Judy Kay-Wolff


Often I smile and reminisce about the old timers (most of whom are gone) who graced the vugraph table with mike in hand, making us laugh and challenging our thought process as we watched the key matches on the big screen.    Vugraph has come a long way and many clever commentator-analyzers of the past helped to popularize it at NABCs and WBFs.   The outstanding ones at NABCs were Ron Anderson, Edgar Kaplan, Eric Kokish, my Bobby (before his hearing went downhill) and one of the most outstanding (at the traveling Omar Sharif Bridge Circus competition) — Mike Ledeen.     They played to packed houses and were so very entertaining.   I rarely got to hear Edgar as he and Norman were usually playing, so it was a treat for me to read what follows below.   I do remember Betty’s collection of Edgarisms but I hadn’t seen them in thirty years.

I want to share with you some of what were named “Kaplan Quips.”   Recently, I read them on line and the article was prefaced:  “Quotes from the Rama Room — as recorded by Betty Kaplan, Edgar’s Boswell, at the 6th World Team Olympiad in Valkenberg, Netherlands, in 1980.*    Edgar was about the most glib-tongued person I came across in my bridge travels — or any travels for that matter:   The humorous words just rolled off his tongue like lightning bolts, one after another.

Here goes ….

“I don’t know what North was thinking of doing, but it’s just as well he didn’t.”

“I think he’ll keep doubling them until he finally beats one.”

“The difference between a brave bid and a foolhardy bid is largely a matter of result.”

“That’s unfair. North-South were just having a good time and suddenly East-West turned nasty and doubled.”

“Four hearts is a very good bid — but on some other hand.”

“West passed, hoping his partner would double but that was too much to hope for in this world. It will happen all the time in the next world.”

“If you average South’s bidding on this hand (one too many) and on the previous hand (one too few), he comes out just right.”

“When in doubt, put the opponents on lead. Why should you make the mistake?”

“It is always a good idea to make only six when you’ve missed a grand slam. The opponents don’t know how good a result they have.”

“Well, it was only sporting for declarer to give East his trick back.”

“He may bid and he may not. I believe that covers all possibilities.”

“If you’re a good enough player, you can get away with making mistakes because nobody will believe it.”

“That’s the story of my life — all my life, I’ve been setting up non-working endplays.”

“Declarer could try a non-working squeeze.”

“After all, East-West have a clear majority of the point count (21).”

“The defenders made 2NT so it was an accurate contract — just played the wrong way.”

“I understand some super-modernists are back to leading queen from queen-jack. They call it ‘reverse Rusinow.'”

“He’s preserving his options to misguess the diamonds.”

“In order to let the contract make, the defenders must lead a spade.   No other line of play succeeds.”

“South’s bid implied: I have four spades, four hearts, six clubs and the rest are diamonds.”

“They avoided the trap of bidding a slam on the second hand to compensate for the one they missed on the first.”

“South had five hearts and five clubs, but they were not playing five-card majors so he opened 1C.”

“I don’t understand how declarer made only five spades. I understand why he wanted to make only five spades: It wouldn’t be so obvious then that he had missed a slam.”

“To teach the opponents not to preempt against you, you must not only double them, you must also beat them.”

“Some people bid 3NT over their partner’s three-level suit bids on the theory that it’s more dignified to go down in game.”

“In his 3NT contract, declarer has seven tricks. One more from heaven makes eight and where there’s eight, there’s nine.”

“I don’t think anyone in this tournament can bid diamonds to show diamonds. We lost the club suit in the 1950s. Now diamonds are gone and hearts are sinking fast.”

“Everything gets doubled in the Closed Room except when it goes down.”

“If you want to bid naturally and still sound modern, just say your bid shows the suit below the suit above the one you bid.”

“Now his 3D bid shows a singleton diamond. When he rebids diamonds, it will confirm a singleton diamond.”

“Now he has forced North to lead away from his DK but unfortunately North didn’t have it. It’s called the phantom endplay.”

“In the old days, you had to grit your teeth and pass with the North hand. Now you can make a negative double with the result that you go down instead of the opponents.”

“East is wondering why he didn’t pass 1S. So am I.”



JUDY KAY-WOLFFMarch 30th, 2010 at 12:32 pm

WHY? Why is it that people take the time to write private emails in reponse to a blog, but rarely make a public comment especially when they have something interesting to add. I really suspect that many of the people who comment with names (many of whom I’ve never heard) may be even using aliases for whatever reason strikes their fancy.

I did want to share a special one I did receive yesterday about Edgar regarding the above quips and the unique way he expressed himself. This person, an old friend from back home, who dabbles at the game but is not a very serious player, was stagestruck by many of the guests and appreciated the spontaneity of Edgar’s predominantly one liners on August 9, 1987. She reminded me of Norman’s surprise Sixtieth Birthday (where she recanted Edgar being the MC of a Roast for Norman) — a pretty tough task — roasting Norman.

She recalls being awed by Edgar’s enchanting way with words when introuducing some of the dozens of luminaries in attendance that Sunday Afternoon: Alvin Roth, B. J. Becker, Ivar Stakgold, Lenny Harmon, Andy Gabrilovitch, Tannah Hirsch, Bob Jordan, Arthur Robinson, Alan Ameche (Heisman Trophy winner who loved bridge as much as FB), et al. Though long after Alvin Landy’s death, his widow Elaine motored in from New York and the Rosenkranzes came in from Mexico — all to pull off the surprise of the century– and Norman was absolutely floored. He still couldn’t believe how I pulled it off (with lots of help) and he hadn’t the foggiest! A sneaky and enterprising ‘little’ thing I was in those days! I had designed the invitation but all the RSVPs went to my two friends who did the tallying to keep it a military secret and enable me to arrange the appropriate table seating, cuisine, etc. Not only do I have a scrapbook of pictures and clever RSVPS — but I also had the good sense to tape the party for posterity. (Obviously the economy was good back then — and I had a prosperous baseball card business).

But my friend’s foremost thought of the whole shindig was her fascination with Edgar’s unparalleled sense of humor and how he never missed a beat. He usually didn’t!

SAMMarch 30th, 2010 at 3:07 pm

Hi Stranger:

Every now and then I check out the blog sites and, by chance, caught the above blurb on Edgar and I, too, remember how he stole the show. But you forgot the other highlight of that party — the book containing replies from well-wishing world famous celebrities directed to Norman. I remember there was a story behind it, but frankly, I too am getting up there, so I’ll impose upon you to refresh my memory, if you recall what I am referring to.

Your old buddy Sam

Judy Kay-WolffMarch 31st, 2010 at 5:48 pm

Hello Sam:

I did remember your reference, but I had to plow through my storage room last night to haul out the book of letters and personally autographed photos (all dated in July or August of ’87).

I actually can’t take credit for the idea. It was Norman’s brainstorm brought about in the late Sixties when Edgar and I won the Mixed Pair at the NABC in Canada. I suppose he (and all who knew me) were in such a state of apoplexy that Norman thought I deserved some recognition for pulling off such a coup which he named “The Miracle of Montreal.” We were living in center city — right across from the Merrill Lynch Office. So, conveniently (without arousing suspicion) he would go back to the office each night (pretending to be catching up on paperwork) and hand-write (almost an archaic form of communication) to every celebrity he could think of, explaining I was a near-novice and advising of my triumph — requesting that they drop me a brief message of congratulations. He laboriously placed all the returns in scrapbook form and when the returns came to a halt, he presented it to me. I was in shock (in fact — speechless — rare even in those days). It is something I will always treasure — especially nowadays when sometimes I have trouble counting trump when I lose concentration. I must confess I hadn’t seen it since we moved to Vegas because it was stowed away with other treasured memories (pictures, letters, plaques, etc.) but I just dug up a lot of memorabilia and found lots of goodies that I hadn’t thought about in years.

Getting back to Norman’s 60th (and being a bridge player), what could I do but follow suit and mimic his exciting project? I wrote (by computer) to dozens of celebrities from all walks of life telling them my hubby was reaching a milestone and always was an admirer of theirs. I then requested a brief note of birthday wishes. I realize this is an offensive style of namedropping, but chancing the risk, I thought the readers (especially the older ones) would enjoy some of the returns Norman received either in the form of cards, notes, letters or photos (with inscriptions):

Vice President George Bush; Donald T. Regan (Norman’s old boss at ML, but at that time, I believe was Secretary of the Treasury); Pennsylvania Senator John Heinz; Philadelphia Mayor Frank Rizzo; TV personality Morley Safer; Red Grange (yes, “The” Red Grange); Ron Sutter of the Philadelphia Flyers; Phillies Timmy McCarver; Celtics Basketball Coach Red Auerbach; 76ers Julius Erving; Joan Rivers; Philadelphia Channel 10 TV Anchor Larry Kane; ABC star Barbara Walters; “Steve and Edyie,” Lucie Arnaz; “Omar,”Philadelphia superstar and announcer Richie Ashburn; New Jersey Governor Tom Kean; NYC Mayor Ed Koch; Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Spector; Massachusetts Senator Edward M. Kennedy; Basketball star and Senator Bill Bradley; the one and only Don Rickles; Wall Street Week Analyst Tom Rukeyser; Dolly Parton; Bob Hope; TV’s Judge Wapner; Wayne Newton; Johnny Carson; Eagles Head Coach Buddy Ryan; and another popular Eagles Coach Dick Vermeil; New York Yankees idol Don Mattingly; Frank Sinatra (my personal favorite); Phillies Hall of Famer Mike Schmidt; a typwritten note from Monsignor O. Rizzato who served as Secretariat of State for The Vatican (with a picture of the Pope); NBC’S Jane Pauley; All-time great Hockey’s Wayne Gretzky; popular LA Manager Tommy LaSorda; Atlanta Braves baseball hero Dale Murphy; Joey Bishop; Philly pepper pot Larry Bowa; Philadelphia Mayor Wilson Goode — with lots of personal messages from bridge players round the country who knew of Norman’s special day.

I know it is a lot to digest, but you can imagine the surprise and thrill when Norman opened the book and started flipping through the pages. Many of his birthday guests “loitered” long after the gala ended, savoring the letters and messages encompassed in a lovely leather bound scrapbook engraved NORMAN KAY which I am looking at as I write.

At another time, when I have the energy, I will list all the personally autographed photos and letters I received as a result of Norman’s undaunted effort over forty-years ago.

Gary M. MugfordApril 4th, 2010 at 9:45 am


I actually looked at the quotes before reading the text above it. As I was going through, I went, Edgar, Edgar, Edgar, hmmm, Edgar, hmmm, Edgar, and on and on. By then, I wised up and read the preamble and had the warm, fuzzy feeling listening to Edgar often invoked. Well done!

Now, of course, my brush with VuGraph infamy. In my, I believe, second comback as the PR mouthpiece for the NABC’s in Buffalo (although it could be Niagara Falls, we ARE talking about last century afterall) I had the brainstorm that it was time to start injecting some new blood into the VuGraph panel. I more or less announced the plan and started trying to gather ‘rookies’ to slot in with the old pros. Faster’n you could say double with an ace against 7NT and the lead, I was stomped down. Some were gentle (Edgar and Alan Truscott). Some weren’t. And no naming names, even if they’re dead. My guess was that it was a tie over who was happier to see me go (again). Them or Bill Gross.

Now the ravages of time have indeed enforced my long-ago plan. Damn it.


Judy Kay-WolffApril 4th, 2010 at 12:53 pm

Yes, Gary — as you say “Edgar, Edgar, Edgar, hmmm…” He was a piece of work (but one of the most articulate and prolific in my years on the bridge scene). Speaking if Vugraph (what ever happened to calling it Pendergraph after Peter bequeathed the tidy sum of $50,000 to the ACBL to perpetuate his name. Hmmmm, as you say!!

Gary, I am not familiar with your particular talents as a PR person. I enjoy your commenting and sharing stories of the past — far, far past. However, I have sadly witnessed so much politics and personal self-aggrandizement on the bridge scene, nothing shocks me — with hiring, firing, promotions, and protecting the flock. They are in a class by themselves — with very few exceptions.

May have been the best thing that ever happened to you!

Gary M. MugfordApril 5th, 2010 at 5:37 pm


That I didn’t like some of the big names in Bridge during my (brief) sojourn(s) as Public Relations Director of the ACBL is hardly a secret. Neither was their contempt for me. I didn’t dress the part, although I’d worked that all out with Paul Cohen before agreeing to come on in the first place. The day I first was introduced to the Board of Directors, I will never forget the looks on their faces. My enemies that day were obvious and never switched sides. On the other hand, I met some new friends (Bobby being one) that I had nothing but respect for. Still, it was ME that quit in the Bal Harbour World Championships fiasco. A friend of Bobby’s was the cause and you and he both know my views on the pompous person involved. (see, I can refer to him without using the word, TWIT!!!)

I came back because the people who actually WORKED the events for the ACBL were amongst the best I ever met and/or worked with. And I’m not just talking about Henry Francis and Sue Emery. People like Helen Horobetz and Laura Gulley were co-workers ANYBODY, even a garrulous grump like me could work with. Charles MacCracken and Bobby and Tom Sanders and Alfred Sheinwold and Alan Truscott. It was a great job. But the people above, my new-found life-time enemies were people I couldn’t work with continually. After the third try, it was all over. They never asked again, I never offered. And missed the good people every day for years after.

One of the best things about getting older? Forgetting that hurt, largely self-inflicted through obstinacy, but a hurt nonetheless. All that’s left are the good memories.


PS: Peter’s passing came after I was out of favour. I LIKED honouring people, even naming the press releases after my predecessor in the job. Had I stuck it out, I still probably wouldn’t have been able to make PenderGraph universal. Too ‘new wave.’ If you know what I mean. Afterall, just getting the newscameras into the team finals in Toronto was enough to have one prominent porcine personality NEVER talk to me again.

JUDY KAY-WOLFFApril 5th, 2010 at 8:43 pm

Dear Gary:

I really don’t have any background of your “mis-experiences” with some of those at the ACBL. In fact, I even had to ask Bobby whom it was I should know that you were alluding to as ‘the pompous person.’

I do recognize and knew most of the people you mentioned (the good guys). As far as the Board of Directors, when I came on the scene there were at least half a dozen popular, respected sensational players who served the game well (with that as their primary objective) — not asking “what can the game do for me?” Sadly few are still even alive and the status of the Board gradually changed. Considering they have important bridge judgments to make, it should seem appropriate that they are knowledgeable bridge players rather than electors who have won a popularity contest of their hometown peers. Of course, there are some exceptions — but from actions in recent years with which I am familiar, they are in the minority.

Times have changed radically and I really believe they will never be the same — since now world titles and master points are on the market to those who can afford them (and we even award master points to people at the clubs with 40% games). A total farce! Forgive me for being bitter — but when achievements such as those can be paid for with money, it is time to ask oneself — what has become of the excellence of the game we once played? It has been reduced to mediocrity — or worse!

Please email me as to the identity of the “prominent porcine personality” (loved the alliteration) who never spoke to you again after the Toronto incident with the news cameras.

Glad you still have “good memories” left. Unfortunately, I have a memory like an elephant and unlikely to forget when I have been wronged for no reason. I never make the same mistake twice.