In preparation for my West Side Story preview talks in the Queen Elizabeth Theatre (one hour before each and every performance, and absolutely free to ticket-holders), I have been reading up on Leonard Bernstein. I will share, on this site, some interesting things I discover about him as I do my research.
Loyal blog readers who attend the talks will have had a preview of the previews, so to speak, and you will also know the answer to the skill-testing question I'll ask at the start of each talk. I'll be selecting the question from facts I reveal in these blog posts. The first person to utter the correct answer will win a small prize, courtesy of our Preview Talks sponsor, and our Primary Print Sponsor, the Vancouver Sun.
Leonard Bernstein was born in suburban Boston on August 25, 1918, the first child of Sam and Jennie Bernstein.Sam had fled from his family in Ukraine at the age of 16 for a better life in the USA. He had worked at the Fulton Fish Market, in New York, and in a Connecticut barbershop, and went on to build a successful beauty-supply business. Jennie, too, was from Ukraine. She arrived in the United States at age 8 and began working in a factory at age 12.
Jennie's strong-willed mother, Pearl Resnick, was very keen on Jennie's marriage to the intelligent, religious and successful Sam, and she was also adamant that Jennie's first-born take the name of Pearl's father, Louis. So Louis Bernstein it was, at least on paper. Sam and Jennie preferred the name Leonard, and that is what they called him. Leonard learned of his official name on the first day of Kindergarten. When he turned 16, he applied for his driver's licence and applied to change his name legally. Bernstein claimed, much later in life, that the early confusion over his name had contributed to what he described as his schizophrenic ways.
- Doug Tuck