CHICAGO, ILLINOIS — The sharp tongue of Golden Girl’s Sophia Petrillo has nothing on Annette Kleinman Markell—the spunky Jewish grandmother of Cleveland native Brad Kleinman, 36. Markell, or “Gramma Netty” as she is affectionately known, is the face and voice behind iGavolt — a unique iPhone app created for Jewish kids, young and old.
“The app is like having a Jewish grandparent with you, in your pocket, wherever you go —to make you laugh or go ‘aww’ when you listen to it,” stated Kleinman. “I’m excited the design came out so well and that the app is easy and fun to use by people of all ages.”
Are you still single? Fiending for some farfel? Do you not call your bubbe as much as you know you should? Well, Gramma Netty has plenty to say about it. iGavolt contains 17 audio files of its blunt and opinionated star. Users, of course, should expect nothing less from a Jewish grandmother.
“My favorite audios are probably the two of her laughing (Gramma chuckle #1 and Gramma Chuckle #2). They’re not ‘sayings,’ but every time I hear them I immediately think of gramma and I smile,” stated Kleinman. “My next favorite would probably be ‘Matza Balls,’ since she would always tell me that she liked her matza balls hard instead of soft. She must have told me that 100 times.”
Some might argue that Gramma Netty is the real brains behind the app—not her grandson. After all, it’s her image and recorded snappy one-liners that make the app even possible. It features a hip Gramma Netty in dark-colored shades wearing a Flavor Flav clock draped around her neck. It doesn’t get much cooler than that.
“Recording her audio for the app may have been much more fun for me than it was for her! I did my best to explain what I was doing, but she definitely had an attitude of ‘whatever you want, Bradley’ and smiled and laughed during the entire process,” stated Kleinman.
Besides the witty comments, the app also lets users receive weekly reminders to call their gramma or grampa (or think about them if they’ve passed). Users can also have Netty rap to a hip hop beat to more than a dozen DJ sound effects. While Netty wasn’t exactly a fan of hip hop, in iGavolt, her rap game is on point.
“As users will hear on the app, she '...doesn’t like the music of today,'” stated Kleinman. “She loved music of the '40s, classical, Broadway, and went to every single show her grandchildren were in during their childhood. She liked Frank Sinatra, Rosemary Clooney, Cole Porter... the classics.”
The app also has some "hidden" audio files (called “Hidden Matza Balls”) that can be enabled by tapping the correct code, in order (like the old "Contra" code that most people born in the '80s know by heart.)
Kleinman got the inspiration for the app after spending endless dinners with Gramma Netty and her closest friends at Corky & Lenny’s or Jack's Deli in Cleveland, Ohio. For him, watching Gramma Netty hold a conversation was quite the show, and fond memories stay with him to this day.
“Netty always stood up and spoke up for what she believed in, and wasn’t afraid of a debate (especially with her sister Flo!),” stated Kleinman. “She never held back. She laughed a lot (mostly at herself), and ‘self-deprecating humor’ was her strong suit,” stated Kleinman.
The two first began working on iGavolt in 2009 and released an early version of the app around the same time. The latest version of the app includes a sleeker design along with the "Grandparent Reminder" feature.
Unfortunately, Gramma Netty passed away last year at the age of 92. “If she were here today, she’d probably make a comment like ‘You know I’m not that funny, Bradley’… which is what made her funny,” stated Kleinman.
Thanks to technology, Gramma Netty’s memory also lives on in the Apple iTunes store. The app can currently be downloaded for 99 cents. In future releases, iGavolt will include additional phrases from Jewish Grampa Sam Silverman, the grandfather of Kleinman’s wife (who just turned 100 this past year.) Ten percent of the proceeds from the app benefits Menorah Park in Beachwood, Ohio—where Netty spent her final days.