Judy Kay-Wolff


In the early to mid sixties, four eligible bachelors who often partnered or teamed up together, bit the dust.   The first to go was Edgar Kaplan who married his former partner Alfie Sheinwold’s ex-wife, Betty.  Then I lassoed Norman, Lenny Harmon married the widowed Marion Stein and Ivar Stakgold wed Alice Cox.  Another good friend, Dickie Freeman (who lived farther south in the Washington, D.C. area) but was close with the group, married Louise Robinson.   Against the odds, all five marriages happily survived until one of the spouses passed on.   Quite a record for our bridge circus, you must admit!

By this time you must be wondering why the above caption!  It was the, shall we say, brainchild of Edgar Kaplan, who was a great theoretician, a brilliant writer, and marvelous partner to my late husband Norman Kay.  They played together for over forty years — first in the late fifties and early sixties with a brief hiatus when Norman was snatched up to play on the big team by Sidney Silodor (until Sidney’s death in 1963), and then he and Edgar resumed their partnership from 1965 until 1997 when Edgar finally lost his battle with cancer.

One of the highlights of my long bridge career was getting to know and become close with Edgar and Betty.   If ever a marriage was made in heaven — this was it!   They married in 1962 and savored each other’s company for twenty-three years until her death in 1985.  Betty was a very talented individual — a music teacher in her younger days, gained fame as a gracious hostess at their home on West 94th — but more to her credit, she will forever be remembered as Edgar’s Boswell, carefully capturing on paper many of what are referred to as Edgarisms.   A while back I believe I wrote a tribute to Edgar and his clever and funny words of wisdom.   Hold on!  Be patient! I am getting to RATS!

Betty had a few scalps on her own wall, having won four national championships.   However, she (like most wives of world class players) suffered from the pressure of playing with her beloved and did not always put her best foot forward, especially after making a boo-boo and being reprimanded for it.   So, Edgar laid down a new set of ground rules which he thought might improve their rapport.    He was only allowed to refer to her errors in judgment (?) by using four words, which as you by now have gathered — began with the letters R, A, T and S.   They were intended as a one-word synopsis of her particular performance.   Are you ready????  Here they come ….

Reasonable!  Attractive!  Thoughtful!  Scintillating!

Bobby has already retired for the night, but when he awakens in the morning, rest assured this copy of Edgar’s restricted list of comments at the bridge table will be sitting upon his desk!


ReneJuly 25th, 2010 at 10:41 am

I never knew Edgar but the word on the street was that he was a glib-tongued charmer and from your post about his four ‘choice’ words’ being like a form of restricted (or restrictive) choice, he is living up to his reputation.

I also remember hearing something in the form of a quiz about you and Betty and your husbands being in the Hall of Fame. Do you know what I am talking about? I can’t for the life of me recall.


Judy Kay-WolffJuly 25th, 2010 at 11:08 am


I think the subject was how many women were married to two ACBL Hall of Famers. If so, the answer is THREE.

There are two living ones:

BETSEY WOLFF LAZARD (Bobby and Sidney)

JUDY KAY WOLFF (Norman and Bobby)

However, there is a deceased one:


And — looking ahead there is another slam dunk to join our ranks: Jan Martel who was the former Mrs. LEW STANSBY (a present member) and now is wed to CHIP MARTEL (who has not reached the 60 years old age requirement — but is a sure shot when he does).

JOANNA STANSBY would have also made the list, being married earlier to MIKE LAWRENCE, but for personal reasons refuses to be a candidate (though unquestionably deserving of election).

So much for bridge trivia and musical marriages!



ChuckJuly 25th, 2010 at 8:29 pm

The names of the “eligible” bachelors are very familiar from what seems like ages ago. It brings back memories of the old days at the New York tournaments with the preponderance of seemingly a star at every table.

Are any of them still playing (or even alive)? It seems to be a whole new breed out there.

Catch me up!

Judy Kay-WolffJuly 26th, 2010 at 8:12 am


I am sad to say that since Norman’s death in 2002, I have lost personal contact with most of the old group. As of last check in 2009, Lenny who would be 91 and Ivar, 85, were the only ones left. They were partners, besides close friends, and represented the true spirit of the game. I think of them as the Old Guard. They had ‘real jobs’ and played for the love and beauty of bridge — before professionalism hit the scene. Lenny had an insurance business and Ivar was a college professor.

Those were the days!

PaulJuly 27th, 2010 at 4:25 am

Those are still the days for the great majority, especially outside the US where there are very few professional players.

Judy Kay-WolffJuly 27th, 2010 at 10:10 am


How true, how true! Perhaps the reason is that top experts are drawn from all over the world by the well-paying U. S. sponsors. No reason for foreign experts to not hop upon the gravy train where, despite our plummeting economy here, there is still great demand for experts.

Thus, many foreigners have jumped ship either becoming American Citizens, acquiring Dual Citizenship or just journeying back and forth across the ocean for the Nationals and other major well paying events.

There is a point, I feel, where the line must be drawn. I have always believed it should stop at the Trials where those precious seats should be reserved for the real experts because if they advance, they will be competing against the world’s finest and we have a responsibility to send our top representatives.

When two sponsors are nominated for the ACBL HOF, who are legions away from the recognized expert class, it is time to step back and see how professionalism has deluded our game, making a farce of the term ‘expert’ and our once-sacred shrine — The Hall of Fame.

NanJuly 27th, 2010 at 6:17 pm


We are living in a new era.

Thirty-five or forty years ago, it was rare to scan an ACBL Daily Bulletin and see the name of a sponsor (let alone a foreigner) vying for honors. Now it is unusual NOT to see an abundance of both sponsor/pro pairs and a array of superstars from other nations in contention. The latter provides better competition and is very challenging, making for a better contest.

In fact, I recall seeing one of the popular Norwegian pairs winning some big open event in New Oreleans this week.

Judy Kay-WolffJuly 27th, 2010 at 6:51 pm

Can’t argue with you, Nan. It is a sign of the times. Bridge is so different than I remember it when I was first picked up thirteen cards. Everything has improved (styles, systems, conventions, defensive carding, et al.) Not the same game I first learned back in the fifties.

I think the expansion of the systems has been a positive improvement. It is only the political and personal agendas with which I take issue.

cam FrenchJuly 28th, 2010 at 3:20 pm

Thanks for sharing that Judy.

In order to appreciate it, you needed to see the build-up from Betty.

She started by saying you are playing with your husband….and then explained it :”to the boys, as the girls already knew”.

The idea was that the RATS represented varying degrees of culpability. When it came to S, Edgar wanted something he could hiss….

She gave him scintillating and that was reserved for a hand where she made a great switch (always dubious opposite a world class player/HUSBAND) from K9x through Q7xx, attacking and unblocking but of course he failed to see it, he got squeezed for an over trick or two when they were down had he returned her switch.

He mumbled….scintillating……..sssssssssssssssss.


Bob GellerJuly 29th, 2010 at 1:36 am

No. As I recall the story (it was 40 yrs ago so I could be wrong), SHE hissed “scintillating” at HIM.

Judy Kay-WolffJuly 29th, 2010 at 10:30 am

Since I was not qualified to answer either of the two above comments, I sought counsel of Jeff Rubens, Editor of The Bridge World Magazine, who was one of Edgar’s closest friends and worked side by side at TBW for many years. Jeff, who was elected to the ACBL Hall of Fame a few years ago for his continuing contributions to the game, especially in the field of writing, responded to my question minutes after received. Here is what Jeff had to say:

“Geller is right. French is almost right; the shift was from A9x.”


John R. GroutNovember 17th, 2011 at 8:17 am

I was able to read “RATS!” long after its original publication when the Bridge World republished it in a pamphlet of bridge humor stories. Jeff’s own “The Wickle Jar Pinkle” was in it as well.

Thirty-odd years ago, I kibitzed Norman and Edgar at a number of different national tournaments (e.g., San Francisco, Detroit). Perhaps if I find a partner I’ll get back into duplicate someday.