Judy Kay-Wolff

Losing Omar …

Today is a very sad day for me as I had not seen the Internet, TV or newspapers — and I was not aware of Omar’s passing until I spotted in Bobby’s AOL column of today a comment posted by one of his readers. Omar was no doubt bridge’s greatest promoter who had attained his fame and fortune in another realm! I felt like I had lost a friend. About forty-five years ago, when the Sharif Circus was on the move, fate involved me quite actively in the organization of the Philadelphia presentation of the Circus (OSBC) held at the Center City Drake Hotel. I had a chance to closely watch him in action and observe his genuine passion for bridge. In addition to be being outstandingly handsome, he was the epitome of warmth, modesty and humility .. abounding in enthusiasm and love for the game that brings us all together. Today is ‘bridge day’ so I am rushing off but when I return, I will delve into all my Circus memorabilia to see if I can find anything of interest to share with you.

Scan0014


11 Comments

Judy Kay-WolffJuly 11th, 2015 at 6:12 pm

I had difficulty posting the above as an addendum, so it was necessary for me to start from scratch (having to erase previous comments). As you can see, after hours of searching through countless boxes of both Bobby’s and my memorabilia, I located a treasured photo from 1970. I happily confess to being a ‘save-freak’ and you can understand why. It was a moment I will always remember with a smile on my face.

After the closing event of the Circus in Philadelphia, Omar made an impromptu appearance at the podium and motioned me to join him. He graciously thanked me for organizing the troops and for everyone’s efforts and enthusiasm. It was an easy job .. with no end to the volunteers. This was his way of showing his appreciation.

Though it is hard to recognize the recipient of the kiss, believe it or not, that is what I looked like in 1970. Scout’s honor!!!!

SamJuly 11th, 2015 at 7:02 pm

Judy,

I don’t mind being ‘erased’ as long as you produced that marvelous photo. I wasn’t into bridge that far back, but there were few females on our planet who did not know who Omar was. Whenever his name was mentioned among the bridge players I got to know, he received nothing but rave notices (not so much for his bridge prowess but for his unassuming demeanor as a world famous celebrity)!

Glad you found the photo. Don’t lose it this time.

AlanJuly 11th, 2015 at 7:21 pm

I seem to recall Bobby mentioning he was with Omar on several occasions around the time of your reference. Or, am I confusing him with some other celebrity?

Judy Kay-WolffJuly 11th, 2015 at 7:40 pm

No, Alan, your mind is not playing tricks on you.
Besides accompanying Omar on the 1970 Circus tour as one of The Dallas Aces, Omar had involved Bobby on other occasions when he frequented Dallas. I know one pertained to the King Tut Museum collection where he and his lovely late wife Debby were hosted by him. I will try to get him to recount those happenings. Omar gave so much of himself. He never sought publicity or the limelight. Just enjoyed being one of the guys. Very unusual .. especially in the world of today.

CPJuly 13th, 2015 at 9:52 pm

I am sure through your bridge travels with Norman and Bobby, you have enjoyed many foreign soils and met many fascinating personalities. How about sharing some of those memories.

Judy Kay-WolffJuly 13th, 2015 at 10:42 pm

Hi CP,

Without a doubt, my earliest thrill was having Charlie Goren attend my wedding in 1963. As a newbie to the higher echelons of bridge, that was hard to top. There were many social and serious bridge lovers in attendance and when he walked in, traffic stopped. There were over 300 guests in attendance since Norman (being the sweetheart that he was) did not want to hurt anyone’s feelings. My poor father!

Probably, amid my travels, the most famous landmark I had an opportunity to visit (but bypassed) was The Great Wall of China. Soon after Bobby and I were married, Beijing was the scene of a tournament. What else could cause us to traverse the seas? However, that wondrous structure was never seen up close and personal after Dan Morse’s wife Joan and I discovered wholesale markets (you could hardly call them shops) in the back alleys of Beijing which we frequented daily without failure. I remember teaching Joan to haggle and it was most of the fun, seeing how much we could get off the asking price. Of course, the owners were the ones laughing after our departure. The joke was on us .. as we soon learned all the designer attractions were fake.

We are about to run off to an appointment and I want to give this more thought as I often became starry-eyed throughout the years meeting people I had often read about .. both at the bridge table and the real world. Later!

Judy Kay-WolffJuly 14th, 2015 at 6:58 am

Thinking back to earlier times, two of my favorite bridge personalities were not surprisingly partners of Norman. He always seemed to get ‘lucky’ in that area, but deservedly so. One was Sidney Silodor who died far before his time –exactly two weeks prior to our wedding. The other was a gentleman who enriched my life for well over three decades .. the multi-talented Edgar Kaplan whose love and friendship I will always treasure.

I would be remiss if i failed to include another delightful bridger with whom The Kays became friendly in the late nineties .. West Coast hero, Eddie Kantar (and his beautiful wife Yvonne). Fortunately (though I have not been face to face with them in over a decade), we are still in touch via the Internet. I especially enjoyed (and miss) Alan Truscott. We shared a love for trivia and always sought each other out at the Nationals. Another friend and teammate of Norman’s I enjoyed crossing paths with was Bart Bramley who is as good as anyone when it comes to word games. I haven’t seen Bart (or Judy) for what seems like an eternity and I miss overworking my tired, aging brain through his many challenging contests.

I have previously alluded to the thrill of meeting General Alfred Greunther (Supreme Allied commander during World War II under Eisenhower), playing against Telly Sevalas at a Pittsburgh National about forty years ago and of course getting to spend a week rubbing shoulders with Omar and the famed Blue Team.

I consider myself very lucky to have been in the right place at the right time. You can chalk up my crossing paths with so many fantastic individuals to fate .. seeing fit to introduce me to our majestic game almost sixty years ago.

Gary MugfordJuly 14th, 2015 at 7:33 am

Judy,

Back in my original sojourn in the ACBL PR office, I was putting together a packet of quotes to send out the ACBL folk far and wide for them to pass along to media anywhere they were. One of the quotes came from a conversation I had with Omar. (I actually do a credible imitation of Omar’s voice, or I did back then. So imagine these words being spoken in that soft cultured accent Omar favoured, the one with the hint of bemusement in every syllable: “Gary, the beauty of Bridge is that every hand is a problem to be solved in seven or so minutes. After that you move on to a new hand, a new problem.”

And he was so right, even though he was a master of train Bridge and the fun of goulaches. He loved all card games, even if they didn’t all share the beauty of the game we associate him most strongly with. By the way, that quote came from him at a time when he didn’t know me from Adam. Yet this still gigantic movie star at that time and world-class player forever treated me with respect. For that one fact, his ability to talk to just about anyone as if they were sitting at a Parisian bistro telling each other what happened last night, I truly feel the world isn’t quite as good a place as it was before I read the news. His loss to the Bridge community? Incalcuable.

GM

Judy Kay-WolffJuly 14th, 2015 at 3:22 pm

Gary, it is wonderful hearing from you again. I know your involvement with the ACBL brings back many memories of Omar and his enormous universal popularity It is rare that one individual is revered and remembered though his active time on center stage ceased decades ago. There are so many ‘positive’ stories involving Omar .. that I may never have heard before .. all coming to the fore this past week. He was indeed special!

Bill SmithJuly 22nd, 2015 at 1:35 pm

My recall of Mr. Sharif was the 3 times I kibitzed him and his partner at the table.
I decided to learn the game(chiefly) by watching the great players, and Edgar Kaplan, Al Roth and Barry Crane were my main ‘victims’. As you noted, Omar was classy, gentlemanly but most of all very QUIET. Also, he was steady, a noted trait of the professional. The era was the early 70’s…once in Lancaster PA.

Judy Kay-WolffJuly 25th, 2015 at 3:06 pm

Hi Bill:

Sorry, I didn’t see your remark until now. Your remembrance seems to be shared by many other admirers. You’d never know of his fame by his general demeanor. There was a very comprehensive contribution about Omar on bridgeblogging.com by Mark Horton. It said it all.

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