Judy Kay-Wolff

Top Billing

At most weddings, the bride is usually the uncontested star of the show. However, poor Chelsea Clinton had to settle for No. 3 (behind Hillary and Bill). Lucky me, I was only outshone by Charles H. Goren. However, mine was a historic gathering even if I played second fiddle at my nuptials to Norman in 1963. Charlie actually gave a beautiful speech which we savored on those old movie reels that will eventually turn up in my storage search.

If you knew Norman, he was extremely considerate and tried to avoid hurting anyone’s feelings. My poor father (both physically and literally) was presented with a list of 400 guests (of whom 325 accepted with gusto) but since he adored Norman, he took it all in his stride (once they revived him). Norman’s parents owned a large drugstore/pharmacy in a small community called Merchantville, NJ and it seemed that anyone who ever bought at least a candy bar was invited — plus Norman’s bridge partners, teammates, kibitzers and fans. You name them, they were there — although missing in travel were Philadelphians, Charlie and Peggy Solomon, whom I suspect in retrospect must have been vacationing. Just think: it could have been 327.

Wrong: it should have been 329. We were concerned about ‘no-shows’ Loy and Albert Morehead. Morehead was Allan Truscott’s predecessor as New York Times Bridge Columnist. We eventually learned Al had emergency oral surgery that morning that went awry and they were not able to reach us to cancel but it had a happy ending…

The other day I was leafing through my wedding album and discovered three photos worthy of Kinko’s glossy copy process. I contacted Linda Lee who has been doing such a phenomenal job attaching marvelous photos to her own blogs and she graciously agreed that upon receipt of the selected shots, she would insert them in this blog (since photography is one of my weak suits) and become my partner in crime.

Philadelphia was a hot bed of bridge in the early days — boasting of many world-famous natives. I understand more top bridge players (per capita) were born in the City of Brotherly Love than any other metropolitan area in the country. Besides Goren — there was B. J. Becker, Johnny Crawford, Norman Kay, Peter Pender, Arthur Robinson, Sidney Silodor, Helen Sobel Smith, Charlie Solomon, Sally Young, et al.) and with apologies to those I overlooked.

Let me try to give you a quick rundown of the three photos seen below and some of the highlights which I vividly recall almost half a century later. If you don’t recognize the faces, many of you will be familiar with a number of the names and hopefully will enjoy some of my tales out of school.

 

Charles Goren and Co.

Charles Goren and Co.

Photo #1.

Center stage was Charles H. Goren, Mr. Bridge himself!!!! On his left sat Ethel Nathanson (the first Mrs. Benedict F. Gimbel). Incidentally, Ethel came from the Snellenburg clan and the marriage marked a merger of two celebrated Philly department store families. Also, her son was the famous Ted Nathanson, Director of TV News and Sports Shows. I knew Ethel, a frequently discussed student of both Victor Mitchell and Arthur Robinson, who could have collaborated on an incredible bridge best seller. I say ‘incredible’ because no one would believe the episodes they experienced with her.

I liked Ethel, but no doubt she was the proverbial piece of work. One day, while having lunch with her, I admired a gorgeous ‘rock’ she was sporting. It was a knockout but I went ballistic when she whispered curiously in my ear, “Oh, dear, the real one is in my safe. I make copies of all my jewelry but never wear the originals.” Haven’t figured that one out yet.

On her left was Peggy Rotzell, an aggressive, rather pushy decent woman player who always snared top fellas for the Mixed, but when Norman and I got engaged, we got the ground rules straight. On her left was Dr. Russ Storr seated next to his favorite partner, Olive Peterson. Olive was a respected player and teacher and worked closely with both Milton Work and Charlie Goren.

Next to Olive, you no doubt recognize Alvin Landy (with his wife Elaine). I must digress and tell you my UNfavorite Alvin Landy Story. While still newlyweds, I was struggling to attain the 300 point LM status. I was so paranoid about my fractionals getting lost — would you believe I sent them Registered Mail, RRR? Alvin was ACBL CEO at that time and the Landys joined us and the Solomons for dinner one weekend in Philly.

In the course of normal conversation quite casually someone (possibly Charlie) addressed Alvin, asking if it was true that the BOD was considering upping the LM requirements from 300 to 400 — at which point I almost gagged on my appetizer. I had 296 points and I was counting the days till I finally made the grade. It became obvious by my rare silence that I was appalled and suddenly everyone burst into laughter. It was all a pre-planned set up to send me into a tizzy and indeed it did! That was Norman’s sense of humor.

Back to the rest of the guests at the table. Somehow out of order was Olive’s husband, Pete Peterson; and the last pair on the right front side were Marie and Eddie Cohn. Eddie and Charlie were very close friends and often played together in their early days before Charlie made it big!

Bobby Jordan and Co.

Bobby Jordan and Co.

Photo #2.

Most of you will recognize a close up version of a young Bob Jordan (holding hands with his wife Phyllis). I worked as a paralegal with Phyllis and, at Norman’s urging, introduced her to his recently widowed best friend, Bob, and they beat us to the altar by six months. On Bob’s left are Nettie and Fred Karpin. Fred was co-author of Norman’s Duplicate Bridge Book with Sidney Silodor, and noted also for achievements in other literary fields.

Seated to Fred’s left, Marion Stein Harmon and her bridegroom, Lenny. In fact, Marion, who lived in Detroit, had recently lost her husband of many years and Jordan sang the praises of the joys of marriage to bachelor Lenny. Before he knew what hit him, he was donning a wedding band.

Continuing along were friends of Norman’s, Aileen and John Lisberger and sitting directly in front of Norman (standing with me in the background) was Wanda Gabrilovitch alongside of her charming husband, Andy. Rounding out the group were Carole and Dick Moscotti. Actually, Carole was Norman’s former girlfriend, but I forgave her and we were close friends for many years until she divorced, married Jessel Rothfield and enjoyed many delightful, productive years in Australia.

 

Arthur Robinson and Co.

Arthur Robinson and Co.

Photo #3.

Undoubtedly, the superstar at this table in the dark suit is a youthful Arthur Robinson with his wife, Harriett. On Arty’s left are Isabelle and Al Friedman, one of Norman’s Cavendish pinochle buddies. Al, a big fan of Norman’s, was often quoted. saying that “Norman is an even better pinochle player than bridge expert.” It was a tossup which he loved more.

Next to Al (with eyes half shut) was my first duplicate woman partner and my Matron of Honor, Helen Smith, no relation to THE Helen Sobel Smith, who hung in with me as a beginner and kept hammering away that Norman is a ‘keeper,’ hounding me .. “Don’t let THIS ONE get away!” as I was obsessed with the game only. As these photos bear witness, I was a good student and succumbed to her words of wisdom.

Seated on her left was Harlow Lewis, another popular Philadelphia expert; the other two couples were Norman’s ushers Merle Moskowitz and Gabby Coren (seated beside their respective wives Trudy and Lorraine). Gabby’s pride and joy was that he served as the matchmaker between Billy Eisenberg (whom he had played against in his travels to New York) and up-and-coming Philadelphia star Bobby Goldman, who formed a partnership with Billy and began performing for the rising Dallas Aces in the late sixties. (Somehow or other — my Bobby always gets into the act)!

I must conclude by confessing I gave a lot of thought to canning this blog with historic snapshots as I didn’t want to come across as a name dropper. But, after lengthy reconsideration, I opted to hang in because gazing upon several of these superstars, not normally sitting North/South or East/West was definitely newsworthy — especially at a shindig hosted forty-seven years ago with THE CHARLES H. GOREN as the featured attraction! Also, I wanted to quash the circulating rumors that I was never svelte with dark hair! So be it!


8 Comments

ReneOctober 5th, 2010 at 5:51 am

Wow, Judy, is all I can say!

I can just imagine not only the time spent in seeking out the pictures but the effort and expense of using Kinko’s to render such unbelievably clear reproductions from forty-seven year old originals. I got the tingles from seeing Mr. Goren’s picture front and center and also Alvin Landy whom I remember from his one-time-popular convention. In fact there are now so many treatments over an opening NT, Landy realistically is passe but I remember hearing what a darling man he was!

I love your blogs (1) as you pull no punches; and (2) you have so much history to contribute to the game. I know you have been asked to put your memories together in a book but refused. It is never too late to reconsider.

Keep ’em coming

Judy Kay-WolffOctober 5th, 2010 at 6:12 am

Rene:

No thank you!!! Working with Bobby on The Lone Wolff for five years was enough to satisfy me for a lifetime. I have never been a slave to time restraints and deadlines — so whenever the spirit moves me (or I get my dander up over some outrageous, at least to me, bridge situation) — I come through loud and clear.

I have scrapbook after scrapbook (very methodical in my youth) with so much to share. Every now and then I find the time to sift through and come up with an ‘oldy’ which I really think the public would enjoy hearing about. And, though Masterpoint Press (with Ray Lee) was delightful to work with on The Lone Wolff, I like the leisure approach of blogging at my convenience (which seems constant)!

I do appreciate your kind words, Rene. I know many read the blogs, but few take the time to respond! Thank you.

Judy

Darwin AfdahlOctober 5th, 2010 at 5:23 pm

Hi Judy:

I really enjoyed reading you blogs. This has nothing to do with your blogs, but I don’t have your email address so maybe you can answer the following:

I just finished reading “The Devil’s Tickets” by Gary M. Pomerantz, about “The Bennett Murder and Ely Culbertson and etc.: he says Ely was pronounced E-Lee and not E-lye. Do you know the correct pronuncation of Ely Culbertson’s first name?

Darwin

HI DAR: NORMAN CALLED HIM ELY — but I hear Bobby

refer to him as Elee.

My love to you and Kay

Judy

PegOctober 6th, 2010 at 6:21 am

Although I don’t know most of these people, loved the photos, Judy!

Judy Kay-WolffOctober 6th, 2010 at 2:08 pm

Hi Peg:

Coming from our Ace ACBL Photographer, I am flattered. As I concluded in my blog, I had many doubts before posting. It never occurred to me that a glossy made from an old album would retain its clarity — but my gals in Canada at MPP did a great job.

Oh, if I only had time to go through my boxes of memorabilia before I bit the dust, there would be so much to be shared from the legends of the game. Time seems to be flying and the boxes seem to be growing rather than dwindling but I’m working on it and hopefully will have more for posterity.

Greetings from Philadelphia.

Judy

PegOctober 6th, 2010 at 3:41 pm

Judy – you & Bobby enjoy Philadelphia! Wish I were there……

Judy Kay-WolffOctober 10th, 2010 at 2:40 am

Peg:

You didn’t miss much. See my upcoming blog.

Love,

Honest Abe

PegOctober 10th, 2010 at 5:41 pm

🙁

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