Freddie Roman, stand-up staple of Borscht Belt circuit, dies at 85

Freddie Roman, a humorist who turned a staple of the Borscht Belt, the Catskill Mountains area the place vacationing Jews loved heaping parts of chopped liver, nature (however not an excessive amount of) and a barrage of one-liners, died Nov. 26 at a hospital in Boynton Seashore, Fla. He was 85.

The trigger was a coronary heart assault, his reserving agent Alison Chaplin mentioned.

Mr. Roman, who joked that his ldl cholesterol take a look at got here again as “9-1-1″ and the state fowl of Florida was the “Early Fowl,” was among the many dozens of Jewish comedians who honed their craft at resorts in rural New York and Pennsylvania that catered to a largely Jewish clientele.

Among the comedians who carried out there — Milton Berle, Lenny Bruce, Don Rickles, Mel Brooks, Jackie Mason and, later, Jerry Seinfeld — went on to very large careers in tv, motion pictures and cable TV specials.

Mr. Roman was not considered one of them.

Although he appeared six instances on NBC’s “Tonight Present” and opened as soon as for singer Frank Sinatra, Mr. Roman spent most of his profession telling jokes on smoky phases in Las Vegas and Atlantic Metropolis. He additionally served because the longtime dean of the Friars Membership, a New York comedy establishment.

“Little doubt about it, he might undoubtedly make a crowd snicker,” mentioned Robert Klein, the New York comic and fellow Friars Membership member who appeared on the TV present “Will & Grace.” “He was not groundbreaking, however he was humorous and he was true to his craft.”

Mr. Roman’s jokes have been quintessential Borscht Belt, poking enjoyable at stereotypical Jewish tradition — bickering spouses, overindulgence in meals, hypochondria, and loads of complaining. “My humor,” he as soon as mentioned, “is mainly exaggeration of actual life.”

One among Mr. Roman’s favourite bits was about his dad and mom retiring to — in fact — Florida.

Two weeks after they moved, Mr. Roman calls his father to ask the way it was going.

“I like it,” his father says. “Why didn’t you inform me to do it earlier than?”

Then Mr. Roman calls again once more two weeks later.

“Get me the hell out of right here,” his dad says. “I’m married to your mom 48 years. I’m retired 4 weeks. In these 4 weeks, I talked extra to that girl than I did in 48 years. I’ve nothing left to say to her.”

Most of the Jewish comedians who carried out within the Catskills modified their names so they may get gigs exterior the Borscht Belt. Leonard Schneider turned Lenny Bruce. Mendel Berlinger turned Milton Berle. And Fred Martin Kirschenbaum turned Freddie Roman.

He was born Could 28, 1937, in Newark and raised in Queens, the place his father offered sneakers and his mom was a homemaker. Mr. Roman’s household owned the Crystal Spring Lodge within the Catskills. When he was 15, Mr. Roman pestered his uncle to let him skip some busboy shifts and emcee for the nightly entertainers.

“He might save perhaps $40 per week!” Mr. Roman told The Washington Submit in 1991. “And the company would assume, ‘Isn’t that cute? He’s 15; he’s lovely! Look how he talks so good.’”

Mr. Roman continued his emcee gigs, together with throughout his summer season breaks from New York College, the place he met his future spouse, Ethel. After commencement, Mr. Roman opened a shoe retailer in Queens and began a household in New Metropolis, a hamlet in New York’s Rockland County, the place he and Ethel raised two kids.

On weekends, Mr. Roman carried out stand-up within the Borscht Belt, finally promoting the shoe retailer to concentrate on comedy full time. One among his early gigs was at Arele’s, a Queens joint that referred to as itself the world’s solely kosher nightclub.

He additionally labored the Hawaiian Cottage in Cherry Hill, N.J. Torches burned within the parking zone.

“I bear in mind the proprietor, a person named Zucci,” Mr. Roman instructed the Philadelphia Every day Information. “Used to stroll across the membership in a go well with with a parrot on his shoulder. As you have been sitting there consuming the baked ziti, you might watch him strolling round with the parrot. I assume the parrot made it tropical.”

When he began doing common gigs within the Catskills, Mr. Roman carried out at three or 4 resorts an evening. The crowds may very well be powerful.

“The one factor concerning the Jewish audiences within the mountains, you needed to be good,” Mr. Roman mentioned in an interview earlier than a 2014 present. “In case you weren’t good, they let you understand. They didn’t boo. They have been very respectful. They only bought up and walked out. And in the event you have been no good, on the finish of the evening you have been working to 200 chairs.”

Mr. Roman bought his huge break within the early Nineteen Seventies, when he landed a Las Vegas gig on the Desert Inn. He wound up spending 18 years in Vegas, performing 12 weeks a 12 months at Caesars Palace and the Riviera Lodge.

Between gigs in Las Vegas after which Atlantic Metropolis, Mr. Roman continued performing within the Catskills. However by the Nineteen Eighties, the Borscht Belt resorts had all however vanished following the rise of air journey and different all-inclusive resorts across the nation modeled on the Catskills, together with in Las Vegas.

However the echoes of the Borscht Belt lived on. In 1991, Mr. Roman conceived and was featured within the revue “Catskills on Broadway.” Mr. Roman, Mal Z. Lawrence, Dick Capri and Marilyn Michaels revived their previous Catskill routines. The present lasted a 12 months and a half earlier than touring the nation.

“The title of the present ‘Catskills on Broadway’ deserves a truth-in-advertising award,” New York Occasions theater critic Mel Gussow wrote. “With these 4 stand-up comics on the Lunt-Fontanne Theater, you pay your cash and also you get the jokes, except you occur to overlook the punch traces due to the laughter.”

For many years, Mr. Roman longed for a staring position in TV or movie, however he needed to accept smaller elements in NBC’s “Legislation & Order: Prison Intent,” the movie “Discovering North” (1998) and the Amazon streaming present “Crimson Oaks.”

Along with his spouse of 63 years, Mr. Roman is survived by a daughter, Judi Kirschenbaum Levin; and 4 grandchildren. His son, TV producer Alan Kirschenbaum, died in 2012.

Mr. Roman was additionally recognized for his roasts on the Friars Membership, the place in 1999 the roast desk was turned on him.

“After I was born, Freddie Roman was getting his first hair weave,” the comic Steven Scott mentioned. “Judging by the typical age of our dais tonight, it ought to be on the Historical past Channel.”

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button