Judy Kay-Wolff


One of the most colorful and popular bridge characters ever to take center stage in our hobby was New Yorker, Harry J. Fishbein, lovingly called Fishy by his fans and friends.

Though he played professional basketball, his true love was bridge and was both President and Proprietor of the legendary New York Mayfair Club where many a high stake rubber bridge game took place.   Fishy, who served as Treasurer of the ACBL (and according to the Bridge Encyclopedia — refused to accept the customary compensation) was a highly decorated competitor with twelve national titles to his credit and was inducted into the Hall of Fame posthumously in 2000.  Fishy enjoyed two claims to fame:  (1) the Convention that bore his name; and (2) his famous variety of berets without which he would never leave home. 

There are many Fishy stories still bandied about, but my favorite one involves his good friend, Charlie Goren.   They would often accompany each other to out-of-town tournaments — usually playing with different teammates.   Charlie (though at that time it was not public knowledge) sponsored high-powered teams.  Being a teammate of  the uncontested king of bridge was a feather in one’s cap and a status symbol — great for the ego — but not particularly good for one’s bank account as Charlie was a penny pincher by nature (though not dictated by his success as the greatest promoter of all times).  
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Harry, on the other hand, a great player in his own right, had good teams — but the caliber of his groups never quite matched up with Charlie’s.  Often Fishy had to settle for "silver" medals — and on this particular occasion Charlie had been especially lucky as he and his crew captured three events.  In an attempt to soothe his constantly bruised ego, Fishy proudly removed from his pocket a huge collection of soap bars he had ‘lifted’ from the hotel room.  Charlie took his eyes off the road for a second, glanced down and questioned in apparent amazement, "Just how many do you have there?"   Fishy grinned from ear to ear,  and belted out, "Fourteen!"   "Sorry, Fishy," countered Goren, "Second again!!!!"

1 Comment

CharlesFebruary 7th, 2009 at 4:14 pm

I am an old-time player and this is my first blog ever. But, I’ve been loving your little anecdotes and up until now haven’t taken the time to go public. I attended many tournaments in the New York area (at the old Hilton close to the famous Stage Deli) and it was so exciting to speak to and play against the true superstars of the game. I had heard rumors about Goren being a ‘sponsor’ — but not in the current big scale frame of things going on today. Bridge has taken a different route and from what I am told, few of the top experts play with their peers — but rather seek professional employment. Perhaps bridge, like sports, is going the way of all flesh, where focus is on the almighty dollar. In any event — I love reading about players from my vintage and you seem to have a cedar chest of memories. Thanks for rekindling mine.