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Thursday, June 29, 2017

Business Decisions About the Movie's Music

The book Risky Business: Rock in Film, written by R. Serge Denisoff and William D. Romanowski, includes a chapter called "Dirty Dancing All the Way to the Bank".

Denisoff founded the Journal of Popular Music and Society and wrote many books, including Inside MTV, Sing a Song of Social Significance, and Solid Gold: The Popular Record Industry.

Romanowski is a professor of Communication Arts and Sciences and has written the books Reforming Hollywood and Eyes Wide Open.


The Amazon page's summary:
The role of motion pictures in the popularity of rock music became increasingly significant in the latter twentieth century. Rock music and its interaction with film is the subject of this significant book that re-examines and extends Serge Denisoff's pioneering observations of this relationship.

Prior to Saturday Night Fever, rock music had a limited role in the motion picture business. That movie's success, and the success of its soundtrack, began to change the silver screen. In 1983, with Flashdance, the situation drastically evolved and by 1984, ten soundtracks, many in the pop/rock genre, were certified platinum.

Choosing which rock scores to discuss in this book was a challenging task. The authors made selections from seminal films such as The Graduate, Easy Rider, American Graffiti, Saturday Night Fever, Help!, and Dirty Dancing. However, many productions of the period are significant not because of their success, but because of their box office and record store failures.

Risky Business chronicles the interaction of two major mediums of mass culture in the latter twentieth century. This book is essential for those interested in communications, popular culture, and social change.

Before we continue about the book Risky Business, read the following passage from the Wikipedia article about the Vestron Video company:
Vestron was founded in 1981 by Austin Owen Furst, Jr., an executive at HBO, who was hired to dismantle the assets of Time-Life Films. Furst bought the video rights of the film library for himself and decided to form a home entertainment company with these assets. ....

The company held on to its Time-Life Video library, and was also responsible for releases on VHS videocassette as well as CED Videodisc of mostly B movies and films from Cannon Films' library. They also distributed films under The Movie Store banner.

The most notable titles Vestron released were Dirty Dancing, Monster Squad and An American Werewolf in London. ... Vestron was the first company to release National Geographic and PBS' Nova videos in the late 1980s ... and was the first to market with a pro wrestling video ... They also released a three-volume series called "How to Beat Home Video Games", which contains strategies for video games of the time. ...

The company enjoyed success for several years, at one point exceeding 10% of the US video movie market. At its high point sales approximated $350 million annually, and the company sold video movies in over 30 countries either directly or through sub licensing agreements. This was basically a rights business, built by some insightful people who appreciated the video (VCR) rights to films before the major studios did. Eventually the major studios smartened up, and film product became increasingly harder for Vestron to acquire. Also, independent producers increased the price of those available.

The company started to make its own films (Dirty Dancing, Earth Girls Are Easy, Blue Steel), but when the market's preferences matured and shifted from watching almost any film to just watching "A" titles, for which the majors had a stronghold, the company was committed already with a pipeline of about 20 "B" to low "A" projects. Financing for the company fell through and it eventually filed for bankruptcy ... and was bought out on January 11, 1991 by ... LIVE Entertainment, a home video and music company ...

The book Risky Business introduces its Dirty Dancing chapter with the following passages.
Dirty Dancing was the first national theatrical release for Veston Pictures, the film-production arm of Vestron, Incl, the nation's largest independent video retailer. Anticipating a shrinking supply of videos, Veston raised $185 million over two years and established its own television and film production company in January 1986. The company's strategy was to produce featues with a $6-million ceiling on productions costs. ...

In 1986, the company's earnings dropped 64%, and employment cutbacks accompanied a first-half loss of $8.6 million. To make matters worse, Veston was tied up in a prolonged lawsuit .... Revenue declines were blamed on a "a flattening of the video explosion and increased taste for "A" titles at the expense of ... made-for-video fare." ....

Dirty Dancing was produced for under $6 millon. As Vestron's vice president for production Michael Cannold explained, "At Vestron we've been fighting the understandable skepticism that we could make a studio-quality picture, get theaters and market a film. ...

Then the chapter provides the perspective of screenwriter Eleanor Bergstein.
The differing styles of music in the movie anticipated the cultural differences emerging in the US. Bergstein, who maintained an unusual amount of control over the production, divided musical selections into three groups: Latin mambo for Kellerman's [resort] dance floor, clean teen pop for the Houseman cabin, and erotic rock and soul for the resort's staff quarters.

"I tried to choose the harshest music I could find, the music that would be most sexually shocking to a young woman who'd never heard it before," Bergstein explained. "Because I imagined that in Baby's bedroom at home there'd be early Joan Baez, the Weavers, maybe Harry Belafonte." ...

[Director Emile] Ardolino said: "The script for Dirty Dancing contained drama, comedy, music, and dance. It was a script in which the dance was used to move the plot along, to reveal character, and the story didn't stop [because of the music]. ... I saw a subtext of body language throughout. So I relate to all that immediately. I also related to the music. The music and the dances were the lifeblood of the script. It was the music I grew up with. I was like 19 [years old] in 1963."

Then Risky Business characterizes the movie's music producer, Jimmy Ienner.
The story behind the making of the Dirty Dancing soundtrack was described as "one of wheeling and dealing and trading on old friendships. It centers around Jimmy Jenner, a producer and musical consultant of Vestron who liked "to walk the tightrope between the creative process and the guys with suits and cigars." ... A shrewd producer, Ienner observed the increasing use of rock music tied to movie scripts before coming up with a model for a successful musical.
Jimmy Ienner
Jimmy Ienner
Ienner looked forward to selling the movie's soundtrack albums and expressed the following perspective:
The movie Back to the Future ... had a #1 single with Huey Lewis. The soundtrack album only sold 600,000 copies. That's because the music was "wallpapered" into movie, and the songs were not an essential part of the emotional experience. For a soundtrack to be really successful -- like Top Gun or The Big Chill -- you have to hear what you see. And to make that happen, the director usually has to shoot scenes using either the acutal music in the film or something that's very similar.
Vestron hired Ienner because of his success in selling soundtrack albums.
Ienner established a reputation with the industry through his involvement in several soundtracks, including Fellini's The Clowns, Amarcord, and You Gotta Walk It Like You Talk It. He signed with Veston as a music consultant when the company launched its film-production division in 1986.

Normal budgets for soundtracks range from $300,000 to $800,000. Vestron budgeted $350,000 for new material and music rights, with another $250,000 for the movie's score.

Danny Goldberg, who managed rock artists ... was hired by Vestron to find new material and acquire rights from record companies for use of songs in the movie and soundtrack. Goldberg was largely unsuccessful and eventually left the project ....

When Ienner inherited the project, less than $200,000 was left in the budget, not one song pleased the producers, and three important scenes, including an almost-seven-minute  finale, needed music.He began a frantic search for material.

"It was not an easy sell," he later explained. "It was a dance movie with a silly name and a small budget. That did not encourage people to rush out and write songs."
Ienner turned to musicians and producers with whom he had worked earlier in his career. Friends at RCA provided a cash advance on future sales of the soundtrack album.
Ienner asked Franke Previte, who was once the frontman for The Knockouts, who had a Top 10 hit in 1981 on Ienner's former Millennium Records label, to submit material for the movie. The songwriter collaborated with friends John DeNicola and Donald Markowitz to write the movie's theme song, "(I've Had) The Time of My Life. Ienner chose the Previte composition from almost 100 songs submitted for that sequence in the film.

Previte and DeNicola also wrote "Hungry Eyes", which was performed by Eric Carmen, another artist Ienner produced at Arista Records.

Ienner bought out a deal Goldberg had struck with Motown Records and began shopping around for a record contract. ... Ienner turned to friends at RCA Records. A talent scout and consultant at RCA, Bob Feiden, immediately recognized the potential for music in the Dirty Dancing script. ... Feiden recommended tje script to RCA president Bob Busiak, who was a longtime friend of both Vestron president Jon Peisinger and Ienner. The RCA deal gave Inner another $210,000 to work with.
Ienner had to use his new-song budget frugally.
The six new songs were expensive because they needed two versions of each. "(I've Had) The Time of My Life" cost cost to $70,000; the others cost between $20,000 and 30,000 apiece.

"We needed different mixes for the film and record," Ienner recalled. "For example, the guitars were dropped way down for the film because guitars weren't a dominant instrument back then [in 1963] -- saxophones were. We took out out of the synthesized stuff and replaced it with organ in the film versions. In some cases we used completely different solos to accommodate dialogue and some of the dancing." ...
He also had to use his old-song budget frugally.
When Ienner began negotiating for rights to oldies for the project, he was working with a "used-Schwinn budget -- which was a problem, because lots of these guys had gotten used to getting paid Rolls-Royce prices for their songs," he said.

Producer Bergstein demanded Ienner get permission for three songs: "Big Girls Don't Cry", "Be My Baby", and "Will You Love Me Tomorrow?". Jenner begged, called in favors and made promises in order to get the rights to fourteen old songs, along with the production of six new ones for $400,000. "I did a lot of horse-trading," he recalled. ....

The movie used a 80 to 20 percent balance of oldies and new material. For the soundtrack album, six new songs were recorded and combined with an equal number of oldies.
Ienner's planning for the soundtrack album paid off.
When Dirty Dancing reached theaters in late August [1987], album sales began to soar; withing five weeks the sountrack had sold one million copies. RCA had hoped for sales of 300,000 to 500,000. ... The album reached #1 the week ending November 14.

"People would see the movie and come straight in for the soundtrack album without going home," observed one buyer for a record store chain. ... "There are grandmothers and little kids buying Dirty Dancing," said a Chicago retailer. ...

The success of the Dirty Dancing soundtrack surprised everyone. The album topped the charts for nine weeks during the Christmas season.
The book Risky Business goes on to provide details about how money was earned from additional albums, videocassettes, sponsorship by the Nestle's candy company, a concert tour and a television series.
The entire Dirty Dancing enterprise -- the film, soundtrack albums, videocassette, touring company, and television series -- grossed about $350 by August 1988. ...

RCA's share of the multimedia success ... earned $105 by June 1988. The soundtrack albums accounted for about one-quarter of the record label's domestic revenues.

The Vestron picture grossed for then $100 million; $25 million in domestic rentals.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

The Decline of Summer Stock in the 1960s

Summer-stock theaters rose and declined along with the summer resort hotels. Therefore, as the summer resort hotels lost business during the 1960s, the summer-stock theaters lost business likewise.

The rise and decline of summer stock is described in the book Summer Stock: An American Theatrical Phenomenon, written by Martha Schmoyer LoMonaco, Professor of Theatre at Fairfield University.

LoMonaco defines the expression "summer stock" as follows (pages xvii-xviii):
The term “summer stock” refers to a particular type of summertime entertainment that evolved in the northeastern United States during the 1920s and 1930s. It is an umbrella term for those independent theatres with a resident company presenting a number of different plays in weekly or biweekly repertory either in a permanent house or on tour, between the months of June and September.

The theatres were established in attractive rural environments near the new resorts developed for middle- and working-class clientele who, thanks to advances in corporate management and federal legislation, now had annual paid vacations. Wherever city dwellers fled to escape the summer heat at sylvan lakes, beaches, and mountainsides, a summer stock theatre was likely to appear to provide nightly entertainment. ...

These ventures became so successfull both artistically and financially, that hundreds sprang up during the next 40 years, frequently by converting a nearby barn or other spacious building to a rustic but workable theatre.

They ranged widely in artistic quality and intent, but all fulfilled the dual purpose of providing much-needed work for theatre artists and low-cost entertainment for vacationers. They also brought legitimate theatre to remote areas, thus affording many local residents an opportunity to see professional productions for the first time. Hence, summer stock, as America’s first truly regional theatre, had a major effect on the cultural, economic, and sociological development of the United States. ...

From the 1930s through the early 1960s, summer stock was the leading employer of theatre professionals in the United States. More actors, directors, designers, and technicians worked in legitimate theatre during the summer months than at any other time of the year. It also has provided a place for young theatre artists to garner their first professional credentials and to learn their craft. ....

Well over 50% of the theatres were dark during World War II, largely because of gas rationing, which prohibited summer travel. Summer stock made a powerful comeback following the war, however. In 1948 there were 130 Equity companies [theater companies that had labor unions] alone; that number grew to 152 by 1950. It is safe to estimate that in addition to the union operations there were at least 100 non-Equity stock theatres. Hence, during the 1950s, there were approximately 250 to 300 stock houses operating principally in the northeastern United States each summer.

An example of the development of a summer-stock theater in the Catskill Mountains is provided on the website for the Forestburgh Playhouse. Like many summer-stock theaters, it began as a converted barn.
In the mid 1940's in Greenwich Village, John Grahame and Alexander Maissel had been leasing the legendary Provincetown Playhouse ... for their Provincetown Repertory Company.

When they became aware that New York University was quietly buying up much of the property in the neighborhood for their future expansion, Grahame and Maissel became alarmed that they might lose the Provincetown Playhouse, and they began to look for an alternative space. Their search took them to the Klebs farm in Forestburgh, New York, which they decided to purchase as a summer home for their Provincetown Repertory Company, with the idea that it might become the full-time home of the company if NYU forced them out of the Provincetown Playhouse.

In the spring of 1947, they arrived at the site with their wives ... and a troupe of actors and apprentices and began the renovation of the building into a theatre.
The barn that was converted into the Forestburgh Theater.
Sullivan County was a far different place in 1947: Grossinger's was king, the resort hotels were jammed, and the Catskills was electric with excitement every summer. A small summer stock theatre in an already old barn probably seemed unlikely to survive in the face of such competition.

Nevertheless, by July 8, 1947, enough work had been done to transform the barn into a theatre, and the Forestburgh Playhouse, then called the Forestburgh Summer Theatre, opened its first of more than 250 subsequent productions, Blithe Spirit.

For the first 25 years of its existence the Playhouse operated as both a theatre and a school. Apprentices paid to attend for the summer, and took daily classes in acting, speech, and movement. They also spent many hours in rehearsal and many more hours working building sets, costumes and props. They performed in both the main stage productions and the children's shows. ...

Shakespeare, Shaw, and Ibsen were most commonly performed, and musical productions consisted almost exclusively of Gilbert and Sullivan.
The Forestburgh Summer Theater was located about 20 miles -- a half-hour drive -- south of the largest Catskills resort hotel, Grossinger's, which was at Liberty, NY. In general, the theater attracted guests who were vacationing at the summer resort hotels in the area.

The Forestburgh Summer Theater almost went out of business during the 1960s. The website tells how the theater barely managed to survive.
In the 1960's mortality took its toll on the founders of the Forestburgh Summer Theatre. Aida Grahame died in the box office of the Provincetown Playhouse in 1962, and John Grahame died in the dressing room before a performance a few months later. Al and Sally then ran the Forestburgh Summer Theatre themselves, but it was increasingly difficult without the Grahames. Al died in 1974, and this left Sally to run the place by herself.

In order to keep the place going, Sally rented the barn to various companies during the 1970s ... In 1977, John C. Barron and his mother Jane Barron leased the theatre, and he spent the next three years as producer, director, and occasional actor.

In 1980, when John chose not to renew the lease, Sally began advertising for the sale of the property. In that year, Gregg Harlan and Craig Sandquist, in association with Gregg's sister, Cindy, purchased what had become a somewhat run-down property. The name was changed from the Forestburgh Summer Theatre to the Forestburgh Playhouse, and a new era began at the theatre.
Most of the summer resort hotels and stock-stock theaters in the Catskills have gone out of business. The largest such hotel, Grossinger's, went out of business in 1986. The Forestburgh theater is one of very few summer-stock theaters that have survived to the present day. Below is a photograph of the current theater.,39694824p
The Forestburgh Playhouse (a different building than the barn)

A 1950 movie, called Summer Stock and starring Judy Garland and Gene Kelly, tells the story of a traveling theater troupe converting a barn into a temporary theater in order to put on a show for the local population.

A barn scene from the 1950 movie "Summer Stock"

A barn scene from the 1950 movie "Summer Stock"

During the 1950s, a few summer-stock companies used circus tents for traveling theaters. Such a company would come to a location, set up its circus tent, and perform plays in it for a few days or weeks. Such a summer-stock enterprise was called a "music circus".

Such a circus tent was significantly larger than a converted barn, providing the room for a larger stage, cast, orchestra and audience. Major problems were acoustics, noise form bad weather, and inadequate air-conditioning.

Because the circus tents were circular and the audience sat around a central performance area, music circuses gave a boost to theater-in-the-round staging.

The Wikipedia article on music circuses includes these passages:
Music circus is an American theatrical form begun in Lambertville, New Jersey, by St. John Terrell in 1949. Established as summer stock, the new theatre venues primarily housed light operas and operettas, produced in the round, under a circus-style big top.

Actor and adventurer St. John Terrell ... started in show business with a carnival act ... Referred to as "Sinjun", he served in the Philippines with the USO. When a visiting touring company of an Irving Berlin musical needed performing space, Terrell suggested bulldozing a large pit for a stage in the center and audience on sloping and rising seating all around covered by a tent.

This became the genesis to his original New Jersey Music Circus in 1949. ... He used his back pay, war bonds and loans after the war, to do it himself. Inspired by Greek amphitheaters, audience members sat in folding chairs no further back than 15 or 16 rows. Although a full orchestra was used, the sets were simple and low to keep sight lines clear. Props were carried on and off by stagehands, in clear view, running up and down aisles. Within 8 years, 30 separate canvas-topped theatres had opened in the US.

St. John Terrell's Music Circus was an instant success, and launched a wide variety of copycats, with 40 "tune tents" scattered around the country ....

While the modern musical theatre genre was being developed on Broadway by the likes of Rodgers and Hammerstein and Lerner and Loewe, the product being produced by most summer stocks remained primarily older works. The first Lambertville season included The Merry Widow, The Desert Song and The Chocolate Soldier, but nothing from the contemporary Broadway canon. As modern musical theatre works became more popular, music circus producers incorporated more of the contemporary works and fewer light operas.
A music circus in Cape Cod, Massachusetts 
Other photographs of Cap Cod's "Melody Tent" can be seen on this webpage.


Researching her Summer Stock book, LoMonaco interviewed former summer-stock producers. As far as I noticed, the producers did not blame the decline of the theaters on the decline of the summer resort hotels. I think that the theater producers simply were not aware of the decline of the hotels. LoMonaco blamed the decline of summer stock primarily on the growing costs imposed by the Equity labor union. Monaco's explanation for the decline of summer stock follows (pages 187 - 193):
Thomas Gale Moore, who published an economic study of the American theatre in 1968, declared summer stock to be “the strongest branch of the theater outside of York.” His research dates from the early 1960s, a period that can now be considered the final gasp of summer stock’s golden era before the steady decline in numbers of theatres and profits eliminated all but the most tenacious operations. ....

He estimated that the attendance at summer stock theatres during the summer of 1962 — a period of three to four months — exceeded that of either Broadway or road tours for their entire 9- to 10-month seasons by one to almost three million people. ... The attendance figures ... are staggering — 7.6 million on Broadway, 7.8 million on the road, and between 8.8 million and 10.2 million in summer stock — which leads one to question why something ostensibly so popular could decline so rapidly. ....

When asked what contributed most forcefully to the declining fortunes of summer stock, producers cited the following culprits:

* rising costs, particularly those imposed by Actors’ Equity [the theaters' labor union];

* the hegemony of the star system (paying high salaries to star actors);

* competition from television and, to a lesser extent, film;

* competition from music tents [musical circuses];

* and a growing lack of product in the paucity of suitable new scripts

.... What most concerned summer stock producers, how ever, was the nearly annual rise in cost of doing business with Actors’ Equity. ... Certainly, all star theatres had to be Equity houses, and others that still maintained resident companies preferred the union affiliation. ....

Over time, the union imposed additional costs that could potentially break a modestly capitalized theatre’s budget. The most ‘prominent of these was a practice known as “bonding,” whereby before a theatre could open, the producer would have to send Equity a check covering a full two weeks’ salary for all Equity members in the company’s employ, one week’s salary for each jobber hired for the first three productions, and an additional hundred dollars to cover possible bookkeeping charges, assessments, transportation costs, and the like. Most or all of the money was returned at the end of the season so long as everything had gone well, and all members had been able to fulfill their contracts, per the stipulated terms. Should the theatre close unexpectedly, however, or actors not receive what was agreed upon, money would be paid out of the bond. For many small theatres, the several thousand dollars needed to post bond at the beginning of the season was beyond their meager budgets.

Another unexpected hardship came with the 1963 Equity ruling regarding pension plans, which were now being included in stock contracts. Depending on the theatre’s classification, which, at that time, included the Association of Civic Music Theatres (large outdoor musical theatres), the Musical Arena Theatres Association (indoor musical theatres, including the tents), the Council of Stock Theatres, known as COST, which covered the larger summer stock companies, and the Council of Resident Stock Theatres or CORST, which oversaw intermediate and small dramatic companies, there was a different scale of pension contributions. All theatres began with 1% of payroll in 1963, with various maximum cutoff points, but all were scheduled to grow by several percentage points in subsequent seasons,

Also, beginning in 1965, contracts would be subject to cost-of-living increases .... All producers also had required payment for transportation and wardrobe cleaning costs, while others, depending on the size of their theatre, had illness and hospitalization insurance, Worker’s Compensation, and matching Social Security contributions.

Given these conditions, it is easy to understand why some producers chose not to seek Equity affiliation or in some cases, drop it in order to stay in business. In a 1954 article titled, “Summer Theatre at the Crossroads,” Thomas Ratcliffe, the producer of the Sea Cliff, New York, summer theatre and president of the Stock Managers’ Association, predicted that his peers would “do everything to cut down costs,” resulting in a decrease in jobs for the majority of the union’s membership, more theatres opting to “go non-Equity,” and more managers making an effort to do small-cast plays, cut parts, and use local actors and apprentices whenever possible. ....

The Equity dilemma faced by producers ultimately, affected actors in need of employment, who often found themselves in the unattractive position of debating whether to seek union affiliation or not. By joining the union they could guarantee a certain minimum wage and benefits while employed but an Equity card alone did not ensure a contract. ....

Producer Lee Falk outlined “What’s Wrong With Summer Stock” for Equity in 1959 by decrying rising costs, by warning of diminishing creativity in light of financial realities — a charge taken up by those producers finding new definitions for their old barns — and by considering the question of subsidy. Given the considerable expense of staying in business and the formidable competition for audiences from television, movies, and radio, he perceived that the “living theatre” had “been dragged into the position of being an expensive side-show next to the main tent, facing the fate of opera, symphony and ballet,” all of which, even by the 1950s, were heavily subsidized arts. ...

In summer stock,” Falk bemoaned, “we find three-quarters of our theatres 1osing money, being subsidized by people who can’t afford it.” His point — that subsidy can and does come from the artists and producers themselves — was critical to an understanding of how many of the summer stock theatres, specially the smaller venues, survived. Actors and other stage personnel would willingly work for low, sometimes barely subsistence-level salaries, just to have the opportunity to practice their art. Similarly, some producers often were not earning enough money to cover operating costs, yet would make up deficits via their personal bank accounts, which, as Falk argued, they could ill afford. Falk believed that summer stock could be an exciting, viable business if only managers employed creative solutions.
From the perspective of summer-stock producers, their biggest problems were the labor unions, competition from other venues, and a lack of attractive new plays.

Those summer-stock producers who talked to LoMonaco about their business struggles had not lived and worked in the area's summer resort hotels. The producers had not observed that every summer fewer and fewer people were vacationing in the hotels. As Max Kellerman remarked at the end of Dirty Dancing, more and more families were vacationing in Europe instead of in the Catskills.  Because fewer people were vacationing in the resort hotels, fewer people were coming to see the nearby summer-stock plays.

As the summer-stock theaters struggled to survive the resort hotels' decline during the 1960s, the labor unions delivered the death blow to most of those theaters. LoMonaco pointed out the year 1963 as a crucial year because that is when Equity demanded that the theaters begin contributing to pension plans for all the actors and other personnel.

As Baby Houseman declared at the beginning of Dirty Dancing, the years 1963-1964 marked a turning point from one cultural era to a new one.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Working in the Catskills in 1957

A book titled When Mama Died, written by Joseph Joseph P. Allocca, published in 2009, includes a chapter about the author's experience working in the Catskill Mountains for six weeks in the summer of 1957. He intended to get hired to work as a waiter, but he was too young and experienced, so he ended up working as a golf caddy, a restaurant busboy, and a parking-lot attendant.

The Amazon page summarizes the book as follows:
Born in Brooklyn, NY in 1941, Joseph P. Allocca is the youngest of nine siblings. Readers will discover how When Mama Died! Forged the author's character and how it affected his life. Crafted to keep life mementos forever cherished through old photographs and writings. This memoir relives Allocca's legacy that otherwise might be lost forever. This autobiographical novel offers readers a glimpse of his family's humble beginnings and how he made it to his fi rst million.
About that summer, Allocca writes (pages 104-107):
Right after the 1957 school year, Vince Grosso, a friend from school, and I decided that we would rake up lots of money by working as waiters in the Catskill Mountains in Monticello, Upstate New York. About ninety miles north of New York City is a resort community with plush hotels, golf courses, and live entertainment. Mostly Jewish families from the city that wanted to get away from the hot summer populated it. Usually, the husbands would join them on weekends. During the summer months, the population of the area quadrupled.

The area was, to me, far away from the hot city streets of Brooklyn. It had green pastures and lots of open spaces. The air seemed so clean. Sometimes in the early morning, a slight fog and mist crammed over the pastures and the golf courses. I liked the open spaces and rolling hills. ....

Our first encounter was at the Concord Resort and Golf Club. The Concord was located at the mouth of Kiamesha Lake. I never got a job as a waiter, but did get a nice dig as a golf caddy. Buddy Hackett, a stand-up comedian was appearing at the Concord Hotel along with other popular entertainers. He loved to play golf, and I manged to work at the pro shop. I was appointed to be his caddy for a very humorous eighteen holes. Buddy and his foursome told jokes and drank loads of beer while playing. He had a filthy mouth, and every other word was the F word. In spite of all the interruptions, his golf game was respectable.
This illustration is in the book.
Vince Grosso and I knew that working as a waiter was how to make the big dough. Unfortunately, we were too young and inexperienced to get those jobs. The best we could get were jobs a bus boys. However, down the highway just past the Grossinger's Hotel was a live entertainment show called The Jewel Box Review.

It was a summer stock traveling show that appeared in several cities. It featured twenty-four men and one girl. The men were all gay, transgender and bisexuals. The one girl was a lesbian. The men were dressed as a man. With cosmetics, clothes, and falsies, no one could tell the gender. The show was incredible! They did fantastic imitations of actors, singers, and comedians. The show was very popular and had packed audiences every night. Vince missed his girlfriend back in Brooklyn and went home. I stayed and answered the posted help-wanted ad at the Jewel Box Review.

The manager, a big promoter-type person, smoked big fat cigars and wanted someone to direct cars in the parking lot before the show. I got the job and was handed a flashlight as my utensil. The first night went fine, and so did the second night. However, it was not long before I saw the opportunity to become an entrepreneur. After a car reached its parking place, I would approach the driver and say, "That'a be a dolla."

Without any hesitation, I would collect the buck from the drivers. By the end of the evening, I would end up with a pocket full of money! This went on for two solid weeks. I was rich!

However, the strategy came to a quick halt when a disgruntled customer complained to the manager that charging for parking was outrageous. That night, after the parking lot was empty, the boss approached me. He said, "Hey, kid, come into my office." While lighting his cigar, he asked me how the take was. I played dumb for a short time, but eventually I had to turn over all the money I collected. We agreed on splitting in half the total take. He wanted half of the previous day's take. I told him it was impossible since the money was gone. The next week, the show moved to another city.

During the day, I and some other fellow workers visited a few of the other hotels in the area. The Browns Hotel was one of our favorites. Jerry Lewis often was the main attraction. The Laurels, the Concord, and Grossingers were our other favorites. We swam in the pools, lay in the sun, and flirted with those young Jewish girls. No one stopped us from using the facilities at the hotels, since we had a secret code with the hotel workers. We knew each other and helped each other.

The area was very active. The town even built a new horse race track. I was there on the opening day of the Montecello Race Track. ... Many believed the Catskill area would have casino-type gambling held at the big hotels. It had all the ingredients for a gambling community. ...

Although my episode in the Catskills lasted only six weeks, it was a great experience. I enjoyed the independence, the friends I met, and having money to spend.


I have written an article titled The Concord Hotel at Lake Kiamesha, NY.

I am working on an article about summer stock in the Catskills.


The Out History website includes the following old photograph of the Jewel Box Review.
The Jewel Box Review in about the late 1950s
(Click on the image to enlarge it.)
The Jewel Box Review still travels to perform at resort hotels. The following videos show performances at the Seven Feathers Casino Resort in Canyonville, Oregon, in 2012.


Sunday, June 25, 2017

The Symbolism of Moe Pressman's Pirate Hat

During the past week, I have been thinking mostly about Vivian and Moe Pressman. Five days ago I published an article, The Schumachers and Pressman's were Eastern European Jews, where I opined that they were scammers:
Vivian's essential relationship with Moe might be that they collaborate in cheating rich men at the hotel. Vivian seduces rich men during the week and then persuades them to gamble with Max in card games during the weekend. The rich men do not know that Moe, a professional card shark, is in cahoots with Vivian.

Another possibility is that Vivian is working as a prostitute at the hotel. She seems to be giving sex away for free to the younger male characters, but we do not know that for sure. Maybe she charged Robbie Gould some money for the sexual intercourse he had with her. Maybe she charges on a sliding scale -- less for the younger hotel workers and much more for the rich hotel guests. If one of her clients refuses to pay, then Moe collects the money by threat and force during the weekend.
However, yesterday I happened to reread an article I wrote more than eight years ago, on December 29, 2008, titled Disconnected Women - Penny Johnson, Vivian Pressman and Marjorie Houseman. I had forgotten that in that long-ago article I had opined that Vivian and Moe were innocent of the wrongdoing attributed to them. Their actions were misunderstood by each other, by the other characters and by the movie audience. My argument there was long and complicated, but compelling. A shortened version of my argument follows (the ellipses show where I have removed text):
On the second-to-last night, the night before the talent show, Vivian walked up to Johnny, who was preparing for the talent show, and whispered: “This is our last night together, lover. I’ve got something worked out for us.”

A short time later, Johnny walked by a table where a group of men were playing cards. One of the men, Vivian’s husband Moe Pressman, gave Johnny $100 and said, “I’ve been playing cards all weekend, and I’ve got an all-night game tonight. Why don’t you give my wife some extra dance lessons?”

Obviously Vivian understood that her husband Moe preferred to play cards all night, so she had asked him to pay for dance lessons so that she could have some fun of her own. It’s not clear whether Moe knew and did not care that Vivian was having a sexual affair with Johnny or whether he simply was inattentive and oblivious about her adultery.

By this time, however, Johnny had decided that he wanted to stop his own sexual promiscuity and so he declined to take Moe’s money, saying: I’m sorry, Mr. Pressman, but I’m booked up for the whole weekend with the show. I won’t have time for anything else. I don’t think it’d be fair to take the money.”

Vivian was standing nearby and heard Johnny reject her husband’s money and indicate that he would be too busy preparing the talent show to give any dance lessons. Thus Vivian understood angrily that Johnny would not have another sexual session with her.

Vivian Pressman then arranged to have sex with Robbie Gould instead ... Early the next morning as Vivian Pressman was leaving Robbie Gould’s cabin, she saw Johnny Castle and Baby Houseman coming out of Johnny’s cabin. Johnny and Baby kissed, and so Vivian understood that Johnny had declined Vivian’s arrangements because he preferred to spend the night having sex with Baby.

Later that day, the resort hotel’s owner Max Kellerman fired Johnny for stealing Moe Pressman’s wallet. Kellerman explained that Moe’s wallet had disappeared while he had been playing cards all night. Moe was certain that he still had his wallet at 1:30 a.m., when the wallet was in his jacket that he hung from the back of his chair. Then at 3:45 a.m. Moe found that his wallet was missing from his jacket. Later, after Moe Pressman had reported the disappearance to Max Kellerman, Vivian Pressman told Kellerman that she had seen Johnny Castle walk close by the jacket during that night. Max Kellerman then accused Johnny Castle of the theft and fired him. ....

Lisa Houseman saw Vivian Pressman having sex with Robbie Gould in Robbie’s cabin at dusk, and so Lisa left. In the middle of the night, Vivian must have left Robbie’s cabin and gone to make a public appearance in the place where her husband Moe was playing cards.

Vivian would have made a public appearance at the gambling table for several reasons: 1) to make sure that Moe still intended to play cards all night, 2) to tell Moe that she was going to their hotel room to sleep, and 3) to get from Moe’s wallet the $100 that Johnny had rejected. Vivian then took the $100 back to Robbie’s room, gave Robbie the money and spent the rest of the night in Robbie’s room. ....

Later that morning, when Moe told Vivian that his wallet was missing, Vivian responded that she had seen Johnny standing near the jacket, which was hanging from Moe’s chair. Therefore, Johnny was accused of the theft. ...

Practically the entire audience of the movie assumes that Vivian incriminated Johnny in order to get revenge because Johnny had preferred to spend the night with Baby. I think, however, that a kinder explanation can be proposed. ...

I think that when Vivian went to see Moe at the gambling table at 1:30 a .m., she did not steal the $100 from Moe’s wallet, but rather simply asked Moe openly for the money. Vivian told Moe that Johnny had found time after all, after the talent-show rehearsal, to give Vivian a dancing lesson after midnight. The lesson had just finished, and so she wanted to pay Johnny the promised $100 and then go alone to their hotel room to sleep. Vivian then returned to Robbie’s room and gave the money to Robbie.

Later, when Vivian was discussing the missing wallet with Moe, Vivian confirmed to him that she had seen the wallet in his possession at 1:30 a.m., when he had given her the $100 for Johnny. In order to strengthen her story, she even assured Moe that Johnny too had been with her right there near Moe’s chair, even though Moe had not noticed him. Later when Max Kellerman heard Vivian’s story, he concluded falsely that Johnny had stolen the wallet. ....

The wallet was stolen by the Schumachers, an old couple who regularly visited resort hotels and stealing wallets from other guests. They must watched the card game very attentively and seen Moe Pressman give Vivian Pressman the $100, put his wallet into his jacket, and hang his jacket from his chair. Sometime after that time, 1:30 a.m., and 3:45 a.m., they stole the wallet from the jacket. ....

At the end of the movie, during the talent show, when Johnny took Baby up onto the stage to perform their dance, Vivian Pressman is seen in a front row sitting alone. Next to her is an empty chair, where her husband should be sitting. (Probably he has learned that she lied about Johnny Castle being at the gambling table and receiving the $100.) Vivian looks morose and angry ...
In other words, Vivian might have been unfaithful and untruthful to Moe, but she did not do any wrong to Johnny. Vivian obtained the $100 from Moe on a false pretense that she would give the money to Johnny and she gave the money instead to Robbie. Johnny already had refused the money when Moe had offered it directly to Johnny. Vivian remarked that Johnny was standing nearby when Moe last saw his own wallet at 1:30 a.m., but Vivian did not intend that remark to cause trouble for Johnny. Rather, she merely intended to confirm that Moe indeed still had his wallet at 1:30 a.m.

Moe was not a card shark collaborating with Vivian to cheat other guests in card games. Moe was merely having fun playing cards during this weekends at the hotel.

(If you are interested in this mystery, it would be worthwhile for you to read the entire 2008 article. )


Was Moe Pressman a card shark? Did Vivian Pressman falsely accuse Johnny Castle of stealing Moe's wallet?

Or were Moe and Vivian innocent of those wrongdoings?


A possible solution to my conundrum was offered at the end of my old article by a reader named Louis E. He wrote:
Moe Pressman was on stage in the talent show in his pirate hat,I don't know at what point he might have rejoined Vivian. In a later shot,when the staff dancers have started pulling people out of their seats,she gets up to search for a partner, but I don't recall if she is seen dancing with anyone after that.
I restudied the movie and found that Moe indeed was wearing a pirate hat in the talent show.

Johnny Castle looking at and swaggering toward Moe Pressman,
who is wearing a pirate hat. 
Perhaps the pirate hat was a clever, subconscious communication to the movie audience that Moe was essentially a villain in the movie. In particular, Moe was a card shark, and that key understanding should guide the audience's interpretations of the roles played by Moe and his wife Vivian.


Set aside concerns about the pirate hat. Why was Moe standing on the stage at all? He came to the hotel only on weekends and wanted to spend all his time there playing cards. Would he really spend significant time rehearsing to perform in the talent show?

Moe Pressman wearing a pirate hat as he participates in the talent show
An innocent explanation would be that the story required that Vivian be sitting alone at her table during the talent show, supposedly because Moe was angry at her. Since the actor had to be placed somewhere else, he simply was placed on the stage. The actor was given an eye-patch and a pirate hat so that the movie audience did not recognize him as the character Moe. Ironically, however, the eye-patch and pirate hat only drew the attention of  insightful viewers such as my commenter Louis E.


When Johnny walked onto the stage, he looked at and approached Moe (see the above image). Perhaps Johnny intended to confront Moe and to denounce him to the ballroom audience. Perhaps Johnny intended to declare: "This man here, Moe Pressman, is a real pirate!" We will never know for sure, because Johnny told the ballroom audience instead about Baby.


In recent days I have been sitting on the fence about Moe, but his pirate hat has caused me to come down on the side that says he was a card shark. Furthermore, Moe's main reason for offering Johnny $100 to leave with Vivian was that Moe was bothered that Johnny was standing close behind him and watching him play cards. Moe feared that Johnny would see him cheating, so Moe signaled to Vivian to take Johnny away.

Vivian did manage to lead Johnny away from the card table, but soon they parted ways. Vivian went to have sex with Robbie, and Johnny went to have sex with Baby.

At 1:30 a.m., Vivian returned to the card table and told Moe that she had done a dance lesson with Johnny after all, and so she asked Moe for $100 to pay Johnny. She then took the $100 back to Robbie's room and gave the money to Robbie.

The Schumachers, who were watching Moe win a lot of money at the card game, stole Moe's wallet soon after Moe put his winnings into his wallet. At 3:45 a.m., Moe noticed that his wallet had disappeared.

When Moe informed Vivian that he had won a lot of money but it had disappeared, she was genuinely concerned. After all, she was Moe's collaborator in cheating rich guests out of money. Moe's loss was her own loss. And so, Vivian helped Moe remember when he last saw his wallet.

In this discussion, Vivian and Moe both remembered that Moe still had his wallet in the evening, when he offered Johnny $100. Johnny would be able to confirm that memory, because Johnny was standing nearby and even saw Moe begin to take his wallet out of his pocket.

Further in the discussion, Vivian reminded Moe that he still had his wallet at 1:30 a.m., when he took $100 out of his wallet and gave the money to her. So, they both agreed that Moe still had his wallet at 1:30.

Shortly before breakfast, Moe and Vivian told their story about the missing wallet to Max and Neil Kellerman. The Kellerman's misunderstood the sequence of events and thought mistakenly that Johnny had been standing right behind Moe at 1:30 a.m. In fact, Johnny had been standing there earlier in the evening, when Moe offered Johnny the $100.

Confused about the facts, Max decided that Johnny was the thief, and he showed Neil how to fire a thieving dancer. Johnny departed from the hotel quickly. Moe and Vivian did not see Johnny being fired, and so they did not have an immediate opportunity to correct the Kellermans' misunderstanding.

Later, however, after Baby exonerated Johnny, the Pressmans and Kellermans discussed the matter again and clarified the sequence of events. Indeed, Johnny had been standing right behind Moe earlier in the evening, not at 1:30 a.m. By a process of elimination, the Pressmans' and Kellermans' suspicions now turned correctly toward the Schumachers, who had watched the card game closely until the very end, when Moe put all his winnings into his wallet.


After the Schumachers were arrested, Moe and Vivian argued. Because of Baby had confessed that she had been alone with Johnny the entire night, Moe understood now that Vivian had not given the $100 to Johnny for dance lessons. Moe did not know anything about Robbie, and Vivian could not explain what she had done with the $100.

For the rest of the weekend, Moe gave Vivian the cold shoulder and refused to spend any time with her. Instead, Moe decided to participate in the talent show, where he sang a song he happened to know from Gilbert's and Sullivan's musical Pirates of Penzance.

Moe's singing performance in the talent show served to remind Vivian what a charming and entertaining husband he could be. Thinking about the frustrated maiden characters in  The Pirates of Penzance made Vivian realize that she should not risk her married life with her "old pirate" Moe by sleeping around with young men who never would marry her.

And Moe's pirate hat served to communicate to astute members of the movie audience that Moe really was a rascal.

A Performance at the ZDF Fernsehgarten in Mainz

ZDF Fernsehgarten (ZDF Television Garden) is a German entertainment show broadcast live from the grounds of the ZDF broadcasting centre at Mainz. It is a seasonal live programme which only airs during the summer months. This video was broadcast in September 2012.

Don't you wish you were there, in that beautiful place on that beautiful day, watching that beautiful performance live?

That Black female singer sure is beautiful (even with her dopey haircut) and talented. And she sings in German! I wonder who she is.

The male singer obviously is Johnny Castle's cousin Billy Kostecki.

Billy Kostecki and his cousin Johnny Castle
Billy Kostecki and Baby Houseman
I suppose this ZDF Fernsehgarten performance was done by the cast of the theater version of Dirty Dancing. Maybe Billy has a major singing role in that play.


The song at the beginning is a a German translation of This Magic Moment, which was a hit in the year 1960, performed by Ben E. King and The Drifters. It was on the Billboard Hot 100 chart for 11 weeks and reached #16.

I don't know why "This Magic Moment" is included in this ZDF Fernsehgarten Dirty Dancing medley. Maybe it's sung in the theater version of Dirty Dancing.

I do think, though, that "This Magic Moment" might have been a better song than "The Time of My Life" for the final scene in Dirty Dancing. Maybe the dramatic Johnny-Baby lift does not fit into the song.

The song's lyrics are excellent.
This magic moment --
So different and so new --
Was like any other
until I kissed you.

And then it happened;
It took me by surprise.
I knew that you felt it too,
By the look in your eyes

Sweeter than wine,
Softer than the summer night,
Everything I want, I have,
Whenever I hold you tight.

The song became a big hit again in 1969, performed by Jay and the Americans. The recording was on the Billboard Hot 100 chart for 14 weeks and reached #6.


Speaking of Ben E. King and the Drifters, I like this video of their 1962 song "Don't Play That Song".

Again,excellent lyrics.
Don't play that song for me.
It brings back memories --
The days that I once knew,
The days that I spent with you.

Oh, no, don't let it play.
It fills my heart with pain.
Please stop it right away!
I remember just what it said.

It said: "Darling I love you."
You know that you lied!

Remember, on our first date,
You kissed me and you walked away.
You were only seventeen;
I never thought you'd act so mean.
But, Baby, you told me you loved me.
You told me you cared.
You said "I'll go with you, Darling,
Almost anywhere."

But, Baby, you know that --
You know that -- you lied!
I especially love this stanza:
Remember, on our first date,
You kissed me and you walked away.
You were only seventeen;
I never thought you'd act so mean.
We need many more Dirty Dancing movies, because we need to include many more golden-oldie songs.

"Dirty Dancing" Tutorial Videos - 2

Do You Love Me?
Hungry Eyes
Time of My Life

The Crew Dance

"Dirty Dancing" Tutorial Videos - 1

The lift


The couple's routine


The solo routine


The crew's dance

"Dirty Dancing" Flash Mobs - 7

"Dirty Dancing" Flash Mobs - 6

"Dirty Dancing" Flash Mobs - 5

"Dirty Dancing" Flash Mobs - 4

"Dirty Dancing" Flash Mobs - 3

"Dirty Dancing" Flash Mobs - 2

"Dirty Dancing" Flash Mobs - 1

The "Dirty Dancing" Festival at Lake Lure

These first six videos was uploaded to YouTube in 2011 by an entity called Dirty Dancing Festival.

The sixth video includes interviews with two bit-part characters, Doriana Sanchez and Cousin Brucie Morrow.

The following video was uploaded in 2016.

Lake Lift Contests

Dirty Dancing fans just want to have fun.

High-School Students Perform the "Do You Love Me?" Dance

This video was uploaded to YouTube by Cindel Chartrand in April 2012 and is called CVR Performing Arts Department Presents Dirty Dancing "Do You Love Me" Dance. She doesn't explain the abbreviation CVR.

Rehearsing the Final Scene

This video was uploaded to YouTube by French entity called Uquanime Danse. The page's remark says the video is a Document amateur montrant le tournage de la fameuse scène finale (Time of my Live) du film Dirty Dancing.

Google translates that as an Amateur document showing the filming of the famous final scene (Time of my Live) of the movie Dirty Dancing.

Original Screentests Montage

The following video, called Original Screentests Montage, was posted on YouTube by someone who identifies herself as LaurieMP. The page's remark indicates that she got the video from the Ultimate Girls Night In Collector's Edition, a DVD released in 1987.

The man spotting the dancers is Kenny Ortega, the movie's choreographer.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Interactions Between the USA's German Jews and Eastern European Jews

This article does not address the movie Dirty Dancing, but it elaborates on the cultural differences between the USA's German Jews and Eastern European Jews. The following passages are taken from Irving Howe's book World of Our Fathers: The Journey of the East European Jews to America and the Life They Found and Made.


The USA's German Jews tried to help the Eastern European Jews to assimilate (pages 230-235):
... A struggle ensued, sometimes fraternal, sometimes fractious, about the best ways to help the hordes of east Europeans find a place in the new world.

One focus of this struggle was the Educational Alliance, curious mixture of night school, settlement house, day-care center, gymnasium, and public forum. The Alliance represented a tangible embodiment of the German Jews’ desire to help, to uplift, to clean up and quiet down their “co-religionists.” .... It became for several decades a major source of help to the new immigrants, as well as a major cause of contention between [Manhattan's] uptown [German] and downtown [Eastern European] Jews.

In forming the Educational Alliance the German Jews were influenced - by the settlement-house movement of the 1880’s ... to provide the poor with cultural and moral aids that would train them to help themselves. That the motives of the German Jews were often pure seems beyond doubt. They poured money, time, and energy into the Alliance, and often were rewarded by the downtown Jews with fury and scorn. Yet neither can it be doubted that the attitudes of the German Jews were calculated to enrage. An uptown [German-Jewish] weekly, the Jewish Messenger, announced that the new immigrants “must be Americanized in spite of themselves, in the mode prescribed by their friends and benefactors.” The Messenger found these plebeian Jews “slovenly in dress, loud in manners, and vulgar in discourse,” and would have liked to “pull down the ghetto . . . and scatter its members to the corners of the nation.” ....

Throughout its life the Alliance was wracked by the question: to what extent should it try to “Americanize” the greenhorns? A historian friendly to the Alliance wrote that some of the “older Jewish settlers [German Jews] wished to effect a rapid change in the lives of these immigrants. Impatient with people with whom they were neither socially nor intellectually en rapport but whom they could not help acknowledging as their own, they advocated the immediate abandonment by the immigrants of their old-world cultural patterns and the overnight transformation into full-fledged Americans.” Especially in the early years of the Alliance, this often meant that it aped such public — day and night — school routines as flag saluting and patriotic singing, which annoyed the stiff-necked immigrants, both Orthodox religious and orthodox radical, who felt they had a fair portion of culture on their own. ....

The 1899 report of the Alliance’s Committee on Moral Culture solemnly warned that “within the contracted limits of the New York ghetto ... medieval Orthodoxy and anarchistic license are struggling for mastery. A people whose political surroundings have entirely changed, who are apt to become intoxicated with liberty of action which has suddenly been vouchsafed to them . . . is apt to depart from its mooring and to become a moral menace.”

In later years the more sensitive leaders among the German Jews came to understand their errors in the Alliance and elsewhere. Louis Marshall wrote in a letter to a friend that the German Jews “held themselves aloof from the people. They acted as Lords and Ladies Bountiful bringing gifts to people who did not seek for gifts. . . . The work was done in such a manner as not only to give offense, but to arouse suspicion of the motives.” ...

From the moment of its birth the Educational Alliance came under attack. Orthodox Jews were aghast at its innovations in prayer, socialist Jews at its devotion to petty reform. In a group of Yiddish intellectuals, with the playwright Jacob Gordin at their head, set up a rival institution, the Educational League declaring it was time “the [Eastern European] people downtown cut away from the apron strings of the German Jews.” A mass meeting brought together two thousand people in March 1903 at the Grand Central Palace, where Gordin presented a skit ridiculing [German-Jewish] uptowners and “social workers.” Called “The Benefactors of the East Side,” it has a pretentious German-Jewish philanthropist declare that he and his ‘friends, “like Abraham Lincoln,” are working to liberate the slaves. “To be sure, the East Side people aren’t black, but they are Romanians. They aren’t Ethiopians, but they are Russians.” Gordin’s sketch was as effective as it was nasty, and his audience loved it.

Gradually the Alliance bent under such attacks, learning to show a bit more warmth and respect for the people it proposed to uplift. ....

The memories of Eugene Lyons were bitter: "We were 'Americanized' [by the Educational Alliance] about as gently as horses are broken in. In the whole crude process, we sensed a disrespect for the alien traditions in our homes and came unconsciously to resent and despise those traditions, good and bad alike, because they seemed insuperable barriers between ourselves and our adopted land." ....

The German Jews, intent upon seeing that the noses of those East Side brats were wiped clean, surely proved themselves to be insufferable, and anyone raised [downtown] ... had good reason to rage against the uptown Jews. Yet, in a way, the latter were right: physical exercise and hygiene were essential to the well-being of their “co-religionists” and somehow, through prodding and patronizing, they had to be convinced of this. The east European Jews felt free to release their bile because they knew that finally the German Jews would not abandon them, and the German Jews kept on with their good works even while reflecting on the boorishness of their” coreligionists.” Out of such friction came a modest portion of progress. ...

The USA's German Jews tried to establish a Yiddish-language newspaper that was written on a relatively high intellectual level (pages 543-544)
... the Yidishe Velt (“Jewish World”) ... [was] set up in 1902 with the help of a phalanx of German-Jewish millionaires .... Perhaps the ultimate presumption in the German-Jewish response to the east European Jews, this paper was started ... to be “everything that existing Yiddish newspapers are not, namely clean, wholesome, religious in tone; the advocate of all that makes good citizenship, and so far as politics are concerned, absolutely independent.” ...

Though staffed by competent men, whose pay ($25 a week.minimum) was the highest among Yiddish papers, the Yidishe Velt was a fiasco from the start. ... In somewhat less than three years its backers lost over $100,000. The trouble was that its style was too bland for a public that liked its journalism highly seasoned; also, that it advocated “refinement” and gratitude to the yahudim (German Jews), which did not exactly endear it to the “uncouth masses.”

In politics, it propagandized for a civics-lesson “Americanism” and supported the municipal reformers of the Republican party, a group that never would learn to catch the ear of the East Side [Eastern European Jews]. Indifferent to Yiddish culture and insensitive to immigrant feelings, the paper came under merciless ridicule from its rivals, the Orthodox Tageblatt and the radical Forward, both of which, by contrast, sprang organically out of Jewish life. .... Uptown was uptown, downtown downtown, and it would take another half-century in the warmth of affluence before the twain could meet. ...

The Eastern European Jews gradually took over the USA's garment-manufacturing business from the German Jews (pages 154-155).
In 1890 the Baron de Hirsch Fund conducted a survey of more than 100,000 Jews on the East Side. Of the roughly 25,000 gainfully employed Jews among the respondents, more than 12,000 were listed as garment workers. During the decades to come, the number of Jewish workers in this industry would increase steadily. In 1900 over 40 percent of 35,000 female workers classified by the census as “Russian-born” and close to 20 percent of 191,000 male workers classified in the same way were listed as garment workers. Three decades later a much larger work force in the garment trades was still “predominantly Russian Jewish.” The fate of the east European immigrants was to be crucially intertwined with the development of the garment trades. ...

For the women’s clothing industry, the years of sharpest growth were during this period, one that coincided with the upsurge of Jewish immigration. .... By the time east European Jews started to arrive in large numbers, a good part of the clothing industry was owned by German Jews, who had come here in the 1840’s and 1890’s ...

Finding it easier to deal with a German-Jewish employer than a gentile one, the east European immigrants moved into the garment trades. Other factors reinforced this trend: many of the immigrants had some experience in tailoring; jobs were not hard to come by in an industry that doubled its size with each decade of the Jewish migration from eastern Europe; and, perhaps most important, as the work became increasingly routinized, no very great skills were required for most of the available jobs.

Such improved systems of production were at first conducted in large lofts, but with the arrival of masses of east European Jews the industry spilled over into sweatshops, unventilated tenement rooms packed with teams of eight to twenty who pored over worktables and sewing machines. With the growth and rationalization of the industry, conditions improved ...

Among east European Jewish immigrants in the garment industry who were over sixteen years of age at the time of their arrival, one out of two was earning more than $12.50 a week — compared with fewer than one out of three south Italian males, two out of three German males, and one out of twenty Russian-Jewish females. Jewish heads of families in the garment industry aver aged $502 a year; most worked between nine and twelve months a year. Fully a third of Jewish heads of families earned less than $400 a year. What kept these people going was that most families had more than one worker, that they were well trained in the arts of self-denial, that they lived by a goal of expectation that gave some meaning to deprivations of the moment. ...
The German Jews who had worked in the garment business gave up the competition and went on to other businesses (pages 139-140):
By 1900 Jewish dominance of the garment industry was all but complete; over 90 percent of it was in Jewish hands. The east European Jews were taking long strides toward driving their German cousins out of the industry .... The Moths of Division Street, as the Russian contractors were called, had forced the German giants of Broadway to retreat.” Between 1900 and 1912 the number of women’s garment shops in New York and its environs increased from 1,856 to 5,698; the number employing up to nineteen workers, from 898 to 3,828; and there can be no question that the vast preponderance of these employers was now made up of east European Jews. ...

There were dozens, perhaps scores, of newly rich east European Jews. Impressive as these achievements were if placed against the backdrop of immigrant life, they remained inconsequential in comparison with the wealth of either the German Jews or the American elite. The east Europeans shied away from the mainstream of American economy, or, to be more precise, had no chance to approach it. They had nothing to do with the major industries and very little with Wall Street; they were confined to light manufacturing, distributive industries, and real estate. ... Such pursuits having been central to the Jewish economy of eastern Europe, it was only natural that they be transported across the ocean. ...

In general, the USA's German Jews belonged to the Republican Party, whereas the Eastern European Jews belonged to the Democratic Party (pages 360-363).
Of all the sectors of American life that were open to them, old-party politics was the one that immigrant Jews were the slowest to enter. Work was a necessity for survival, education seemed an entry to the future, but politics — it would take several decades before east European Jews could feel I at home with the big-city machines, their strange skills, codes, corruptions, and vulgarities.

The east European Jews brought with them a skimpy political experience. To the Orthodox the idea of a secular politics was inherently suspect, to the radicals an untried if tempting possibility. In the political life of czarist Russia Jews had been allowed at most a token representation, more humiliating than enabling. Many were still in the grip of the traditional Jewish persuasion that it was best to keep as far away from politics as possible, since any involvement with the affairs of the gentiles would probably be dangerous and certainly degrading. Within east European Jewish life, secular politics was a novel experience; mostly, it was an “internal” politics, necessarily abstract and visionary, without much grounding in the realities of power or administration. Sharing this limited background in public life, both the Orthodox and the radical immigrants tended to look upon the politics of American cities as still another antic of the gentiles ...

In the last third of the nineteenth century, some immigrant Jews, mostly German, became prominent in the Republican Party. Arriving in mid- century as sympathizers with the democratic spirit of 1848, the German Jews usually sided with the northern cause; it seemed only natural that they should rally to the banner of antislavery and the party of “Father Abraham.” In the decades after the Civil War their allegiance remained largely with the Republicans, and this no doubt played a certain role in prompting Republican administrations to make diplomatic representations in behalf of persecuted Jews in Europe. ...

With time, as the Republicans showed themselves to be the party of respectable conservatism, the German Jews, increasingly affluent and at ease in America, tended to drift in the same direction. They gained places of honor in the party’s ranks ... And by the turn of the century, a number of high- minded German Jews in New York ... came to see the Republican party as the necessary antagonist to Tammany corruption. ...

In the course of establishing themselves in this country, the German Jews built up a number of national organizations devoted to fraternal and quasi-political ends, ranging from B’nai B’rith to the American Jewish Committee. Later, the east European Jews would begin to enter and slowly transform these organizations. In accord with the experience of the European Jews that even while trying to influence gentile political parties it was best to keep a certain distance from them, these national Jewish organizations proved to be effective at quietly lobbying in behalf of Jewish interests. The strength of their own communal organizations may thus have been one reason for the caution with which both German and east European Jews made their way into American politics. ....

In the early years of the twentieth century the Republicans still kept a strong hold on Jewish voters, at least during presidential elections. Theodore Roosevelt’s progressive rhetoric and philo-Semitism won their hearts: it was pleasing that so echt [genuine] an American should seem so well disposed to them. ...

In New York City the Republicans were usually more generous than the Democrats in nominating Jewish — mostly German-Jewish — candidates for local office, if only because a Republican nomination seldom brought much chance for election and could therefore be dispensed to marginal groups with a ready show of benevolence.

For the east European Jews, apart from those who gave themselves to the cause of socialism, the major arena in American politics would always be the Democratic party. ...

The USA's German Jews led the way in scholarship, and the Eastern European Jews caught up slowly (pages 498-499)
By 1900 the German Jews in America had created scholarly and cultural institutions decidedly more imposing than those of the east European immigrants. In 1875 ... wealthy German Jews set up the Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, long to serve as a center of Judaic scholarship and a training college for Reform rabbis. Along similar lines, the Jewish Publication Society was formed in 1888 and the American Jewish Historical Society in 1892; while the Jewish Encyclopedia issued in the early 1900’s an impressive compendium of Wissenschaft des Judentums, synthesized for the American reader and containing solid contributions by scholars ...

Both the Hebrew Union College and the Jewish Theological Seminary, founded in 1887 to train conservatively oriented rabbis, entered upon a period of productive scholarship ...Dropsie College, an institution devoted to Judaic scholarship, though not rabbinical in orientation, was set up in 1907. While the faculties of these institutions had some scholars with east European backgrounds, they drew mainly on the resources of German Jewry. “The rabbis and scholars trained in German methods,” writes Joshua Trachtenberg in his survey of American Jewish scholarship ...

By comparison, the scholarly achievements of the east European Jews during the early years of the mass migration were meager. Mired in poverty and cut off from old-world roots, the yeshivas that were set up in several large American cities could neither match the standards of traditional rabbinical learning nor satisfy the intellectual needs of most Jews in the new world. ...

Only after the turn of the century did there begin to appear in America a group of scholar-intellectuals who worked in Yiddish, devoted themselves mainly to secular themes, and were oriented to the intellectual regeneration of the Yiddish-speaking masses. The conditions under which they lived and worked, both in eastern Europe and America, were sharply different from any we are likely to associate with the academic or intellectual life.

When secular-minded intellectuals began to appear in the east European Jewish community during the second half of the nineteenth century, its official leaders, rabbinical and otherwise, proved sharply hostile — and understandably so. For between the values of religious Orthodoxy and those of modern intellectuality there could be no lasting peace, only an occasional common defense against external enemies. ...