“Who Am I?” 2017

January 2017

I was born in Los Angeles. It seemed I was a born promoter who was blessed with a golden voice and a warm smile. I sold vacuum cleaners, razor blades and household goods door to door. For a time I worked at a radio station in Tijuana but I was inevitably drawn to the opportunities afforded in the Big Apple.

I transferred my sales skills to the airwaves and found that I could just as easily sell diet pills to chubby women as sell sand to the countries of the Maghreb! I never tried to project my voice to the last seats in the balcony. My over-the-air method was to talk one on one with my listeners. After awhile, my technique became so successful that advertisers were lined up to sponsor my program because my audience was buying what I was peddling on the air.

I was called an innovator in those early days of commercial radio and I was acknowledged to be one of the first real deejays. Then, the concept of a deejay was so new that I had to both buy and provide my own records to play on the air! In the years before there were deejays, a live orchestra often provided the broadcast music. Also, long before radio programs ever discovered magnetic tape, I sat ‘live’ in the studio with a mic and two phonograph turntables! I often played several records in a row by the same artist to give my audience the illusion of listening to live performances on a rotating stage beneath a crystal chandelier. Ah, the magic of radio!

My profession brought me into personal contact with some of the legendary band leaders of the day to include Glenn Miller, Guy Lombardo, and Woody Herman. I befriended singers Dinah Shore, Jo Stafford, Perry Como, and Frank Sinatra among others. Sammy Kaye was a friend of mine. We often spent after hours at Reuben’s or the Stork Club.

I don’t want you to think I was too high falutin because in 1941 I brought my on air broadcast to St. Lukes School in nearby HoHoKus to raise money for their senior prom. I made my home in Englewood and could be seen cruising around town in my hot convertible when I wasn’t tinkering with my home ham radio equipment.

In time, my radio show was syndicated and later on it was broadcast overseas. I got into music publishing and my knack for popularizing records really pushed sales. I wrote the lyrics to my show’s theme song which I believe a lot of you can still whistle or hum along to. You shouldn’t be surprised when I tell you that I was elected to the National Radio Hall of Fame.

That’s me with the wide lapels, the slicked back hair and sporting a pencil mustache in the pictures below. This particular iteration of “Who Am I?” is ‘for you and you and especially you’ (1) Who am I? (2)Which radio station did I work for in Tijuana? Which was my AM radio home in Gotham for more than 20 years? (3)What was my lasting contribution to marketing the Liggett & Myers Tobacco Company? (4) What was my radio program’s theme song? (5)Which company manufactured my sporty convertible? I want to tell you that that car turned a few heads on Palisades Avenue back in the day!

February 2017

I was born to Jewish parents in that disputed peninsula not too far from the “valley of death {where} rode the 600…” Papa worked as a pharmacist. My folks didn’t get along too well together and after they divorced I was farmed out to live in foster homes and with different relatives.

I had a natural musical gift for playing the violin but as a teen I developed a keen interest in the theater. I studied method acting under the great Konstantin Stanislavsky. In order to pay for my acting lessons I became a kept woman for a time. Success on stage came early to me especially in repertory and I toured the provinces and the continent extensively.

In the early 1900’s I came to NYC, quickly learned English, and subsequently found success on “the great white way.” I specialized in the plays of Ibsen and Chekhov and won rave reviews. Before I knew it I was starring in silent pictures as well. I made films for Ideal, Metro and for the old Solax Company in Fort Lee, N.J. Wicked Hollywood beckoned and I began to get screen roles. At various times I worked as a costume designer, art director, screenwriter and producer. I later earned a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

I was a flamboyant libertine even from my earliest days in Hollywood. My name was romantically linked to actors, directors, and writers of both sexes. I made at least one movie with that famous “Latin Lover” who died so young from a ruptured ulcer and infection in the mid-1920’s. Out in W. Hollywood, I bought a grand old Spanish mansion at the corner of Sunset Boulevard and Crescent Heights. The house had beautiful gardens and a gorgeous pool. It became a site for some of the more bawdy Hollywood parties of the 1920’s. Later on, when I fell on hard times, I built a series of villas on that property and rented them out to help pay the bills.

(1)That’s me in costume below. Who Am I? Where was I born? (2)What battle took place in that “valley of death?” (3)In what NYC hotel did I reside for a time? (4)What did I name my 3.5 acre mansion/compound that I referred to above? What is located on that spot today? (5)My actress friend, “Lucky,” honored me by naming me godmother of her child who later in life became a First Lady. Who was “Lucky” and what was the name of that First Lady? (6)Who was my last long-term live-in companion?

2017-2

March 2017

I was born in NYC to Romanian-Jewish parents. I attended Syracuse University but didn’t stay long enough to get a degree.

In the early 1950’s I was a corporal in the U.S. Army working as a correspondent for the Armed Forced Network. This was kind of an interesting job because in the fall of 1953 when I was stationed in Italy I got to interview a famous actress of the silver screen and an Italian-American mobster on the same day!

I worked in “P.R.” after my discharge and eventually gravitated to journalism where I can became known as a pundit and a self-described “language maven”. Some people called me a “libertarian conservative” and others had less flattering names for me. I was always a strong supporter of the State of Israel and Ariel Sharon was a personal hero of mine.

I worked as a speechwriter on at least 2 presidential campaigns. Some of my alliterative phrases became part of the American lexicon. I have written(at last count)4 novels, histories, anthologies and commentaries. I was awarded a Pulitzer Prize and a Presidential Medal of Freedom. You’ve probably seen me as a guest on “Meet the Press” because I’ve often been invited to appear on that program.
I was invited to come to William Paterson University in Wayne where I led a discussion as part of their “Distinguished Lecture Series.” Did any of you come to see me? That’s me in the picture below trying to get my column in before my deadline.

(1)Who Am I? and what weekly column was I known for? (2)Who was the gangster and who was the movie star I interviewed on the same day in 1953 when I was a lowly corporal? (3)For what body of work did I win the Pulitzer Prize for distinguished commentary? (4) What do many people consider the most amazing and astonishing alliterative phrase I have ever penned?

2017-3

April 2017

I was born in Brooklyn to two N.Y. attorneys. I did my undergrad work at Cornell and earned my PhD at Columbia. For a time I was an adjunct professor teaching psychology at Hunter College.

In order to earn some extra money I thought I might take a flier as a contestant on one of those quiz shows that were popular back in the 1950’s. In those days they tried to pair up unusual contestants to create interest in the program. They pegged me as a psychologist who was an expert on pugilism. To bone up on that sport I studied 20 books on the encyclopedia of boxing and came out a winner on that quiz show with the top prize! Years later when those shows were investigated for being fixed I was able to withstand investigative scrutiny by a grand jury thanks to my ability to answer the most obscure questions about the field of boxing.

My boxing expertise led to a stint as a co-host of “Sports Showcase” and CBS actually asked me to do color commentary on the 1957 match between Carmen Basilio and Sugar Ray Robinson!

My public exposure led to a career as a radio and TV personality where I was able to utilize my education in dispensing common sense advice about family relationships, friendships, sex, dating, child rearing, adoption and almost anything else my audience or call-in listeners would inquire about. At the height of my career my newspaper column was syndicated in over 350 newspapers. I became a panelist on several TV shows, made cameo appearances on prime-time TV shows and wrote a monthly column for a certain Hearst publication whose origins went back to the 1800’s! I wrote books and lectured widely. I appeared over 100 times on the Tonight Show when Johnny Carson was hosting it.

In my earliest days on pubic media I was sometimes criticized by the American Psychological Association for giving therapy on the air; however, that was not my intent. I always tried to give practical advice in a reassuring and calm voice because I felt common sense and decency went a long way in solving problems. When appropriate, I advised my listeners to seek professional help. I was the spiritual predecessor of Dr.Oz, “Dr.Phil” McGraw, Joy Browne and even Dr.Ruth.

I want to leave you with the following thought, “Marriage is not just spiritual communion and passionate embraces; marriage is also three meals a day, sharing the workload and remembering to carry out the trash.”

That’s me, posing as the bathing beauty, in the picture below. (1)Who am I? (2)How do I take my coffee? (3)What old-time monthly Hearst publication did I write for? (4)Who won the aforementioned boxing match? (5) Name 2 TV shows on which I was a panelist. (6)Where in Bergen County did I reside?

2017-4

May 2017

This edition of “Who Am I?” will be like a “middle, middle” pitch to a power hitter for our baseball fans, but perhaps prove to be a bit more elusive for our non-fan readers.

“The country I come from is called the Midwest.”* Early on I was keen to play baseball. In my case my dream came true because I got to play 8 seasons in “the bigs” with 4 different teams. I usually played the outfield but I could fill in at first base as well.

Many of my Jewish fans drew inspiration from me because I refused to take the field on Yom Kippur even though our team was in a heated race for the pennant. (No, I am not that famous southpaw pitcher from Brooklyn!). Our championship team was skippered by a gentle giant ex-marine, a man who commanded and earned our respect. Nobody messed with that big guy who had fought in the South Pacific during WWII! The gods of baseball were with us that remarkable year because we won 100 games and though we were underdogs during the World Series we shocked everyone by coming out on top.

After my baseball career was over I went on to be an author, a real estate consultant, a restaurateur, a house flipper, and a sports broadcaster. I also managed a baseball team in Israel’s nascent baseball league. Nowadays, I go to autograph shows, sports auctions, and make personal appearances as I have become a sought after motivational speaker. In fact, not too long ago I spoke at some of the local synagogues in the vicinity of the JHSNJ to include both Fair Lawn and Closter.

That’s a young me in the picture below. (1) Who Am I? (2)Who skippered my championship baseball team against the mighty “O’s”? What team did I play for? Who did I platoon with in right field that magical season? (3)What is the name of one of my N.Y. restaurants? (4) Why is it that one of my game bats was so special that it earned the privilege of being displayed in the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown?

*Lyrics from the 1963 Bob Dylan song, “With God on Our Side”

2017-5

June 2017

I was born in what’s sometimes called ‘da Bronx’ to German-Jewish parents shortly before the U.S. entry into WWII. My dad worked as a butcher. I briefly attended M.S.U. and Hofstra but decided to pursue an acting career instead. I landed a few roles in off-Broadway shows and in a few series on TV until I finally managed to get some better roles acting alongside big-name stars like Robert Mitchum and The Duke. I often played macho tough guys or sports figures.

You’d probably be surprised to hear that I wasn’t a total klutz on the dance floor despite being a big guy. (If you don’t believe me, ask ‘Walter’, my movie song & dance vaudeville partner.) Besides my acting profession I can also competently rope a bucking steer at a professional rodeo if I choose to. Strangely enough, I’m probably best remembered for a role where I uttered an Italian-American expression that means ‘a task that is easily completed’ to my younger movie brother who was thinking of entering the family business by first taking down a corrupt police captain. That throw-away line led to the naming of a Bergen County night spot just south of Paramus which later served as a central location in a popular HBO series.

That’s a partial facial image of me in the picture on the left below. It could also be me on horseback but it probably isn’t. (1) Who Am I? (2)Who was “Walter”? In what movie were we vaudevillians? (3)Who was my younger movie brother in what is probably my best remembered role? What was the name of that movie? (4)What is the name of the night spot I mentioned above that is still operating today?

July 2017

I was born at Flower Hospital in Manhattan and I was raised in NYC. Dad was a real estate broker whose office was at 40th Street and Broadway. Mom was a stay-at-home parent. My childhood was ideal – roller skating along Riverside Park, building model airplanes and listening to jazz. During the summers I went to overnight camps at Lake George and in Maine.

I studied fine arts at O.S.U. and joined a fraternity. Later, I became an art instructor at the school. In 1943 I was inducted in the U.S.Army at Fort Dix, N.J. For a time, at different posts, I served as a draftsman in the G3 section (Plans & Training) and later with G2 (Intelligence) where I drew maps. I shipped out to the European Theater where I helped maintain bridges and roads and was stationed and served in the U.K., France, Belgium and Germany itself.

In the years after the war I was hired as an assistant professor of art at Douglass College and Rutgers University. My art mediums at first were cubism and abstract expressionism. For awhile I dabbled in sculpture. However, my real love and the work I became known for was my talent as a pop artist along with peers Andy Warhol and Jasper Johns. I drew inspiration from the comic books (D.C. Comics!) and the culture at large. Many of my prints were later donated to the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C. In 2006 a large exhibition of my work was shown at the Museum of Fine Arts in nearby Montclair, N.J. Were any of you there to see it?

(1)That picture of the startled nurse on the bottom left was one of my designs. It fetched tens of millions of dollars at auction. Likewise, the image of my painting on the bottom right recently sold for a tidy sum north of $28 million. Who knew? Who am I? (2) What 2 summer camps did I attend? (3) What O.S.U. fraternity did I join? (4)What ship transported me to the European Theatre during the war? (5)What was my first son’s middle name and where did that name come from? (6) Besides occasionally catching a bus there, what is my connection to Times Square?

August 2017

I was born in the late 19th century in Galicia, then part of the Austria-Hungary Empire, near the border of Ukraine and Poland to a couple of Yiddish actors later known as Sallie & Phillip. My folks seemed like a pair of roving gypsies going from shtetl to shtetl putting on performances while I passed the hat or a tambourine to accept payment for our artistic presentations.

It seemed we, as actors, were always going somewhere new. First to London, then to the lower east side in NYC, on to Cleveland, then to Chicago, back to N.Y., always looking for our next jobs. All of this travel didn’t allow me much time for a formal education but I learned plenty of stagecraft during those years.

By my early 20’s I finally got my Hebrew Actor’s Union card. I developed a solid reputation for greatly preparing for my roles. I intensely worked on my accents, my costumes, my make-up, and the little tics and mannerisms of the characters I would inhabit for my roles. I could convincingly play an old man before my tenth birthday. Critics later said I was a pre-“Method,” “Method “actor.

When ‘talkies’ became the rage producers and directors from Hollywood descended on Broadway and other theater towns looking for stage actors who could speak and project their voices to audiences and cameras.

I did, in fact, enjoy some success in Hollywood; however, truth be told, I never felt comfortable there. My first love always remained the theatre, though I did enjoy doing radio plays and I did sign on for some TV work in “Playhouse 90” and “G.E. Theatre.” I performed in one of famous writer Ben Hecht’s plays, the one promoting the creation of a Jewish state in what was then British Mandatory Palestine.

My real breakthrough movie was playing a contemporary notorious mobster. The same title was later remade and updated in the 1980’s; but, to tell you the truth, my earlier iteration was grittier and more interesting. In that film I handled a “chopper” (that’s what we called those deadly .45 cal sub-machine guns invented by John T. Thompson that make a ‘rat-a-tat-tat’ sound) as well as any of my fellow thugs. I followed up that underworld-themed movie with another socially conscience movie when I played a real life north Jersey man born in Palisades who was tricked into participating in a stick-up at a grocery store in Georgia that netted a total of $5.81. That “heist” earned him 6 to 10 years of hard labor on a chain gang! The poor fellow broke out, fled, and then led an exemplary life as a publisher and editor of a magazine until his ex-wife exposed his real identity which resulted in his extradition to Georgia to complete his sentence. That poor slob escaped a second time and returned to NJ seeking shelter with his brother who was a Unitarian minister. This time he lived as a fugitive and worked under assumed names in Newark while he wrote his autobiography. I played the lead character in the film that depicted his harsh life on the chain gang and his subsequent time on the lam. It had a huge effect on the American public because it exposed them to the cruel reality associated with chain gangs.

Strangely enough, I received Oscar nominations for both my first and last films though I didn’t win either of those times. The local Hadassah chapter reserved the entire Fabian Movie Theater in Paterson for an exclusive screening of my last feature film and they conducted one of their many worthy programs after the film was shown. That’s me in the photos below. Of course I appear made-up in character because the cameras were rolling!

(1)Who Am I? What picture did I actually win an Oscar for? (2)What were my parents’ given names before they Anglicized them? (3a)What well-known movie did I make about an infamous mobster {later remade} that put me in the public eye? (3b)Who played “Little Boy,” my co-star, in that film? (3c)Who was that unfortunate NJ man who suffered so terribly on that chain gang as a result of a miscarriage of justice and what was the name of the movie based on his life? (4)What was the name of Ben Hecht’s play about the new Jewish state? Who directed it? A young actor who also performed in that play was soon catapulted into a giant star of stage and screen. Who was that budding actor? (5)What stage role earned me a Tony Award? (6) What film of mine was featured at that Hadassah program at the Fabian Theater?

September 2017

I was born to Jewish parents in a part of the old Austro-Hungrarian Empire but lived most of my life in NYC. I became well-known as a freelance journalist and as a documentary street photographer who specialized in photographing both grisly murders and accident scenes. It was said of me that I had a certain notoriety and a flamboyant personality. I could skillfully operate a police-band shortwave radio and that made me an ambulance chaser of sorts who would often arrive at a crime scene before any of the police or other first responders. I had a keen eye for the stunning picture that would grab the headlines of a newspaper or periodical.

My first book inspired a well-known 1940’s movie. Years later, a 1990’s movie was based on my line of work. Thousands of my photos are now housed at the International Center of Photography in N.Y. My pictures continue to fascinate people. In 2016 my work was on display at a well-known gallery on Newark Avenue in Jersey City.

There is an image of my camera of choice in the bottom left photo. If an opportunity for a good photo arose I’d sometimes dash over to north Jersey to snap photos such as the one seen on the bottom right. (1)Who am I and why was I given a particular moniker that just about everyone knew me by? (2)What 2 films was I referring to above? (3)Who is the notable gentle-lady in the bottom right photo? Why was she so well-known at the time?

 

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