Archive for March, 2015


Friday, March 27th, 2015

It was a remarkable evening in so many regards, and an evening that will linger in smiles. How could it not have been? Lifelong friends gathered joyously as lifelong sweethearts stood under a chupah watching their first-born marry.

I love weddings; I truly do. This one, moreover, bore the sweet scent of community.

6:20   Valet parked at The Ritz. (Was my last time here really in the 90’s when Howard Stern came to town)?

6:25   Entering the room on the sixth floor we saw first Aleph Gadol Snyder. Perched in an aisle seat at the 50, he is clad in a black tuxedo,    and black silk shirt. Oh, and he is facing out. (Go figure). Ed. Note 1: There is no room in his row, poignantly reminiscent of high school when there was rarely room for me in his Mustang).

6:30   Moving to the deep centerfield bleachers, comfortably we sat with Marc and Mary. The procession not having started, I asked Walt how an NCAA game was going. “I’m taping it,” he said, (which I of course perceived as his adoption of the Hal Bogart Technique, to wit: not allowing himself to get aggravated over a game, but rather just waiting for the result, and if the right team prevailed, THEN watching the replay in peace.

6;45   The ceremony begins.

Michelle looks beautiful. Arthur and Vicki are beaming. Everyone is happy (and, I might add, every man appears to be bald).

The groom’s mother’s appearance (after her recent run in the hospital) was particularly moving. How could I not think back to Michael’s wedding, and my own mother being wheeled down the aisle. Valiantly wheeled down the aisle at her grandson’s marriage in Great Neck, there a beam about her that shone back to home in Ohio. I can never forget it.

Even the rabbi hit it out of the park. Clear it was that he knew the families, and the length of the ceremony was perfect. Of particular note was his reading (not singing) the Sheva Brachot. I couldn’t recall having them recited both in Hebrew and English, and it was nice after all these years to hear what the seven blessings really mean. (Ed. Note 2: I went up to him and told him just that during the cocktail hour. He looked back at me politely, but with vacant eyes that screamed “Who is this idiot?”).

7:00   Cocktail hours at receptions are the only times in my life I’ve downed lamb chops without either reading material, or a TV to watch, or both.  Carrie and I got boxed in in the crowd, so I reminded her once again that if someone approached and I didn’t readily introduce her it was because I didn’t know who it was. (Ed. Note 3: She game me the same look the rabbi had).  I couldn’t find Lester, but figured he was with Payner. I didn’t see Walt,but figured he was with Fred. And Snyder? God knew where he was.  Meanwhile, CJ was steps away talking to women when an attractive woman said Hi to me. It was clear that she knew me but I had no f’ing idea who she was. “Great lamb chops!” I said. (Once a nerd, always a nerd). (Ed. Note 4: That look from the rabbi and Carrie? I got it from her too as she back-pedaled away).

And then finally…a familiar face:

“Max Burstyn!” I greeted him. “I was going to call you.”
(I really was).
“We’re going to Pittsburgh and need a room near the stadium.”
He asked how my brother was; I went back to the talk of Pittsburgh, and then…LOW AND BEHOLD…my eyes fell on Bobby, five feet away, chatting up the unknown girl (from the lamb chop comment).

Only then did it click! Indeed, that was Arthur’s sister. Leave it to Bob!  (Ed. Note 5: The balance of pre-dinner time was spent studying the man in action. Memorialized on my cell phone (and available on request) are pixels of Robert with multiple young, smiling, female faces). In his mind and in my heart he is the once and future king.

7:30   Dinner was outstanding, even better.
“What cut of beef is this? I asked Carrie.
“So much better,” I noted,”Than when I lived alone and microwaved it.”
(Ed. Note 6: I got the look again).

Somewhere along the way my phone sent me basketball scores. In reflex I turned to Walt:

“They got blown out,” I informed him.
“Why’d you tell me that?” he exclaimed, “I wanted to watch the game later.”

8:25   Host and hostess stopped by our table. I had never seen Vicki’s hair up like that and truly, she looked radiant. “If you’d have worn your hair like that in ’67,” I told her, “I may have tried harder.”

9:00 Kraut danced with his daughter. As the room froze — all eyes on the duo —-I thrilled for him, but my mind swirled backward.

— To Jamie, dancing to “Now and Forever” …
— To Stacy, dancing to “More I Cannot Wish You”…

10:00 Opening strains of the Hora called throngs of us back to the dance floor, and for the next several minutes family and friends circled  family and friends. It was a signal moment, highlighted by Arthur and Vicki aloft, and a dance that surprisingly didn’t end by me calling my cardiologist.

10:45   Only now was it time to go. The glass had been broken; the toasts had been made; the cake had been cut, and we’d thought we’d  seen it all….

11:00   In the lobby again I submitted the valet ticket. I turned to answer a voice:

“Are you Michael Bogart’s father?” asked a thirty-something face I’d never before seen?”
“God, I hope so.”
“I went to the AEPi formal with him.”
(I looked at Carrie; she looked at me).
“But I’ve never met you,” I told the stranger, “How would you know Michael was my son?”
“You two look alike,” she advised.
(No one had ever told me that before).
“I’m not so certain Michael would like to hear that!” I countered.
Then I laughed, Carrie laughed, and we strode to the car. NOW, we’d seen it all.

A hallmark evening it was—truly a night to remember.


Thursday, March 19th, 2015

I need a calendar, a computer, and often mirrors scheduling travels to progeny. It’s uncanny. From work schedule to theatrical schedule to recovery commitments through what works for them…it’s like threading a needle syncing everything and everyone. Still I have, I do, and I shall. (For example, it’ll be Chicago come April, New York in May, and if an audition goes well, back on stage in June. If only they’d clung to their roots!)

Frankly, I didn’t see it coming. Not really. Not the big picture.

Intellectually (back then) I knew Michael yearned to try New York; matter-of-factly, what with Jamie’s stratospheric grades I accepted too her dodge of Columbus, and Yes, I accepted at that moment in time Stacy’s jaunt to Chicago….

But it never occurred to me that they wouldn’t come home. That the toothpastes were leaving the tubes. Forever.

It never occurred to me that temporary moves morph to lifetime postures—overnight.

Michael hopped from my car in Manhattan. Moments earlier we’d been laughing, dreidling through Manhattan from the L.I.E. across town, circumventing the Puerto Rican Day parade route…trying to figure out where I could drop him off, how I could get to the tunnel…. The sun shone on The City. He kissed me goodbye and said hello to his future.

He was moving on (for the better), and I should have seen it coming, but I didn’t.

       “…We’re only getting older baby
       And I’ve been thinking about it lately.
       Does it ever drive you crazy
       Just how fast that life changes?”

Stacy packed up the car still in Beachwood. Moments later she’d drive west to Chicago’s fresh air. My youngest, as we all knew, was prone to the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. Sure, Michael had been gone a few years at this point and Yes, it was beginning to sink in that he might not return. But The Little One? (Frankly, it never occurred to me she’d move away from her mother).

She was moving on (for the better), and I should have seen it coming, but I didn’t.

       “…We’re only getting older baby
       And I’ve been thinking about it lately.
       Does it ever drive you crazy
       Just how fast that life changes?”

Jamie walked out of our lives in layers. I was the last domino to fall. Five children in three households lost a future of aunts and uncles and cousins and grandparents and simchas and…family.

I should have seen it coming, but I didn’t.

       “…We’re only getting older Jamie.
       Does it ever drive you crazy
       Just how fast that life changes?
       One of three kids that I dream of
       Disappearing when I wake up—
       But there’s nothing to be afraid of
       Even when our life changes
       It will never change me and you….”

(One Direction, adapted)



Saturday, March 14th, 2015

There is this scene from an old “Dallas”. J.R. is being forced to sell the company and he’s taking one more walk/thru with his young son. The place is almost empty and Jeremy Wendel, the new owner, is pushing them out. All of a sudden Wendel reaches for a still-hanging portrait – of J.R.’s father – and with that J.R. barks out “Touch that painting and I’ll kill you where you stand”. And then, in the moment where time stood still, J.R. grabbed his Daddy from the wall and strode gallantly from the building.

Friday, March 6

“I haven’t moved in thirty years,” she noted wistfully.
“I haven’t moved in thirty months,” I shot back.

Amateur psychologists insist that other than death or divorce, changing one’s residence is life’s greatest stressor. Permit me to disprove it.

I had my Grandma Bogart ‘til I was forty and in that time she moved once. Her daughter survived HER however, and in the quarter century since, has yet to pull up stakes.  That being noted, if you google it you will find that twenty-three times since her mother’s demise, our aunt has led the league in ulcers.  (Giving them).

Moreover, there’s me:

I was five when, caravan style, Jews fled the city. It was the second Great Exodus. Over several years Cleveland’s Israelites traipsed up Cedar Road to their new Promised Land: suburbia. Car by car up the hill… methodically …as if …well— just picture the parade onto Noah’s ark. (Ed. Note 1: Women had been voting some forty years, but even in 1955 they rarely had cars). (Ed. Note 2: Even if they “had” cars, you could bet your backdoor mezuzah they were titled in their husband’s names).

—And so it was that family by family, each made turns that would predestine their children. Here’s my take: those with gelt turned right at Warrensville Center Road; those with but charm turned left. (Ed. Note 3: My great theory is that the self-employed Jews –ones with futures but minimal bankability– de-arked in South Euclid. ‘Til then unsettled, it would be their Plymouth Rock. “Old money” needn’t experiment in new communities; the solid brick fortresses of University Heights and Shaker were their sustenance.

By ages 5½ and 4 then, the Brothers Bogart moved to their log cabin on Bayard. It was a modest house (‘though I didn’t know it at the time), and one we clearly expected to graduate high school from. The bank, however, had a different idea. (Ed. Note 4: let’s just say that it wasn’t in the cards).

Stonehaven came next. A street over, bigger — it just wasn’t for me. Yes, Mom’s new husband truly stepped up to keep us in the school system—but me? Three years it had been and I missed my Dad. More space was nice, but truth be known, it would always be “The House That Sam Built”. Just saying’.

Post-college the pace picked up: Mayfield Heights, Willoughby Hills, Wrenford Road, and then (tympani), the final resting place,  Beachwood. (Thank you Elaine Walter).

So much for The Iliad; next came my Odyssey.

The Mayland Towers. The Mark IV. The Marsol Towers. The Oliver House.

Truth is, try as I may, I can’t quite remember the sequence; I cannot quite sync in the years. My favorite move, however, remains clear:

We were living on Cedar, just east of Green Road when the landlord (not necessarily thrilled with the habitually late rent or the teenage tenant), refused to renew our lease. What to do? We wanted to stay close to the high school; location was perfect.

Enter Aunt Helen. Ever studying the Cleveland Jewish News, she found a like unit, RIGHT NEXT DOOR. Of all the important unimportant events of my life, watching the old landlord glare at three high school kids schlepping boxes remains near the top. (Ed. Note 5. The celebratory dinner was at The Swamp Club that night).

Michael went to college.  Halftime ended. The Odyssey continued.

First, the garden apartments across the street from The Oliver House. Then to The Georgetown Apartments. Three units I would rent in the ten years  I slept there. Each unit, I thought proudly, was nicer than the last (or so I thought). Little did I realize that the love of my life would appear, walk into Chez Bogart, and leave asking herself (“How can he live like this?”).

Who knew? Certainly not me.

I joined with Carrie in 2012 when we both “just knew”. Thirty months ago it was. Thirty months!

Friday, March 13

As planned the two men with their truck had taken the heavy stuff last week. In the seven days since, CJ did most of the schlepping. For some reason the lady thinks I’m just not capable. Who am I to correct her? And still… still… at my request … and by design, she left one thing behind.

Work was done today just past noon. I took my aunt shopping, grabbed a bite, then headed to the old house. Reaching up to the visor I tapped for perhaps the last time, the only garage door opener I’ve known since my marriage.

Entering the abode, I went straight to the living room where still clinging to the wall was the 2 1/2 foot by 2 foot framed caricature of my father.  Displayed in the ’58 artwork is a bald, fat man — cigarette dangling from his mouth, cocktail glass in one hand and hand of cards in the other.  

I grabbed it from the wall and strode gallantly out, and to the future.



Monday, March 9th, 2015

‘ Lost two of my favorite baseball cards recently, and each will be irreplaceable. I read their obits and my heart travelled back.

We started collecting in the late 50s. Five in a pack — plus gum – and the world was our oyster. These were pre-cable days, when access to the Tribe pretty much meant just radio. As kids on South Euclid’s mean streets, opening a pack of Topp’s cards brought the world to our doorstep.

Everyone collected: from Mulberg to Masseria to Gelfand. (OK, maybe not Gelfand). Moreover, most of us would flip them. One by one they’d flutter downward, and when one of ours landed on another’s…why we’d keep everything on the ground! Could the world get better?

I still picture Ernie Banks. Eyes shining brightly, he’d smile in his white uniform. Ernie Banks. ‘Musta been long before the “Let’s play two” thing, but I still see the card…and his smile. There were only eight teams per league back then, and difficult it wasn’t to name each team’s roster— and with baseball cards, picture each face.

Ernie Banks. ‘Though his team never won…I think it even experimented with eight coaches and no manager one year…yet each season I’d open the pack and there he’d be: smiling. Ernie Banks!

And then there was Minnie—Minoso that is. If you had his card –and we all did – then you knew his real name was Orestes. We never thought of him as Spanish, though. Or Hispanic or Cuban, or anything but a player. Ironic (isn’t it), that when the world is black and white, color matters not. No, Orestes Minnie Minoso was just a ballplayer— and a Cleveland Indian at that.

(Ed. Note: Regardless of his uniform, Minnie Minoso WAS one of us. He’d move on to Chicago and make his home there—but he was one of us, and we considered him ours).

Indeed, I was driving in Chicago a year or so ago with the Bohrers. Ahead of us was a car unique by its license plates. ‘MINOSO” it read.

“We had a player growing up,” I noted. “Minnie Minoso.”
“That’s him,” pronounced Jason, so matter-of-factly.
“What do you mean that’s him? That’s really him?”
“Yeah—that’s his license plate. Everybody loves him here. He was with the White Sox”.
“Try to catch him,” I urged, but almost as I was saying it his auto turned left, off our own planned route.
“He was more Chicago than Cleveland,” my son-in-law went on, explaining his fealty. “Everybody knows him here.”
(Ed. Note 2: I can’t tell you how excited I was just to see Minnie’s vehicle. It was like what in the old radio days Bob would have called a “celebrity sighting”).

“His real name is Orestes”, I added, looking for street cred. Jason nodded, all too knowingly. He was ours and theirs, I deduced; he was Minnie.

Yet that’s how it was with our cards growing up. They bred within us a sense of familiarity with the players unfettered by their relative talents.

Take Granny Hamner, for example. I had his card. A lifelong Phillie, he finished up his with the ’59 Tribe. To this day I can picture his face.

That’s just how it was. A familiarity was forged with names and faces of stars and journeymen alike. Watching games in black and white, holding living color cardboard in the palms of our hands, we cemented sounds and images that would remain with us for years. Incredibly, names and faces that would have long been forgotten roll from our tongues and remain in our minds a half-century later:

Willie Tasby. Joey Jay. Walter Dropo. Sammy Esposito
Julio Gotay. Ike Delock, Rip Ripulski. Camilo Pasquale.
Joe Pignatano, Rocky Bridges, Whitey Lockman , Harry Chiti. Don Nottebart.
(Not to mention Marv and Faye Throneberry).

—And the funny names! You know…the weird ones: the monikers not often heard in shul:

Pumpsie Green, Coot Veal. Turk Lown. (And never in Hebrew School was there a kid named Wilmer “Vinegar Bend” Mizell).

Ah, but that was then…

I was thinking about Ernie’s loss and Minnie’s death. The heroes of my youth seem to be dropping like flies. It’s hard not to think.

—Especially as our generation heads, inexorably, to the on-deck circle.

Ed Modzelewski died last week. They called him “Big Mo” (to younger brother Dick’s  “Little Mo”.  Each were Browns in the day and urban legend had it that Big was asked to hang on one more year because Paul Brown wasn’t quite certain Jim Brown would make it. I pictured them this week — both Big and Little…and I recalled well the restaurant on Noble near Mayfield.

Football players—football cards weren’t the same, though—by a long shot. Maybe it was the helmets hiding the faces…or maybe it was, quite simply, that baseball was (and is) …baseball!

I remember the names and often the faces…and as I stride through my sixties, I cling to my field of dreams.


Monday, March 2nd, 2015

Growing up in the most homogeneous of neighborhoods —what was Rowland, 95% Jewish? … I mean even Masseria took off Yom Kippur — one might never suspect we’d be world travelers, venturing out to the heathen world. Ours was a compact realm in a simpler time. (Ed. Note 1: Snyder’s parents went to Bermuda once, but that was an aberration).

Yet now we all travel (more or less).

Alan was first, what with the South Africa thing. To this day, his pictorials are all from SOMEWHERE. C’mon Alan—you’re 65 years old. Stay home one night! Then there’s Ermine. Country to country –now state to state –his goal is to be the preppy Al Wieder.

Alas, even the rest can’t sit still. Bob runs to gun shows (G’volt); Walt hits Vegas a year at a time; Fenton cruises and Kraut hunts Alaska for salmon.

—Then there’s me, Bruce Bogart: product of a broken home … raised in a log cabin at the corner of Bayard and Wrenford Roads in South Euclid, Ohio. Travel to this cowboy means breakfast at an out-of-town deli.

(Except, of course, when doing theater… where I too have favorite retreats).

December and January, for example, I spent in Sweet Apple, Ohio. Traveling daily for “Bye Bye Birdie” — four nights per week, sometimes more — I was so exhausted by run’s end that I passed on auditions for my favorite show…indeed my all-time favorite show ‘bout that oh-so-special place, River City, Iowa!

(Ed. Note 2: Carrie can tell you. In the days prior to “The Music Man” tryouts I must have changed my mind a half dozen times. Am I too tired? Do I have too much going on? When am I going west? When am I going east? When is Passover? Am I out of the house too much? What would my children say? What would my father do? … Yet between each self-examination I was thinking about the melodies, the memories, the fact that if cast in the right part there’d be that stage/kiss, and most of all, the one line that forever reminds me of my Dad: “I always think there’s a band, kid”).

So stay home I did and clean I felt, proud that I’d made the right decision. I was resting, taking a beat, growing up, maturing….

(Ed. Note 3: That lasted four days).

—And then: a cosmic chain of events—

1. One eve playing gin; it was business as usual. Pandora was on, and the losing hand dealt next, and after every hand I changed the station. So it was that with Carrie shuffling I’d clicked to Broadway Showstoppers and “Seventy-Six Trombones” came on.

Within minutes there were fifty mounted cannon in the battery of my mind. The streets of my youths, stages of my adulthood, and the lingering wonder if ever I’d pass that way again intensified…thundering, thundering louder than before.

“I should have tried out,” I mumbled, feeling sadder but wiser.

2. On Facebook days later I chanced upon a post about the upcoming play. Rehearsals had begun, I well knew, but still lamenting my earlier demurrer, I assured a friend that I’d be in the house during performance “more than once”.

3. That friend mentioned my comment to the director.

4. His hand reached out. “Would I be interested in the ensemble?”

5. I was sitting in the courthouse as the note came. Quickly I checked the schedule. One month it would run, (ah, but they were dark the second week, so a weekend was open). THIS, I concluded, was a sign!

6. I called the people that needed calling and all answers cam up “Heads”.   The stars had aligned!

“I would jump to be ‘a part of’” I responded forthwith.

(Ed. Note 4: My first rehearsals were Wednesday and Thursday. We sang “We Got Trouble” and a few others. No pressure—just music, cheer, and re-acquaintance with stage friends. Mike was there from “Threepenny Opera”, and John from “The Fantasticks”, and oh…Conrad Birdie’s father. Good stuff).

Better yet, I felt at home— right there in River City.

I’d done right, leading with my heart (not my head). It was so ME.

I mentioned it to Aunt Helen the other day. “We don’t open until spring,” I told her. “The weather will be good and you can come.” “Oh, I’d like that”, she said, smiling gently.

In my heart of hearts I know that for the next several weeks I’ll be where I belong: in River City, Iowa. Deep down I knew that…

“…Dubuque, Des Moines, Davenport, Marshalltown, Mason City, Keokuk, Ames, Clear Lake…”

I had to give Iowa a try!