Judy Kay-Wolff


Fifty years on the bridge scene has enriched my life beyond any measure of description.  Because of my unique conjugal attachments, i.e., Norman and Bobby, I have been the recipient of eternal bridge lessons, mixed pair partners waiting in the wings and cherished encounters with some of the most revered players on the planet. 

Of all the celebrities I have had the thrill of meeting in my bridge travels, one stands out — with no equal.    On a trip to California in the late nineties, our long-time buddy, Don Krauss, invited Norman and me to lunch and informed us we’d be joined by an old friend whose company he was confident we would enjoy.  And, indeed, we did!   Being an avid bridger, his luncheon mate was noticeably impressed by Norman’s track record and gracious persona.

My late husband recounted humorous incidents with partners and teammates as Don’s friend told of his early beginnings in a new country and detailed some of the ‘projects’ tackled and individuals who crossed his path.   It was a spellbinding tete-a-tete between two bridge lovers while Don and I sat back enjoying the repartee. The surprise guest didn’t have many masterpoints or tournament scalps on the wall.  His missing trophies were ably supplanted by Oscars, Awards and Honors.

As Norman and I departed the restaurant, we laughed as we mused over the ‘projects’ tackled (LOST WEEKEND, DOUBLE INDEMNITY, SOME LIKE IT HOT, STALAG 17, LOVE IN THE AFTERNOON, SABRINA, WITNESS FOR THE PROSECUTION, SUNSET BOULEVARD, SEVEN YEAR  ITCH, IRMA LA DOUCE, etc.) and the random individuals who crossed his path  (RAY MILLAND, BARBARA STANWYCK, FRED MacMURRAY, MARILYN MONROE, JACK LEMON, TONY CURTIS, WILLIAM HOLDEN, AUDREY HEPBURN, GARY COOPER, HUMPHREY BOGART, CHARLES LAUGHTON, MARLENE DIETRICH, GLORIA SWANSON, SHIRLEY MacLAINE and true casts of thousands).    What a darling, lovable elfin-like creature and a credit to the human race!   Obviously, by now you have surmised our modest charismatic luncheon companion that day was none other than the celebrated movie mogul — screenwriter, producer, director — Billy Wilder!


Mark LombardDecember 11th, 2008 at 2:03 am

Billy Wilder is the bomb!

I think it would be interesting to poll the readers where bridge has shown up in the movies or TV, and which celebrities enjoy playing.

I know James Bond played it in Goldfinger (?), and Norma Desmond played it (with Buster Keaton and a few other notables) in Sunset Boulevard. Ricky and Lucy and Fred and Ethel played from time-to-time, and George Burns’ and Omar Shariff’s passion for it are legendary. Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens is supposedly a Life Master. What/who else?

Ray LeeDecember 11th, 2008 at 8:47 pm

Some random sports figures who come to mind as bridge players are Maria Navratilova and Paul Molitor. I think I’ve blogged about ‘Grand Slam’, the bridge movie starring Loretta Young, and I’ve certainly written about ‘Evening Primrose’, the drama with songs by Sondheim, one of which involves a bridge game. In the entertainment world, Chico Marx featured in one of Charles Goren’s bridge TV shows, and of course George Burns was an avid player (see ‘The Lone Wolff’ for a deal featuring GB). Helen Sobel started off as a Broadway showgirl… Eddie Kantar has a hilarious story involving Jim Backus, of ‘Mr Magoo’ fame… perhaps I’ll blog it sometime soon.

JUDY KAY-WOLFFDecember 12th, 2008 at 1:45 am


The above Comments of Mark (and later Ray) served as an inspiration to me — and with Bobby’s help and some S.O.S. emails to two knowledgeable sources (Chuck Maltz and blogger Mark Blumenthal), I came up with the following list of world famous personalities who, though excelling in other areas, shared our passion for bridge. Here goes ..

In the field of baseball — for starters — Richie Ashburn, Jim Bunning, Tim McCarver (and golfer Frank Beard) drew crowds for a three-cornered Exhibition Match at The Host Farm over thirty years ago. Their opponents were The Dallas Aces (I think I heard of them) and a Philadelphia team comprised of Bobby Jordan, Arthur Robinson, Norman Kay (knew him too) and Edgar Kaplan — especially imported for the occasion from New York. Even though the sports icons were allowed to see their partner’s hands in advance, it didn’t help them beat either the Aces or the Locals. Also Wes Parker (L.A. Angels) and Walter Alston (Dodgers Manager) loved the game. The Pigskins celebrities included Ace Gutowski (Detroit Lions), Alan Ameche (Heisman Trophy Winner and star player for the Baltimore Colts) and Lou Holtz (who had a multi-faceted managing career — and is still going strong). Three Wimbleton Champions make the category: Gene Mako, Bob Falkenburg andf Pauline Betz Addie.

In the field of modern literature — George S. Kaufman and W. Somerset Maugham were standouts. From the government and military, we must acknowledge President Dwight Eisenhower as well as popular NATO Chief, Alfred M. Gruenther. Also, I believe Justice Paul Stevens (a Life Master, to boot) participated in some publicized pro/amateur matches in the last decade. However, the bulk of everyone’s Celebrity Bridge Players List is gleaned from the entertainment field. Besides Omar, George Burns and a couple of the Marx Brothers — there was Don Adams (“Maxwell Smart”); Meredith Baxter-Birney (“Bridget Loves Bernie”); Joan Benny (daughter of Jack Benny); Bandleader Les Brown; Phyllis Diller; Lorne Greene (“Bonanza”); Burt Lancaster; Pianist Leonard Pennario; Telly Savalas (“Kojak”); Billy Wilder, Hollywood screenwriter, director, producer — as well as old-timers Bob Hawk (Radio Talk Show Announcer for Camel Cigarettes) and Monty Hall (of “Let’s Make a Deal” fame).

Of course, we cannot exclude celebrated business magnets Warren Buffett and Bill Gates but they belong in a special category for they have graciously and generously embraced bridge and have become one (or two) of us.

O. K. — I am sure there are some egregiously obvious oversights. Please let me know whom I missed!

M BlumenthalJanuary 1st, 2009 at 4:35 am

There is a bridge game in one of the early Marx Brothers movie I think Monkey Business. Chico certainly played. a lot I first started reading Ian Fleming’s James Bond series because it features a bridge game with the Mississippi Heart hand. It must be forty years since I read it. I want to say it was THUNDERBALL, but I may not be correct. I know people who played with Stevens. I played with Sherrill Headrick who was a linebacker for Kansas City and also Cincinnati.

DAVE G.December 30th, 2012 at 6:01 am

JUDGE AMALYA KEARSE – i have just started to read your blog, i love it. as a note my dad was born in philly and moved to ATLANTIC CITY as a teenager.