Judy Kay-Wolff

LIFE (OR DEATH) BEFORE THE INTERNET

A rather lugubrious headline on the front page of my local newspaper caught my eye.   In bold caps, it stated FUNERAL BUSINESS ALIVE AND WELL and went on to recognize and celebrate all the memorial services that you could attend via the Internet.  It’s a poor substitute for the theater or a ball game — but it is a tremendous credit to the innovations we have witnessed in our lifetime.

It called to mind an incident where the bridge world was way ahead of our time.  The site was Atlantic City.  The year was 1967.   The occasion was The Open Trials held, I believe, at the old Traymore Hotel*.   *(I must digress a moment to relate a funny Lew Mathe incident.   He was participating in the Trials and at one point in time called the director over — complaining that with all the mice running across the floor, it was very distracting while trying to reconstruct his opponents’ hands.  Some years later the building was razed with all the mice as well).

Back to the story.  The resort was a ‘fun’ place to be — with the beach, ocean, boardwalk and places to eat within walking distance.  The event attracted ACBL personnel and many kibitzers as well.   New Yorkers Elaine and Alvin Landy (CEO of the ACBL at the time) joined Peggy and Charlie Solomon for a few days down the shore.   Unfortunately, while the Landys and Solomons were taking a breather at A.C. Racetrack, Alvin had a fatal heart attack.

Alvin was a gentle and beloved human being and everyone was overwhelmed with genuine sadness.  I cannot recall the time sequence but I suspect the funeral would have been scheduled for two days hence.  Many (including Norman and Edgar — and other close friends) felt that special consideration should be made by the directing staff, canceling play the day of the funeral and not resuming until the evening session because a large number wanted to travel to New York for the Service.  They talked of renting a limousine or chartering a small bus as more and more wanted to pay tribute to a man who had done so much for the game.  Norman and I were very close with both the Landys and the Solomons, so it was a particularly big loss for us because we had spent many occasions with them both in New York and Philly.

All of a sudden, the light dawned.   I called Elaine for permission, then telephoned Campbell’s Funeral Home in New York to see if we could arrange to have the memorial service piped in by phone.   Everyone loved the idea. The ACBL was overwhelmed with the idea and went all out to set up one of the large playing rooms like a small chapel, arranged for a loud speaker and dozens of players and their spouses as well as kibitzers packed the room to pay their last good-byes to Alvin.

Not as dramatic as the Las Vegas papers portrayed the funeral cyberspace audiences of today — but Alexander Graham Bell sure got the job done for the bridge world  over four decades ago.


4 Comments

Chris HasneyApril 26th, 2009 at 4:15 am

Now Lew would complain that his mouse broke during the session. I wish I had been around to kibitz him, he must have been a handful

How do we return to the days of Lew playing with Bob Hamman, a young Billy Eisenberg and Eddie Kantar, et. al.?

If we can’t accomplish that then I think we are doomed. Where is the Ardmore, where are the rubber clubs?

Chris HasneyApril 26th, 2009 at 4:18 am

Just read past paragraph 2. Neat, great idea. Now we could webcast it, but what a coup for the time.

PegApril 26th, 2009 at 2:54 pm

Today we could have the funeral on vugraph at BBO! 🙂

Judy Kay-WolffApril 26th, 2009 at 5:53 pm

Some of you may remember a series of taped interviews by Dorothy Frances many years ago which were intended to be enshrined in the Annals of the ACBL. For some reason the process faded into oblivion and I am not certain who, or how many, had the pleasure of chatting with Dorothy. I do remember Edgar Kaplan’s — which I will share at another time.

However, we still have hosts of articulate, quick-thinking, good humored, talented vocal persons in our midst and there is no reason not to resurrect the process. It is not too late to resume where Dorothy left off (though we skipped a couple of decades) — but there are dozens of great ‘old time’ bridge legends around today who still have all (or most) of their marbles and would be great prospects — but alas that is not my decision. However, Chris’ idea could be expounded upon in a different venue. Nobody lives forever (not even bridge players) and these interviews would be treasured by generations to come.

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