Danny Kaye from Brownsville

Actor/comedian Danny Kaye (David Daniel Kaminsky), a marvelous song-and-dance-and-everything man, died on this date in 1987. Kaye was born in 1911 in the Brownsville section of Brooklyn, NY, to Ukrainian immigrant parents who called him “Duvidelleh.” After getting his start as a Borscht Belt entertainer, he would go on to star in seventeen movies, including The Secret […]

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Harold Arlen

Harold Arlen (Hyman Arluck), the son of a cantor and a key contributor to the Great American Songbook, was born in Buffalo, NY, on this date in 1905. In addition to composing the score for The Wizard of Oz — including “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” (lyrics by Yip Harburg), which was voted the best song of the […]

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Jack Benny

Jack Benny (Benjamin Kubelsky) was born in Chicago, Illinois, on this date in 1894. His parents were immigrants from Poland and Lithuania. One of America’s favorite comedians in vaudeville, on radio and TV, and in film, Benny was married to Sadye Marks, who some say was a cousin of the Marx Brothers and who played his […]

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Stella Adler

Stella Adler was born on New York City’s Lower East Side on this date in 1902 to Sara Adler (Levitskaya) and Jacob Adler, who were luminaries of the Yiddish stage; actress Celia Adler was her half-sister. Stella Adler was a child actor by four and a star in her own right by the 1920s, before studying Stanislavsky’s […]

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Brian Epstein

The Beatles arrived in America on this date in 1964 and launched a cultural tidal wave. They were accompanied by their 30-year-old manager Brian Epstein, who had paid for the recording of their first demo record, convinced record producer George Martin to sign them, invented their “mop-top” hairstyles, outfitted them in suits, and arranged for […]

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George Burns

George Burns (Naftaly — later Nathan — Birnbaum) was born in New York City on this date in 1896 to a family that had immigrated from what is now southeastern Poland. He quit school in the fourth grade to become an entertainer. Burns’ vaudeville career was floundering until he met Gracie Allen in 1923 (they would […]

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He Coined the Term “Rhythm and Blues”

Jerry Wexler, who, as a reporter for Billboard Magazine in 1948, coined the term “rhythm and blues” (as a replacement for the offensive “race records”) and who later, as a music producer, recorded some of R&B’s greatest performers, was born on this date in 1917 in New York. The “acts” Wexler signed or produced included Ray […]

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The Ventriloquist of the 60s

Ventriloquist and voice actor Paul Winchell (Wilchinsky) was born in New York City on this date in 1922. His grandparents had emigrated to the U.S. from Poland and Austria-Hungary. With his two dummy “sidekicks,” Jerry Mahoney and Knucklehead Smiff, Winchell hosted one of the most popular children’s television shows of the mid-1960s and (along with Shari Lewis) […]

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Bette Midler

Singer, songwriter, actress Bette Midler was born in Honolulu on this date in 1945. Her mother was a seamstress and her father a house painter. From 1966 to 1969, Midler appeared on Broadway as Tevye’s eldest daughter, Tsaytl, in Fiddler on the Roof, shortly before developing her persona as “the Divine Miss M” at the Continental […]

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Allan Sherman, “Folksinger”

Song parodist Allan Sherman (born Allan Copelon — he took his mother’s birth name after his parents’ divorce), was born in Chicago on this date in 1924. His 1962 debut song-parody record, My Son, the Folksinger, became the fastest-selling album until that time. Sherman’s strength was in setting silly lyrics to classical music (as in “Hello Muddah, hello Faddah, here […]

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