During my childhood years, Shirley Temple was the big rage coming out of Hollywood. She was a dimpled song-and-dance star who reached the level of stardom that no other child star has ever reached. With a hot curling iron, momma would aim to make my mousey straight brown hair into Shirley Temple curls. If this didn’t work, she would wrap some concoction of sugar watered strips of fabric hoping my curls would achieve the Shirley Temple look.

While momma never seriously considered great fame and fortune for her daughter, but as hope springs eternal, she did get to see me on the stage. Like Danny Kaye, Jack Benny, Milton Berle, Sid Caesar, and Red Buttons, who all performed in the Catskill Mountains (also known as the Borscht Belt), I too had my start in that area.
There was a time when there were at least 500 vibrant hotels, rooming houses, and bungalow colonies in this Catskill region. The cottages and rooming houses catered to the middle class and somewhat poor working-class population like my family seeking relief from the hot pre-air-conditioned summers in the city tenements. My poor family of five would spend the summer in a humble rooming house. While the mothers and children were here for the entire summer, the fathers toiled in the hot city and came up for the weekends. My father, a house painter, made a small salary, but enough to enable us to afford the few dollars the room cost.

The neighboring hotel near our rooming house repeated the same show every Saturday night. Hotels catered to a more transient set of guests who usually came for only a week, while people in the rooming houses and bungalows, rented for the entire summer. The Hotel Roseville allowed members outside the hotel guests to attend the shows. The director needed a child for his weekly Saturday night Jewish show and he somehow enlisted my mother to allow me to be the child in his drama. I was about five years old and was going to be performing as a rich family’s child. I needed a more elegant attire than the play clothes I owned. Momma, a handy seamstress, dug into her bag of schmattas or rags and found a batch of peach-colored strips of ruffles which she ingenuously sewed into a beautiful party dress.

My role required no lines to memorize, no songs to be learned, and no dance steps to be practiced. This was my entire recurring Saturday night theater role. I am off stage; a loud sound is heard from this area simulating a gunshot blast. My theatrical father then carries me in his arms on stage with my Shirley Temple curls in place, and tearfully announces, “Aundzer kind iz toyt.  Our child is dead.)” Great wailing ensues and the curtain comes down.

So, you see, although my further acting career never went beyond being cast in a third-grade school play as Spring, I can truly say I did fulfill momma’s desire for me to look like Shirley Temple and perform on stage.