Talking to Strangers

Peter Rosengard


If you're a regular JC reader, you'll have seen - and, I hope, laughed at - the columns of Peter Rosengard.

Peter's autobiography is effectively a book-length version of those columns. To me, that makes it an automatic recommendation. When I first came across Peter, I simply couldn't - still can't - understand why he wasn't writing regularly elsewhere. I've yet to read a piece of his that hasn't had me in stitches.

Peter is the British Larry David, with one big difference. He's not a journalist or a writer. He has a real job - and one at which he is astonishingly successful. Let me explain.

I'd been editing the JC for a few months when I got a call. "Hello, my name is Peter Rosengard. I am a life insurance salesman and I wondered if you would like to have breakfast with me at Claridge's."

My father taught me many things, but one of the most important was "if you don't ask, you don't get". That's how Peter works. He rings up total strangers and is completely upfront. He is after your business but if you're not interested in that, well, there's always breakfast at Claridge's. And, as he says in the book, who says no to that?

I didn't. The sheer chutzpah got me to say yes.

He told me that he used to have a column. I looked it up, and emailed him there and then to ask him to write for the JC.

You see, although Jews have a well deserved reputation for wit and comedy, there aren't that many who can do it on paper and regularly. Peter is one of them.

His life seems to have been one long definition of chutzpah. He is in the Guinness Book of Records for selling the largest life insurance policy ever, a story that has you breathless with admiration for the nous with which he pursued it.

The idea of reading the autobiography of a life insurance salesman isn't the easiest sell ever, but this is really a series of fabulous yarns, retold with wit and panache and which, if you enjoy his columns, you will love.

There's a serious and thoroughly admirable side to Peter, too. In recent years he has pushed his charity, the 9/11 London Project, like a dog with a bone and has brought over a sculpture crafted from steel from the World Trade Centre as a symbol of the charity's bigger project - an educational programme for schools.

My one worry is that in being so positive about his book, he will invite me to Claridge's for breakfast again.

Every time I say yes to scrambled eggs and smoked salmon, I end up with yet more bloody life insurance.

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