Schizophrenia Series-Disabled Legend Meera Popkin

Meera Popkin is a star of Cats and Miss Saigon on Broadway and in London’s West End. Meera Popkin was diagnosed with schizophrenia. Meera Popkin’s life went from centre stage and limos to waiting tables at Wendy’s, but she’s now back and is doing well. “I’ve had quite a year. I thought the highlight would be getting married. I thought the highlight would be having my baby girl. Now it looks like the highlight is being completely recovered from schizophrenia. Did I ever have it? Was I misdiagnosed? Am I the one in a thousand that recovers from this illness? These are the questions my doctor is asking.”

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Hearing Impairment Series-Disabled Legend Phyllis Frelich

Phyllis Frelich was born on 29 February, 1944 in Devils Lake, a small town in North Dakota. Phyllis is an American actress and is one of the most noted deaf actresses in the United States working in the entertainment industry.

Phyllis was born to deaf parents and is the oldest of 9 children (all of whom are also deaf). Phyllis attended North Dakota School for the Deaf, graduating in 1962, and then went on to study at Gallaudet College (now known as Gallaudet University), a school for the deaf and hard-of-hearing.

Phyllis originated the leading female role in the Broadway production of Children of a Lesser God, for which she won the 1980 Best Actress Tony Award.

Marlee Matlin played Phyllis’s role in the film version, and won the Best Actress Academy Award.

Phyllis has been married to Robert Steinberg for many years, and they have 2 children.

Phyllis performed the ASL interpretation of Jewel’s rendition of the national anthem at Super Bowl XXXII.

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Dementia Series-Disabled Legend Molly Picon

Molly Picon was born Małka (Margaret) Opiekun on 1 June, 1898 in New York City, New York, USA to Clara and Louis (or Denis) Opiekun (later changed to Picon). Opiekun is a Polish language name meaning, “guardian” or “caretaker”. Molly Picon died on 5 April, 1992 aged 93, from Alzheimer’s disease in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Molly Picon is buried in the Yiddish Theater section of the Mount Hebron Cemetery.

Molly Picon’s husband, from 1919 until his death in 1975 from cancer, was Jacob Kalich. They had no children.

Molly Picon was an American star of stage, screen and television, as well as a lyricist. Molly Picon was first and foremost a star in Yiddish theatre and Film, but as Yiddish theatre faded she began to perform in English-language productions.

Molly Picon’s career began at the age of 6 in the Yiddish Theatre. In 1912, she debuted at the Arch Street Theatre in New York and became a star of the Second Avenue Yiddish stage.

Molly Picon was so popular in the 1920s that many shows had the name Molly in their title. In 1931 she opened the Molly Picon Theatre. Molly Picon appeared in many films, starting with silent movies. Molly Picon earliest film still existing is East and West which deals with the clash of new and old Jewish cultures. Molly Picon plays an American-born daughter who travels with her father back to Galicia in East Central Europe. Real-life husband Jacob Kalich plays one of her Galician relatives from Eastern Europe.

Molly Picon’s most famous film, Yidl Mit’n Fidl (1936), was made on location in Poland, and has her wearing male clothing through most of the film. In the film, a girl and her father are forced by poverty to set out on the road as traveling musicians. For her safety, she disguises herself as a boy, which becomes inconvenient when she falls in love with one of the other musicians in the troupe.

Molly Picon made her English language debut on stage in 1940. On Broadway, she starred in Neil Simon’s Come Blow Your Horn and the Jerry Herman musical Milk and Honey, both in 1961. In 1966 she quit the disastrous Chu Chem during previews in Philadelphia; the show closed before reaching Broadway.

Molly Picon’s first English speaking role in the movies was the film version of Come Blow Your Horn (1963), and she portrayed Yente, the Matchmaker in the film adaptation of the Broadway hit Fiddler on the Roof in 1971.

In the 1970s, she was featured as a madame named Mrs. Cherry in For Pete’s Sake, a film starring another famous Jewish-American actress, Barbra Streisand. Molly Picon later played a role on television on the soap opera Somerset.  An entire room was filled with her memorabilia at the Second Avenue Deli in New York
(now closed).

The little “yente” with the big, expressive talent, New York-born Yiddish icon Molly Picon entertained theater, radio, TV and film audiences for over seven decades with her song-and-dance routines while helping to popularize the Yiddish culture into the American mainstream as well as overseas. Raised in Philadelphia, she was performing from age 5 but broke into the big time with a vaudeville act called “The Four Seasons” in 1919, eventually making a comedy name for herself in the Second Avenue Theatres on the Lower East Side back in New York. The indefatigable Molly Picon was a real live wire and played very broad, confident, dominant characters on stage, which ended up making it hard for her to be taken seriously in dramatic pieces.

In film she is best remembered for her Yiddish-language showcases of the 30s, notably in Yidl with His Fiddle (1936), the story of a traveling musician who dresses as a boy to avoid unwarranted male advances. Molly Picon was cast as a Yiddish Cinderella, a dutiful but unappreciated daughter who cares for her father and his large family, in Mamele (1938), the last Jewish film made in Poland. During one musical vignette, Molly Picon portrays her character’s grandmother in several stages of life. In the 1940s, Molly Picon started to include English-speaking plays as well and as she grew into matronly roles, became synonymous as the typical well-meaning but overbearing and coddling “Jewish mama.” Such amusing, unflappable film roles would be found in Come Blow Your Horn (1963) (as an interfering Italian mother) and Fiddler on the Roof (1972) as Yente the matchmaker. Molly Picon long association with husband and corroborator, Yiddish stage star Jacob Kalich, was a fruitful one. Husband Jacob Kalich became her mentor, the author of many of her popular plays and the manager of her career. They Married in 1919, Jacob Kalich died in 1975 but she continued performing albeit sporadically. Vicariously known as the “Jewish Charlie Chaplin” and “Jewish Helen Hayes”, she was a patriot and humanitarian at heart, with an energy, creativity and ability to entertain that couldn’t help but make her one of entertainment’s most beloved citizens.

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Dementia Series-Disabled Legend Arthur O’ Connell

Arthur O’Connell was born on 29 March 1908 in New York City, USA and died on 18 May 1981 in Woodland Hills, Los Angeles,California, USA due to Alzheimer’s Disease.

Though veteran character actor Arthur O’Connell looked as countrified as apple pie, looking ever more comfy in overalls than he ever did in a suit. Arthur made his stage debut in the mid 1930s and came into contact with Orson Welles’ Mercury Theatre. As a result, he earned the bit role of a reporter in the final scenes of Citizen Kane (1941).

Making little leeway in films, Arthur O’Connell returned to the Broadway lights where he played Polonius in “Hamlet” and Banquo in “Macbeth”, finally gaining considerable attention as the amiable bachelor storekeeper in “Picnic” in 1953.

Arthur transferred the role successfully to film three years later and began a series of flawed and forlorn characters on TV and the screen from then on. A particular standout was as James Stewart’s boozed up attorney and mentor in Anatomy of a Murder (1959) for which he won his second Oscar-nomination for “best supporting actor” (the first was for Picnic (1956) three years earlier). The mustachioed Arthur O’Connell usually played wise, helpful and friendly, and he also inhabited crafty villains from time to time, but there was always an unhappy ambiance and ‘loser’ quality in his elderly gents, which made you feel sorry for him. Arthur played Monte Markham’s “son” (Markham had been frozen in an iceberg, which explains Markham’s young appearance) in the 1967 sitcom “The Second Hundred Years” but the series was short-lived. A popular guest star on all the major shows in the 70s, he was forced to curtail his work load as the progression of Alzheimer’s began to steadily creep in. At the time of his death in 1981, Arthur O’Connell was appearing solely in toothpaste commercials.

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Dementia Series-Disabled Legend Abe Burrows

Abe Burrows was born on 18 December, 1910 and died on 17 May, 1985. Abe Burrows was a noted American humorist, author, and director for both the radio and the stage, particularly Broadway. Abe began working as a runner on Wall Street while at NYC, and he also worked in an accounting firm. After he met Frank Galen in 1938, the two wrote and sold jokes to an impressionist who appeared on the Rudy Vallée radio program. Abe burrows later suffered of dementia at an older age.

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Dementia Series-Disabled Legend Jack Lord

Jack Lord was born on 30 December, 1920 and died on 21 January, 1998.  Jack O’Brien was an American television, film, and Broadway actor. Born in Brooklyn, New York, Jack Lord was the son of Irish-American parents. Jack’s father, William Lawrence Ryan was a steamship company executive. Jack’s first work on Broadway was in Traveling Lady with Kim Stanley. Jack was then cast as a replacement for Ben Gazarra in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.  Jack Lord died of congestive heart failure at his home on January 21, 1998 in Honolulu, Hawaii, at the age of 77.  Jack left an estate of $40 million, and being a philanthropist in his lifetime, the entire estate went to various Hawaiian charities upon his wife Marie’s death in 2005. Portions of their estate were auctioned on eBay in March 2007.

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