What a night it was when I arrived at the American Hotel in Sag Harbor to meet the iconic and legendary sex therapist Dr. Ruth Westheimer for her 93rd birthday celebration dinner before accompanying her to see herself portrayed in “Becoming Dr. Ruth,” a one-woman show starring Emmy Award nominee Tovah Feldshuh at the reopening of the renowned Bay Street Theater.
It was an exciting night on many levels, but for me, I found the most joy in holding Dr. Ruth’s soft, delicate hands during dinner.
We were a group of 12 people seated at two tables and I was told by organizer and hostess Patti Kenner to sit next to the honored guest. What a treat!
Life’s connectedness brought me to the dinner, thanks to my friend Upper East Side Assemblywoman Rebecca Seawright.
Dr. Ruth has a doctorate of education from Columbia University and is very proud of her being a professor at several CUNY schools. She seemed especially proud of her honorary doctorate recently awarded from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev and took delight in a special pin she was given.
Holding her delicate but powerful hands reminded me of the last time I held the hands of my beloved friend Claire Shulman only days before she died at age 94. Claire was 5 feet 10 inches tall and had large, yet soft hands, while Dr. Ruth is about 4 feet 7 inches tall and her hands are just as tiny as she is. But, in holding their hands, I felt both women’s warmth and caring qualities. Just like Claire, Dr. Ruth had a remarkable way of making me feel special.
To my surprise, as we talked, she mentioned she is going to Lake Oscawana for the weekend. I said, with great joy, “that’s where I spent every summer of my life until I went to college!” So many sweet memories and I hope I can visit her there to relive for a moment my childhood on the lake.
After dinner, I had the privilege of driving her to the Bay Street Theater, just down the block. She left her extra bags in my car and offered innumerable thanks for the ride. I told her it was, in fact, my honor!
I thought I knew of Dr. Ruth, the name she adopted with the launch of her 1980 radio show “Sexually Speaking,” but I didn’t know she has written 45 books on sex and sexuality.
I also learned of this courageous woman’s journey — she is a Holocaust survivor — through the powerful play we saw after dinner, “Becoming Dr. Ruth.” It’s a masterfully written one-woman play by renowned playwright Mark St. Germain, who directed the production in a way that allowed Tovah, the talented starring actress, to channel Dr. Ruth.
When we got to the theater, Dr. Ruth directed the staff to seat her out of view of Tovah and be seated next to her husband, the brilliant lawyer Andrew Levy. I was seated one seat away from Dr. Ruth and I kept my eyes on her as her life was portrayed on stage.
I never knew that Dr. Ruth was one of a group of 300 children sent to the safety of Switzerland in 1939 by her mother and grandmother as Hitler’s grip on Germany tightened. Her father had been taken away by the Nazis just days before. She never saw her family again.
But there is an indomitable spirit in her that pushed her forward from her “slavery” in Switzerland to Paris and then to Israel, where she joined the underground Haganah, which helped her survive and eventually flourish in America.
Dr. Ruth’s story is one that brought tears, fear and cheers to my heart. Dr. Ruth sat at the edge of her seat and laughed and loved every moment of the play.
You can relish the 90-minute performance until June 27. Reservations can be made online at baystreet.org.
Don’t miss the play, as you will love it, too!
Another night to remember
My son Josh, the CEO of our company, is leading the charge on the food and wine events we will be holding in the Hamptons this summer.
One of the locations of the fundraising dinner for the historic and respected well-known Guild Hall in East Hampton will be the waterfront East Hampton Point Hotel and Marina.
We were invited to a “friends and family” introduction dinner party and I delightedly accepted.
The stunning setting was created by the new owner Heath Freeman, a passionate Montauk resident. He’s also the new owner of Tribune Media, which is second only to Gannett in the number of daily newspapers published nationwide. His holdings also include the New York Daily News.
He and I bonded over our mutual love of newspapers and our wish to keep them sustainable. Our company prints over 600,000 papers a week and most of them are printed on the Daily News’ presses, so we have a lot in common.
Join us for the legendary wine and food events this summer. Check out the website DansTaste.com for more details.
Mayoral candidate Eric Adams spoke eloquently before a group of businessmen and women about his vision for a safe city and one that makes city agencies expedite building projects and encourages the city’s economy to again flourish.
Water Mill resident Caroline Hirsch, owner of Carolines on Broadway, reopened her famed club to a sold out crowd on Memorial Day weekend. We need the laughs!