01 December 2015

Marlene Dietrich, American Friend of the Hebrew University

Israel Demchick, Marlene Dietrich, Joshua Ellis, Selma Ellis. At American Friends of Hebrew University event, Philadelphia, October 2, 1971
L-R Israel Demchick, Marlene Dietrich, Joshua Ellis, Selma Ellis.
The partially obstructed banner behind them reads in full: "American Friends of the Hebrew University," the organization that sponsored the event. Philadelphia hotel.
October 2, 1971

During one of my regular Google searches, I stumbled upon a photograph of Marlene Dietrich that led me to the site bio of Joshua Ellis, who has had an illustrious career as a theatre press agent. Curious, I contacted Ellis to learn more about this photograph, and he surprised me with his kind and informative responses. Not only did he provide me with a fuller image, which you can see above, he also recalled the evening when he met Dietrich, which had nothing to do with the theatre at all. Everything italicized in this post comes directly from Ellis, including this anecdote of his enviable encounter:
I was a big fan of Marlene Dietrich and adored her one-woman show on Broadway at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre in 1967.  I was 18 at the time. 
In 1971 or 1972, Miss Dietrich was given an award by Israel's Hebrew University for her fund-raising efforts on their behalf.  The award was given at a Philadelphia hotel, but I do not remember which one. I was there that night because my grandfather, a Philadelphia-based architect named Israel Demchick, was also being honored for his fund-raising efforts on behalf of the university.
I think many in the audience were intimidated by Marlene Dietrich and she was very much alone during the early meet-and-greet part of the evening.  I decided to go over to her and introduce myself.
First, I explained to her my connection to her fellow award recipient.  It was just the two of them being honored.

Miss Dietrich:  "You are very young.  Are you in school?"
Me:  "Yes, Miss Dietrich."
MD:  "What are you studying?"
Me:  "I'm getting my masters degree in theatre."
MD:  "The theatre?  That's ridiculous!  You should be studying something practical like chemistry or physics.  It's a good thing I'm not your grandmother!"
Could she be any more Dietrich?