Saturday, March 21, 2009

Remember George Burns?
Remember Gracie Allen?

You may remember their TV show if you are old enough. When they retired it was the longest running show on the tube.

They started in vaudeville. They were one of the few to successfully make the switch from stage to radio in 1934 when whole families sat in the parlor to listen to Sunday night comedies.

As people became fascinated with the hazy black and white images on the television set, the Burnses moved to the new medium.

The reason this is on my blog. Last night we went to a one man show in which the actor tried to recreate the character of George Burns based on his autobiography "Gracie and Me".

It brought a a memory. Our local newspaper in the 1930's carried a column headed "Gracie Allen Says" a spoof on the talking heads of that day.

At the age of seven I was reading the newspaper and I asked my mother to explain who Gracie Allen was. She took a few minutes from her task at hand and responded that Gracie was part of the team of Burns and Allen. Gracie was a comedienne. George was her partner. Without Gracie George Burns would not last a week in show business.

Gracie retired in 1950 after a series of heart attacks.

George did a command performance for the queen of England in the 1990's.

Monday, March 02, 2009

The Rothschild family was fabled both in Jewish and non-Jewish circles.

Mayer Amschel Rothschild's ascent from seller of rare coins to become banker to Wilhem of Hesse in 1785 and later to many of the princes of Europe was almost beyond imagination.

Wilhelm as Landgrave of Hesse had a profitable business renting units of his army to his brother royalty. His problem was there was no loyalty among royalty and they could not be bothered with mundane things like paying bills. Rothschild took on the job of collecting and accounting for the monies

He sent each of his five sons to an important capital in Europe to open a branch of his bank.

Actually, by measuring out the amount of money he loaned through his banks to each prince he and his descendants were able to keep a level of peace in Europe for almost a century.

Anyway, the story I want to tell concerns one of Mayer Amschel's descendents.

It was Christmas day. The Baron Rothschild had given all of his servants the day off to celebrate the holiday with their famlies.

There came a persistant chiming of the door bell. Unaccustomed to answering his own door and thinking it might be a well wisher who happened by in those days before the telephone he trudged to the portal.

Before his eyes staring back at him through the swirling snow was a travel worn bearded old man.

"I am Rabbi Schmul from a small village in Eastern Poland. I have traveled three hundred miles on foot to see you. I am frozen and hungry. May I come in?"

The Baron was taken aback. Gathering his wits he ushered the man to the kitchen. The visitor ate till he could fill himself no more.

He then told his story. The cossacks had been on one of their pograms against the Polish Jews. They had burned homes, stolen cattle, and left the population of the little Jewish enclaves battered and starving.

Please, Baron, give us some money to buy seed and livestock so that we can rebuild our lives.

The Baron turned petulant. What do I have to do with people three hundred miles away?

You are a Jew and if the anti semites can attack us they can surely find you.

The Baron grew irritated. Here in Germany? Never!

The Baron then summoned the Old Rabbi down a passage into a huge walkin safe with a heavy steel door.

See there is gold, there are French francs, Italian lira, Spanish pesetas, Brittish pounds

Whatever happens my money will keep me safe. Go back to your people and tell them to work out their own problems.

The old man quietly slipped out of the strongroom As he left he slammed the door shut and snapped the lock.

Looking back at the steel door he shouted to the entrapped baron, "As long as your money can keep you safe I will leave with your message to my people!"