Wednesday, October 10, 2007

From the very beginning of my blogging life, Danny Miller ("Jew Eat Yet?") has encouraged me to write about all the plays and musicals and concerts I have ever seen, and he is still encouraging me---two years later....And I think he encouraged this because he knew I grew up in the so called "Golden Age" of Broadway, and during a time of some of the greatest "artists"---playwrights, actors, musicians, composers, etc., that the world has ever known. And given my own involvement with music and theatre, etc., he felt that I would have a unique perspective. (Danny and his wife Kendall, who's father was the brilliantly talented playwright, Oliver Hailey are such lovers of all things to do with theatre and films, themselves.....) So, one of my very first posts on that very first blog was about a truly rich and memorable "Live" theatre experience. Well, actually a concert experience that was quite remarkable and something I have never forgotten.....I have rewritten it and edited it and added some pictures, too.
Given the fact that I grew up in a suburb very close to NYC and The Great White Way, and the fact that both my parents loved the theatre and Opera and music of all kinds....our family went to all of these live performance theatrical happenings all the time...I mean ALL of the time....From the earliest part of my childhood, from the time I can first remember, going to the theatre was just part of the fabric of our daily life. I think I was 4 (yes four years old) when I saw my first 'live' performance. I don't honestly remember weather it was a concert at Carnegie Hall, or an Opera at the old Metropolitan Opera House, or a play on Broadway, but it was one of those three things. My three siblings and myself and my parents, (until they separated and subsequently divorced,) all went together.As a young girl, my mother was an expert seamstress, having learned from her mother---my grandmother---who also was an expert seamstress. So when Ma had to leave school and go to work when she was 14 years old, she got a job sewing at Bergdorf Goodman. That was the way it was back then....1913-1914....if you were very poor--you had to quit school and get a job.During this time period the clothes at Bergdorf Goodman were all hand made. There was no 'ready to wear' at all, back then. That she had this sewing skill is what saved her in those days---good jobs for teenagers back then not being plentiful. So, when we were growing up, my mother made these beautiful Opera capes for my two sisters and myself. Beautiful BEAUTIFUL velvet silk lined Opera Capes, in lovely colors---Maroon, Dark Green, and Dark Blue----that the three of us wore to the Opera where we would sit in a Box. My father, who had been dirt poor as a child, and who also had to leave school at age 14 and get a job, went down to the financial district in lower Manhattan known as Wall street, and obtained a job as a switchboard operator in a big brokerage firm and thus began his financial career. He did extremely well, I might add, but that's a whole other story.Part if the fruits of his labors and my mothers, too, was to be able to sit in a box at The Met, both of them having often sat way up in the so called 'peanut gallery' in the very last balcony, when they were courting....And, to have their daughters wearing these exquisite hand made capes that could have been bought at Bergdorf Goodman, but indeed, had been sewn by her, just as she had sewed all the 'hand made clothes' when she worked there at Bergdorf Goodman.Those capes that my mother made were absolutely gorgeous and so carefully and beautifully sewn---so lovingly sewn, you cannot believe it. And because I am the youngest of my siblings my cape was the smallest, of course. Somewhere I still have those capes. My mother had saved them in a cedar chest which she kept in the cellar of our home in Great Neck, the house we all grew up in and where she lived for forty years until she died in 1966. After she passed on, I just couldn't throw those dear capes away. The hours she had spent lovingly sewing them....well, my Lord, they are the 'family treasures, you know?
There were many highlights in our Concert and Opera going. I was very young, as I said, and we would go in the evening. The box that my father would get at The Met had a little vestibule with a couch and some chairs. And about half way through the opera I would toddle off to the vestibule and lie down on the couch just to rest a bit, and of course, I would fall asleep. Well, you know when you are four or five years get tired! These were very special evenings in my memory---these shared 'family outings'. I remember one evening vividly. It was going to hear Artur Rubinstein play in Carnegie Hall.Our orchestra seats were in the middle of the theatre. It was a gloriously beautiful concert with just Artur Rubinstein and the piano being the only things on that fantastic stage. At the end of the concert the audience went wild! Applauding till their hands were red and screaming Bravo at the top of their lungs while giving Rubinstein a standing ovation----This was back in the day when a 'standing ovation' really meant something. Not like today where if a performer burps he or she gets a standing ovation. This audience was in a passionate frenzy and they would not let Mr. Rubinstein go without an encore. Now of course I understand this is expected and there might be more than one encore....But this night Rubinstein played encore after encore after encore, and gloriously, I might add.After each encore Rubinstein would leave the stage and some people would think it was over, and they would leave the Theatre. But, a core of people would not budge. They kept applauding on and on and on....My oldest sister Robin was now creeping closer and closer to the stage along with the other hardcore Rubinstein fans, some of whom had come down from the balcony's above, not wanting to miss a moment of this rare experience with this truly great artist. The rest of our family was still back in our seats in the middle of the orchestra We were waiting for Robin to decide that Mr. R. was done, and then she, and therefor we too, could go home. No one seemed impatient, they were just incredibly respectful and enjoying each encore from where we were still sitting. I don't remember how many encores Rubinstein played, but by the last piece, he was now playing to a very small coterie of people huddled right next to the edge of the stage, including my dear sister Robin, where they could almost reach out and touch Rubinstein, though no one would even think of doing that.I know I was pretty tired at that point, but still awake and I too was mesmerized along with everyone else still there in that place. You know, I don't know how often this kind of magical phenomenal concert-ending-kind-of-thing happened in other concert halls or with other solo artists of a similar caliber to Artur Rubinstein, but it probably happened with him a lot, because of the extraordinary relationship in progress between Artist and Audience from the first note to the very last. And then, it was over. I know that even at that young age I knew something special had happened----well, look, I never forgot it.This was surely as pure an experience of Audience and Artist as any a Theatrical/Emotional experience in 'The Theatre' could possibly pure an experience as one could have in a "live" theatre performance by an artist so incredibly talented that he was known all over the world. For that night only though, he was ours alone in that sacred place known as Carnegie Hall.

It was, in a word, thrilling.

More To Come......

Links to this post:


had this to say:

What an amazing childhood and being exposed to Broadway at such young age was truly fascinating.

Hey Naomi, my Mom worked as a seamstress from home and my Father was a tailor :D

Wednesday, October 10, 2007 at 5:45:00 AM PDT 

had this to say:

Hi Naomi! I read with envy your times. I only enjoy Arthur Rubinstein on cd recordings, never in person which I would have loved.

Carnegie Hall look so elegant in your pictures...must be a treat going for concerts.

Thank you again for great memories...certainly 'memories are made of these'! Please share more of your broadway musicals and shows...these are my one favorite. I love music full stop!

Wednesday, October 10, 2007 at 7:15:00 AM PDT 

had this to say:

What wonderful memories!! I would love to see those beautiful capes your mother made! I could picture them in my mind! ;)

Have a wonderful day my friend!

Wednesday, October 10, 2007 at 8:43:00 AM PDT 

had this to say:

You must feel about the early days of Broadway like I feel about the early music of my generation: The 60's.

I'm so glad your enjoying the photos of Floyd's Green Art Hotel Floyd!

And now I'm still reading. Excuse me.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007 at 10:52:00 AM PDT 

had this to say:

Oh my gosh! I've been away from here FOREVER! We have just GOT to get your blog on to Google Reader somehow! GEEZ!

Do you know? I just kneeeew your childhood was like this! I just KNEW it! And I would SO love to see those capes your mother made... Your parents were really awesome... to have brought themselves up so far from NOTHING! And to give you kids the experiences that they did! And that it was IMPORTANT to them that they SHARE it with you! I'm sure it would have been cheaper to leave you at home with a babysitter.... amazing!

Wednesday, October 10, 2007 at 12:36:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

What marvelous memories you have shared with us. I love seeing the photos also, helps to imagine the gradure of it all. As a child it must have seemed so massive! How wonderful to have lived a night like that, even as a meer child..with a lovely cape...I love reading your posts, they transport us to a moment, feeling, time.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007 at 12:50:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

That's the kind of experience we theatre-goers dream of, Naomi. I can't imagine artists or performers doing that today. I wonder if it ever happens.

What a great memory.
And I just can't wrap my mind around parents who take their kids to such things.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007 at 1:50:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

Thank you so much for sharing all this lovely memories from your childhood with us Naomi - it a fascinating read and very well documented in the lovely pictures too. One can tell you really have made a lot of efforts to post an article like this!

I've never been in Broadway - I'm just an ordinary kid from a small town in Norway you know:-) But I remember my first time in the theater for sure and I fell in sleep too :D

Wednesday, October 10, 2007 at 2:27:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

Oh Dear,
I do find this post very hard to comment seriously.
First of all because I'm not able to really understand how "strong" life was at that time when your parents grew up (well I was told by mothers cousin Marie (Portland, OR) how it was for her and the rest of the family that in the 1890'ies emigrated from Norway to the promised land: North Dakota)
Secondly because when I was young we did not have any operahouses in Norway (but my father loved opera and bought and played many 78 rpm records) - musicals were unknown, theater mostly too expensive - but we had what was called "school theatre when we were bussing from school to watch perormances suitable for kids...
... and as told before - I was very interested in theatre and comedies - even write and represented a Norwegian group abroad...

And number 3: We did not have TV in this country until 1960 - State Channel. No more comments to that fact.....

Even Radio: One channel. State owned and controlled...

So, when I read your great memories, it's like heaven. I wanna perform a dance for you. Like my daughter.
You know where to find that "stage"

Wednesday, October 10, 2007 at 5:23:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

How fortunate you were, Naomi, to have parents who would expose you to such talent at so young an age. I don't know many people who had those experiences until they were young adults, at least.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007 at 5:26:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

Thanks for taking us back there with you. What a wonderful introduction to the theater you had, and it's no wonder you ended up on the stage yourself.

I feel like exposing my kids to this kind of magic, but I know it's different now. We like the Actor's Playhouse and our local neighborhood theater. There's nothing like live performances.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007 at 5:28:00 PM PDT 

Anonymous Nancy
had this to say:

I loved your post about,among many other interesting things, Carnegie Hall.

When you wrote of Artur Rubenstein and his famous encores it reminded me of another great pianist, Vladimir Horowitz, and his equally famous encores. Mr Horowitz would play "Stars and Stripes Forever" and the audience would go mad with applause.This went on for years.

In the end Horowitz refused to play the Stars and Stripes because he thought that the audience liked it so much it would be the only thing they remembered about the concert.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007 at 5:40:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

You described the capes so magnificently. I love all of the work that you put in to your posts. I always learn so much. You are a great storyteller.
Thanks for sharing!

Wednesday, October 10, 2007 at 5:52:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

I came by way of Danny's blog...what a lovely post...I love that you called your mother "ma". Brings back memories of my father calling my grandmother and grandfather "ma" and "pa" was such a sweet endearment.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007 at 6:44:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

I have never met an individual with such a rich history as yours. The thing I am most impressed with is even though you were always surrounded by the arts, you have such a deep appreciation for them & you realize how fortunate you've been.
The opera cape, it sounds like a cape that my brother got for my mom, it was beautiful. We didn't know what it was, but it was supposedly an antique. It was black velvet on the outside & silk on the inside. There were holes on the sides for the arms.

Anyways, I wish your memories could somehow be video recorded. Absolutely amazing, Naomi.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007 at 6:47:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

That is so nice that you appreciated and remembered that experience at such a young age.
It's also quite amazing that your parents lived that typical "American Dream", starting out so poor, but managing to squeeze in those fabulous cultural experiences. So interesting!

Wednesday, October 10, 2007 at 8:43:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

I never tire of your stories. They always make me smile. Keep 'em comin'!

Wednesday, October 10, 2007 at 9:43:00 PM PDT 

Anonymous the fat lady
had this to say:

The cape your mother made for you sounds exquisite! No doubt you derive some of your artistic talent from her. In those days, fine sewing was an art. My grandmother studied "drape-ing" at boarding school. Then, when she was left a widow with 5 little ones, worthless stock, and a big mortgage, she put her pride in her pocket, and portfolio under her arm. She called on her former classmates, soliciting commissions for elaborate Edwardian gowns (like the ones in My Fair Lady and Titanic). Her modiste salon was not as large nor renown as Bergdorf's, but dressed many of Chicago's (lol) upper crust.
Alas, my mom was raised by hired help, who substituted an afternoon at that modern marvel, the Nickelodeon, for a walk in the park. She grew up a seamstress of very limited ability. While she was alive, grandma kept my closet filled with magnificent outfits which included suede spats (!), matching hats, gloves and muffs (in FLA.!)plaid capes, ruffled dresses, mother-daughter outfits, and scaled down versions of movie fashions. My mom sometimes dressed me in 7 or eight outfits in one day, as if I were a doll. Perhaps that's why clothes are no big deal for me. Or, perhaps grandma spoiled me. She was adamant a ready to wear dress was never worh buying.

Thursday, October 11, 2007 at 2:02:00 AM PDT 

had this to say:

I loved the story of the capes so lovingly made - a picture (even today) of a bygone world. I went to the ballet recently here in Finland and was shocked at how scruffily so many people were dressed

Thursday, October 11, 2007 at 2:59:00 AM PDT 

had this to say:

What wonderful memories and I love the way you tell all the details with so much care and passion!!! I can almost touch those beautiful capes you mom made for you, how wonderful!!And what great experiences as a child. I remember going to the ballet with my parents (of course it was a small theater), I know now it was something they actually couldn't afford but they gave us children a memory you cannot buy!! Your post brought these dear memories back and I thank you for that :)

Thursday, October 11, 2007 at 4:02:00 AM PDT 

had this to say:

Good Thursday morning to you, dear Naomi ! What an incredible story ! I wish that you would turn your entire blog into a book and have it published !
The way you described at age 4 going to see your first live performance, the pictures, your mother follwoing her family tradition and being a seamstress, making those beautiful hand-swen clothes for the exclusive Bergdorf Goodman's - your father getting a job on Wall Street (which brokerage house did he work for ? I bet he knows/knew my Uncle Phil who is now 82 and has worked on Wall Street for the last 40 years !); the gorgeous capes you and your sisters wore, the experience of the talent of Athur Ruebnstein and his piano ! you made the evening come alive ! No wonder that the theare becasme something that you treasured and continued to be interested in/participate in for so many years !
*big cyber hugs*
Loving Annie

Thursday, October 11, 2007 at 5:03:00 AM PDT 

had this to say:

I just loved this post so much! I was aslo taken to the theatre for the first time at about 4 years old and althoguh I didn't go as often as your family, I can remember going several times as a youngster. It truly is a magical place at that age and I think that feeling of magic stays with you into adulthood if you have this experience early on.

The performance you describe sounds so wonderful and those lovely capes that your mother made for you. I am so glad you kept them as their importance to you is palpable from your narrative. Have you got any pictures of them?

Thursday, October 11, 2007 at 5:43:00 AM PDT 

had this to say:

Sometimes we can close our eyes and remember things such as this, that for the moment, make us feel we are there all over again.

Isn't it wonderful?!!! Thank goodness for memories!

Thursday, October 11, 2007 at 6:48:00 AM PDT 

had this to say:

What a beautiful story. So lovingly told.
Thank you.


Thursday, October 11, 2007 at 7:05:00 AM PDT 

had this to say:

I love your stories. And those beautiful old black and whites of the city. You are always fascinating.

Up until probably 20 years ago here, kids would still quit school to find work.

Thursday, October 11, 2007 at 8:04:00 AM PDT 

had this to say:

I'm jealous :)

Did you ever make it to Toronto? We have some great theatres and attract some great plays.

Thursday, October 11, 2007 at 10:38:00 AM PDT 

had this to say:

What a beautiful story and what an enriched childhood you experienced thanks to your parents. It shows up in all the posts you make, the thread that runs through them all. I am sure there were hard times, you have written about your illness and if your parents separated, that's never easy, but still it all was rich and gave you what you took and then worked with to create your own work.

Thursday, October 11, 2007 at 11:34:00 AM PDT 

had this to say:

I love how you relate the stories of you, of your family and your history. You've once again touched me with a glimpse that I wish I could have experienced first-hand. I felt like I was sitting beside you watching Rubinstein...right there.

You learned your family's lessons well, Naomi. Your weavings are just as rich, just as treasured.

Thursday, October 11, 2007 at 3:12:00 PM PDT 

Anonymous Lyn M.
had this to say:

A long time ago in West Hartford, CT when I was a young mother of 3, I did alterations at home and on one occasion I altered the original costumes from a Broadway Show being played locally. It was an unexpected experience that I have not forgotten. Although I love music and the theatre, I regret that I have never had the thrill of seeing a live Broadway Show in New York. What a grand and wonderful life you had in the theatre from the time you were just a little girl and OH the MEMORIES to savor forever.

Thursday, October 11, 2007 at 5:54:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

I'm continually amazed at how deep and strong your memories run, Naomi. I remember so very little about my childhood and that makes it all the more moving to hear about yours.

Thursday, October 11, 2007 at 6:15:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

Wow. What a story and what a memory you have Naomi!! Makes wonderful reading indeed...

And I would love to see those capes!! I admire your parents on having taken you and your siblings to such events and exposing you to such things at such an early age...

Thursday, October 11, 2007 at 7:46:00 PM PDT 

Blogger PI
had this to say:

Naomi: enthralling memories. Seems we both came from simple, hard-working back grounds - and none the worse for that. How wonderful to have your mother such a skilled seamstress - a little girl's idea of bliss. So sad the skills seem to be dying out. I had to chuckle about the theatre capes. My Grand ma was a mid-wife and was given all sorts of things from the families she helped and one was a child's ruched red velvet cape with an ermine collar which of course she gave to me. I think I must have looked like Santa's little helper.
And weren't you the lucky one to see all that -in a box no less!
A rich childhood indeed!
I'm off on Sunday so won't be visiting for a week. Stay safe.xoxoxoxo

Friday, October 12, 2007 at 4:16:00 AM PDT 

Blogger rpm
had this to say:

I loved hearing this story. I didn't not realize that there was no ready to wear back then. I'd love to see the capes, too.

Friday, October 12, 2007 at 5:39:00 AM PDT 

had this to say:

That first picture of the train station looks really familiar. I'm almost certain I've been there. Do you know which station that is? I really enjoyed your post. My first "show" of any size was seeing _Madame Butterfly_ when I was around 9 years old. I remember being interested, but somehow toward the end, I fell asleep. I also agree with you on the automatic encores for nary a burp. Oh, and I can identify with you keeping the capes your mother made. My mother crochets blankets and all of us kids have at least one, along with the grandchildren. My mother is currently making baby blankets for the great-grandchildren she will likely never see, but they will have a blanket she made for them. I will get the baby blankets before Christmas and then put them away until my kids start their own families. You really can't replace a mother's love and the time that goes into making something special. Thanks for sharing such beautiful memories.

Friday, October 12, 2007 at 6:14:00 AM PDT 

had this to say:

Lovely post Naomi! I felt as though I were with you and could see and almost hear Arthur Rubinstein playing!! What cherished memories you have and you tell them to us so well. I'm sure the capes your Mom made were beautiful. What wonderful, wonderful, memories!! Thank you for sharing them!

Friday, October 12, 2007 at 8:40:00 AM PDT 

Anonymous joy
had this to say:

Your post made me miss NYC. I love the theatre and anything literary and cultural.

Your Love Coach

Friday, October 12, 2007 at 1:09:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

Hey :)

Here via michele

Friday, October 12, 2007 at 1:19:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

I love that you still have the capes. My grandmother left school at 14 and was a seamstress her whole life. She made my wedding dress :)
You are right about it being a lifesaver if you had sewing skills.
What fantastic memories of Carnegie Hall, how huge and vast it must have seemed to a wee four year old Naomi.

Friday, October 12, 2007 at 6:49:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

What a sweet story. I felt like I was right there with you wearing a cape. I imagine it felt magical as a child. I guess it's a northern thing to call your mother "Ma." We did too. And my dad's mother was Ma too. I thought it was an Irish thing, but maybe not.

Friday, October 12, 2007 at 8:55:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

What a wonderful post!
Thank you for sharing your memories with us.
Huggles and Love,

Saturday, October 13, 2007 at 3:30:00 AM PDT 

had this to say:

What wonderful memories and stories, my dear Naomi! You are very fortunate to have parents who valorize the world of art. Your memories from your childhood are fascinating and very well written! Thank you for sharing with us!

Have a lovely weekend!

Saturday, October 13, 2007 at 11:56:00 AM PDT 

had this to say:

The weather over here has just been dreary today! But it was fun to see the clouds/fog clustering low around the mountains, with the peaks poking out above it. Your place must have had some fog today! Crossing fingers for tomorrow.
Hugs from over the hill,
Michele sent me today!

Saturday, October 13, 2007 at 4:18:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

Wow, I wish I could see those capes, I bet they are still beautiful.....My husband and I just love Rubinstien, we have many of his albums and listen to them often. I love Gershwin too.

My husband grew up on long island, Levittown to be exact. His grandmother would take him to the opera, or to plays, on his birthday. He still remembers the special trips to the theatre.

I would love to go to Carnegie Hall. My daughter got a chance to go when she was working in New York last year. I am glad that she loves music and the arts, too.

Keep up the stories Naomi, I love reading them.

Sunday, October 14, 2007 at 8:09:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

This was beautiful. You need to do far more than blog about this, you need to write a book.

Monday, October 15, 2007 at 1:07:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

Oh, to have experienced Carnegie Hall in it's heyday, lucky lucky you!! I would absolutely love to see a pic of those beautiful capes too!! I cannot wait till Holly is a little older so I can take her to some shows, I think that the theatre/live shows are one of the greatest gifts you can give to a child!

Monday, October 15, 2007 at 6:48:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

I thought I recognized the Great Neck train station! I grew up in Russell Gardens until we moved to L.A. in 1974.
My Grandfather was a well known tin pan alley composer and my dad was Bacharach/David's publisher in the 60's.
I am also a huge Betty Garrett fan, but then, who isn't? Now I am your fan too.

Fred Ahlert III

Tuesday, October 16, 2007 at 2:09:00 PM PDT 

had this to say:

What wonderful memories of such a magical time. That cape must have been exquisite! Such talent your mother had and I loved reading about all of it. They certainly did instill a great love of the arts in you.
Thank you so much for sharing this wonderful story with us. I love your memories.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007 at 1:19:00 PM PDT 

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