The Death of Julian Tepper

The Death of Julian Tepper

Googling myself this morning, I read, with great relief, that Julian Tepper had died. Not Julian Tepper, the author of this piece, but another Julian Tepper who had been causing me grief over the past five years. 

It began when my partner Jenna and I started an arts club beneath our home in Queens, and an email appeared in our inbox:

  Name Julian Tepper

Email

xxxxxxxxxxxx

Message

hello, I'm a visual artist with a big head.

 

I had to read the email a few times, after which I concluded that it must be a prank. 

But not two days later, I received a message on our voicemail at the club.

Hi Julian,

It’s Julian Tepper. Yeah, I emailed you the other day. I’m going to be in New York next month and I thought I could come by the Oracle Club. How does 2pm or 4pm on the 14th, 15th, or 18th or…21st of February work for you? 

I understood from his voice that Julian Tepper was up there in years. To rattle off these dates and times in the near-future for us to meet was a bit odd. And yet it was what he said at the end of his message that left me off-kilter. 

I look forward to meeting Jenna and Silas. Call me back at xxx-xxx-xxxx. 

To mention my partner and child by name might have been one person’s idea of friendliness. But I was already imagining Robert de Niro’s Max Cady from Cape Fear sitting across the street from my apartment, staring in the windows all night and terrorizing me and my family.

I thought, Well, you’re being paranoid. Just ignore him. He’ll go away.

And yet the following day, Julian called again, and left an almost identical message, with dates and times and a few words about his hopes of meeting my son and partner. 

“This guy’s stalking me!” I told Jenna.

“It’s not normal behavior, that’s for sure.”

“Not normal? This Julian’s whacked out of his mind!”

Needless to say, I didn’t email or call back. Unfortunately, this upset Julian even more. In fact, he informed me of his unhappiness in a series of voices messages. 

But only my mother gets away with this kind of behavior. Who did this guy think he was? Did he honestly believe that this was the path to a meeting of the Julians? 

Jenna said, “Call him. He’s probably just a lonely old man.”

But to give an inch to Julian—why, who knew what kind of trouble it would bring. He was not a person who acknowledged certain basic social codes. 

As if any further proof were needed, his next boundary-crossing act was to Facebook “friend” my entire family. Each and everyone of whom accepted his request. Not even one of them was keen enough to think that, a) I’m already “friends” with Julian; and b) why is Julian’s profile photo of some old geezer?

No matter. 

I was moving on with my life. I couldn’t spare the mental space for another Julian Tepper. The one I was living with was about as much as I could handle. 

Except that Julian was tenacious. He kept calling and leaving voices messages. 

Then he went one step further, and began “commenting” on pieces I’d written for publications, signing off, always, as “the Real Julian Tepper.” I thought, What is this man’s purpose? Why won’t he leave me alone? Please, Julian Tepper! Go away. 

Perhaps Julian heard my cries, for he went silent for almost a year. I would mention him to Jenna from time to time: Remember Julian Tepper? the other one? the stalker? Glad he’s out of the picture. What a pain.

But then one day, Julian called the club, and left a message:

Julian,

It’s Julian. I wanted to let you know that I’m moving to Brooklyn next week. I look forward to seeing you, Jenna and Silas at the Oracle when I get to town. Call me or email so we can arrange. Thanks.

I let three days pass before I told Jenna about Julian’s plans.

“He’s moving to New York.”

“Who is?”

“The other Julian Tepper. To Brooklyn. He’s coming for me!”

“Calm down,” she said.

“Now he’s going to show up at our door.”

“I’m sure he’s harmless.”

“How do you know? You’ve never met Julian!”

Born with the gift of suppressing my worst fears, I buried Julian Tepper in the deepest recesses of my psyche. Persistent as Julian was, however, he didn’t stay there for long. More emails followed:

  Name Julian Tepper

Email

xxxxxxxxxxxx

Message

I wish to visit The Oracle. 

I am interested in finding a suitable place to write. 

I have much to write about and to do so need to get out of my apartment.

How can we arrange a visit?

Thank you.

Sincerely,

Julian Tepper

Name

Julian Tepper

Email

xxxxxxxxxxxxx

Message

I am thinking about renting space at The Oracle to have a quiet space in which to write.

When may I visit to see what it offers?

Thank youi.

Julian Tepper

 

Name

Julian Tepper

Email

xxxxxxxxxxxx

Message

I would like to visit. Saturday ok.? JT

To see his name in my inbox—my name!—cast my heart in darkness. What could I do about this? Should I go to the police? Install a security system? Were these really questions that I was having to asking myself? Wouldn’t Julian Tepper give up already? But he wouldn’t. More calls, more emails, more Julian.

And then this: 

Name

Julian Tepper

Email

xxxxxxxxxxx

Message

April 29, 2016

God willing, I'll be 75 on June 5..

I plan to remain in Brooklyn through October..

Before I leave (one way or another), I'd like to meet you.

The subject of the email was “Dying Wish?” 

Dying Wish? 

But clearly not. Because Julian and I didn’t even know each other. We only had the same name. We were not connected in any other way. Didn’t he see? There was no me, him, and a dying wish. 

As for his, “One way or another…,” yeah, I like Blondie, too. 

Well, Julian and I did not meet before he departed Brooklyn.  

I had not thought of him until this morning, when I was Googling myself, and I came across his obituary:

TEPPER JULIAN TEPPER (Age 76) Celebrated attorney, passed away on June 26, 2017 as result of complications following a car accident. He lived in West Palm Beach, Florida, and was laid to rest in Ofakim, Israel. He is survived by five children from two marriages, Aryeh (John), Gregory, Robert, Taylor and Callie; five grandchildren, Micha'el, Dani'el, Miriam, Yael and Luke; and many close friends. He also leaves his dog, Toby. Tepper's daughter, Jayne, died in 1973, and his son, James, died in 1975. Tepper was married and divorced from Myrna Statland and Deborah Hanzlik. Tepper was born in Washington, DC, attended Woodrow Wilson High School and received a bachelor's degree in English from the University of Maryland. He graduated Columbia Law School in 1965. Later, Tepper attended Cambridge University and received an advanced degree in Criminology, Prisons and Deviant Behavior. He returned to the United States in 1968. In the early 1970s, Tepper was the Executive Director for DC Neighborhood Legal Services Program and the Director of the NLADA National Law Office. He handled law reform issues in the areas of prisons and mental retardation; served as negotiator at the Attica prison and DC Jail takeovers; ended sordid practices at the "Clockwork Orange" prison (the Patuxent Institution for Defective Delinquents); achieved a contested constitutional right to an education suited to the needs of retarded and otherwise handicapped children; and brought a successful practices and conditions case against Willowbrook on Staten Island .From 1974 - 2008 he worked as an attorney in the private sector. From 2004 -2007 Tepper hosted his own radio program, The Tepper Show (Talk Back to the News), on WTNT - AM Radio. The program provided a platform for Tepper's independent mind, witty conversational style and abundant sense of humor. He performed services for Jerry Walz and Associates in connection with major litigation until 2014. Tepper was an avid reader, a lover of music, a sports enthusiast, especially for his Washington, DC teams, and he was particularly proud of having coached all of his children's soccer teams. From '68 - 71, Tepper was a trial attorney for the United States Department of Justice where he handled School Desegregation and Employment and Union Discrimination cases. Major cases were the Indianapolis school desegregation case, the Roadway trucking employment discrimination case, and statewide school desegregation cases in Florida and Texas.From '68 - 71, Tepper was a trial attorney for the United States Department of Justice where he handled School Desegregation and Employment and Union Discrimination cases. Major cases were the Indianapolis school desegregation case, the Roadway trucking employment discrimination case, and statewide school desegregation cases in Florida and Texas.

Although it saddened me to read that Julian’s death was the result of “complications following a car accident,” and that there were many people likely grieving from the loss, admittedly, I felt some relief. The other Julian Tepper was gone. There would be no more unsettling emails, no more voice messages in which he referred to meeting my family, no more comments on my written pieces from “the Real Julian Tepper.” I would no longer have to concern myself with just what kind of person this Julian Tepper was, one with too much time on his hands, or, one with darker plans in mind. 

Between the two of us, I’m now the only living Julian Tepper, and that seems, to me, a little more simple. 

Julian Tepper, rest in peace.