Through A Mob Daughter’s Eyes

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“I grew up with all the privileges of a Jewish princess.”

She was standing behind the podium that almost dwarfed the frail 78 year old daughter of mob boss Meyer Lansky who looked anything but a wild child of the late 50’s and 60”s. But according
to Sandi Lansky, in those days she partied until dawn at El Morocco and The Stork Club, usually with one of her many celebrity beaus. Sandi was behind that podium giving an author presentation for her autobiography. DAUGHTER OF THE KING: GROWING UP IN GANGLAND.

As an author writing mostly about myself and my life and being a big fan of that genre, I listened closely, especially to the Q & A after her short presentation about her autobiography, but mostly, questions about her father, who by all accounts is a conundrum. Outwardly appearing to be a gentle, quiet, low-profile mob ‘number genius.’ Yet no gangland ‘erasures’ happened without his knowledge.

The interesting dynamic during this questioning period was that no matter how delicately the questions about her father’s connections to the underbelly life of his industry, she bristled and showed a complete denial of that side of her father. She knew nothing. Her father was a good man and was in complete denial of where all the money came from and who he had to be to stay alive within his ‘business’.

Okay. I understand he was her father. I am a daughter as well, and we daughters do have strong allegiances to our fathers, but when choosing to put your life out to the public, you have to peel back the skin from the onion and acknowledge what is underneath. Otherwise, what is the point of putting it out there in the first place.

For a great true look at the life of Meyer Lansky:

Who Knew?

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Break dancing? Who knew? In 1984 my then almost 15 year old son and I traveled through Egypt and Israel. We were fortunate to have been invited onto to a secret underground air base in the Israeli desert. The pilots and their families gave my son a birthday party while there and he was the hit of the party break dancing for all of them. They had never seen anything like that in person before and were taken with my young sons moves. (Ahhh…the days before everyone was on the internet and social media).

Little did we all know that my son, Emerson Hart, would grow up to be a twice Grammy nominee, Billboard awarded for the most played radio rock song, ASCAP award for the best television theme song, movie theme song writer (including hit film “American Pie” multi platinum artist, lead singer/ songwriter for the band Tonic.

It is against this remarkable backdrop of self-achievements that my son will release his second solo album, “Beauty in Disrepair” on April 15, 2014, “Beauty In Disrepair”, a follow up to his last “Cigarettes and Gasoline” solo effort that garnered two top 20 singles.

emersonhart.com. .

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The Barbizon Years

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Recently I have reconnected with a cousin who has opened the box of memories of my life with her mother and my early years in New York City. She has taken me back to earlier times and memories of good friends.

February 1960…….

Strange how I remember so much about my life in New York and living at the Barbizon Hotel for women, but for the life of me, I can’t even envision what the lobby of that hotel looked like. I close my eyes and try to take myself back, but it has no memory photo shot of the space I walked in and out of for a year. Nothing. A total blank. Pale overly thin models walked about, in and out with their black portfolios, I remember that, but I don’t even have a clue to what that space looked like.

I remember my room in great detail. Actually, not hard because the room was just a bit wider than I was tall and not much longer. One window overlooking Lexington Avenue, a single bed against the wall and a dresser on the other that I probably could access from my bed it was so close. A sink and small closet at the end of the bed. The showers and facilities were down the hall. Basically it was my expensive closet my parents paid for so that I had secure living in New York while attending the Katherine Gibbs School on Park Avenue.

But I was not alone. That’s the way we all lived. My room was not unique. Nancy DuPont, my neighbor, Alice Blair, from Los Angeles down the hall and close by to Lynn’s room, (MCA Lew Wasserman’s daughter). They were all the same. Glorified closets.

Alice would get visits from home, her mother, and high school classmates including Nora Ephron but, for me, other than my parents once, the only other visitor I had now and then was my older cousin, Carolyn, who grew up next door to me in Steubenville. Without notice she would appear.

Carolyn lived at The Barbizon when she came to New York from Ohio and was first a Conover model and then signed with the prestigious Ford Agency. So, in my eyes, she was always the celebrity in our family. I always felt special when she came. Never a hair out of place and always dressed to perfection. She made elegance look so easy. I just remember that Carolyn was so beautiful and how important she made me feel with each visit. But looking back I now realize those visits were in between times for her. She was on her way to somewhere and needed to fill those empty minutes. Why not at the place with which she had comfortable memories and a relationship. At The Barbizon with her little cousin from Steubenville.

Over five decades have now passed for all of those mentioned in my Barbizon memory box. Each would have a story, yet unfolded, yet unscripted in that year of 1960.

I have often thought if I could, if it were possible, would I want to know my future? My answer is always the same. If I had known then all that I and the characters in my Barbizon life would go through after leaving that hotel, I may not have left.

I, for one, certainly have had my struggles as chronicled in my writings. Alice has had a wonderful life, but also with a few hiccups along the way. Carolyn was eventually diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and her glamorous life evaporated. Her mystic unveiled to the world by the worst human betrayal possible-and her life ending in poverty and pain. Nora Ephron received such great heights with her talent that was cut short too soon. All things to come in the future that perhaps had we known would have paralyzed us from going forward with our unthetered souls and hopeful plans.
Copyright 2014 Sandra Hart. All rights reserved

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Memories In A Box

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In an old Balfour box (from my college jewelry days) I found a group of long-forgotten time weathered envelops addressed to me in Ohio and posted from Berlin, Germany. Letters that took me back into a world that was about to change, way beyond the innocent exchanges of my new pen pal, Ursula Thie and I. We became pen pals through a program at our Methodist Church.

February…..1953

The beginning year of our childhood correspondence was 1953. I had just turned 14 and was enjoying the freedoms of Junior High and life in a thriving Ohio Valley Steel town.

Berlin, den 27.2.1953

Dear Sandra,

I thank you for your letter. You have it write in the december and I have became it now in february. With your letter together I have become three table of chocolate, about these I was very glad. My name is Ursula Thie.

We girls here in Germany are not how you Y-tem. Our name is young community of evangelist church. In our group we are girls between 14th and 20 years. I self am 17 years old…..

I live in Berlin with my mother and my brother. My father was falling in the contention 1945.

I am 1,70m great, have blond hairs and blue eyes. When you have a photo from you please send it me.

In the winter I am going several times into a teatre, In the summer I travel out of Berlin.

Please write me in your next letter many things from you and your live. I please you, to excuse my base english. The name of the flower at this letter is bell-flower-glickenblume.

Sincerely yours,
Ursula Thie
Berlin

In my world, we had just elected a new president, Dwight D. Eisenhower and my family in January was glued to our television set watching I Love Lucy give birth. In February our president refuses clemency for Ethel and Julius Rosenberg and Walt Disney’s 14th animated film, Peter Pan, arrived at our local movie theater.

In Ursula’s world, she was learning English, going to festivals where she was singing jolly songs and eating pancake, enjoying her girl’s group where they visited various denominational churches including the Russian Orthodox and the Naumburger Dom and planning ahead for a summer away from Berlin.

Little did we both know that on June 17 of that year things would change for her in East Germany.

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Who Knew?

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My husband and I have often talked about our childhoods and about our years growing up and we both have come to the same conclusion. We had, in our opinions, the ‘luck of the draw’ to be born and live through the best years so far in our American history. Who knew?!

August 1957…….

The wings of Capitol Airlines were carrying me far away from the mundane existence in the steel town where I grew up. I was eighteen and I was never coming back. I was free. At last! Free to live my own dreams, on my own terms. I never wanted to think of those fourteen wasted years of my life in Ohio again.

Youth. Oh my. Youth! Such hubris. How could I have known then that those early formative years on my grandfather’s farm in Bloomingdale and later, the good fortune to live and be educated among an ethnically diversified community like the steel town of Steubenville, Ohio during the 40’s and 50’s would, in hindsight, be the best thing that could have ever happened to me.

I grew up having no fears. I can’t remember ever being afraid of anything, except maybe disobeying my parents. We never locked our shiny new blue Plymouth in the garage out back. Not even when good times brought a powder blue Cadillac convertible in its place. I knew the front door would always be unlocked when I arrived home from the YMCA Swing Haven at night and I easily traveled by myself everywhere on the bus at all hours and walked the two blocks from the bus stop to my home. I felt safe. I was safe.

Our neighbor’s doors were always open to all and it seemed we were always either delivering or on the receiving end of casserole and cake exchanges from one to the other. We genuinely cared about one another. Neighbors were extended family in our blue collar neighborhood. If ever needed, help was just next door at the neighbors house.

High school jobs were easily found for us. My first was in Denmark’s, a family owned department store, where the owner knew my name. I started at Christmas as a wrapper and worked my way up to sales in lingerie. Customers didn’t seem to be agitated during the long wait for the canister carrying their money being sucked up the vacuum tube to accounting and back again with their receipt and correct change. People had patience. We all seemed to take life in stride.

Our high school had our great football team and marching band that gave our town additional purpose and pride beyond the fact that we produced steel that was helping rebuild the country.

We didn’t have to worry about drugs back then. The worst worry for us girls was not having a date to the prom because we had to wait to be asked. The worst whispers were about the boys and ‘wild girls’ who would go to the coal pits outside of town to smoke cigarettes, drink beer and fool around or the girls that would go to “visit” their out-of-town relatives for nine months.

We studied, jitterbugged, ate square pizza and Coke, went to the drive-in and necked and had swirled ice cream with the curl on top at the local Dairy Queen and watched Ed Sullivan on our RCA televisions Sunday nights with our families.

Our parents earned a good living and were prosperous. They had hopes for the future. We as teenagers never had any doubts that we could reach and achieve our dreams. The world was ours if we were willing to work for it.

And the reality of it is, it was all true. Our generation was afforded the best environment for achieving and witnessing the greatness of the American people and their dreams. We were a town of all nationalities, all colors and I never thought or was taught there were any differences between us.

I do believe, though, that our diverse community along the Ohio River was not unique. It was a softer and more gentle time of hope for the future in America. No one thought that it would disappear. Not here.

How were any of us to know we were so very fortunate living in those special times and that this recipe for living would never be duplicated ever again.

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