“Who Am I?” 2019

“Who Am I?”| January 2019

I was born to parents of Austrian-Jewish descent in the city called the ‘gateway to the west.’  Mom was an amateur soprano singer and dad was a tailor’s cutter that worked in the garment industry.

Our family was not well off. When I developed an interest in acting I dropped out of high school. I worked at Woolworth’s and while there I organized a strike for better working conditions. I later worked as a chorine and took other odd jobs to support my acting lessons. My early experiences set in motion the pattern I was to follow the rest of my life.

I honed my acting craft. Over the years I took lessons at the New Theatre School, the Actor’s Studio and at other venues. I was active in Democratic politics, the civil rights movement and the feminist movement. In the post WWII years I did a tour for UJA. Critics said I had a loud and boisterous opinion on almost every topic which I often voiced in later years on TV talk shows. In the late 1950’s I came to Fort Lee N.J.’s North Jersey Playhouse for a role on stage. Were any of you in the audience?

My first motion picture roles were usually “B” films where I often played bleached-blonde tawdry waitresses or else a zaftig working girl that comes to a bad end. For a time I shared my digs with another blonde who tragically flamed out much too early.

I caught a break and my Hollywood career finally took off when I was awarded what was the typical 7- year contract. It was awhile, however, before I began to be considered for more serious roles. Along the way I had flings with people named Clark, Burt, Sean, Marlon and William and co-starred with marquee names like Alan Ladd, James Stewart, Robert Mitchum and James Mason. My 5 decade acting career took place on stage, in film, and on TV. I am also a published author.

I can boast of having a star on the Hollywood Walk of fame and 2 Academy awards for Best Supporting Actor. That’s a voluptuous shot of me in my early days in the photo below. (1a)Who Am I?  (1b) How did I choose my stage name? (2a)What 2 films earned me my Oscars (2b) Where does my first Oscar now reside? (3)Who was my ill-fated blonde roommate? (4)Two of my marriages were to actors of Italian heritage. What were their names? (5)I made 5 films with one actor. What was his name? (6a) What film led to my 7-year contract? (6b)I dyed my hair brown for my first real serious role. What film was that for? Here’s a hint – my character became submerged in the chilly waters of Lake Tahoe. (7)Who performed my last marriage ceremony? Whom did I marry?


The JHSNJ is currently featuring an exhibit of photos, documents, the time capsule from the Wayne “Y”, and other memorabilia from the YM/YWHA’s of Northern New Jersey. If people have any memorabilia , photos, etc to share we’d love to include them so please contact us at 201-300-6590. Visitors are welcome to visit on Mondays and  Wednesdays from 11:00 am – 3:00 pm.

Our mailing address is:
Jewish Historical Society of North Jersey
17-10 River Road, Suite 3A
Fair Lawn, NJ 07410
Telephone #: (201) 300-6590


“Who Am I?”| February 2019

I was born in Baltimore, MD smack dab in the middle of the ‘Roaring Twenties.” I attended Johns Hopkins but quit to join the Army Air Corps.  I learned electronics in the service and served in the Pacific Theatre with stops in Guam, Saipan and Okinawa. I also developed a knack for entertaining our troops.

After my discharge I thought to make my mark in the new medium of TV but I knew a flop there might be a fatal career move so I gravitated towards radio which proved serendipitous. I stayed on-air in the N.Y.C./northern N.J. metropolitan area and came into your homes and car radios for almost 3 decades! I spent 25 of those years with a co-host who was considered my ‘straight man.’ The station allowed me to develop my own on-air zaniness. I would give my own unique comic take on the news and traffic and do parodies and send-ups of my bosses and my sponsors. My wit and humor usually kept me out of trouble. Unlike the “shock jocks” of today I was never intentionally mean-spirited or offensive. I invented approximately 40 on-air imaginary characters, expertly mimicking impressions of both real characters and my made-up characters.  I’m told my assorted fake accents were spot on. Our show didn’t have any writers or scripts. My partner and I improvised all of our dialogue. I once observed that “We were made of two minds without any.” However, it must be said that we were obviously successful because our listeners loved us. It also didn’t hurt that we provided a nice steady revenue stream for the station.

I was a frequent guest on other radio and TV shows and a regular panelist on others. I authored 2 books and was a part-time professional photographer whose works were published and hung in galleries. That’s me smiling in the photo below.

(1a)Who Am I? (1b)Who was my co-host “straight man?” (2a)What radio station am I most associated with? (2b)What was the on-air clue that alerted listeners that one of my imaginary guests had arrived in the broadcast booth? (2c)Name at least 3 of my on-air personalities. (3a) Name 1 TV show that I was a regular panelist on. (3b)What are the titles of the 2 books I have written?  (4) Surprisingly, none of our radio programs were recorded by the studio! However, several of our loyal and enthusiastic fans recorded some of our radio shows at home and donated their tapes to an established archive in order that present and future listeners might still enjoy the really witty repartee of radio personalities who always worked “clean.” Unfortunately, those types seem to have disappeared from the American landscape. They were replaced by the coarse and vulgar that now dominates our airwaves! What archive possesses our classic tapes today?

Image of a man wearing a white shirt, tie, and dark-rimmed glasses. He is laughing.


The JHSNJ is currently featuring an exhibit of photos, documents, the time capsule from the Wayne “Y”, and other memorabilia from the YM/YWHA’s of Northern New Jersey. If people have any memorabilia , photos, etc to share we’d love to include them so please contact us at 201-300-6590. Visitors are welcome to visit on Mondays and  Wednesdays from 11:00 am – 3:00 pm.

Our mailing address is:
Jewish Historical Society of North Jersey
17-10 River Road, Suite 3A
Fair Lawn, NJ 07410
Telephone #: (201) 300-6590


“Who Am I?”| March 2019

I was born in Brooklyn at the tail end of 19thcentury, the youngest of a brood of 10 kids. “Mama Rose”, emigrated from Germany and my dad, Morris (sometimes called Maurice) was a clothing manufacturer from Bialystok. I attended high school on Nostrand Avenue in Bed-Stuy. That old ‘hood of mine is actually enjoying a revival nowadays and is slowly becoming gentrified. For a time I attended Hunter College.

I had a husky contralto voice and made my first mark in vaudeville and, later on, on Broadway and in the film industry. Earlier in my career I worked as a model posing for fashion ads and for artists. I had a gig for an Austrian painter who specialized in painting sultrily posed women that would appear on postcards. Some of his creations may still be available on the internet or at fairs. I got a job in vaudeville with the B.F.Keith and the Keith Albee Circuit at a propitious time because I met many other rising stars that became my lifelong friends. The Hudson Theatre located in what was to become Union City was a popular venue for us. In fact, I met my first husband in vaudeville when he was employed as the “straight man” feeding lines to comedian Ed Wynn. I also appeared for 3 seasons in the Ziegfeld Follies. I was a tall blue-eyed blonde who could joke and wisecrack and that fact certainly helped advance my film career. During the “silent era” I appeared in 38 films and I was lucky enough to make a smooth transition to talkies where I added another 28 films to my C.V.  I was often typecast as the “other woman” or a villain.

I appeared on screen with the likes of Myrna Loy, Mary Astor, Norma Talmadge, Joan Crawford, Will Rogers, Norma Shearer, Joan Blondell and Charles Ruggles. My second husband was a well-known actor. We had what would be called today a “lavender marriage.” I was bi-sexual and had romances with some of the major screen stars of the day. My husband, though he sometimes played macho parts, was openly gay, something verboten in the Hollywood of my era. We hosted lavish and sometimes hedonistic parties at our home in Beverly Hills which we decorated in an all-white color scheme. We mounted mirrors on the entire lower floor. My husband claimed he married me because I was “a good scout with a good heart.”

 Kay Francis and I were known as a “clothes horses.” Designers and manufacturers designed special outfits for me hoping my fans would emulate my style and buy their wares. My wardrobe back in the 1930’s was estimated to cost $1 million! It included ermine wraps, chinchilla coats, beaver coats, silver and blue foxes, sable scarves and the list goes on and on. Fans wanted to copy my hats and jewelry as well.

I was a supporter of the General Israel Orphan’s Home and attended several benefits on their behalf. Too early in life I became fatally ill when it was discovered that I had aggressive abdominal cancer tumors. I grew frail and my body began to wither away. I passed away while still in my mid- 30’s. Hundreds attended my funeral at Temple Emanu-El in Manhattan and many thousands more came to my graveside interment at Brooklyn’s Washington Cemetery. That’s me in my prime in the photo below.

(1a)Who Am I? (1b)What high school did I attend? (1c)Who was the aforementioned Austrian painter who specialized in suggestive postcards? (2a)Who was my second husband? (2b)What did we call our lavish home in Beverly Hills? (3)I appeared in one film directed by the famous Ernst Lubitsch. What was the name of that film? (4)What celebrity gave the eulogy at my funeral?

Black-and-white photograph of a woman, pictured from waist up and looking to the viewer's right, dressed in 1920s-style hat and dress. The hat has no brim and the dress has a net overlay over a dark lining.

The next exhibit of The Jewish Historical Society of North Jersey will open in April 2019 and will feature photos and memorabilia of “Family Collections of Northern New Jersey”.

Our mailing address is:
Jewish Historical Society of North Jersey
17-10 River Road, Suite 3A
Fair Lawn, NJ 07410
Telephone #: (201) 300-6590

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