GROWING UP IN BENSONHURST
What I write here is about a time and place that will never again be. The time is the 1930s and the place is Brooklyn. For others the place might be elsewhere. Today, as then many immigrants from different cultures tended to migrate to areas where similar cultures already exist. For example there was China town, Little Italy and East New York where European Jews settled. As I recall, in our neighborhood of Bensonhurst, I noticed mainly Italians and Jews among many other immigrants from many different countries.
I was born on October 12, 1927 in a small hospital in Bensonhurst, a neighborhood in Brooklyn, New York. Brooklyn is big. If it was a city by itself and not part of New York City, its’ two and one half million residents would make up the forth largest metropolis in the United States. Brooklyn covers almost 100 square miles of mind boggling terrain, from the beaches of Coney Island and Seagate to the thronging sidewalks of Williamsburg. There were the mean streets of East New York, the mansions of Brooklyn Heights, the quasi-wilds of Prospect Park and working class neighborhoods like Bensonhurst. Flatbush is a neighborhood that is uniquely representative of Brooklyn and of course there was our beloved Brooklyn Dodgers. This was the Brooklyn that existed then and unfortunately, will never be again. From the hospital I was brought to my very first home. It was a small two bedroom apartment in Bensonhurst. This is where I lived with my parents and my grandmother, and about four and a half years later my brother Philip joined us. I then spent the rest of my boyhood happily in Bensonhurst.
After my grandmother died my mother couldn’t live in this apartment anymore, so we moved to another apartment not far from this one. The address was 2012 68th street, apartment B1, and this is where the next chapter of my life began.
Soon after our move to 68th St my mother took me by the hand and walked me across the street to P.S. 205, which was located just across from our apartment. I was frightened and cried for a little while until I realized that it would do me no good and I would have to attend my first day in grade school.
Prior to this day, I made friends in the Catskill Mountains, where we spent our summer vacation. Now, I made new friends every day in my classrooms. This was also a place where I experienced my first infatuation. Her name was Mrs. Kipness and she was my home class teacher in my 5th and 6th grades. I thought she was so pretty. But, I am jumping ahead too fast.
As I write, I have just turned 86 years young and I am amazed at how much and how far back I can remember. For example: The only grandparent that I ever met was my maternal grandmother. She escaped from Russia, along with a few members of my parents’ immediate family. Some settled in Brazil and Cuba, but fortunately my parents opted for the good old United Sates.
My grandmother was a very special woman, who dressed in the clothes that she brought with her when she left Russia. They were plain peasant dresses with very full skirts. I remember when I was a bad boy and my mother wanted to spank me, my grandmother would grab me and tuck me into her full skirts and say to my mother , in Yiddish “shlug mir nicht iem ( hit me not him). Though I was not yet four years old, I remember this moment as if it was yesterday. I wonder how it is possible for a person to recall events that happened 82 plus years ago. I guess it was it was that important to me. Another person who loved her was my cousin Julie Chodorow. He was one of the sons of my uncle Nathan Chodorow, who was a brother of my mother. He used to travel by subway from the Bronx to Brooklyn just to be with his grandma for a weekend. Julie was older than me and I looked up to him and came to love him very much Every Saturday she used to go to the temple, which was located across from where we lived. There was usually a Bar Mitzva happening and, traditionally, small bags of candy were tossed to the congregation. She always managed to bring home a bag for me and one for my brother.
I loved this woman and she loved me. .
I remember so well the mid-summer day when my mother was advised that grandma would not be with us much longer. We were spending the summer in the Catskill Mountains at the time, so we packed up and made our way back to the city. I was devastated at the thought of losing my grandma. She was staying with my uncle Sam and aunt Sadie who lived on the second floor of a 2 story building and when I was not allowed to see her, I sat on the steps on the ground floor and cried my heart out for my grandma. I will never ever forget my grandma.
“ Alex Nathan “ This name will show up in several segments of this memoir and I must also include him in this category. He was a big time character. He was a fine stylist and he could sell, but I don’t know if he realized that he could style as well as he actually could. He seemed to have a magnet that pulled me into different situations with him. One of those situations was a kids business that we partnered in, but he was the one that was offered the deal and then he reached out for me to come with him.
In the chapter regarding sales, I discussed some of the things that we did in order to make a sale. One of the most ridiculous things I could ever imagine was the scene of a hooker performing oral sex in the showroom. The person responsible for this event was Alex Nathan. He was probably the most well known person in the budget end of the business. This event alone certainly qualified him as a character, but he did much more to qualify.
Alex was a sun worshipper and he always had a sun reflector with him. He also carried a small tin that originally was for Bayer aspirin, but Alex filled it with Vaseline, which he continuously applied to his face. There was a time when we worked at the same firm. It was “ Willie Schwartz Sportswear.” I recall that we were located on the 11th floor of a building on 35th street and there was an inset at that level. It was about 8 or 10 feet wide. Well, one day the boss wanted to speak with Alex and asked where he was and no one knew.
At one point I was walking from the showroom to the shipping department and happened to look out the window. I noticed that from the building across the street, people were looking out of open windows. I thought that there might be a fire , and so I opened a window and looked out. I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised, but I was when I saw “crazy” Alex out on the ledge, sitting in a chair, with his sun reflector under his chin, soaking in the rays. This was the same Alex Nathan that I worked with and was associated with as a partner in a business. I think that a book could be written about him alone.
Most of his popularity was due to his being a character. At the end of his career he wound up selling piece goods and some people gave him charity orders on basic fabrics just to allow him to make a living. This was truly a “death of a salesman“. The people that cared about Alex is another example of the good people in the industry.
* One of the more colorful characters in our industry was a man called Morty Mayer. Morty could challenge Alex Nathan as the number one character. He was a textile salesman and as salesman went, I guess he was pretty successful. Whether he was welcome or not , he would walk in to the offices of the people that he did business with. In those days, because textiles were mostly basic fabrics, he walked around with an envelope under his arm that contained a fabric or two that he was pushing. I don’t believe I ever saw him with anything more than an envelope.
Morty had an office in 469 – 7th Avenue. Outside the entrance to the building there was a sidewalk telephone booth. He used to show up every day with a pocket full of nickels for the telephone ( yes nickels ). Rather than use the phone in his office, he would take over the telephone booth and he would be able to wave down any of his customers that happened to walk by. It got to a point that some people would avoid this location. He also was known to make everybody’s business his business. This also caused him to get into trouble with some people,
Morty lived in Brooklyn, not far from where I lived at the time.. Because he did not drive, I used to periodically drive him to work. A grown man that did not know how to drive, unbelievable. However on one trip to the city, I had a little fender bender. He immediately opened the door on his side and fell out of the car onto the ground. He then proceeded to bang his head on the road and caused some bleeding. His intention was to create a law suit. Afterwards, when he realized that I wouldn’t let him do it, he withdrew. This was his mentality. He always had an angle.
We all drank a lot, but Morty did things while drunk, that few people would do. We used to frequent a piano bar on 2nd Avenue. We were good spenders, so the proprietor hesitated throwing any one of us out. One night Morty fell asleep on top of the piano and the proprietor offered us money to get him out of there. The boss didn’t want to create an incident, but he wanted Morty out of his establishment. However, on one occasion, Morty caused such a problem, that the proprietor risked losing a customer, regardless of how much he spent and threw him out and asked him not to come back.
I previously referred to a beach club that we used to go to during the summer. One day, a fire occurred in the kitchen area and of course the fire trucks arrived and a great commotion occurred. While the firemen were running around, Morty was discovered leaving the bar area with the cash register. He is lucky that he wasn’t prosecuted. I don’t think that he intended to steal the register, he just enjoyed being a prankster.
Morty was also a trouble maker. I think he came to this naturally. At one point he had a falling out with Bill Rosen, the owner of Gatsby’s. It was serious enough for Bill to risk his liquor license and he punched Morty while in the restaurant. He must have caught him with a ring, because Morty received a severe cut. Morty then went to a friend who was a tough individual in the trucking industry. This person had it in for Bill and this was a good reason for him to cause Bill a problem.
Morty borrowed money from a shylock and didn’t pay on time , so he received a really bad beating, from which he eventually died.
* Irving Alfasso was one of my favorite characters. His laugh was loud and contagious. At one point in my career we worked for the same company. The company had just closed a division and the showroom was used as a storage room. There was a phone in the room that was not disconnected, so when it rang, we knew it was a wrong number. However, Irving could not resist the opportunity to be a prankster. He would run for the phone and answer it. One time a woman called and told him that she had a very bad leak in her house and she desperately needed the plumber. Irving told her to hang on and he would try to find the plumber. Then he would put the phone down and walk away. I imagine the lady is treading water by now. If you can imagine someone who enjoyed giving someone a “hot foot”, that would be Irving.
* Herb Broffman was a very complicated person I found him to be a good guy. However he was also a character. Unfortunately he was not very good to himself. I still picture him with a cigar in his mouth and his feet up on the
desk. He knew how to run a business and was as good a salesman as I met during that period. His problem was gambling. His gambling brought him to a close relationship with a gentleman named Fred Pomerantz who was also a gambler and who owned a very successful company called “Leslie Faye“.
When Leslie Faye wanted to open a budget division, Mr. Pomerantz called his friend Herb Broffman and this was the connection for the formation of the budget divisions called Pommy Juniors and Pomiss, a missy dress division. Herbie ran Pommy Juniors with a gentleman named Bob Ostrow and I ran Pomiss with Norman Tollen. In this respect, Herb made a positive Impact on my life.
Because he was a heavy gambler, a person called dancing Harry came into our place of business on a regular basis to either collect or pay on the bets that Herb made. Sometimes Herb couldn’t pay because he was a little short of funds. This obviously caused a problem. It was a scene to watch him hit on every one in the place to help him out. It was funny to hear someone say “Here comes dancing Harry“ It got so bad , that people would hide their money in their socks.
One day while I was out of the office, Herb picked up one of my phone calls and it was a buyer who wanted to speak with me to place a reorder. Where Herb got his sense of humor from, I can’t guess, but without hesitating, he told the buyer that I was found in the gutter, dead. The word got around pretty quick and everyone that knew me showed up at our showroom to find out what happened. Well, eventually I came in while some important buyers were still in the showroom. I thought one guy was going to get a heart attack when he saw me. Nobody saw the humor in this joke. As a matter of fact, it took some people a while to forgive him and forget.
This next story is another about Herb the character. I was recently reminded by Norman Tollen, about a lady buyer who bought for a very important chain at the time. I would rather not use her name, because it might be embarrassing for someone. She got drunk at a Christmas party that we were giving and she passed out. Not only that, but she also wet the floor. Herb Broffman in his crazy nonchalant manner, called a couple of shipping clerks and had them put her in a box truck and sent her home. A box truck is a large canvas box on wheels. They are used to move cut work from the cutting department to the truck that would deliver the work to the contractors. In my mind, I can see Herb, with the cigar in his mouth, giving the order. A normal person would send her home in a cab.
This next story is not about an individual, but about a group. While at Pomiss, Norman and I developed a habit of relaxing in our office after work. We would light up and get high and just lay back and talk about the day. Soon Herb and Bob would come in and join us. It didn’t take very long for the word to get out and a few others joined us. Among those was Irving Alfasso who I previously wrote about. He brought with him a wonderful man who bought for a chain called “Kings Clothing,” which was a mid sized chain of stores. His name was Seymour Hecker.
When Irving and Seymour arrived there were several people smoking pot and it became a smoke filled room. Seymour was a very conservative person and he started to lecture us that we shouldn’t be doing what we were doing. Herb picked up on the situation and he closed the two doors of our office. This caused the smoke to really fill the room. Now, as Seymour lectured us, he was getting a contact high and his speech kept slowing down. Every one in the room started to get on a laughing jag as did Seymour. This also was a very funny moment, as you can imagine. As I write this and remember, I start to laugh out loud. This was a group of people that were important to my daily life in the garment community. They certainly were characters.
* So, while I was contemplating my next move, I visited the Bon Vivant Restaurant, which was one of the watering holes on 36th Street. This is where Jerry Goldberg came into my life. While we enjoyed a drink together, he asked me if I would be interested in starting a missy dress division for him. He was a partner in a very successful junior house called “ Budget Dress Co. “. This is the company in which Al Rosengarten was the senior partner. I did not have to think to long, I accepted.
* At that time I was just going through a difficult period of my life and career. My wife and I had just split up and my confidence was pretty low. When I joined Jerry’s company, he put me in his office with a desk opposite his. We communicated regularly and developed a bond and became very good personal friends. He gave me the chance to do well and I did. So, when I started to do well and my confidence came back, I did even better. It is amazing how confidence in what you do will cause you to do even better.
Jerry was not only a very positive influence, he was very special to me. We used to go out for dinner once a week at a restaurant that we both liked. And so we bonded. Unfortunately he died much to young. I wish he was still around, so that I could tell him what he meant to me. Because of this, Jerry Goldberg is one of the major players in my life and career.
* Since I was doing well, I guess it was inevitable that someone would reach out for me . Well, someone did and asked me to join his company as a partner. For whatever reason, I suppose it flattered my ego and I was to immature at the time to handle it, so I considered this offer and finally took it. I should have known that the grass is rarely greener on the other side of the fence. I have made many mistakes in my long life, but this was as bad as any that I ever made. Not only was the partnership bad, but I left a great company, Budget Dress Company for this.
It was not at all the situation that was put to me. I don’t know to this day why this person wanted me as a partner if he did not want to use the talent that I had. I couldn’t sell the type of product that he was offering and I was limited as to my input and I did not have the leverage to push back . The situation lasted only a couple of months and then blew up. As I reflect, if I would have stayed with Jerry, I probably would have become a junior partner in a situation that I was comfortable with and doing very well with. Eventually, I would have become a full partner. A BIG MISTAKE ! Until I started writing this memoir, I did not realize that I made so many mistakes.
* There is something that I would like to leave with young people, not necessarily just in our business. This applies to everyone in every business. Try to recognize a good situation when you are in one. Try not to move to where you believe the grass is greener. Stay where you are for awhile and give lightening a chance to hit you. I tell you this because whatever success that I enjoyed, it could have come sooner and possibly better than it did if I took this advise. I believe you learn more from your mistakes than your successes. I guess I learned a lot.
* At this point in my career, Mr. Rosengarten came back into my life. He suggested that I join a company called Sherwood Fashions. He was connected to the principal owner, whose name was Tom “ three finger Brown” Luchese. He was supposed to be a noted leader of a so called “Mafia” family. It was well known that the mob had major influence in the
trucking and contracting part of the garment industry and this company was supposedly Mr Luchese’s first venture into manufacturing. Because of Mr. Rosengartens’ influence, I was hired.
I remained at Sherwood Fashions, which was a half size house, until I was asked to open a missy division. I accepted, and this became a fairly successful venture for me.
One Saturday, I had to be at work for an important meeting at Sherwood Fashions. It happened that Gail (my wife) and my son Matthew and daughter Denise came up to the showroom to pick me up. Mr. Luchese happened to be there this day and I introduced my family to him. He was impressed that a nice Jewish boy was raising a family of gentiles.
Mr. Luchese was friendly with Frank Sinatra, so he went back to his Office and got two 78 records that were signed by Sinatra and gave one to each of the kids. He kind of treated me a bit special after this. As an aside, I will mention that one of my sample makers was the dress maker for Frank Sinatra’s mother and she came to my place for a fitting every once in a while.
* one of the junior partners at Sherwood Fashions was a very paranoid individual and was in charge of production. His office was located in a place so that he could not see the back of the loft where the shipping department was located. So, he placed a series of mirrors at strategic places that would allow him to see the shipping department from his desk. He also built boxes that looked like cameras and hung them in the rest room. This was intended to discourage the employees who wished to visit there for a smoke or just goof off. It worked remarkably well. This ploy reminded me of a Charley Chaplin picture called “Modern Times“, in which a similar scene was portrayed.
This man died a relatively young man and I guess it was just as well, because he was stealing from the company. These were not the kind of people someone would want to be found stealing from. It seems that he was making fake purchases of production equipment, then turning in a fake invoice and pocketing the money. This man was not only a character, but I think he was slightly nuts.
I had become friendly with Mr. Luchese’s brother, so when Mr. Luchese became ill and was sent to the hospital, I was invited to visit him there. While I was there, he said to me , and I must paraphrase, “when I get out of here I will make some changes and you will be alright“. I guess he didn’t know how sick he was, because he never got out of the hospital.
* At the El Patio beach club, there were people that I could refer to as solid citizens and others that were characters. One of those people was a gentleman named Vic Werber. There are many people that I refer to without mentioning their names, but this guy is special. I am sure that most people, during the course of their adult lives, need a friend. I knew Vic before my summers at El Patio, but we became friends during that period and the friendship became stronger as the years went by. However, This guy reminds me of a “Nathan’s “ French fried potato, crisp on the outside and soft on the inside. He has been there for me when I needed someone and I didn’t need to ask. This person is one that made my world a better place.
* I would like to tell about a wonderful lady who bought for a chain called W.T. Grant. She taught me a great lesson. It was the practice that at Christmas time, gifts of cash were given to the buyers that you did business with. This was my first Christmas as a salesman. I was doing very well with her and my boss gave me an envelope for her. When I handed the envelope to her, she gave it back to me and said “ George, take it back. If it is to much I will feel obligated and if it is not enough, I will be disappointed “. I decided to get her a gift of a bathroom scale, which she accepted. I’ll never forget that. It seems that cash was the problem and not the gift.
* I would like to tell about a friend of Mr. Rosengarten’s, who was a classic character. The friend ran a successful company that cleaned and maintained office buildings. He was a delightful character, who enjoyed playing pranks on people. For instance, Al had a picture on his office wall of himself holding a very large fish that he caught. Al was very proud of this catch. While he was out of town one day, the friend took the picture to a photo shop and had a little fish superimposed on the picture. When Al returned from his trip, he entered his office and was surprised to find his big fish was replaced by what might have been the fish’ baby.
This gentleman used to spend a lot of time in our showroom. He would read a lot and it seemed to me, he would spend time just thinking about what other pranks he could play next. He did come up with one of the most outrageous that he ever perpetrated . He would take a metal washer and a clothespin and wind it around a rubber band. He would then sit on it and when a female buyer would come in to the showroom, he would occupy himself as if he were reading a newspaper, At what he thought was the proper moment, he would lift one cheek and allow the washer to spin. The showroom sofas were covered with vinyl, so you can imagine the sound that it made. There was a lot of blushing that went on and looks of disgust, but he kept reading his paper as if nothing happened. We had to stifle hysterical laughter.
This gentleman was a bit elderly, so you wouldn’t think he would pull some of this stuff, but I will tell of another. He climbed out on the platform that the window washers used to clean the outside of the windows. He pretended that he was a window washer and would then wave at the buyers that were working in the showroom, in a manner to tell them what not to buy and then nod his head as a sign of approval if he wanted them to buy a particular style. He was an amazing character.
* One of the most significant individuals that I became aware of, was a gentleman that made a positive impact on the industry. He worked for Lane Bryant and was responsible for quality control of the ready to wear that their buyers purchased. He used to walk around the market with a measuring tape around his neck. He was like a doctor with a stethoscope around his neck. He would visit the manufacturers that were ready to ship garments that were ordered. He would measure the garments to be sure that the manufacturers adhered to the stores specifications.
One day he must have realized that the store was doing to many alterations. The reason being that people of any given size are not all built with the same proportions. For instance there can be a short and a tall size 16. So, he developed measurements to accommodate a woman with a short waist and a long waist. The short waist was called “half size“. This became a big success and the premise was then applied to junior and missy sizes and they were called “junior petite “and “ missy petite “. And so another market was created.
* This would be a good time to segue to a nasty character named Donald Jacobson. There are people that affect your life in a negative way as well as positive. This guy couldn’t have been more negative. To be more specific,he had an ego as big as anyone I have ever met. I also made reference to him in the shopping and styling chapter.
I was running a missy dress division for a company whose owner became very sick and had to drop away. His nephew and I took over and we had a sweet situation to start with. We were able to use whatever fabric was in the house and we had rent free for a while. However, because obligations with the factors were not fulfilled, we had trouble getting an agreement with them because his nephew was involved in the company. Because of this, we could not get financing to go forward.
A gentleman that sold us trimmings brought Donald Jacobson to us. He had liquidated a business and was looking for another situation to invest in. He liked our set up and we formed the partnership on the basis that he would finance the company.
However this is a story about the character Donald Jacobson. We had a large cutting department and employed Latino cutters. Jacobson used to walk around and curse them for stealing his money by not working. He called them lazy and used language that I can’t use here. One day I over heard them talking about doing him harm. When I told him about it, he turned white and ran home. I did not expect him to come in the next day, but he did. However, he stayed out of the cutting department. I eventually had to ask to be bought out. It was impossible to live with an ego that big. On top of it all, I found out that he was stealing. He was taking checks out of the back of the check book. This was bad enough, but I found out that our accountant had full knowledge of what he was doing.
I need to tell another story about Donald Jacobson and his background. I believe that I referred to Al Coopers restaurant as one of the best steak houses in the city. If someone wanted to impress a buyer, he took him to lunch or dinner at this restaurant.
There was a pool room in the loft above the restaurant and eventually Mr. Cooper bought the building and evicted these tenants. Then came Jacobson who rented the space with the condition that Mr. Cooper would install a one floor private elevator. Well, the elevator was never installed and this angered Jacobson, so during the lunch period, Jacobson would have his people drop rolls of piece goods on the floor, which was the restaurants ceiling. This was a very disturbing event and people were made uncomfortable , but knowing Jacobson they laughed. This guy was a beauty. I guess I give the impression that I disliked this man intensely. I did !
To show what a wonderful guy he was, his wife lived out of town and paid him what I called a conjugal visit two or three times a year. Also, his son used to stutter when he was in his fathers company. When I was in the youngsters company, there was no sign of stuttering. It was reported that one day Jacobson came down for breakfast, got a heart attack and died face down in his bowl of cereal As Sinatra would say “you deserved it you bum” I always wondered if anyone showed up at his funeral.
* As I noted, I have made many mistakes in my career, but this next one is a beauty. This individual was another negative in my life. Another wise man told me something that I should not have forgotten . He said ( and I must paraphrase ) “ nobody is able to do anything to us that we do not allow “. I must repeat, THAT WE DO NOT ALLOW.
* A buyer at Sears Roebuck introduced me to a person who was interested in backing me in a business. I trusted the buyers judgment, but instead I found another useless partner. I ALLOWED myself to get involved in a bad situation. It was all my fault because I didn’t do the “Due Diligence” that I should have done. He had a successful business making maternity shirts with a western flavor. This he inherited from his father. All he did was buy different plaids and cut them in one or two styles. His business was very uncomplicated and I must admit fairly profitable.
I hadn’t brought my own people on board as yet , because I wanted to keep my expenses down until I got the business going. So, I agreed to use the brother in-law as my production man. The mother and aunt would handle the office work and I thought that I had a sweet arrangement. I should have vetted this person more, because this individual was one that fell in love with a transvestite then paid for the operation and then married his true love.
The arrangement that I made when we formed the company was that he would take care of my business when I wasn’t there. However, when I was busy elsewhere, he also found something to do with his beloved elsewhere. In addition, we shared the same office and our desks faced each other. It seems that whenever I asked him what was happening, he would answer“nothing’”. He always had his hands under the desk and I suspected that he was playing with himself. Talk about characters !!!! On to my next venture.
More to come
* There were people that owned retail stores big and small, that knew how to set up a floor and dress a window. I remember watching a store owner or manager, standing on the sidewalk in front of the store window and guiding the window dresser as to where things should be placed. I am not referring to just small stores. These people knew how to not only set up a window, but also how to set up a floor. In other words , they knew how to market the contents of the store. These people were called merchants and they contributed in a positive way to our industry. Today the stores are in the hands of accountants.
I never understood the philosophy of the accountants. They seem to fund the entire store as one entity and not treating each department separately. For instance, if business was bad in the hardware department, it would affect the budget for another department that was doing good business.
I don’t claim to have the knowledge, but I always wondered how a store like Lane Bryant could put a garment in their window and a store next door would put the same garment in their window for $ 5.00 less and Lane Bryant couldn’t care less. I’ve seen this and I assumed there was a formula of minding their own business. This is called merchandising !
* The people in the fashion industry are probably the most charitable people I have ever come across. I have a personal experience in this regard.. There was a young man named Joel Finkelstein who died of cancer. A group of people in the industry headed by a gentleman named Al Cohen got together and formed a foundation called “The Joel Finkelstein Cancer Foundation”. They devoted their efforts supporting “ The Long Island Jewish Hospital” in their fight to discover a cure for cancer.
Unfortunately, my mother developed throat cancer and we sent her to this facility for treatment and surgery. Because of the professional way in which she was treated and the degree of success, caused me to want to help this organization. So, at their next fund raising dinner, I helped sell ads in the journal that they published for the event. I did this in my mothers name.
With this effort, I raised a significant amount of money and was honored at the dinner with a plaque and a crystal bowl, which I still have and cherish. I did many good things in my life, but this was an honor that I will never forget. Ironically, I had no intention of going to the affair. One of my female friends asked me to escort her to the banquet. She really didn’t need an escort, but she knew that I did not know about the award, and she needed to get me there without telling me about the surprise.
* This was not the only foundation that the people in this business started and supported. They were there when anybody needed help. In this regard, there was a gentleman by the name of Al Rosengarten, who was the senior partner at Budget dress Company. This was a company that I worked for and should never have left. He was a tough individual, but had strong relationships with some very notable and talented doctors and surgeons. His main passion was to help someone who needed a doctor. If someone in the business needed help, he or she would be referred to Mr. Rosengarten. He would respond immediately and I am sure he saved many lives. He himself was also quite a character and he seemed to associate himself with some very funny people which included the likes of “Babe” Ruth.
PEOPLE and CHARACTERS :
* As I write, I think of some of the people and characters that I met and worked with in this business. It seems that most of the people were characters. These stories will take place in New York City, because this was where everything pertaining to this memoir happened. Some of the characters that you will read about are the kind that Damon Runyon could write volumes about and some of the people are to be respected for what they contributed to the industry and to our social enjoyment. However, I enjoyed knowing the people in both categories.
* I remember when comedian Steve Martin was starting his career and doing “stand-up”, he referred to himself as “a wild and crazy guy”. Some of the people that I ran with were very much wild and crazy. All of these people made a humorous and human contribution to my life. There are some memories that I have about the things that we did together that I can’t bring myself to write about. After all, it is not my intention to boast about my sexual adventures unless there was something unusual or funny. My dilemma is how to separate the crazy’s from the contributors, because some were both. Do I write about them in a separate chapters? But, as I thought about it, I did not think that it would work that way. So the stories about these people will be integrated into one chapter.
* Some of the characters that I mostly remember had names like Alex Nathan, Morty Mayer, Norman Tollen, Mike Frenchman, Jerry Dronzig, Herb Broffman, Vic Werber and Jay Hirshman. These were people from the dress industry, but there were classic crazies from the coat and suit business as well. There were Irving “Waggie Wagman”, Jimmy Wallach, Sy Fienberg and others. These people are the most prominent in my memory.
* As a matter of fact, I remember a golf weekend that included most of them. It seems that after golf, we went to dinner and then some of us decided to relax at the pool. Alex Nathan had brought a young lady with him because he did not play golf. After a while at the pool, Alex opted to go to bed and I am sure that Alex expected his lady to follow him to his room. However his lady friend opted to stay up and hang out with Mike Frenchman and me. Periodically we noticed Alex peeking out from the curtains in his room. It was a very funny scene. As it turned out, this charming young lady consented to have sex with Mike and me. Alex was devastated. There were many incidents involving women with this crazy crowd.
* Paris was not the only city that had sidewalk cafes. New York had them all
over Manhattan, especially uptown on Columbus Avenue. The café owners just extended their restaurants out onto the sidewalks. The side walks belonged to the city, so it was technically illegal. However it was charming and so many people enjoyed the summer days having lunch outdoors. On the
following Sunday I was at Shea stadium to see a ballgame with my son and I had the newspaper with me. As I perused the papers contents, I opened to the article and there we were in full color. It was fun to be featured in a big city newspaper.
Paris was not the only city that had charming sidewalk cafes. New York also had many all over Manhattan, but primarily located on Columbus Avenue. I spent much time at several of these places. During the summer it was delightful, but the owners of these cafes made the sidewalk extensions useable during the winter months. A canvas enclosure would be erected and heaters would make the area comfortable. However, it was illegal for this space to be used, because it was city property and rent was not paid for its use.
It finally came to pass that the New York Daily News did a story about this situation. It happened that my wife and I were sitting in one of these cafes when a reporter and a photographer entered. The reporter asked if it would be all right if they took pictures of us. I agreed and so they did.
The following Sunday, I was at Shea stadium with my son, watching the Mets play and anticipating seeing the picture in the paper, I brought the paper to the ball park. During a lull in the game I opened the paper to the color section and sure enough, there we were. It was fun seeing us in the New York Daily News’