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Comedian Freddie Roman, who brought the Borscht Belt to Broadway, dies at 85



(New York Jewish Week) — Freddie Roman wasn’t just a Catskills comic but a curator and preservationist of a comedy tradition born at the Jewish resorts in upstate New York’s Catskill Mountains. 

For years he served as dean of the Friars Club, the New York city clubhouse of popular entertainment, where faded stars and up-and-comers gathered to puff on cigars, trade crude jokes and roast one another with, well, even cruder jokes. 

In 1991, long after the Borscht Belt itself had faded as a popular tourist spot, he created “Catskills on Broadway,” a revue starring him and fellow tummlers Dick Capri, Marilyn Michaels and Mal Z. Lawrence. It ran for 453 performances.

“‘Catskills on Broadway,” the New York Times said in its upbeat review, “manages to reproduce the ambiance of the Catskills. The basic difference is that on Broadway there is not a nosh in sight. But there is a groaning board of jokes about eaters and stuffers.” 

Roman died Saturday afternoon at Bethesda Hospital in Boynton Beach, Florida, his booking agent and friend Alison Chaplin told the A.P. Sunday. He was 85.

Born Fred Kirschenbaum on May 28, 1937 in Newark, New Jersey, and raised in Jamaica, Queens, Roman started emceeing at age 15 at the the Crystal Spring Hotel in the Catskills, which was owned by his uncle and grandfather. He soon was performing at hotels and resorts in the region for the largely Jewish crowd, and later played the “big rooms” in Las Vegas and Atlantic City. A highlight of his career was opening for Frank Sinatra.

Although never a crossover star like Alan King, Jackie Mason or Joan Rivers — three other Jewish comics with roots in the Catskills — he nonetheless stayed busy, most recently with a recurring role in the Amazon series “Red Oaks.”

But the comic’s comic was also credited with reviving the Friars Club, which had lost much of its luster when he first arrived in 1970. As its elected dean (“Every two years, they keep re-electing me,” Roman told a reporter in 2005. “No one seems to run against me. Maybe no one wants it.”), he experimented by admitting women and holding showcases for young comics. The changes worked, and younger comics like Susie Essman, Jeff Ross and Paul Reiser became regulars.

The younger comedians have “added a wonderful new vibrancy to the club,” Roman told the New York Jewish Week in 2000. “This is going to continue to be a wonderfully funny Friars Club.” 

Reiser was one of the comedians remembering Roman on Twitter this week. “A great loss to the world of comedy,” he wrote. “He was such a huge supporter & mentor when I was starting out. A GREAT comic, the ultimate pro with the biggest heart. I will miss our phone calls and his big, beauty [sic] laugh.”

Ross, who earned the title of “Roastmaster General” at the Friars Club, remembered Roman with a quip about his booming voice: “They call him Freddie Roman because you can hear him in Italy.”

My very first Friars roast joke… “They call him Freddie Roman because you can hear him in Italy”.

— Jeff Ross (@realjeffreyross) November 26, 2022

After its Broadway run, “Catskills on Broadway” toured around the country, keeping the Borscht Belt flame burning. In his shtick, Roman commented about everything from his childhood in Queens to his “retirement” in Florida.

“I took a cholesterol test,” Roman quipped. “My number came back 911.”

For years his home base was a condo in Fort Lee, New Jersey, from which he would “commute” to the Friars Club on E. 55th St.

While Roman never got his own sitcom or became a household name, he appeared to have no regrets.

“I’ve met everyone and been a lot of places,” he told the New York Times. “Alan [his son, a TV producer] put me in one of his sitcoms once, playing myself. That’s the greatest honor. And his daughter, who is 4, laughs at my jokes. Who can beat that?”

The post Comedian Freddie Roman, who brought the Borscht Belt to Broadway, dies at 85 appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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Phyllis Pollock died at home Sunday September 3, 2023 in Winnipeg, after a courageous lifetime battle with cancer.
Phyllis was a mother of four: Gary (Laura), daughter Randi, Steven (deceased in 2010) (Karen), and Robert. Phyllis also had two grandchildren: Lauren and Quinn.
Born in Fort Frances, Ontario on February 7, 1939, Phyllis was an only child to Ruby and Alex Lerman. After graduating high school, Phyllis moved to Winnipeg where she married and later divorced Danny Pollock, the father of her children. She moved to Beverly Hills in 1971, where she raised her children.
Phyllis had a busy social life and lucrative real estate career that spanned over 50 years, including new home sales with CoastCo. Phyllis was the original sales agent for three buildings in Santa Monica, oceanfront: Sea Colony I, Sea Colony II, and Sea Colony. She was known as the Sea Colony Queen. She worked side by side with her daughter Randi for about 25 years – handling over 600 transactions, including sales and leases within the three phases of Sea Colony alone.
Phyllis had more energy than most people half her age. She loved entertaining, working in the real estate field, meeting new and interesting people everyday no matter where she went, and thrived on making new lifelong friends. Phyllis eventually moved to the Sea Colony in Santa Monica where she lived for many years before moving to Palm Desert, then Winnipeg.
After battling breast cancer four times in approximately 20 years, she developed metastatic Stage 4 lung cancer. Her long-time domestic partner of 27 years, Joseph Wilder, K.C., was the love of her life. They were never far apart. They traveled the world and went on many adventures during their relationship. During her treatment, Phyllis would say how much she missed work and seeing her clients. Joey demonstrated amazing strength, love, care, and compassion for Phyllis as her condition progressed. He was her rock and was by her side 24/7, making sure she had the best possible care. Joey’s son David was always there to support Phyllis and to make her smile. Joey’s other children, Sheri, Kenny, Joshua and wife Davina, were also a part of her life. His kids would Facetime Phyllis and include her during any of their important functions. Phyllis loved Joey’s children as if they were her own.
Thank you to all of her friends and family who were there to support her during these difficult times. Phyllis is now, finally, pain free and in a better place. She was loved dearly and will be greatly missed. Interment took place in Los Angeles.

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Gwen Centre Creative Living Centre celebrates 35th anniversary



By BERNIE BELLAN Over 100 individuals gathered at the Gwen Secter Centre on Tuesday evening, July 18 – under the big top that serves as the venue for the summer series of outdoor concerts that is now in its third year at the centre.
The occasion was the celebration of the Gwen Secter Centre’s 35th anniversary. It was also an opportunity to honour the memory of Sophie Shinewald, who passed away at the age of 106 in 2019, but who, as recently as 2018, was still a regular attendee at the Gwen Secter Centre.
As Gwen Secter Executive Director Becky Chisick noted in her remarks to the audience, Sophie had been volunteering at the Gwen Secter Centre for years – answering the phone among other duties. Becky remarked that Sophie’s son, Ed Shinewald, had the phone number for the Gwen Secter Centre stored in his phone as “Mum’s work.”

Raquel Dancho (left), Member of Parliament for Kildonan-St.Paul, and Nikki Spigelman, President, Gwen Secter Centre

Remarks were also delivered by Raquel Dancho, Member of Parliament for Kildonan-St. Paul, who was the only representative of any level of government in attendance. (How times have changed: I remember well the steadfast support the former Member of the Legislature for St. John’s, Gord Mackintosh, showed the Gwen Secter Centre when it was perilously close to being closed down. And, of course, for years, the area in which the Gwen Secter Centre is situated was represented by the late Saul Cherniack.)
Sophie Shinewald’s granddaughter, Alix (who flew in from Chicago), represented the Shinewald family at the event. (Her brother, Benjamin, who lives in Ottawa, wasn’t able to attend, but he sent a pre-recorded audio message that was played for the audience.)
Musical entertainment for the evening was provided by a group of talented singers, led by Julia Kroft. Following the concert, attendees headed inside to partake of a sumptuous assortment of pastries, all prepared by the Gwen Secter culinary staff. (And, despite my asking whether I could take a doggy bag home, I was turned down.)

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Palestinian gunmen kill 4 Israelis in West Bank gas station



This is a developing story.

(JTA) — Palestinian gunmen killed four people and wounded four in a terror attack at a gas station near the West Bank settlement of Eli, the Israeli army reported.

An Israeli civilian returning fire at the scene of the attack on Tuesday killed one of the attackers, who emerged from a vehicle, and two others fled.

Kan, Israel’s public broadcaster, said one of those wounded was in serious condition. The gunmen, while in the vehicle, shot at a guard post at the entry to the settlement, and then continued to the gas station which is also the site of a snack bar. A nearby yeshiva went into lockdown.

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant announced plans to convene a briefing with top security officials within hours of the attack. Kan reported that there were celebrations of the killing in major West Bank cities and in the Gaza Strip, initiated by terrorist groups Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Hamas said the shooting attack Tuesday was triggered by the Jenin raid.

The shooting comes as tensions intensify in the West Bank. A day earlier, Israeli troops raiding the city of Jenin to arrest accused terrorists killed five people.

The Biden administration spoke out over the weekend against Israel’s plans to build 4,000 new housing units for Jewish settlers in the West Bank. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also finalized plans to  transfer West Bank building decisions to Bezalel Smotrich, the extremist who is the finance minister. Smotrich has said he wants to limit Palestinian building and expand settlement building.

Kan reported that the dead terrorist was a resident of a village, Urif, close to Huwara, the Palestinian town where terrorists killed two Israeli brothers driving through in February. Settlers retaliated by raiding the village and burning cars and buildings.

The post Palestinian gunmen kill 4 Israelis in West Bank gas station appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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