Mel Simon, the co-owner of the Indiana Pacers and the founder of Simon Property Group, died Wednesday at the age of 82.
Simon, who bought the Pacers in 1983, made his fortune in commercial real estate, building malls across the country along with his brother Herb.
Mel belonged to my synagogue in Indianapolis, and at last year’s Rosh Hashanah services, you could just tell time wasn’t on the side of the wheelchair-stricken titan of business. In fact, I sadly said to my buddy, “This is Mel’s last Rosh Hashanah.” The Jewish New Year begins at Friday sundown. Mel almost made it.
He’ll be remembered most by sports fans for owning the Pacers during their glory days (six Eastern Conference Finals appearances between 1993-2003). But Simon was also very generous with his vast wealth. He donated to Indiana University’s cancer center, music school and helped fund the building of a new science facility on the Bloomington campus.
You can’t go anywhere in Indianapolis without the influence of the Simon family looming.
Simon’s legacy will last in his countless shopping centers, donations and the building of one of the NBA’s most beautiful arenas, Conseco Fieldhouse. But perhaps even greater than these accomplishments was something I just found out about Mel today.
Mel Simon produced one of my all-time favorite films growing up – “Porky’s.”
At the time I first saw the film, I could relate to the movie’s main character Pee Wee. (Insert small penis joke. Though to my [dis]credit I was like 13.) I mean, who didn’t leave a ruler hidden somewhere in their room?
And don’t we all have a little bit 1954 Floridian boy in us looking to lose to the V-Card anyway we can?
“I don’t care if they’re dead. As long as they ain’t too cold.”
And what high school boy didn’t fantasize about a girl locker room peephole? Though we totally object to peephole videos through hotel rooms. “Porky’s” was the original “American Pie.” And it still has staying power. In fact, in honoring Mel, I’m going to watch “Porky’s” tonight and follow it up with a showing of Game Five of the 1994 Eastern Conference Finals between Simon’s Pacers and the hated New York Knicks.
Mel, I raise my glass to you. Thanks for the memories. Just watch out for Ms. Balbricker.