(JTA) — On a couple of occasions in Julian Schlossberg’s early life, he found himself in parts of the United States where some people he talked to had never met a Jewish person. The first was a stint in the Army, the second was while selling movies to rural television stations.
But over the next six decades — once Schlossberg embarked on a long and successful career that included stops as a Hollywood studio executive with Paramount Pictures and later as a prolific distributor of movies and producer of off-Broadway and Broadway shows — he was rarely the only Jew in the room ever again.
Schlossberg tells those stories and many more in his new memoir “Try Not to Hold It Against Me: A Producer’s Life” (Beaufort Books). He writes about how he went from a child in the Bronx to an influential show business figure who mingled and worked with countless movie stars, having enjoyed a long career that shows no signs of being over at age 81.
Schlossberg was born in 1941, and grew up in what he describes as a middle class family, in a Bronx neighborhood that at the time was heavily Jewish and Irish. His father Louis played semi-pro baseball, but as Schlossberg writes in the book, turned down the chance to play for a team in Kansas City in part because “there were almost no Jews in baseball.” Instead, Louis spent most of his professional life working in Manhattan’s Garment District.
The family lived near the Kingsbridge Armory, then likely the largest of its kind in the world, which hosted conventions, car shows and rodeos that came through the city at the time. Those rodeos, in fact, were Schlossberg’s introduction to showbiz.
“I would go as a kid and just revel in the fact that I was meeting these incredible stars,” he said.
Meeting stars would eventually become commonplace. Before and after his time in the Army in the early 1960s, Schlossberg worked as a cab driver, a busboy, a waiter, a counselor, a typist and more while taking college classes at night. He got a job at the ABC in 1964 and worked his way up the company’s ranks.
“I had decided, as a very young man, that since I didn’t have a law degree or a dental degree or a medical degree, I was going to learn every aspect of show business that I could,” he said. “I didn’t know what it was going to do, but I knew that knowledge was power, and that if I had knowledge, maybe I’d get some power.”
He would live out that goal, working in just about every area of entertainment, from radio to movie distribution to theater producing. (He goes back and forth on which one he likes best.)
In the 1970s, he hosted an AM radio show called “Movie Talk,” for which he interviewed hundreds of movie stars. WMCA station executives wanted Schlossberg to use a different stage name, to sound less Jewish.
“They didn’t want it to be ‘a Jewish name,’ and I said ‘Wait a second — if I’m going to be on the air in New York City, I can’t be a Jew?’ So they gave in, and I kept my name,” he said. “You kind of want to remember the times you did stand up, I guess. Not that it was a giant standing up, but I would have not done the show if they had asked me to change my name, because it made no sense to me.”
Speaking of Jews, Schlossberg has worked with a virtual who’s-who of famous Jewish entertainers over the years, from Neil Simon to Lillian Hellman to Sid Caesar to Mike Nichols to Peter Falk to Ethan Coen. And the ones he didn’t work with, he hung out with socially. Barbra Streisand invited him to a famous birthday party (that ended up taking place at Liza Minnelli’s house), and Mel Brooks has always greeted him as “Schloss Berg,” as if his name were two words.
Schlossberg’s film production credits range from the 1994 British mystery “Widows’ Peak,” starring Natasha Richardson and Mia Farrow; to the 1980 “No Nukes” documentary that filmed an anti-nuclear weapons concert with the likes of Bruce Springsteen and Jackson Browne; to a revival of the long-buried version of Orson Welles’ “Othello.”
In 1995, Schlossberg worked with three prominent Jews on one off-Broadway production: a set of one-act plays performed together each night, called “Death Defying Acts,” written by Woody Allen, David Mamet and Elaine May. Schlossberg later produced the Broadway adaptation of Allen’s movie “Bullets Over Broadway,” while May, whom Schlossberg likens to a sister, contributed the forward to his book.
“Elaine is, as I’ve written, the smartest person I’ve ever met, and probably one of the most talented if not the most talented, because there is nothing that she cannot do,” Schlossberg said of the now 90-year-old Oscar, Tony and Grammy winner. “She’s a great actress, she’s a great writer, and she’s a great director. And she’s a hell of a friend.”
At one point in his career, as he details in one chapter, Schlossberg crossed paths with another Jewish producer: Harvey Weinstein. When Weinstein was young, the now-disgraced serial sexual harasser approached Schlossberg and asked him to teach him the movie business. The two men worked together for a time, although eventually they fell out.
“I never in my wildest dreams thought he would hit the heights that he hit, or the depths that he sunk to. Never,” Schlossberg said.
Another of Schlossberg’s mentoring experiences ended on a more positive note. Mark S. Golub, a rabbi, came to Schlossberg for advice in the late 1990s on learning the theater business. Golub, who died late last month at 77, went on to become a prolific Broadway producer and the founding president of the Jewish Broadcasting Service channel.
It was a fruitful partnership: Golub learned about the industry, and Schlossberg absorbed lessons about Judaism.
“It was a very interesting combination, of somebody who certainly knew a great deal about Judaism, and myself, who was learning a lot by that time about [Judaism],” Schlossberg said. “It was interesting to me to be partners with a rabbi.”
Schlossberg had several projects set to go at the start of the coronavirus pandemic, but when the industry shut down, he wrote his memoir instead. Now he’s looking to rev up some of those projects. Next up on the docket is “Tales From the Guttenberg Bible,” an autobiographical, four-character play written by and starring the Jewish actor Steve Guttenberg. It is now set for its world premiere in April, at the George Street Playhouse in Rutherford, New Jersey.
“I think audiences will respond to it, because he’s so kind and personable and living… a nice Jewish boy,” Schlossberg said of Guttenberg.
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.
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.”
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.)
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.
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