as I could. But society goes through changes. We get conservative, then we get liberal, then we have a couple of decades of conservatism. I keep watchful because we never know when we might have to hide in somebody’s cellar. I don’t mean to be negative – just practical. But as far as the movement itself? God bless it, man. Rick and I worked with APLA (AIDS Project Los Angeles) and did the marches and entertained at functions – the same today with the LGBTQ+ movement. I have had spectacular times with gay friends over the years. But I had to keep it a secret from my family.
Q: Co-directed by your “niece” Erin Granat, Moon Manor is inspired by your own life including your 18-year relationship with Rick. What took you so long to break into film?
JIMMY: When Rick passed away from AIDS in 1986, we were totally broke because his illness took every cent we had. The quickest way to make money was to go out to sea where I worked many years as a cruise director. Necessity created a situation where I never really got involved with film. But, boy, I’m sure I glad I finally did it because I’m having the time of my life.
Q: You stay young by continuing to learn?
JIMMY: Yes, when I turned 60 I enrolled in Los Angeles Valley College in 1998. I got a great GPA and had a weekly column in the college newspaper called “The Senior Freshman” – my old man’s take on being 60 years old at college with young people.
Q: And you met your future husband at Valley College?
JIMMY: Yes, Marcus and I have been together almost 25 years – and married three times, first in 2003 outside the Immigration courthouse in downtown LA. Then we started to demonstrate for gay marriage and went to San Francisco in 2004 and got married a second time when everybody was there for St Valentines Day weekend, including Rosie O’Donnell – but about a month later they annulled it. When the federal law was passed we went to Van Nuys courthouse on April 19 2015 and this time the marriage happened for good.
Q: Can you share any wisdom with fellow seniors?
JIMMY: I haven’t eaten red meat in 40 years but I’m not a vegetarian. I eat fish, chicken and lots of veggies. I think that’s a big part of it. I’m not the best at exercise but I keep my weight down. I used to do yoga and was able to stand in Tree Position for four minutes but now I fall over standing on two feet!
Q: What’s your secret to aging with attitude?
JIMMY: I guess I’m just terminally immature! Getting old is not for sissies and my body is falling apart. But I’ve always been involved in the arts and I think that keeps me contemporary.
Moon Manor is available for rent on most platforms: https://gooddeedentertainment.com/moonmanor/
Want to know more? Here’s a peek:
Photo: Still from Moon Manor, courtesy Good Deed Entertainment
Gill Pringle began her career as a rock columnist for popular British newspapers, traveling the world with Madonna, U2 and Michael Jackson. Moving to Los Angeles 27 years ago, she interviews film and TV personalities for prestigious UK outlets, The Independent, The i-paper and The Sunday Times – and, of course, Senior Planet. A member of Critics Choice Association, BAFTA and AWFJ, she wrote the screenplay for 2016 Netflix family film, The 3 Tails Movie: A Mermaid Adventure. An award-winning writer, in 2021 she was honored by the Los Angeles Press Club with 1st prize at the NAEJ Awards.