Judy Kay-Wolff

Bridge Playing Celebrities

To many people today, bridge was a game indulged in by their parents and grandparents.   It was played in the kitchens and living room parlors before TV came upon the scene to help pass the hours.   However, though the numbers have waned, there are so many celebrities who play (or played) the game, it would absolutely amaze you.  The two most famous, of course, were George Burns and Omar Sharif.   Others combined from authorship, movies, theater, radio, TV, sports and military.

Just to name a few:  George S. Kaufman (playwright/director); movie stars Phyllis Diller, Telly Savalas, Burt Lancaster, Chico Marx; Radio Star Bob Hawk (originally “Take It or Leave It”)) and then Camel Ad (I’m a LEMAC now); band leader Les Brown; TV stars Monty Hall, Meredith Baxter,  Don Adams; Sports celebrities Richie Ashburn, Tim McCarver, Jim Bunning, Wes Parker, Frank Beard; Coach and announcer Lou Holtz, Coach Tommy Prothro, etc., philanthropists Bill Gates and Warren Buffett, military administrators like General Alfred Gruenther and President Dwight Eisenhower.

However, the real kicker to this blog, you can find in the Bridge Encyclopedia under Helen Sobel (Smith):

“Born in Philadelphia, after a long residence in New York City she moved to Miami Beach in 1963; after her marriage to Smith, she moved to Detroit.  Smith enjoyed a brief stage career as a chorus girl and appeared in several stage shows including Animal Crackers with the Marx Brothers.  Another chorus girl taught her how to play bridge and she rocketed to stardom at the card table.”

She is “universally ranked as greatest woman bridge player of all time!”

I’m sure I’ve missed some obvious ones, so please help me out.   Bridge is a game for all people and all seasons.


JaneJuly 11th, 2011 at 2:16 pm

Hi Judy,

I believe that George Brett, third baseman for the Kansas City Royals from 1973-1993, played bridge in the Royals club house. George said he liked the game, but I never heard who his partner or opponents were. I can only assume they were team mates or staff of the Royals organization. We used to attend lots of Royals games when we lived in Kansas City, and were at the “I-70” World series games when the Royals defeated the Cardinals for the title.

Judy Kay-WolffJuly 11th, 2011 at 4:42 pm


I was in the baseball card business from the early 80s to ’97 and got to see Brett at a few shows. He sure was a handsome bugger but I never knew he played bridge. That is one that escaped me. Thanks.

Judy Kay-WolffJuly 11th, 2011 at 4:50 pm

I wrote to my good friend Eddie Kantar and he supplied tons I didn’t know about who shared our interest in the game. Here goes:

Jim Baccus (Mr. Magoo)

Carole Lawrence

Jane Meadows

Walter Bingham (Senior sports editor for Sports Illustrated) who covered a championship that Norman participated in.

Bob Falkenburg (a Wimbleton Tennis Champion)

And… shame on me, I forgot BILLY WILDER (whom through the courtesy of Don Krauss, Norman and I lunched with twice — a real treat). Norman and I were captivated by Mr. Wilder, a dear man, but he was equally impressed by Norman.

I’m sure Don could fill in a few more blanks for me.

Robb GordonJuly 12th, 2011 at 5:08 am

Ace Gutowski

Judy Kay-WolffJuly 12th, 2011 at 5:43 am

Yes, Robb. I remember Norman mentioning him. If I am not mistaken. he set all sorts of rushing records for the Detroiit Lions in the early days. I suppose he was before most people’s time, but certainly not before mine. I should have recalled him. Thanks.

David BJuly 12th, 2011 at 6:46 am


There is one of the other more famous actors, Tom Selleck, that loved to play, but had the same problem as Omar Sharif, he could not play at most tournaments in peace, too much media attention.


Steven GaynorJuly 12th, 2011 at 6:48 am

According to an article I read a few years ago PGA tour golfer Jesper Parnevik, who now lives in Florida, has taken lessons from Larry Cohen. Martina Navratilova and the late Wilt Chamberlain were also noted to be interested in Bridge.

Also, NY Stage Star and Tony winner Alfred Drake; Iowa football coach Forest Evashevski; US Senator from MN, Rudy Boschwitz.

Jeff HJuly 12th, 2011 at 8:20 am

When I read the name of Helen Sobel, I am reminded of one of her more famous quotes. She was, if I recall correctly, Charles Goren’s frequent partner. She was asked at one point what is was like to play with the best player in the world, and she told the questioner to ask him (Goren).

Judy Kay-WolffJuly 12th, 2011 at 3:19 pm


Yes, I had heard that too. It was a wonderful retort!!!

WendyNovember 14th, 2012 at 7:10 am

Martina Navratilova

VickySeptember 9th, 2014 at 7:43 pm

Buster Keaton