The Museum of

       the yiddish world



Lives in the Yiddish Theatre

cir mid to late 1930s
Detroit, Michigan

Harry and Mary Jordan et al

Harry Jordan with wife Mary (left) and her sister Ida Honig (right), also an actress who lived and performed in New York. Here they are taking a break during a performance at the Littman's People's Theatre.

Mary Jordan (nee Hoffman) was also in the theatre. Rose Glassman had rushed over to Mary's mother's house on Blaine one day to say that they needed chorus girls at the Yiddish theatre. Mary and sister Ida went, and their father Sam (Solomon) Hoffman had a fit. It was 1932 and Mary was right out of high school. They got $1.50 a performance!

Here are some more recollections as told by Mary Jordan to her family:

> The actor Michal Michalesko was gorgeous! People hung around to see the actors after the show. Michal was a leading man, or the love interest in a play. Celia Pearson was a "glamour girl." In one play she was going to marry Michal. He was blamed for killing someone. She was pregnant by him but he was in jail. She was ready to marry another man, but at the last minute Michal is freed from jail upon being found innocent. She tells him, "We have a child." In Yiddish she means to tell him that the child is in an orphanage, but she got the words mixed up and mistakenly said, "He's in an old folks' home." There was a moment of silence as the audience digested these words!

> His wife, Anju, from Russia, divorced her husband to marry Michal. She stayed in New York while he was in Detroit. Michalesko came to the Jordan house upon Harry's invitation, and Mary fed him. He had to have his grapefruit broiled.

> Aaron Lebedeff, who came from New York, another well-known actor and entertainer, always had a carnation in lapel and his nails were always manicured. He always played the lead role for an older gentleman. Another man would play the "love interest." Lebedeff used to go to Mount Clemens for the baths. He brought a butler who cared for him. He came ailing and left feeling wonderful.

> Lucy German played the eternal mother role in New York. In the summer, she would travel to other cities like Detroit to work. As Mary describes her, "Her hands played theatre."

> Menashe Skulnick was a star comedian. He played the "schlemazel" and always made you laugh.

> Mary reminisced how when she and Harry were first married they lived on $7.50 a week. They would entertain every Sunday. Actors from the Yiddish theatre or people from Crawford Clothes where Harry worked, came for dinner. Harry was thrilled to invite all the people for dinner. Mary made all the food from scratch, e.g. borscht.

> Next to the restaurant called the "Cream of Michigan," located on 12th Street in Detroit, there was an open-air store where Mary shopped; she bought the best vegetables and fruit. There was also a kosher butcher across the street where Mary used to buy the best cuts of beef. There was also another store called Smiths. It was like an A&P but smaller and had a bakery. Toward Philadelphia and 12th there was a fish market where Mary bought her fish there for yontif.

> Mary told her daughter about the time that the actors Lucy and the handsome Misha Gehrman came for dinner. They hated to leave to go back to the theatre because they enjoyed themselves so. They brought a black candy dish to the apartment. Mary said that once Jack Bernardi had a scene on stage with Misha, and Jack broke him up (what else is new?)

> Harry and Mary both sang on the "Jewish Hour" radio program in Detroit. They did it gratis to advertise their shows in the Yiddish theatre. The chorus sang as well as the actors. They had rehearsals at Weinberg's house; he was the host of the Jewish Hour. Everyone went. They didn't get paid for rehearsals.

> Around 1940 or so Harry and Mary entertained every night on next to nothing. They bought cakes because you couldn't bake in the apartment's unreliable oven. People used to come over all the time. They enjoyed the most simple pastimes. The streetcar cost six cents and a transfer cost a penny. Their apartment on Pingree was thirty-five dollars a month. The actors from New York who came to call thought Harry and Mary were millionaires because they had grass and trees.

> When their daughter Leah was born, the wife of Abraham Littman, impresario of the Littman's People's Theatre, took care of Mary before the birth. Mary would serve her Swee-Touch-Nee tea.

> Harry Weinberg, who had the Yiddish Hour on radio, was very friendly. He had a nice family with two boys and two girls. When Mary would come for rehearsals, she'd see the cute kids in their pajamas getting ready for bed.

> Dorothy Baldwin (Agree) was a regular on the Yiddish Hour. Leon Field, her brother Jules Neidorf and Herman Stoller all played in the pit of the Yiddish theatre.

> The Russian Village was on 12th Street. Jewish people would go there for a drink or a sandwich.


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