Thursday, August 11, 2011

Jerry Orbach, Prince of the City by John Anthony Gilvey (2011)

LinkIn a previous blog entry, I highlighted the local roots of the late Jerry Orbach--star of stage (the original Billy Flynn in 1975's Chicago on Broadway; the original El Gallo in The Fantasticks; 1969 Tony winner for Broadway's original production of Promises, Promises), screen (Dirty Dancing, Woody Allen's Crimes & Misdemeanors, the candlestick Lumière in Disney's Beauty & The Beast) and TV (Law & Order, Homicide: Life on the Street).

A recently published (and excellent) biography on Mr. Orbach also includes information on his local roots--to Scranton, Wilkes-Barre and even Plymouth, PA. The book is titled Jerry Orbach, Prince of the City: His Way from The Fantasticks to Law & Order, written by John Anthony Gilvey (with a Foreword by Jane Alexander).

Chapter 1 (Entrance, 1935-1955)
features information on Orbach's parents residing in Plymouth, PA during the Great Depression, right before Orbach's birth:

p. 3 (description of Orbach's mother Emily)
"In 1932, Plymouth, a small town situated on the Susquehanna River four miles west of Wilkes-Barre in northeast Pennsylvania's Luzerne County, was not an easy place to earn a living, especially for a young woman."

p. 4
"Alexander (Emily's father), born in the village of Bartlovka, near the city of Bialstok in northeast Poland, immigrated to the United States as a young man...finally settling down in Plymouth."

p. 4
"Like Leo (Orbach's father), she (Emily) was fascinated by the stage and had already put her talents to the test as a singer on a weekly Wilkes-Barre radio program."

p. 4
"Unlike most Catholic parents of the day, Alexander and Susanne were surprisingly accepting of their daughter's Jewish boyfriend. There were two reasons for this: first, their own marriage ran counter to the bitter enmity between Polish and Lithuanian Catholics that dated back to the Middle Ages and as recently as 1889 had erupted violently on the streets of Plymouth..."

p. 5
"Weeks later, Jerome Bernard Orbach was baptized at St. Mary's Polish Catholic Church in Plymouth."

p. 7
"Months later, when he (Leo) returned, he took a position as banquet manager for the Sterling Hotel in Wilkes-Barre before landing what would be a permanent position managing lunch counters for Neisner Brothers, a national retail store chain. The nature of the job demanded that he relocates as the needs of the company demanded, so for the next seven years the family crisscrossed the country via stores in Scranton, Pennsylvania; Springfield, Massachusetts; and Waukegan, Illinois."

p. 7
"In Scranton, where the Orbachs' home sat atop one of the highest points of the city and across from a firehouse, seven-year-old Jerry immediately made friends with the firemen..."

p. 7
"Another significant experience came in May 1943, when he made his First Communion and Confirmation during Mass at St. Peter's Cathedral."

p. 8
"Back in Scranton, Emily put their furniture in storage and made preparations for the long train trek that would take her and Jerry to their new home where Leo waited...but before they could board the train, Jerry had to part with his first and only pet--a cocker spaniel that had been his constant companion during their time in Scranton. Brokenhearted, he returned the dog to the lady who had given it to him."

p. 8
"In May after an eight-hundred-route-mile, fourteen-hour train trip from springtime Scranton, they arrived in still-snowy Chicago..."

On p. 139 in Chapter 9 (Trenchant Defective/Living Landmark, 1944-2004), Wilkes-Barre, PA was a bonding topic for Jerry and fellow actor Ted Sod, when they appeared together on the TV drama Law & Order.

"Actor Ted Sod fondly remembers... :
'When I appeared on Law & Order...Jerry immediately made me feel as if I were welcome. He introduced himself and we spoke for a bit about my hometown, Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, where he had relatives.'"

Jerry Orbach, Prince of the City is available to borrow from the Lackawanna County Library System. To place a hold, click here.

Click here to read the previous blog entry on Jerry Orbach.


mowmowfalangie said...

We are trying to find out Jerry's Wilkes Barre address. We are just curious to know where he lived.

Reference Department, Albright Memorial Library said...

According to the book, his parents lived in W-B before he was born, but I don't believe it included the address.

Reference Department, Albright Memorial Library said...

Also some exciting news: John Gilvey, the author of Jerry Orbach: prince of the City, will be our next presenter in the Lackawanna County Library Lecture Series Tuesday, August 7th. John will be doing a multimedia presentation on Jerry's life and work. Tickets will be free with your library card, so I hope you'll be able to attend and get your question answered straight from the author :)