Friday, August 14, 2009

Tell me more about...

I have been asked by a reader of this blog to tell folks a bit more about the Rosenblatts (See “Your father had this friend...)

That would be the Sanford Rosenblatt's, aka Sandy and Mindy, of Pepper Pike, Ohio and Fort Lauderdale. Rosenblatt ran a furniture store of the same name ("Let Rosenblatt's make your house a home") and he was a distributor for CONTOUR (brand) chair-lounge's. His line of furniture is what we called "early Van Aken" (named for the Boulevard in Shaker) that was French provincial, antiqued in white with gold trim, or chandeliers wrapped in brassy gold metal with cascades of crystals favored by my father's people as a sign that they had "made it". What I remember about the store was it was PACKED with furniture.

Periodically my father would do legal work for the store and he would hand it off to my mother to deliver during the day. She would pick me up from school at the end of the day and we would drive for seemed to be an eternity from South Woodland Road, through Warrensville Heights and finally to Maple Heights where the store was. Sandy would try and sell my mother on a "little bit of glamour" but she wasn't having any of it. "Did you see that bed?" she'd ask me. Which one? "The one with the canopy topped by the gold crown. You know why it had a gold crown? Because some women like to feel like Princesses," she'd say. You mean like Princess Grace? I asked. "No, like Rapunzel - girls with a bed like that need to be rescued."

On the other hand father loved Sandy's wares. "Classy stuff," he'd say. When my parents divorced and my father took over the house on South Woodland for his own kingdom, the place filled with with enough French Provincial glamour to cause one to stay on the lookout for angry members of the the third estate approaching the place with their pitchforks raised and demanding the "Austrian whore" for justice.

Sandy Rosenblatt's touch soon groped every wall and room of the house. I may have been ten, but when I say I was appalled by the appearance of a bust of faux Greek god on a golden column in the foyer of the house on South Woodland, its an understatement. Nicknamed "Maximus", the poorly done mass produced sculpture had a bigger place on honor in my father's house than I ever did. "They have just like it in the palace at Versailles," my father said, admiring his latest acquistion from Rosenblatt's. "There's a town with a steel mill in Pennsylvania named Versailles," I offered. "For a know-it-all you don't know much about the finer things in life," my father said, semi disgusted by my objection to his object d' art.

This is something that I have never understood about the Ashkenazi Jews populating Cleveland's east side suburbs back then – why did they adopt this faux French kitsch as the official style of success? My friend Anna said that it has something to do Peter the Great's great shopping spree through Europe – "you know the one where he picked up a few things for Saint Petersburg, including a few dozen French noblemen to live there and give it some class. Its a Russian Jewish thing, like a piece of the old country, right here in the new country” Anna explained to me. “Look at all the years Lenin has been on display under glass, and he's held up pretty well, right?" This is why the Jews encase the furniture it in clear plastic seat covers; if the Winter Palace does not have shabby upholstery, and why should they?

Rosenblatt's store had an entire gallery of those rain lamps - these were swag accent lamps with the Grecian goddess in the center with small spot on her, surrounded by clear strings down which drops of clear oil dripped. As a child, I was enthralled by these in the store's gallery. The "gallery" was darkened hallway lit with black light bulbs that cast a dark glow over the twenty or so lamps of every shape and manner on either side of the passage. Why couldn't we have a room like this in our house? I thought.

As a teenager I was horrified that I had wished such a plague on our house, and that we knew people who had these lamps, and denied that I ever thought that they were miraculous. As an adult looking back I realized how fabulous and horrendous they were at the same time.

Sandy's wife Mindy Rosenblatt, who always wore bright red lipstick even when it went out of fashion, had a Contour chair-lounge that was upholstered in faux tiger hide that had a stuffed tail coming out of its back, she'd recline on what she referred to as her Tony the Tiger and chat on the phone saying "that's nice...hum...well..." “That's nice,” was code for "big deal" whenever anyone said anything that she wasn't paying attention to. Mindy had a 1970 Cadillac Eldorado - royal blue with a faux white wicker top, and a moonroof. It was Hollywood. She loved to start that puppy up, open the moon roof and wave to you as you drove away. For some reason I'm thinking that Mindy was a Blaushield before she married Sandy. Anyway, Mindy played bridge with my mom's friends, and my mother used kvetch about Mindy's latest diet fad.

"Get this," my mother said to me while I had my milk and cookies after school one day in 1971, "now she's scraping her tongue with this appliance after she eats and smokes." In my childlike mind, since an "appliance" was found in the kitchen, I wondered what kind of kitchen appliance could be plugged in and used to scraping ones tongue. I settled on the electric mixer, but decided against taking it for a test.

The Rosenblatt's had three daughters, Sally, Ina and Julie. Julie was in my consecration class at the temple. Sally, the eldest, was involved in little theater musicals and wore stirrup pants. She was very serious about the theater and was given to spontaneous bouts of dancing, high kicking and stretching. "I have short cords," she explained. To this day I have no idea what she was talking about. Ina's hobby was brushing her hair and rolling her eyes in disgust at anything that anyone did. They had a son, Marc, who was much older than I was, and truth be told, I don't think I ever met him.

Sally eventually married a Shenkman; Julie married a Loeb. Last I heard about Ina - she married a Drager, then divorced him - she was that living on a kibbutz in Israel and was bitter about life. Why she was bitter? I have no idea, other than it was the only career that she was born to excel at.

I don't know if Sandy and Mindy are still alive – its been 30 years since I've seen them and they'd be in their late 80s today. I imagine that they are retired, but that Sandy would be selling anyone he who would listen on the importance of covering their fine furniture with clear plastic. And Mindy? I imagine her relaxing on her contour chair, a Parliment cigarette in one hand and a tongue scraper ready in the other, and the phone on hands free, telling the person on the other side "that's nice," everytime there was a break in the conversation.

1 comment:

  1. Very entertaining story! Thanks for posting it.